New Delhi: Two Chola period (11-12th century AD) idols were returned to India by Australia as Prime Minister Tony Abbott Friday handed them over to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi here Friday.
The idols, a bronze Nataraja, or dancing Shiva, and an Ardhnariswara - or Shiva in half-female form - were returned during the meeting of the two prime ministers. The two antiques were allegedly stolen from temples in Tamil Nadu and were bought by art galleries in Australia.
India had sought the return of the two statues in March.
Returning the sculptures is a testimony to Australia's good citizenship on such matters and the importance with which Australia views its relationship with India, Abbott's office said.
The Nataraja statue, cast in bronze, was purchased by the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) in February 2008 at a price of $5.1 million from art and antiquities dealer Subhash Kapoor.
The Ardhanariswara statue was purchased by the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2004 for approximately Australian $300,000 Australian dollar ($280,979).
Kapoor, owner of the "Art of the Past" gallery in New York, was arrested in Germany in 2012 and extradited to India. He is accused of conspiracy to commit burglary and smuggling from Tamil Nadu antique idols of Hindu deities belonging to Chola dynasty.
The case is at the prosecution stage in Tamil Nadu and Australian authorities have been assisting in conducting investigation in the case in Australia