‘Dancing girl’ statue: Pakistan’s or India’s?

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In the wake of rising tensions between Pakistan and India, the ancient ‘dancing girl’ statue has become another bone of contention between bitter rival states.

A petition has been filed in the Lahore high court asking the federal government to claim a 5,000-year-old bronze statue called ‘Dancing Girl’ from India.

Last week, Advocate Javed Iqbal Jaffrey called for a suo motu action by the court.

“The statue, which was discovered in 1926 from Moen Jo Daro — the ancient city of the Indus Valley Civilisation in Sindh — was taken to India around 60 years ago at the request of the National Arts Council, Delhi, and was never brought back,” Javed Iqbal Jaffery said in his petition.

The petition incensed the Indians who took to popular microblogging site Twitter to vent their anger. They mocked the move and instead offered Pakistan Bollywood movie ‘Mohenjo Daro’.

Javed Iqbal, however, laments that at the official level, the government is not doing anything whatsoever to reclaim the statute. He also blames the Lahore Art Museum staff, calling their inaction ‘criminal neglect’ on their part.

He hopes his petition will be taken up by an “impartial judge having sense of aesthetic appreciation and justice”.

The Indians, however, believe that the statue belongs to them because they got it before the 1947 Partition of the subcontinent. But Pakistani officials argue the artifact was excavated from the ruins of Moen Jo Daro, which lies in Sindh, and hence it must be returned to the place of its origin.

According to the Indian National Museum’s website, the ‘Indus dancing girl’ represents a ‘stylistically poised female figure performing a dance’.

It was excavated from Mohenjo-Daro in 1926.

“The forward thrust of the left leg and backwards tilted right, the gesture of the hands, demeanour of the face and uplifted head, all speak of absorption in dance, perhaps one of those early styles that combined drama with dance, and dialogue with body-gestures. As was not unusual in the lifestyle of early days, the young lady has been cast as nude,” read a description in the website.

The tiny bronze statue which is 10.5 cm in height is suggestive of two breakthroughs that Indus artists knew metal blending and casting and that the well developed Indus society had innovated dance and other performing arts.

The name Dancing Girl was coined by British archaeologist Sir John Marshall. In 1973, another British archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler described the item as his favourite statuette.

The bronze girl was made using the lost wax casting technique and shows the expertise of the people in making bronze works during that time. It also shows that that entertainment, especially dance was part of the culture.

Some of the most famous archaeologists in the world have described it as one of the most captivating pieces of art from the Indus site.

Petitioner Jaffrey claimed that the statue is the property of the Lahore Museum. “It was taken to India around 60 years ago at the request of the National Arts Council, Delhi, and was never brought back,” a report in a local newspaper said.

Moreover, Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) Director General Syed Jamal Shah said that the statue will be requested under the UNESCO conventions. He said that this is the first time that the request will be made to the government of India.

Read more: Pakistan to seek ‘Dancing girl’ statue from India