Ancient Vishnu statues stolen in Dhaka's airport

By Anastasia Tomazhenkova: Thieves impudently filched 2 statues from a high-security cargo area at Dhaka's international airport. The statues were supposed to be flown to France for an exhibition.

The terra-cotta statues of Vishnu were stolen from the Zia International Airport late Sunday. The statues, insured for a total of EUR45,000 (US$64,740), are believed to be about 1,500 years old.

Vishnu also known as Narayana is the Supreme God for Vaishnavas and a manifestation of Brahman in the Advait or Smarta traditions of Hinduism.

Vishnu is usually described as being the colour of clouds, four-armed, holding a lotus, mace, conch and chakra. Vishnu is responsible for the maintenance or 'preservation' of the Universe, with the other roles of creation and destruction.

The stolen artifacts were among 143 that Bangladesh planned to send for an exhibition at the Guimet Museum in Paris, France. The first consignment of 42 objects was sent to Paris on Dec. 1.

The government's cultural affairs adviseri and police are investigating how the statues were stolen and they are determined to find them. They have tightened controls along the border with India to prevent the statues from being smuggled out of the country.

Officials suppose the artifacts disappeared from museums in Bangladesh. Border guards and customs officials often catch people trying to smuggle valuables out of the country.

The French Embassy labeled the incident "suspicious" and said "it could be the result of a conspiracy to embarrass France and Bangladesh." It did not elaborate.

The statues - a bust and a full-length depiction of the Hindu god Vishnu in fired clay - were found at a site in Bogra district, 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of the capital, Dhaka. They were housed at the National Museum in Dhaka. The statues weighed about 64 kilograms (141 pounds).

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