Friday, November 05, 2004


Exotic Hindu statuettes discovered from Thames


Archaeology News
Nabanita Sircar
London, November 3

The banks of the river Thames has yielded many exotic items, including a series of Hindu gods and godesses, some of which could be more than a century old.

The four deities discovered include Durga, Ganesha, Vishnu and Hanuman. The statuettes are made of stone or metal. Other discoveries include two metal plaques called yantras, one of copper alloy and the other silver plated.Nikola Burdon of the Museum of London wrote in the London Archaeologist that the copper yantra has details of the nine planets, the silver one has a serpent entwining rows of numbers each of which adds up to 15.

Some of these Hindu objects are modern, including a plastic banner with three gods and a plastic wallet containing a card with an image of Swarminarayan. But three of the statuettes and the copper yantra "could possibly date back to the late 19th century," Burdon says.

It is believed the the objects were made in India, and while those of a devotional nature could have been brought to Britain by individuals. A deposition of a number of clay lamps and two clay pots have also been found in the Thames. It is assumed the lamps have been sold here for use at Diwali and the clay pots may have been used for holding sacred water, or ashes from cremations.

Burdon says: "As the Ganges is not very accessible to the Anglo-Hindu community, it could be that they are utilising the next best thing - a river that has an impact on their lives and their surrounding landscape."

She also says: "Another explanation is the disposal of damaged religious objects. A Hindu has a responsibility to dispose them in a respectful way, by returning them to the earth: this is often done by submerging the object in running water that flows to the sea. But not all the Hindu objects found on the Thames foreshore are broken or damaged."

The Museum of London has consulted Hindu leaders, who seemed surpised by the discoveries. It is not known for how long the deposition of Hindu objects has been going. Some date to within the past 20 years. But they have been reported only within the past decade. "Deposition and discovery reflect a long tradition in the use of the Thames as a spiritual site," says Burdon.

"The Thames holds a wealth of evidence that needs to be investigated and recorded: how, exactly, is London's river being used and celebrated by today's diverse community?"

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