40 Historical and Cultural Artifacts Repatriated to Nepal from the United States

In a significant stride towards preserving Nepal’s rich heritage, the Embassy of Nepal in Washington, D.C. successfully repatriated 40 carved and painted wooden artifacts to their homeland. These precious items, dating from the 19th to the 20th century, were received from the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in a ceremony held at the embassy on May 11, 2023.

The artifacts, which include 39 meticulously engraved and painted wooden panels and an intricately carved wooden shrine, were illegally exported and had been confiscated by the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in August 2010. Responding to the fervent request of the Government of Nepal, the United States officially returned these artifacts to their rightful home.

A special ceremony held on August 8, 2023, marked the culmination of the repatriation effort. The Embassy of Nepal collaborated with Qatar Airways Cargo to ensure the safe transportation of these invaluable items from Dulles International Airport (IAD), Washington D.C., to Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), Kathmandu. Qatar Airways Cargo played a pivotal role in making this repatriation possible, and their efforts were acknowledged with sincere gratitude by the Embassy of Nepal.

During the handover ceremony, four of the exquisitely crafted wooden panels were selected for display, providing a glimpse of the intricate artistry and cultural significance of these artifacts. The Nepalese Embassy had previously showcased these items during a tourism promotion program on August 1, 2023, underscoring their importance in promoting Nepal’s rich cultural heritage.

Mr. Rishi Punnakhar Dhakal, Honorary Consul General of Nepal in San Diego, California, played a crucial role in facilitating the partnership between the Embassy of Nepal and Qatar Airways Cargo. His dedicated efforts contributed to the successful repatriation of these artifacts and reflect his commitment to preserving Nepal’s cultural legacy.

Expressing his appreciation, Mr. Dhakal remarked, “I would like to thank Mr. Tap Narayan Shrestha, Country Manager of Nepal for Qatar Airways, and the entire team of Qatar Airways for their cooperation in taking back Nepal’s archaeological, religious, and culturally important woodwork materials.” He further extended his gratitude to His Excellency Sridhar Khatri and the Nepalese Embassy for fostering the collaboration between Qatar Airways and the Embassy.

This repatriation effort is part of the Embassy’s ongoing commitment to recover and return Nepal’s lost and stolen cultural heritage. Since April 2022, the Embassy of Nepal has successfully brought back 47 artifacts of historical, cultural, and religious significance to the country. This tireless endeavor underscores Nepal’s dedication to preserving its heritage for future generations.

The Department of Archaeology of the Government of Nepal is set to receive these artifacts in Kathmandu on August 12, 2023, where they will be cherished as symbols of Nepal’s rich cultural tapestry and heritage.