The head of a Hindu deity statue that was taken from the Phnom Da temple in Takeo province and shipped to France 130 years ago was returned to Cambodia on Saturday—though with legal caveats.
Thai Norak Sathya, a secretary of state and spokesman at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, said the Harihara statue—a deity that combines aspects of the Vishnu and Shiva gods—was handed over to Cambodian officials by representatives from France’s Guimet Museum on Saturday.
“The French took it in 1886 from Phnom Da temple,” Mr. Norak Sathya said. “French law would not allow it to be given back.
They have given it back to us to connect with the body and some day they will borrow it again, but it belongs to us.”
Mr. Norak Sathya said he was unsure when the statues were crafted.
The torso remains in Cambodia and the head will be reattached upon its repatriation; at some point in time, the full statue will be displayed in France, he said.
A ceremony to present the statue to the public will be held at the National Museum on Thursday.