Cambodian statue's head and body reunited after 130 years

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An sprays perfume on a depiction of the Hindu deity Harihara during a ceremony connecting the statue's head to its body at the National Museum in Phnom Penh on January 21, 2016.

Story highlights

  • The head and body of a depiction of the Hindu deity Harihara have been reunited
  • Statue was brought to France in the 19th Century
  • Its return was part of an exchange with Paris' Guimet Museum

(CNN)The head of a seventh-century Hindu statue has been reunited with its body almost 130 years after it was taken from Cambodia when it was a French colony.

The 47-kilogram head of the deity Harihara was repatriated by France, where it had been an exhibit at the Guimet Museum in Paris, France's national museum of Asian art. The deity combines elements of Vishnu and Shiva, two major gods in the Hindu pantheon.
It was originally taken from the Phnom Da temple in Takeo Province in the south of the country by colonial administrator Etienne Aymonier and was taken to Paris for an exhibition in 1889, according to a press release issued by the French museum.
    For the majority of its stay in France, it was unknown if the piece matched the body, which had remained in Phnom Penh.
    When it was reattached, however, it was discovered to be a perfect fit, Chea Socheat, the Cambodian National Museum's deputy director of conservation told the Cambodia Daily newspaper.
    Museum employees carry the head of the Harihara statue during a ceremony connecting the head to the body.

    Reunited

    Kong Vireak, the director of the National Museum, told CNN that it took 10 years of negotiations to reach the deal.
    The head was reattached in a ceremony at Cambodia's National Museum Thursday, where the statue will now be housed on permanent loan from the French museum.
    "After it was separated 130 years ago, we are welcoming the reunification of the head and the torso of Harihara," Deputy Prime Minister Sok An said at the ceremony.
    "According to our Khmer culture, the reunion is symbolic of prosperity."
    The head was returned in an exchange with the Cambodian National Museum, which gave the Guimet the plinth of a sculpture found in an archeological dig which completes a work still housed in France.
    Cambodia passed a law in 1993 prohibiting the export of cultural artifacts and the deputy prime minister appealed for countries which house Cambodian works of historic and cultural importance to return them.
    The head was taken from a Cambodian temple 130 years ago.