Norton Simon Museum to return 'Temple Wrestler' statue to Cambodia

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The "Temple Wrestler" — a 10th-century sandstone statue currently displayed at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena — will return to its place of origin in Cambodia, following discussions and agreements with Cambodian state officials, the museum announced Tuesday. 

The statue represents Bhima, a popular heroic figure from the Hindu epic, "The Mahabharata." The museum has carefully preserved it for nearly four decades, according to the release.

The Bhima is considered a work of art and cultural relic for the Cambodian community.

"They believe the Bhima is one of a pair of colossal 10th century sandstone sculptures of wrestlers that once stood guard together at the Prasat Chen Temple at the historic site of Koh Ker in Preah Vihear Province," the museum said in the release. 

The statue may be displayed alongside the Duryodhan statue and nine other statues as part of a permanent exhibition at the Cambodian National Museum, according to the release. To date, three other related statues have been returned to Cambodia, the museum said. 

The original Bhima sculpture was initially acquired in 1976 from an art dealer in New York.

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