The paper looks at the way the Western art museum today functions as a complex site for the production of new orders of ‘religious’ value around Indian sculpted objects. One of its main points is to foreground the ambivalence and instability of identities – the unresolved tensions between sacred and aesthetic tropes – that surround the contemporary lives of India's art objects, both within and outside the precincts of museums. Over the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries India offers her own internal history of the growth of the institution of the museum, alongside the disciplines of archaeology and art history, and the unfolding of a long tradition of scholarship and connoisseurship around such collected and conserved objects. Yet, it will be shown, that these historical and artistic consecrations are neither stable nor sealed, and remain continuously prone to contestations. The essay explores the positioning of sculpture as the reigning Indian art object in American museum spaces – while also tracking some of the clashing custodial claims, especially some of the recent modes of religious re‐inscription of these objects, that threaten to dislodge their parallel lives as ‘works of art’. Central to the story here is the theme of the travels abroad of Indian sculpture, and the drama of their returns and repatriations.