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When maharajas ‘armed’ prince with gifts

RCIN 11411. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Sikh Museum Initiative featured in the Tribune News service and Punjabi Tribune

Vikramdeep Johal
Tribune News Service, Chandigarh, October 22

Queen Victoria, who ruled as the Empress of India for a quarter of a century, never set foot on the subcontinent. However, her eldest son, Prince Edward (later King Edward VII), embarked on a four-month tour of the country in October 1875. It was during his visit to Punjab in early 1876 that he was showered with exquisite gifts by the rulers of princely states.
In a recent lecture on ‘Sikh Arms and Armour’ in Leicester, UK-based historian-author Gurinder Singh Mann explained how these items made their way into the Royal Collection. The lecture was part of the year-long exhibition, ‘Splendours of the Subcontinent: A Prince’s Tour of India 1875-76’, currently being held in Britain.
Mann, who heads the Sikh Museum Initiative, said: “The maharajas had much at stake to ensure they maintained their hegemony and status quo. So, the gifting of treasures to Queen Victoria via Prince Edward became a lavish affair.”

The royalty included Maharaja Mahendra Singh (Patiala), Maharaja Raghubir Singh (Jind), Maharaja Bikram Singh (Faridkot), Maharaja Hira Singh (Nabha) and Kharrak Singh (Kapurthala). Mahendra Singh, who founded Patiala’s Government Mohindra College, presented a rhinoceros-hide shield (dhaal) with “four large and two smaller enamelled and diamond-inlaid bosses in the form of curled-up cheetahs.” He died shortly afterwards — at the age of 23.

The Maharaja of Jind gifted a sword (talwar) with “a European steel blade and a gold hilt, knuckleguard and circular pommel inlaid with diamonds, rubies and emeralds”, and a red velvet-covered wooden scabbard “embellished with gold openwork mounts inset with rubies, emeralds and diamonds.” During the hectic tour, which was perceived as a popular and diplomatic success, Prince Edward rewarded the king by investing him with the Order of the Star of India.

 

Gurinder Singh Mann delivers a lecture on ‘Sikh Arms and Armour’ in Leicester on October 18.
Photo: Sikh Museum Initiative

Mann also talked about the other types of Sikh weaponry in the Royal Collection, including quoits (chakkar), breastplates (chariana) and helmets. Many of these items are now kept at the Queen’s estate at Sandringham House in Norfolk as well as at the Windsor Castle and the Tower of London.

Link to the original Tribune India article 

The Punjabi Tribune also picked up the same story as below:

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