Over the years, a sizable number of antiques and priceless valuables have been stolen from and smuggled out of India. The theft and looting of Indian artefacts dates back to the earliest intruders, making it a persistent issue. Although not a complete list, here we present some intriguing anecdotes of a few more renowned stolen Indian antiques, including how they left the nation and where they eventually turned up. These stories come from India both before and after independence. Such stolen historical artefacts have been returned and recovered for many years.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Sword
According to historian Babasaheb Purandare, it is plausible that swords were brought from Spain due to the quality of the steel and the expertise of its craftspeople in creating swords and knives. Purandare claimed that Shivaji owned three swords by the names of Bhawani, Jagdamba, and Tulja.
Swords from the hubs of blade production in Germany, Italy, and Spain were transported to India by European traders in the 1500s and 1600s. Some of these swords’ hilts were produced in India, and the blades of these swords were highly regarded there. English swords were not as revered; in the 1600s, an Indian admiral said of English blades that they were “only fit to cut butter.”
So, even though the sword’s blade was imported from either Spain or Italy, its class is wholly different because it was made locally. The blade and the sword need to be distinguished from one another.
Regarding the Jagdamba sword, it is widely believed (and, I suppose, accepted) that Edward VII, the Prince of Wales, received it as a gift while he was visiting India. Because of the image’s poor cropping, it is impossible to tell if this blade is straight or curved. The Trust says nothing about the sword’s name. The page also features pictures of two swords.
An examination of numerous historical drawings of Shivaji suggests that the Bhawani sword may have a straight blade rather than a scimitar. Additionally, there is a fair probability that it was a broadsword because I think it is a gauntlet sword (double-edged).
We talk about the journeys taken to recover these items and the upcoming difficulties in bringing back a number of these antiquities to India. There have been a lot of successes so far, and there will be a lot more.
Ruler’s white jade wine cup is on display at the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum in London. The cup, which was created in 1657, exhibits a balance of influences from several cultures. While the animal-shaped handle and the lotus carvings at the bottom appear to have been inspired by “Hindu art,” the gourd-shaped body is said to be the product of Chinese inspiration.
It was probably obtained by the British in the 19th century and passed through several hands before ending up in the 1960s in the custody of the V&A Museum.
After Ranjit Singh’s death, the British captured Punjab from the child-king Duleep Singh in the 1840s, and this is when they came into possession of the diamond. The British royal family now owns the diamond as a result. The Koh-i-Noor, which once belonged to the Mughal kings, later became the crown jewel of Great Britain.
Such items are kept in museums all around Britain, and the list is limitless. However, India’s claims to its antiquities, particularly those that are more expensive and rare, have constantly been rejected.
There are numerous obstacles to overcome in the ongoing struggle to reclaim the artefacts of our history. The quest for rights to our own tangible legacy won’t be abandoned despite the unsteady road ahead.
ALL ROADS LED WEST, PLUNDER OR PRESERVATION
The histories of India’s different conquerors often include significant amounts of tales of plunder. Even in pre-colonial India, the practise of extorting valuables from overthrown kings was not uncommon. Clans and chiefdoms fought one other frequently for cattle and territory before powerful kingdoms were established. After taking a sizable portion for themselves, the victorious chiefs and monarchs would disperse the battle booty among the soldiers. The chiefdoms gradually gave place to larger, more intricate kingdoms. As a result, wars broke out between strong kings and their well-trained armies. Typically, the artefacts that had once represented the power of the overthrown monarchs were the ones that were stolen. In order to establish their authority over the newly conquered area and its inhabitants, the victorious monarchs typically reinstalled these objects.
The East India Company’s theft takes place in a slightly different setting, though. These men were traders who went around ruthlessly plundering the areas they had taken over. They either sold the jewels or used the antiques to decorate their gardens and living spaces after returning to their own nations. Many of the jewels from India were moved to England under the pretence of greater preservation when the British government later assumed control of India. The colonisers believed the Indians to be beneath them and unable to preserve their own culture. As a result, the colonial era was characterised by the widespread theft of artefacts from India and their transportation to Europe under the pretext of preservation.
Many of these items, which were typically taken unfairly from former colonies, are now on exhibit in the museums and galleries of the nations who colonised them. When artefacts are removed from their native settings, their context and genuine nature are lost. The nations to which these artefacts originally belonged also forfeit authority over the records of their own history and culture. The rights of the former colonies to their artefacts are currently a topic of contention in several nations. In the recent past, nations like the Netherlands, France, and Germany have already returned numerous such items.