Tipu Sultan's bedchamber sword sold for Rs 143 crore at London auction

The bedchamber sword of Tipu Sultan, the 18th-century ruler of Mysuru, has been sold for 14 million pounds ($17.4 million or Rs 143 crore) at Bonhams Islamic and Indian Art sale, an auction house in London. This is a new auction world record for an Indian and Islamic object.

As per a press release by Bonhams, the sword was estimated at around 1,500,000-2,000,000 pounds. Bonhams further said that the sword was the most important of the weapons with a proven personal association with the ruler.

“This spectacular sword is the greatest of all the weapons linked to Tipu Sultan still in private hands. Its close personal association with the Sultan, its impeccable provenance traceable to the very day it was captured, and the outstanding craftsmanship that went into its manufacture make it unique and highly desirable,” said Oliver White, Bonhams Head of Islamic and Indian Art and auctioneer.

“The sword has an extraordinary history, an astonishing provenance and unrivalled craftsmanship. It was no surprise it was so hotly contested between two phone bidders and a bidder in the room. We are delighted with the result,” Nima Sagharchi, group head of Islamic and Indian Art at Bonhams, said in a statement.

“As described by Francis Buchanan in his on-the-spot account describing Tipu’s palace immediately after the siege, a sword lay within reach of the Sultan while he slept. (On constant alert against attack, Tipu slept in a hammock suspended from the ceiling of his locked and bolted bedchamber with a pair of pistols and a sword by his side). The weapon is of exceptional quality. The blade, which is inscribed ‘The Sword of the Ruler’ is particularly fine. It was manufactured by Mughal swordsmiths following the model of German blades introduced to India in the 16th century. The hilt is inlaid in exquisitely executed gold calligraphy with five of the qualities of God and two invocations calling on God by name,” the statement read.

After Tipu Sultan was killed, his sword was presented to British Major General David Baird as a token of his courage, according to the auction house.

Tipu Sultan succeeded his father as the ruler of the kingdom of Mysore in south India in 1782. He earned the soubriquet ‘Tiger of Mysore’ for the ferocity with which he defended his kingdom’s interests. He pioneered the use of rocket artillery in wars both against neighbouring states and also the East Indian Company, of which he was an implacable opponent.

His reign was also characterised by the introduction of a new calendar and coinage system and other administrative and financial reforms which built on the work of his father and he transformed Mysore into the most dynamic economy in India.

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