The bedchamber sword of Tipu Sultan, the 18th-century ruler of Mysore (now Mysuru), went under the hammer for a whopping £14 million (Rs 1,42,95,63,800) in London on Tuesday.
The auction fetched seven times the estimate, breaking the record for an Indian and Islamic object, according to a statement from auction house Bonhams. Bonhams did not reveal details of the buyer.
A hotly contested bid
“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.
In September 2003, beer baron Vijay Mallya, now a fugitive in the UK, had bought the sword at a private auction in London and displayed it with great fanfare in Bengaluru.
“It is an overwhelming feeling to restore this legacy to the people of Karnataka,” Mallya had said in 2003.
Vijay Mallya gave away the sword
He had promised to display the sword for a week every year on the occasion of Tipu’s anniversary at his dargah at Srirangapatnam. Later, the sword vanished. The matter came to light when a consortium of 13 Indian banks tried to convince the London High Court against discharging a freeze order on Mallya’s global assets.
However, reports said he gave away the rare sword in 2016 after his family said, “it brought bad luck”. It is this sword that has now surfaced in the auction.
The lawyers representing Indian banks, who brought up the issue of the sword of Tipu, who ruled the city from 1782 to 1799, told the court that Indian banks are at risk of Mallya “dissipating his assets”.
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