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India’s cultural artefacts scattered around the world

The Koh-i-Noor diamond [1] might be the artefacts from India that grabs the most headlines, but there are many other artefacts from the country also located in museums & private collections abroad.

Times of India [2]

National treasures scattered across the world
Reema Gehi, Mumbai Mirror Mar 19, 2011, 12.48pm IST

As the Pearl Canopy of Baroda goes up for auction soon, we take a look at other such national treasures scattered across the world

The remarkable objet d’art — Pearl Canopy of Baroda — will soon be auctioned at Sotheby’s, New York. It is estimated to fetch $5 million (about Rs 22.51 crore).

A glimpse of this treasure commissioned by Maharaja Khande Rao in the 1860s to offer to the shrine for the Prophet in Medina, evokes a feeling of lost pride. It was rediscovered last year when it was exhibited at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.

Likewise, centuries ago, several Indian artefacts slipped out of the country. And are now stashed away at highly-feted museums and galleries of the world. The British, of course, have most of India’s collection, including the Koh-I-Noor (Mountain of Light). Today, the relics echo India’s historical resonance. Bringing them back is a moot subject, but it doesn’t hurt to conjure up the jewels, which invoke feelings like the Baroda Canopy does.

Shah Jahan’s jade wine cup (Victoria & Albert, London)

The milky white jade cup entered Shah Jahan’s treasury in 1657 AD. It is regarded as one of the most exquisite surviving objects from the court of India’s most famous dynasty. The museum acquired this artefact in 1962. The piece was first exhibited for public display over a century ago, as part of the collection.

Amravati railings (British Museum, London)

The events in the life of Buddha and his scenes of worship are painstakingly etched on the limestone slabs by an army of craftsmen. These relics, which are about 2,000 years old, were part of a Buddha Stupa in Amravati. They were excavated in the early 19th century by two British military explorers and sold to the British Museum. Today, these remains of the Great Stupa at Amaravati are one of the finest sculptures, which are part of the museum’s collection.

Enamelled gold parrot (Christie’s, New York)

From the family of the Nizam of Hyderabad. Now, this green enamel body with floral sprays in diamonds, emeralds and rubies is part of the Christie’s collection in New York. It signifies the role of precious stones in social rituals of the 18th century Mughal era.

‘Tipu’s tiger’ (Victoria & Albert)

The engraved and lacquered wooden shell, depicting a man being devoured by a tiger, is one of Tipu Sultan’s most-prized possessions. Fascinatingly, when the handle on the side of the tiger is turned, the man’s left forearm moves back and forth, making the tiger to growl and the man to emit a melancholic sound. The antique won many admirers when it was first exhibited in the East India Company’s museum in 1808.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s throne (Victoria & Albert)

It was part of the State Property taken by the British in 1849. The throne was displayed with possessions of the Indian Empire at the Great Exhibition in 1851. Take a look and you know what the Maharaja was all about… a symbol of grandeur. Made between 1820 and 1830, it is made up of two tiers of lotus petals. So also, the octagonal (eight-sided) shape of the throne is inspired from the courtly furniture of the Mughals. The throne represents the influence of India’s preceding arts.