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TIGER OF MYSORE’s weapons auctioned in London

London: A spectacular collection of arms and armour once owned by Tipu Sultan, the last King of Mysore, was sold here at Bonhams Islamic and Indian art sale on 21 April for a total of more than £6 million. The 30 items in the auction come from a single collection.

 Tipu’s personal motif was the tiger, and he adorned both objects of art and instruments of war with images of the animal and with the tiger-stripe design, earning the nickname “Tiger of Mysore”.  The top lot in the sale was a gem-set sword with tiger’s head pommel from Tipu Sultan’s royal regalia. It was sold for £2,154,500. A three-pounder cannon with field carriage was sold for £1,426,500 and a magnificent two shot flintlock sporting gun from Tipu’s personal armoury was sold for £722,500.

 The collection featured sabres, gem-set trophy swords, embroidered arrow quivers, exquisite quilted helmets, blunderbusses, fowling pieces, sporting guns, pistols, and a three-pounder bronze cannon - each and every weapon a work of art in its own right.

 The Tiger of Mysore - who famously declared ‘I would rather live one day as a tiger than a lifetime as a sheep’ - was the East India Company’s most tenacious enemy, fighting them until his death in 1799. He was a fierce and relentless warrior, and vowed not to sit on his elaborate throne until he had vanquished the British. The weapons were most probably looted by the British soldiers after the Sultan’s defeat in the Battle of Srirangpatnam in 1799 when the British won by deceit and bribery to Tipu Sultan’s Diwan (prime minister) Purnaiah who for his services was retained as the diwan of Mysore by the British.                                 

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 May 2015 on page no. 13

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