A rumoured sword discovered in the private bedchamber of 18th-century Mysore king Tipu Sultan shattered all auction records for an Indian artefact for Bonhams in London this week by selling for more than GBP 14 million.
The sword, known as a sukhela and dating from Tipu Sultan’s reign between 1782 and 1799, is characterised as a magnificent gold koftgari hilted steel sword. It was discovered in Tipu Sultan’s private residences, and the Army of the East India Company gave it to Major General David Baird as a “token of their high esteem of his courage and conduct in the assault” that ended with the death of Tipu Sultan, also known as the Tiger of Mysore.
Oliver White, Bonhams’ Head of Islamic and Indian Art and auctioneer, stated in a statement before to the sale on Tuesday, “This spectacular sword is the greatest of all the weapons linked to Tipu Sultan still in private hands.” “It is one of a kind and highly sought after due to 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,” he added.
The sword’s recommended price was from GBP 1,500,000 to 2,000,000, however it ultimately sold for GBP 14,080,900, exceeding that prediction.
The sword has a remarkable past, a remarkable provenance, and unmatched craftsmanship. It was expected that it would be fiercely disputed between two phone bidders and a bidder present. Group Head of Islamic and Indian Art Nima Sagharchi expressed his satisfaction with the outcome.Few of the several weapons taken from Tipu Sultan’s palace when his imperial bastion of Seringapatam fell in May 1799, according to historians, had such resonance or a close link to Tipu Sultan. The bedchamber sword is undoubtedly one of the best and most significant weapons in Tipu’s collection.
“This is among the most amazing items that Bonhams has had the honour of offering for auction. It is an outrageous price for an outrageous object. Bonhams CEO Bruno Vinciguerra remarked, “I am overjoyed for our staff that worked so hard to produce this result.
In Francis Buchanan’s contemporaneous on-the-spot description of India, Tipu Sultan was sleeping with a sword within reach. Tipu Sultan slept on a hammock strung from the ceiling of his sealed and bolted bedroom while carrying this sword and a pair of pistols at his side.
The sword’s blade has the inscription “The Sword of the Ruler” and is of “exceptional” quality.
It was created by Mughal swordsmiths using a German blade design that was brought to India in the 16th century. The hilt is inlaid with masterfully crafted gold lettering depicting the attributes of God and prayers that specifically invoke Him.
Up until May 4, 1799, when Major General led the East Indian Company’s soldiers to end a month-long siege of Seringapatam with the ruler’s death, Tipu Sultan is credited with being the first to use rocket artillery in battle against both neighbouring states and the company.