Sword of Indian ruler slain by British sells for more than $17 million at auction

LONDON-The bedchamber sword of Tipu Sultan, an 18th-century king famous for the commanding role he played in wars in southern India, has sold for £14 million ($17.4 million) at auction in London. The sale price Tuesday was seven times the estimate, breaking the record for an Indian and Islamic object sold at auction, according to a statement from auction house Bonhams.  “The sword has an extraordinary history, an astonishing provenance and unrivalled craftsmanship,” Nima Sagharchi, group head of Islamic and Indian Art at Bonhams, said in the statement. “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,” he added. Tipu ruled the kingdom of Mysore in southern India between 1782 and 1799, earning the title “Tiger of Mysore” for the ferocity with which he defended his realm, according to the auction house. He pioneered the use of rocket artillery in wars and transformed Mysore into the most dynamic economy in India, Bonhams said. Tipu was killed by British forces on May 4, 1799, when they stormed his kingdom’s capital, Seringapatam (now Srirangapatna). After Tipu was killed, his sword, which was found in the private quarters of his palace, was presented to British Major General David Baird as a token of his courage, according to Bonhams.
Tipu slept in a hammock suspended from the ceiling of his bedchamber, with his sword at his side. The weapon’s handle is decorated with gold calligraphy, “with five of the qualities of God and two invocations calling on God by name,” the auction house said. 
“The sword of the ruler” is finely inscribed in Persian on the blade, which was manufactured by Mughal swordsmiths following the model of German blades introduced to India in the 16th century.  “This spectacular sword is the greatest of all the weapons linked to Tipu Sultan still in private hands,” said Bruno Vinciguerra, CEO of Bonhams, ahead of the auction. “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,” he added.

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