Armour did not belong to Sikh guru: Sotheby’s

April 3rd, 2008 - 7:35 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

London, April 3 (IANS) The auction house Sotheby’s has said that a body armour being put under the hammer next week did not belong to the 10th Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh. “It is important that you know that Sotheby’s does not consider the Sikh armour plate to be a relic of Guru Gobind Singh, as our cataloguing and estimate clearly indicate,” a spokesman for the auction house said in a statement after Sikhs in India protested the auction of the armour.

“I can also tell you we believe that complaints about the proposed offering are based on a misreading of Sotheby’s cataloguing, which points to a stylistic similarity to a full set of armour in the possession of the Patiala royal family which the family attributes to Guru Gobind Singh,” spokesman Simon Warren added.

Sikh political and religious bodies from Anandpur Sahib to Patna have petitioned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, held demonstrations, and dashed off letters of protest to the Indian High Commission in London and Sotheby’s calling for the rectangular 29-by-21-cm-body armour to be returned to Sikhs.

London-based Sikh businessmen and Gurdwaras were rallying to bid for the object - valued at 10-12,000 pounds - after a heritage website alerted Sikhs about the April 9 auction.

Although it did not actually say the body armour belonged to the 10th Guru, the website noted: “The origins of the armour plate cannot be confirmed using European standards of provenance. By the same western standards of documentation not a single weapon in Hazur Sahib or at Anadpur Sahib can be proven to be that of the Guru’s.”

Pointing out that one set of body armour said to have belonged to Guru Gobind Singh is with the former royal family of Patiala, the website added, “This Sotheby’s piece bears a staggering similarity to that set. The Sotheby’s catalogue entry and press release makes the tantalising connection to this being a possible second set.”

The Sotheby’s catalogue says, “The existence of this plate . . . points to the possibility that the Guru commissioned more than one such set.”

In its statement Sotheby’s said it will add the following saleroom note to make things clear: “Sotheby’s has undertaken due diligence to verify the provenance of this piece, which is believed to date to the Eighteenth Century. Sotheby’s has not found or been given any evidence to indicate ownership of this piece by Guru Gobind Singh and we therefore do not deem the piece to be a relic of the Guru.

“The piece has strong stylistic similarities to a full set of armour in the possession of the Patiala royal family, which according to family lore was attributed to the Guru. The verse inscribed on the armour-plate had been originally composed by Guru Gobind Singh, although it has no necessary or exclusive connection to armour belonging (or attributed) to the Guru.”

Ajinder Pal Singth Chawla, a veteran member of the Sikh community in London, said he was mobilising other Sikhs to bid at the auction when he was advised that it did not belong to Guru Gobind Singh.

“We Sikhs are quite attached to our heritage objects. If there is something of importance, then everybody will be interested,” he said Thursday.

A marble bust of Maharaja Duleep Singh - the last Sikh king, who lived his life in the company of royals in England - was valued at about 30,000 pounds at an auction at Bonham’s last year. It went for 1.7 million pounds to a mystery buyer.

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