|India FestivalV&A presents The Al Thani Collection|
Among the great victories by the East India
company's Army in India and elsewhere, the one at Srirangapatna (now in the Karnataka state) in May 1799 against their sworn-enemy Tipu Sultan was one of the very few greatest British victories in the empire. It was something like felling the mighty Goliath by David. A brilliant warrior and administrator, he also took keen interest in innovation and fine artistic work. Many of his innovations in weapons, buildings, art works, etc., done under his direction were executed with meticulous care and attention. No compromises on either quality of work or materials being used in the work. Tipu reigned his land and dispensed fair justice by majestically sitting on the outstanding throne in the form of a life size tiger, covered in shinning gold metal sheets studded with dazzling precious stones of immense value. Tipu Sultan's quote, "I would 'rather live one day as a tiger than a lifetime as a sheep" is quite well-known across the Indian subcontinent and England.
It is one among the most symbolic artistic objects of Tipu's kingdom and carries historical and heritage value. An interesting fact that many people may not be aware of is that Tipu Sultan never sat on the throne. He refused to do so until he defeated his arch enemy - the East India British company who made sucker out of Indian rulers who were busy catching each others' throat.
Some interesting facts of gem-crusted gold tiger:
According to Lt. Col. Alexander Beatson, a witness to the sack of Tipu’s palace at Seringapatam, 'it was a wooden tiger as large as life, covered with gold, in the attitude of standing, which was placed across his back'.
|Tiger head, Tipu Sultan. pinterest.co.uk|
01. After Tipu's fall and death, the East India company began making a list of his treasury, etc for proper division of valuable items. Earlier, there was an unruly loot of the spoils of war - some of the valuable treasures in the palace. Commander Wellesley was against dismantling the throne, a nice work done by the Mysorean artisans. But the British troops, fresh from victory, began to dismantle and retain separate pieces from the throne as a war trophy. They had no idea about the historic and aesthetic value of the throne. Nor were they aware of its unique artistic work and workmanship.
02. The throne was too large in size to be carried away. A decision was taken to break up the throne and the Asiatic Annual Register (1799: 223) justified the action during the sack of Seringapatam.
03. It was a howdah upon a tiger, covered with sheet gold and is accessed by silver steps, gilt, having silver nails and fastenings of the same metal. The fine canopy (8 to 9 feet tall from the bottom of the throne) was decorated with a costly fringe of fine pearls all around it.
04. The Huma bird made entirely of precious stones, was sent to England in August 1799 by Cornwallis.
05. The eyes and teeth of tiger were made of glass crystals.
06. The tiger throne with stripes is supported by 4 legs with tiger paws.
07. The total value then was 60,000 pagodas.
08. The main gold tiger head, two small ones of the same metal and the Huma bird were separated from the huge gold plated tiger throne.
09. The Court of Directors on 24 May 1800, received the huge tiger head, the huma bird and a carpet from India dispatched on 20 January 1800 by Commander Richard Wellesley (later Lord Mornington) through his ADC Maj.
10. Putney Mein, Surgeon in the British troops in Srirangapatna got the tiger head for 500 pounds through auction from whom Wellesley purchased it to be sent to the museum. It not taken by Earl Cornwallis but by Lord Harris Richard Wellesley sent it to the museum to be presented to the king..
11. The tiger head and other parts of the throne were in the EIC museum for a long time for some reason.
Based on a resolution on 2 November 1831 by the Court of directors of the Museum, Lord Steward was to present it to King William IV.
12. The tiger’s head is made of beaten gold sheet on a wooden core, engraved overall with large stripes – bubris, the distinguishing mark of Tipu and his court;
|solid gold finia 18th century, Gem-encrusted gold tiger Daily Mail|
'Bismillah Muhammad' Calligraphy in the Tiger Head Pattern.
13. The nose, mouth, eyes and teeth were carefully made. The tiger’s neck has a gold collar attached with ridged rope and scroll moldings.
14. Among the original eight tiger head finials only three tiger are believed to have survived the last one was was sold just 18 months ago after having lain in a castle for 100 years.
15. The jewelled bird 'Huma' was presented to Queen Charlotte, the wife of George III.
16. As for the third golden tiger head, it was acquired by the second Lady Clive in India and is at Powis Castle.
17. A similar finial came to light last year and sold at auction last year for £389,600. - vide, Bonhams