Did you know that amongst the items the British were fascinated by, one of the most coveted items was the magnificent throne of Tipu Sultan, the ruler of Mysore? Out of items, worth millions of pounds, that were seized from the Mysore palace, after the Battle of Seringapatam in 1799, the most precious item was probably the throne, owing to its grandeur! This throne which is currently at Government House in Calcutta, West Bengal has a complicated history, which is worth examining. Here are some crucial facts about this treasure!
Filled with Precious stones
While the original structure is made of wood, the entire structure was plated with gold! Inlaid on it were tiger stripes, and verses from the Quran. It rested on a tiger model, also plated with gold. Even the canopy on the top was covered with a sheet of gold, with pearls on the top! On each edge( it was octagonal), there was a tiger head, made of gold, and encrusted with jewels. Even the steps to the throne were made of silver.
Dismantled and distributed by the British
After the Battle of Seringapatam, Lord Wellesley wanted to give the whole throne to the British royal family, as a gift that celebrated British rule in India and also legitimized their accession of India. However, before this could happen, the Seringapatam Prize Committee had stripped off all the riches from the throne and auctioned/ sold them off to compensate the army. However, eventually, they bought back all the pieces, and though not re-assembled, gifted the royal family, one of the tiger heads on the side of the throne, as well as the Huma bird which was studded with precious stones, that was at the canopy.
Ghulam Muhammad Shah, Tipu Sultan’s son did not like it
In a letter by Ghulam Muhammad Shah to Lady Sutherland of Windsor Castle, where a part of the throne was displayed for a while, he mentions how he saw the throne on display and it was underwhelming. In this letter, he offers a book he edited and corrected, about his ancestors, where an accurate sketch was given for proper reference. He urges Lady Sutherland to read it and, study the sketch to understand the true grandeur of the throne.
Now, the larger structure is in the Government House, and put under immense surveillance. Maya Jasanoff writes about how Lord Wellesley had put his chair on the red and gold carpet it contained, and used to sit on it when he was governor!