Tipu Sultan's Bedchamber Sword - Why did it get the record high price at Bonhams recent auction in London?

Tipu Sultan's bedchamber sword  indiatimes.com

Tipu Sultan's bedchamber sword trending/news

 Above image: Tipu Sultan's bedchamber sword personally owned by the famous ruler of Mysore (Mysuru).  ''The sword has an extraordinary history, an astonishing provenance and unrivalled craftsmanship,” according to Nima Sagharchi, head of the Islamic Arts section group,Bonhams..........................

London's famous  auction houses Bonhams and Christie's in the past decades conducted many widely publicized awe-inspiring auctions on India related items - artifacts, jewelry, gemstones, et.,  taken away by the British officials and military personnel of the East India company during their wars with the Sultans and Maharajahs across India. Countless of them were either looted as souvenirs or spoils of war by the British to whom honesty is an anathema.  Recently, in the third week of May 2023 auction house Bonhams  held an exciting auction - called  Islamic and Indian Art sale that got the attention of collectors of antique and war weapon items  from many countries.

Tipu Sultan  shutterstock.com

It was a beautiful sword of the 18th century ruler of Mysuru, Tipu Sultan, a sworn enemy of the British. Because of its personal association with the famous ruler often tagged as the Tiger of Mysore. It  was sold for whopping $17.4 million ( over GBP 14 million) at an auction. Tipu Sultan's  Bedchamber Sword, a part of Tipu's personal arsenal,   created new auction record in the UK and according to Bonhams unquestionably it is among the finest and most important of weapons with a proven personal association with the ruler.

Tipu Sultan's bedchamber sword edition.cnn.com

Courageous warrior of exceptional agility a fine swordsman and military leader, his popular artillery rockets called Mysorean Rockets terrorized the British army in a few wars. However, the final Anglo-Mysore war went in favor of the English company after his death in 1799 and capture of his palace at Srirangapatna and the kingdom. In the wake of it the British gained a vast swathe of fertile and rich  land, forming Mysore kingdom.  The British army after the war looted all  valuable items including Tipu's personal ones and lots of Mysorean rockets and took them away to England.  

As to the description  of the sword, the Bonhams Auction House has mentioned that it is a  fine gold-koftgari-hilted steel sword which was made by  Mughal swordsmiths using the model of  German blades imported in to India in the 16th century.  It is adorned with meticulously crafted gold calligraphy, featuring  symbols representing five divine qualities and two invocations to God. The sword was presented to Major General David Baird  by Colonel Arthur Wellesley (later Duke Wellington) presented Tipu’s ‘Bedchamber Sword’ in recognition of his vital role and exceptional  leadership qualities  during the and assault on Seringapatam, where Tipu Sultan was killed, Bonhams said in their release.  

Tipu Sultan's bedchamber sword imesofindia.indiatimes.com

Above image: The sword was owned by former Indian liquor baron Vijay Mallya who bought it from Baird's family in an auction at Dix Noonan Webb in September, 2003. Mallya paid 150000 British pounds for it. The bestowal was  significant because Baird had been Tipu’s prisoner for three years and was ill-treated in his dungeon in the fort at Srirangapatna and gave a slip at the right time and crossed over to Madras presidency. Later he took part in the Anglo-Mysore wars along with Duke Wellington.  The Noonans catalogue says this single-edge straight sword is a special one because calligraphic hilts were “amongst the rarest type of hilt from the Indian subcontinent. It was more or less a ceremonial/state sword and Tipu never used it in the battles.

The fine gold koftgari hilted steel sword  was referred to as sukhela, which is an emblem of authority. Its inspiring craftsmanship and unique production technique make it highly desirable by the bidders.  This fabled sword was found in the private bedchamber of Tipu in his Palace. Ever alert as he was known to sleep in a hammock with a sword and two pistols on his side, to confront the sudden attackers, Tipu's sword has inscriptions on the blade - "the Sword of the Ruler." Despite being a controversial figure as of to day, his courage, innovative war weapons and military leadership  remain etched in the pages of Indian history.