The Sunday Guardian - - Covert -

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor is ha­bit­ual of run­ning into con­tro­ver­sies. But he would have been on a stronger wicket to hit back at the BJP and his own party politi­cians— mem­bers of erst­while royal fam­i­lies —who are at­tack­ing him on his strong re­marks about “ma­hara­jas” in the con­text of San­jay Leela Bhansali’s film Pad­ma­vati, if he had known about a re­cent lec­ture on “In­dian ex­hibits” in the Bri­tish Royal Col­lec­tion.

In this lec­ture on “Sikh Arms and Ar­mour” in Le­ices­ter, UK-based his­to­rian-au­thor Gurinder Singh Mann ex­plained how many beau­ti­ful and ex­pen­sive gifts made their way into the Royal Col­lec­tion through the then In­dian royal fam­i­lies. The lec­ture was part of the year-long ex­hi­bi­tion, “Splen­dours of the Sub­con­ti­nent: A Prince’s Tour of In­dia 1875-76”, cur­rently be­ing held in Bri­tain. Mann heads the Sikh Museum Ini­tia­tive.

Queen Vic­to­ria, who never set foot on the In­dian sub­con­ti­nent, sent her el­dest son, Prince Ed­ward (later King Ed­ward VII), to em­bark on a four-month tour of In­dia in Oc­to­ber 1875. Mann says, “The ma­hara­jas had much at stake to en­sure they main­tained their hege­mony and sta­tus quo. So, the gift­ing of trea­sures to Queen Vic­to­ria via Prince Ed­ward be­came a lav­ish af­fair. Dur­ing Prince Ed­ward’s visit to Pun­jab in early 1876, he was show­ered with ex­quis­ite gifts by the rulers of princely states.”At a Mum­bai lit­er­ary event, Tharoor con­demned the ac­tions of erst­while Ra­jput “ma­hara­jas” who are loudly protest­ing against the film on the grounds that it is an in­sult to their hon­our. “His­tor­i­cally,” Tharoor said, “cer­tain Ra­jput ma­hara­jas had turned tail when faced with the might of the Bri­tish Em­pire, even strik­ing a bar­gain for their self­p­reser­va­tion.”Mann says that the Pun­jab roy­alty, which show­ered gifts on Prince Ed­ward, in­cluded Ma­haraja Ma­hen­dra Singh (Pa­tiala), Ma­haraja Raghu­bir Singh (Jind), Ma­haraja Bikram Singh (Farid­kot), Ma­haraja Hira Singh (Nabha) and Khar­rak Singh

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