THaROOR MUst Visit UK MUsEUMs
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