Maharashtra's Efforts to Retrieve Shivaji's Ceremonial Sword from the UK

Maharashtra’s Efforts to Retrieve Shivaji’s Ceremonial Sword from the UK

Maharashtra is in talks with the Centre to be guarantor for the journey of the sword, gifted by Shivaji IV to the then Prince of Wales, to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the warrior king’s coronation.

‘Jagdamba’, the ceremonial sword of Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji, may soon return to Maharashtra from a museum in the United Kingdom for about a year, to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the famed Maratha ruler’s ascension to the throne.

The sword, set with several diamonds and rubies, was presented to Albert Edward, then Prince of Wales and later King Edward VII, by Shivaji IV “as a relic of the Maratha Chief Shivaji to whom it formerly belonged” during the former’s visit to India in 1875-76.

The Maharashtra Government has started talks with the Centre to get the sword from Saint James’s Palace in London, State Cultural Affairs Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar told The Hindu.

The Minister, who is likely to visit London in May to hold discussions with officials in the U.K., said that the Centre would be the guarantor to get the sword back to India for a brief period. “I will personally reach out to U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in this regard. We wish to keep it in Maharashtra for at least one year. It is touched by the Maharaj [Shivaji Maharaj] and is extremely valuable for us since,” Mr. Mungantiwar said.

The first effort to bring back the sword was made by freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak, and after Independence, several Chief Ministers of Maharashtra, including the first CM, Yashwantrao Chavan, pursued the matter.

“It will be a moment of pride if we get back the Jagdamba sword to mark the 350th anniversary of Shivaji’s coronation in 2024. Once we get the sword, we will organise a series of events across the State for the special day,” Mr. Mungantiwar said.

Shivaji was crowned as emperor of his realm at Raigad Fort on June 6, 1674, and he was said to had three swords named ‘Bhavani’, ‘Jagdamba’, and ‘Tulja’.

Bhavani and Tulja, both battle swords, are currently at Satara and the Sindhudurg Fort, respectively. Jagdamba, the ceremonial sword, is at Saint James’s Palace under the purview of the British Royal Family.

The Prince of Wales was a keen collector of antique weapons, and before his scheduled visit to India, he instructed all the British officials here to find which ruler had the “best antique” weapons with historical significance, historian Indrajit Sawant, author of Shodh Bhavani Talwaricha (‘In search of Bhavani sword’), said.

He said that Shivaji IV was about 11 years old when he gifted the Jagdamba sword used by Shivaji Maharaj to the British prince, like several other Indian kings of the time.

“During their historical meeting in Mumbai, as a return gift, the Prince of Wales presented a sword to Shivaji IV, which is currently at the New Palace Museum at Kolhapur. A catalogue also describes the Jagdamba sword as that of Shivaji Maharaj and its specifications in detail,” Mr. Sawant said.

The 18th century weapon’s whole object dimensions are “127.8 x 11.8 x 9.1 cm” and its blade length is 95 cm.

Mr. Sawant said that a catalogue at the museum read: “Sabre: Maratha straight, one-edged old European blade, with two grooves on each side, in one of which I.H.S. is stamped three times; the raised steel supports at the hilt are damascened with gold in floral designs; the guarded hilt is iron with a broad knuckle guard and a circular pommel, terminating in a spike and encrusted with heavy open-work floral decoration of gild thickly set with large diamonds and rubies. Presented by H.H. the Maharaja of Kolhapur as a relic of the Maratha Chief Shivaji to whom it formerly belonged.”