Collecting historical memorabilia runs in the Pakvasa family. The Mumbai-based stockbroker Anuj Pakvasa, now 67, turned numismatist in 1980 and started collecting coins issued by princely states. His father was a collector of stamps from princely states, but Anuj was determined “to collect something that had weight to it”. His interest veered towards royal coats of arms (an emblem/shield of a person, a family or a country) and monograms. He ended up sourcing objects from around the country, thanks to a network of trusted dealers.
Pakvasa’s extensive collection (he says he never got around to counting, but it’s in the hundreds) includes rare coats of arms from erstwhile princely states in Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Apart from royal families, the collection includes coats of arms of zamindars too.
A messenger bag with the motto ‘Heavens light our guide’ inscribed on the coat of arms. From: Maler Kotla state (in present-day Punjab)
The collector, for the first time, is showcasing 85 pieces from his collection at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya on a large scale, “An IFS officer from Bareilly, UP, who is also a student of princely state history, saw my collection and said, ‘What you possess is beyond anything I have ever seen or read in any history textbook’,” says Pakvasa. And that’s what inspired him to exhibit his collection.
Pakvasa was always interested in the design and symbolism of the coat of arms: “In many cases, it reflected the flora and fauna of the region, and religious beliefs.” He cites the example of the Holkar royal family, of Indore, who were believers of Lord Shiva. “Their monogram has the Nandi (the bull) and their coins bear the shivalinga,” says Pakvasa.
In brass and white metal, it depicts the sun and Hanuman, who the Rajput rulers of the state revered. From: Raj Garh (in present-day Madhya Pradesh)
Over the last five to seven years, the collector says it has become tougher to collect coats of arms. “It’s been 67 years since Independence, so there are very few people who keep them anymore. A lot of them, especially the ones in silver, were melted and recast.”
Indian Coat of Arms (in collaboration with The Museum Society of Bombay) is on display till October 9, 10.30am to 6pm
Where: Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Fort.
Call: 98202 29670
This coat of arms in silver belonged to a zamindar, and has engravings of flowers, horses and of an angel. From: Balati, Dacca (in present-day Bangladesh)
(The writer tweets as @SomaRKDas )