Assam’s directorate of archaeology has requested the state government to try and stop the auctioning of a golden hookah that Mughal Emperor Jahangir had gifted an Assamese royal family 380 years ago.
The hookah, studded with diamonds and pearls and valued at Rs 20 crore, had been a prized possession of the Gauripur royal family. But the Calcutta High Court took it in its custody after a property dispute among the descendants of the family since 1960.
The difference over the hookah could not be resolved though other movable and immovable property of the royal family was divided through mutation in the mid-1990s.
According to a member of the family, the hookah is scheduled to be auctioned in Kolkata on Thursday and Friday though there was no confirmation about the auctioneer. But he said the court was convinced that the hookah be auctioned off and the money shared among 35 members caught in the prolonged legal battle.
“We have submitted documents on the history and preciousness of the artefact to the state government, and have requested it to stop the auction,” Ranjana Sarma, archaeology’s deputy director, said.
She said the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act of 1972 prevents the sale of any antique piece without registration in the state it belongs to. “The hookah has not been registered, and a purchaser needs to re-register it for claiming his or her legal ownership.”
Pressure groups such as All Assam Students’ Union and All Koch-Rajbongshi Students’ Union too have asked the state government to intervene and bring the artefact back to Assam.
Two notable members of the Gauripur royal family were Pramathesh Barua, the first screen Devdas, and Pratima Pandey, the queen of Goalporiya folk songs.
Gauripur, in Dhubri district bordering Bangladesh, is 280 km west of Guwahati.