Sotheby’s auction of what is reportedly the armour of Guru Gobind Singh has enraged Sikh organisations in India. But most community leaders in the United Kingdom, including Sardar Himmat Singh of the Shiromani Gurdwara, seemed unaware of the controversy.
The armour is slated to go under the hammer in Sotheby’s ‘Arts of the Islamic World’ sale on April 9. The Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee has already appealed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to stop the auction.
The High Commission here said it had not received “any instruction” from the government till Tuesday noon but HT learnt that a few prominent Sikh NRIs were ready to buy it.
Also on Tuesday, the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Committee said it was willing to shell out any amount for the armour, after checking its authenticity.
The armour’s price could ultimately go up to around £50,000.
The source of the controversy is a paragraph in the Sotheby’s catalogue: “This side plate is virtually identical to a single plate in a complete set of charaina (back, front and two side plates) in the collection of the royal house of Patiala in Punjab. Each of those plates carry inscribed verses from compositions of the Sikh Gurus.”
“According to family tradition, the set was owned by Guru Gobind Singh before it was presumably gifted to an ancestor. The close relationship between the Guru and the Patiala family is widely acknowledged in Sikh history.”
The confusion is compounded by the sentence: “The existence of this plate from another charaina set points to the possibility that the Guru commissioned more than one such set.”
Matthew Weigman, worldwide director of sales publicity at Sotheby’s, told BI: “The sets may have similarities but the one up for auction is not the Guru’s. If it was really owned by him, we would not have set the price between £10,000 and £12,000, but asked for more.”
(With agency inputs)