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100 years on, Nizam’s sword set to return from Glasgow

It is one of seven items being repatriated by Glasgow Life museums

September 21, 2022 11:14 pm | Updated September 25, 2022 02:39 pm IST - HYDERABAD

Museum conservator Stephanie De Roemer holding the ceremonial Indo-Persian sword during a transfer of ownership ceremony at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow on August 19, 2022 as Scotland prepares to repatriate Indian artefacts.

Museum conservator Stephanie De Roemer holding the ceremonial Indo-Persian sword during a transfer of ownership ceremony at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow on August 19, 2022 as Scotland prepares to repatriate Indian artefacts. | Photo Credit: AFP

A 14th century ceremonial sword that was sold in Hyderabad to a British General in the early 20th century is set to return to India. The sword is among the seven objects being repatriated by Glasgow Life, which manages Glasgow’s museums.

While the objects were described as stolen, the acquisition document for the sword says it was purchased from Maharaja Kishen Pershad.

Jonathon Reilly, communications officer of Glasgow Life, said: “The tulwar (sword) was purchased in 1905 by General Sir Archibald Hunter, Commander-in-Chief, Bombay Command (1903-1907), from Maharaja Sir Kishen Pershad Bahadur Yamin us-Sultanat, the Prime Minister of Hyderabad. The tulwar was donated by Sir Hunter’s nephew, Mr. Archibald Hunter Service, to Glasgow Life museums’ collections in 1978.”

The sword, shaped like a snake, has serrated edges and a damascene pattern, with gold etchings of an elephant and tigers.

According to the museum documentation, the sword was “exhibited by Mahbub Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VI, Nizam of Hyderabad (1896-1911) at the 1903 Delhi or Imperial Durbar, a ceremonial reception held to commemorate the coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra as Emperor and Empress of India.”

“The Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad is the perfect repository for the sword as it is from this region. However, we are yet to get intimation about the repatriated object,” says SJM director A. Nagender Reddy. The SJM has a gallery dedicated to arms and armoury that has swords, knives, and battle axes belonging to the Mughals, Nizams and other rulers of India.

How this ceremonial sword exhibited by Nizam Mahbub Ali Khan was later sold by his prime minster Maharaja Kishen Pershad remains a mystery. “The affection Mahbub Ali Khan had for Maharaja Kishen Pershad is well known. The Maharaja was wealthy. He might have gifted the sword to the British officer,” says historian Sajjad Shahid.

Kishen Pershad hailed from the family of Maharaja Chandoo Lal, who was the prime minister for Nizam Sikander Jah twice. Kishen Pershad was known for his munificence where he was known to throw out coins to people chasing his motorcar.

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