A collection of arms and armour once owned by Tipu Sultan has been sold for a total of more than £6 million at a London auction.
Some thirty items once owned by the legendary south Indian ruler – nicknamed the ‘Tiger of Mysore’ – was sold as part of the Islamic and Indian Art Sale at Bonhams auction house.
The top lot was a rare sword with gem-encrusted tiger’s head pommel which was sold for a staggering £2.1 million.
It had had a reserve price of between £60,000 and £80,000.
A three-pounder bronze cannon with field carriage sold for just over £1.4 million against an estimate of between £40,000 and £60,000 whilst a flintlock sporting rifle sold for £720,000, more than seven times its reserve.
A Bonhams spokesman said the auction had attracted bidders from around the world.
The collection was once owned by British Tipu Sultan expert Robin Wigington who amassed the items over a thirty-year period. According to a Bonhams expert, Wigington was “obsessed” with Tipu and was considered an expert on the man – so much so that he converted his home in Stratford Upon Avon into a museum dedicated to the Sultan.
Among the treasures sold at the auction were sabres, embroidered arrow quivers, quilted helmets, blunderbusses, fowling pieces, sporting guns, pistols and an exquisitely jewelled throne used by the Sultan.
The items were looted by troops commanded by the Duke of Wellington who defeated Tipu Sultan in Mysore in 1799.
The Tiger of Mysore – who famously declared ‘I would rather live one day as a tiger than a lifetime as a sheep’ – was the East India Company’s most tenacious enemy, fighting them until his death in 1799.
He was a fanatical and relentless warrior, and vowed not to sit on his elaborate throne until he had vanquished the British.
He is widely considered one of the most accomplished and daring rulers of pre-colonial India, having devised campaigns which inflicted humiliating defeats on the British.