The Maharashtra Mandal in London led vibrant celebrations as a state government delegation led by Minister for Cultural Affairs Sudhir Munganitwar signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum in the city this week for a three-year loan agreement to transport a set of ‘Tiger Claws’ (wagh nakh) that belonged to the legendary Maratha leader Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
The Tiger Claws are an example of a weapon that was popular in the 17th century. The particular set in question, which will now make its way for a tour of cities around Maharashtra next year in time for Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s milestone coronation festivities, has long drawn interest from scholars due to the leather case which was made for them in the 19th century by their owner at the time. The case claims that they are the same Tiger Claws used by Shivaji Maharaj during the historic battle and triumph over Azfal Khan in 1659.
Vrushal Khandke, President of Maharashtra Mandal London, said: “As part of the celebrations on the historic MoU signing, we have organised a cultural programme about how Shivaji Maharaj killed Afzal Khan with the wagh nakh, with song and dance.”
Munganitwar described the MoU signing as a major first in the UK-India cultural partnership, which could pave the way for more such agreements for Indian artefacts to make a journey back to the country of their origin.
Amish Tripathi, Director of the Nehru Centre in London who was present at the signing this week, said: “An MoU has been signed between the Maharashtra government and the V&A Museum for the loan of the Chhatrapati Shivaji wagh nakh to India for a period of three years, where it will displayed in various museums.
“I think this is truly an important occasion. Chhatrapati Shivaji is regarded almost as a God in India, founder of modern India in many ways. This wagh nakh had actually touched his own hands.”
The signing of the agreement this week marks the first step in the process which, following a formal loan agreement being finalised later this year, will enable the Tiger Claws to travel to multiple destinations across India to feature in commemorative events planned next year to mark the 350th anniversary of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s coronation.
Dr Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A said: “It was an honour to host the delegation today as we work together to establish this historic partnership between the V&A, the government of Maharashtra and our colleagues in the CSMVS museum – which will enable this unique object to be enjoyed as part of celebrations in India next year.
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“Given their fascinating heritage, I hope that the displays across Maharashtra and the accompanying events will help support new research into the Tiger Claws’ history and provenance. We look forward to working with colleagues to finalise plans in the months ahead.”