Curated By: Saurabh Verma
Last Updated: October 03, 2023, 22:39 IST
London, United Kingdom (UK)
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s ‘Tiger Claws’ or ‘Wagh Nakh’ will return to India for an exhibition after a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the Maharashtra government and the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum in London.
The MoU coincides with Maharashtra’s 350th anniversary celebrations of the coronation of Chhatrapati Shivaji.
Maharashtra Minister for Cultural Affairs Sudhir Munganitwar signed the pact with Dr Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A, at a meeting at the museum.
Hunt hailed the “historic partnership” between the V&A, the government of Maharashtra and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) museum in Mumbai, which will enable the unique object to form part of celebrations in India next year.
“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,” said Dr Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A.
“We look forward to working with colleagues to finalise plans in the months ahead,” he said.
3-year Loan Agreement for ‘Wagh Nakh’
According to the V&A, the MoU sets out the details of a three-year loan agreement for the unique pair of Tiger Claws or “wagh nakh” in the V&A collection. They are described as an example of a weapon that was popular in the 17th century.
The signing of the agreement on Tuesday is 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 Shivaji’s coronation.
Amish Tripathi, Author and Director, The Nehru Centre, London said it is a fantastic day for those who follow Indian history. “It was such a special and wonderful moment. It almost felt like a divine object,” he said.
Wagh Nakh: History & Significance
As per historical accounts, Shivaji and Afzal Khan had arranged a truce after political upheavals in order to meet in a tented enclosure, virtually alone. The V and A description of the history of the ‘Tiger Claws’ explains: Both came armed: Shivaji wore mail under his clothes and metal skull protection under his turban. He also held a metal Tiger Claws’ weapon concealed in his hand. The two men fought, and Shivaji disembowelled his opponent.
(Image: V&A Museum)
Whereas, other reports say that in the Battle of Pratapgarh in 1659, the ‘wagh nakh’ was used by Shivaji Maharaj to kill Bijapur Sultanate’s general Afzal Khan– the commander of the opposing Bijapur army. Despite being outnumbered, the Marathas’ victory enhanced Chhatrapati Shivaji’s reputation as a brilliant military strategist.
The last Peshwa (Prime Minister) of the Marathas, Baji Rao II, surrendered to the British in June 1818 after defeat in the Third Anglo-Maratha War and was banished to Bithoor near Kanpur. It is possible he also surrendered this weapon to Grant Duff. It has not been possible to verify whether these tiger claws are the ones used by Shivaji nearly 160 years earlier.
Shivaji’s act of killing Afzal Khan at the foot of Pratapgarh fort in present-day Satara has become a popular episode, symbolising his courage in defeating a powerful adversary.
HOW IT LANDED WITH THE BRITISH
According to historians, the wagh nakh was kept in the sanctum sanctorum of a temple housed within Satara ruler’s family residence.
It is believed, though unverified, that the set of claws then came into the possession of James Grant Duff, an officer of the East India Company who was appointed Resident or political agent of the Satara state in 1818 and gifted to the Victoria and Albert (V and A) by a descendant.
“This Relic was given to Mr. James Grant-Duff of Eden When he was Resident at Satara By the Prime Minister of the Peshwa of the Marathas,” the museum website stated.
According to the V and A, the weapon is accompanied by a fitted case made after Grant Duff returned to Scotland. The inscription on the case reads: The ‘Wagnuck’ of Sivajee With Which He Killed the Moghul General. This Relic was given to Mr. James Grant-Duff of Eden When he was Resident at Satara Minister of the Peshwa of the Marathas”.