Saturday, 23 April 2011

Punjab and Sikh artefacts auction surpasses expectations

Some important artefacts, documents and images relating to the Ranjit Singh period and beyond were up for auction by Mullocks Auctioneers , specialists in Historical memorabilia at Ludlow Racecourse in Shropshire, UK on the 19th April 2011.

The items were part of a major auction of items from the French Revolution up to and including the two World wars and included personal items belonging to Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill.

Over fifty Sikh items were up for auction with items related to Duleep Singh being the focus of attention. The most important of the items comprised a hand written letter of Duleep Singh which went for £300 (guide price £100-200). An important item was a ten page letter written by a Sgt. Elliott. This described him overseeing the lonely Duleep Singh when he had been taken to Fatehgarh from Lahore and describing his birthday celebrations. This went for £700 (guide price £300-£500).

A 14 page memorandum by Sir John Login to the East India court of Directors relating to his financial settlement when he came of age went for £1300. A 36 page memoir written by Sir John Login prepared for Queen Victoria on the conversion of Duleep Singh to Christianity after his dethronement and the annexation of the Punjab by the British went for £5900, double the guide price.Of particular interest was a superb miniature portrait of Ranjit Singh dated 1839 and one of the last painted of him by a court artist. His visage in this portrait is much different from other depictions and may be a genuine likeness of him close to the end of his life. The portrait went for £2000. A portrait of an Akali went for an enormous £2200, nearly ten times the guide price.

Some important documents relating to the Anglo-Sikh wars were also part of the lot. Handwritten notes by Sir Hugh Gough, the British Commander during the wars with the Sikhs calculating how many troops he had available in each regiment went for four times the guide price at £350. A document in Persian containing orders from one of the Sikh generals at the battle of Gujrat, the last battle fought against the British sold for £1900, twice the guide price.

One of the most interesting and unusual items was a confidential British document on Ram Singh and the Kuka movement detailing how Ram Singh and his followers were to be closely  monitored. The document included a six page list of the names of the leading lights of the Kuka organization. Sixty-eight Kukas were subsequently executed by the British by tying them to cannons and firing them. The document was sold for £400 (guide price £150).

“Auctions over the last few years indicate an increasing interest in Sikh related items” commented Amarpal Singh Sidhu, author of “The First Anglo-Sikh War” and present at the proceedings. “The interest is coming not just from the Sikh community but from Europeans as well cognizant of the Sikh Empire and the colourful and tragic story of his son Duleep Singh. This increasing enthusiasm to own a piece of Sikh history no matter the cost bodes well for the preservation of these items in the long term.”

According to Gurinder Singh Mann, Sikh Historian from Leicester a letter of Sir John Malcolm was also an interesting item in the sale. Malcolm was the writer of the important book, Sketch of the Sikhs. Mann stated, “ the letter of Malcolm gives the impression that he was working on a revised version of his Sketches of India. It is not clear whether another version of Sketch of the Sikhs was also be prepared by the Governor of Bombay ”.

The proceedings were covered by Sikh TV and will be televised shortly.

Details of the lots can be viewed at

See earlier story:  Rare Sikh and Punjab artefacts to be auctioned.


Ik Ong Kaar said...

What I don't understand is how they auction the items of our heritage that they stole from us and there is no one to voice against that. What is Indian government doing and more so our so called Punjab Sikh leaders? Is there no one to complain? Is there no international law in this day and age to confront them? These items should be returned to the rightful owners, sent to The Golden Temple Darbar Sahib, Amritsar. But wait are they going to be safe there???? We have bigger thieves at home...

Anonymous said...

In 1984 many priceless items were stolen from the Sikh Reference Library including Hukamnamas of Mata Sundri of the 1st Vaisakhi 1777 (1720 AD). It has been over 25 years and I wonder how many people know that such a document existed, let alone the fact that today it lies in the hands of the Indian Central Bureau of Intelligence (unless it has been destroyed). Here is a line from (worth a read):
"Certain documents which were found seditious during investigation were destroyed after the order of the Hon’ble Court. A copy of the list of such documents is enclosed herewith as annexure A."
There is a systematic eradication of this religion which is presently occuring. The most important goal at present should be to retrieve our historical documents.

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