Srirangapatna Gold

Tipu's Throne Finial

Tipu's Throne Finial

Gold has a mesmerising influence on human imagination. Rudyard Kipling immortalised it in his poem ” Gold is for the mistress”. I have always been fascinated by the golden mask that covered the face of the mummy of the young pharaoh Tutankahamen. In contemporary nanoscience the alchemy wrought on gold to change its colour by merely changing the size of the colloid by Michael Faraday in 1857 holds us in thrall. Even though gold is the only metal that India uses in proprtion to its population and devours 20% of the global production with a minuscule local production, there are very few examples of gold artefacts of Indian origin that we can display . Thus the recent announcement surrounding the auction of the gold finial of Tipu Sultan’s throne had me hurrying with excitement to the dictionary ( and not to the bank as you might imagine !) to know the meaning of the term finial.COD informed me that a finial is an ornament at the top or corner of an object. In this case the object was Tipu’s throne and the finials were the golden tiger heads encrusted with diamonds. Its fearful symmetry must have at once evoked admiration and fright in the eyes of the British soldiers . Perhaps greed was more in evidence as the tiger finials were separated and taken as war trophy. Two centuries later they are discovered and brought to world attention.The tiger figure was a leitmotif in many objects created by Tipu.
While historians may argue about his religious stand, there is no doubt that he has earned a place by his defiance of the British rulers. His sword ( a brief account may be found in the book by Sharada Srniivasan and S Ranganathan on the Legendary Wootz Steel ) and his early experiments in rocketry ( a brief description has been given by Roddam Narasimha on the Taramandal pet or cosmic bazaar ) have been honoured by eponymous recognotion. Now what does eponymos mean ?!.

I am drawn to Tipu because he was born in Devanahalli , quite close to the new Bengaluru airport and ruled from a city with a resplendent name!

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One Response to Srirangapatna Gold

  1. Ancient Egypt’s primary source of gold was from Nubia (“nub” in ancient Egyptian means “gold”) and then alluvial gold from the sands of the Nile. Gold was for divine rulers of ancient Egypt. Commonfolk had no access to gold and they never wore it. But it was known to be precious and hence the tombs of the Pharaohs (i.e., pyramids) were robbed for gold and precious stones. This resulted in the priests making the access to interior of pyramid even difficult by adding false passageways leading nowhere and sealing up the actual room where the sacrophagus of the Pharaoh as well as the treasure laid. It is no wonder that the tomb of King Tutankhamun, or King Tut as he is called, was difficult for the robbers to break in.

    King Tut was in fact a minor ruler of the New Kingdom Period of ancient Egypt but as you say he shot to fame only because of the gold funerary mask which cover the mummy.

    While staying in the UK, I never had a chance to see the mummy of King Tut even though, I believe, the British Museum hosted it. Much of my knowledge of ancient Egyptian history comes from the library of the Department of Oriental Studies at Cambridge where I spent hours and days reading about ancient Egypt.

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