Quest for Guru Swords

"Sword that smile in a flash,
that disperses the armies of the
wicked in the vast field of battle.
Hail to the weather, saviour and sustainer, hail to thee sword supreme".
' Guru Gobind Singh

Two swords of Guru Gobind Singh, known as the Toshkhana and Raikot swords, were taken to England as war booty, sometime between 1853-55, soon after the annexation of Punjab. The Toshkhana sword was kept in the London museum, and the Raikot sword was given as a gift to her majesty, Queen Victoria. In all probability, these swords are lying forgotten and uncared for in one of the many museums, Royal Armoury, or with some private collector.

The Indian Government is fully aware of the history of the swords, how and when these were taken to England, based on the documents in the Indian archives, traced out by the renowned historian, late Nahar Singh. When Rajiv Gandhi and V.P. Singh were Prime Ministers, they were approached by Nahar Singh, who sought their help in locating and bringing the swords back to India. Unfortunately, no serious efforts appear to have been made to retrieve these t important relics of Guru Gobind Singhji, which are sacred for the Khalsa Panth.

Lord Dalhousie visited Maharaja Ranjit Singh's Toshkhana on December 17, 1850, and was quick to spot the weapons of Guru Gobind Singh, including his personal sword with his name written on the blade in Gurmukhi. This sword was known as Toshkhana sword. Lord Dalhousie found out that the Maharaja had given strict instructions to worship these weapons every day. Knowing the importance of the Guru's weapons, he approached the British Government to purchase them for his personal collection. He was permitted to retain the weapons of the Guru, except his sword. The British Government was of the view "that the sword as having belonged to the Sikh nation, we are desirous of placing in our museum as an historic relic." The sword was sent to England in February, 1853, and kept in the museum.{pagebreak}

Based on Nahar Singh's research, the weapons of Guru Gobind Singh, barring the swords, were traced to Lady Lindsay, the great grand-daughter of Lord Dalhousie. On the request of the then Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, she returned the weapons and now they are displayed at Anandpur Sahib. The search for the sword continued. Tracing the Guru's sword became Nahar Singh's life's mission. After a research of alt 20 years, in 1986, he traced the relevant documents in the archives in 1986. The correspondence between the Punjab Government, the Government of India and the Secretary of State, England, gives the history of the swords and their final disposal at that time.

The search for the missing swords started in 1921 by the British with the efforts of Sir Surinder Singh Majitha (1871-1941). The British felt that it would be a good gesture and "politic to return the swords and any other arms of the Guru if and when available to the representative of the Sikh community."

The search for the swords was carried out for short-term political gains and not with the sincerity and earnesty it deserved. Documents confirm clearly that the final destination of the Toshkhana sword was the British Museum, London. However, the British were unable to locate this in the museum. No document of its removal from the museum could be traced, hence its whereabouts are not known.

There is a brief mention of the Raikot sword in Sikh history. It was gifted by the Guru to Rai Kalha of Raikot in 1705 as a goodwill gesture. Further details about the sword were known through the communication on the subject between 1921-28 traced in the archives by Nahar Singh.

After the battle of Chamkaur and after traversing the jungles of Machiwara with Mughal armies in his pursuit, the Guru escaped by disguising as Uch-Ka-Pir(saint of Uch) with the help of two Pathans. When the Guru reached Raikot, he was welcomed by an influential Muslim named Rai Kalha, who was chowdhry of Jagraon and Raikot. The Guru stayed with him for sometime and here he received the information of martyrdom of his two brave younger sons at Sirhind, and the death of his mother.{pagebreak}

While leaving Raikot, the Guru gifted his sword to Rai Kalha in return of the courtesy and goodwill shown towards him with the injunction that the sword should not be worn or carried except in battle or in some great emergency.
The sword was preserved with great reverence as a treasure heirloom by the family of Rai Kalha for some generations. Maharaja Ranjit Singh and other Sikh chiefs, including the Maharaja of Patiala, who knew the significance of the sword, tried their best to acquire it by offering large sums of money. The family of Rai resisted all temptations and remained adamant not to part with it, until after the death of the last Rani of Raikot.
Rae Imam Baksh, the only descendent and distant cousin of the Rani, brought the sword to Henry Brerton, the Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Ludhiana in April, 1854, with a request to present it to the Governor-General as a gesture to show his loyalty to the British empire.

I have translated the following inscription from Gurmukhi which is engraved on the side of the blade: 'May God's protection rest on me. There is one God, and a true Guru, whom I worship. This is the signature of the 10th Khalsa Avtar (i.e. Guru Gobind). This sw ord is the protection from all kinds of harms, the omnipresent God is with me always, God the protector of the lives of men."

The sword was sent to England sometime in 1855 as a present to Queen Victoria, and in all probability it was kept in the Indian room at the Buckingham Palace (letter dated August 10, 1922, signed by the keeper of the King's Armoury also states so). However, as per the British version, there is no mention of this sword in the Windsor catalogue of arms and armoury, and it could not be located.

Now the important question – where are the swords' On the closure of the London Museum in 1879, some collections were transferred to other museums. It is possible that Toshakhana sword (if still not in the main museum where it was received on August 10, 1953) found its way to another museum, but, ironically, there is no record of its transfer, as per British version. The sword in all probability, is lying in one of the museums. There is also a possibility of its having gone into the hands of a private collector by unfair means, specially if we believe the British that they could not trace the sword in any of the museums.

With this background, a dynamic and well thought-out search plan is needed to trace the swords. Action at the government level is needed as also incentives in the form of appeals and awards.

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