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UK museum to sign pact for Shivaji’s ‘Tiger Claws’ journey to India

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LONDON, Oct 1: The Victoria and Albert ( V and A) Museum is all set to sign a memorandum of
understanding (MoU) with the Maharashtra government next week, which will see 17th century ‘Tiger
Claws’ weapon believed to have belonged to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj make a journey back to India
for an exhibition.
During a protracted military engagement in 1659, the legendary Maratha leader held metal claws, or
wagh nakh, concealed in his hand and is said to have disembowelled his opponent Afzal Khan – the
commander of the opposing Bijapur army.
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 V and A by a descendant.

“The V and A looks forward to welcoming senior leadership from the Maharashtra government, to sign a
memorandum of understanding,” a V and A spokesperson said.
“The story of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s triumph over Afzal Khan is legendary, so we are delighted
that the ‘Tiger Claws’ will return to India as part of the 350th anniversary events where they can be
enjoyed as part of the celebrations. We hope that their display might also enable new research into
their history and look forward to working in partnership with colleagues in the months ahead as we
develop plans for their display,” the spokesperson said.
The MoU, expected to be signed on Tuesday, coincides with Maharashtra’s 350th anniversary
celebrations of the coronation of Chhatrapati Shivaji. It is then expected to be dispatched to India later
this year for an agreed period.
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 By the
Prime Minister of the Peshwa of the Marathas”.
According to 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.
“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.” (PTI)

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