The Victoria and Albert Museum (or the V&A) in London has a fantastic collection of artifacts from India, that includes textiles, jewellery, paintings, weapons, etc. While many of these have been purchased by the V&A, some of the exhibits have been acquired during annexation of the princely states of pre-independent India by the British. One such exhibit is the Golden Throne of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, which was acquired as State property in 1849 on the annexation of Punjab.
Ranjit Singh (1780–1839) was the first Maharaja of the Sikh Empire, also known as Punjab, Sikh Raj or Sarkar Khalsa. Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s court was considered to be amongst the most magnificent in India.
The golden throne is made of wood and covered with sheets of engraved gold. It was crafted by Hafez Muhammad Multani, a goldsmith. The throne has an octagonal base and has lotuses engraved on it. Though the Maharaja preferred to sit on the cross-legged floor or on a chair, he would use the golden throne on State occasions or when he wanted to impress foreign visitors.
I have my theory as to why the Maharaja did not use the throne too often—it looked distinctly uncomfortable. In spite of the velvet/silk cushions that the throne’s seat must have had, it would not have given enough space for even a moderately well-built man like the Maharaja to sit on the throne for long without considerable discomfort.
What do you think? Would the Maharaja have been comfortable in it?
The Museum Treasure Series is all about artifacts found in museums with an interesting history and story attached to them. You can read more from this series here.