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HomeNationalHistorian William Dalrymple poses with Mughal relic, echoes memories of colonial plunder

Historian William Dalrymple poses with Mughal relic, echoes memories of colonial plunder

Renowned author schooled for posing with Shah Jahan’s glasses up for auction at art company Sotheby’s

Historian William Dalrymple was called out for ‘colonial ignorance’ after he posted an image with Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s jewel studded glasses on social media.

Author of several books on South Asian history, Dalrymple was all smiles in a picture he posted on Twitter on Monday, while wearing the emerald encrusted spectacles. Dalrymple said that the glasses were perfect for a ‘Mughal rave’.

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Several South Asians called out Darlymple for posing with an artefact that belonged to the subcontinent before the British colonizers took over.

A user noted that the glasses were acquired through imperial endeavours.

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Another user furthered that Darlymple was posing with a ‘stolen artefact’ and that he failed to mention that the glasses were being retailed. The user added that a Mughal Empire relic should not be up for sale.

Other users also pointed out that the glasses belong to the subcontinent. One wondered how the British still had control over Mughal-era articles, furthering that the colonizers should return the infamous diamond, Koh-i-Noor, to its place of origin as well.

Some requested that the glasses be returned to their ‘rightful owners’ in South Asia as well. A user said that the white man had looted South Asia but now stood tall as the defender of human rights. Some users were less mellow and more vociferous in their demands that the ‘thieves’ return the stolen items. A user added that the rightful place for ancient relics were museums in South Asia, not in the hands of white men like Darlymple.

There were those who pointed out that the glasses belong to the subcontinent. One wondered how the British still had control over Mughal era articles, furthering that the colonizers should return the infamous diamond Koh-i-Noor to its place of origin as well.

The scathing responses to Darlymple’s picture were backed by a general bitterness over British rule that saw the Subcontinent plundered before the British departure in the wake of partition 1947. To that end, sociologist Nida Kirmani remarked that Darlymple lacked ‘self-awareness’. The critique, however, did not stop a user from exercising their funny bone who said that Darlymple owed his ‘roti, kapra, makaan’ (food, clothing, shelter) to the kids of Mughal Emperor Babar, who founded the Mughal Empire.

Darlymple was able to access the glasses for his Kodak moment as he narrated a video by the art company, Sotheby’s, for its auction titled ‘Arts of the Islamic World and India’ on Wednesday. In the video, Darlymple detailed how the glasses were commissioned by the Mughal ruler and were crafted skilfully in the finest of emeralds and diamonds.

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