01-10-2023 : In a momentous event that encapsulates the valor and heritage of India’s past, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s famed ‘Bagh ka Panja’ or tiger nail weapon is making its way back to Indian soil after a staggering 350 years in Britain. This emblematic artifact holds a significant place in history, having been wielded by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in 1659 during his historic triumph over General Afzal Khan of the Bijapur Sultanate, thwarting the traitorous intentions of the latter. Its journey back to its place of origin, Maharashtra, is scheduled for November, coinciding with the 350th anniversary of Chhatrapati Shivaji’s coronation.
To commemorate this remarkable occasion, a triennial exhibition is being organized, and as part of this celebration, the tiger claw weapon is being repatriated from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Maharashtra’s Culture Minister, Sudhir Mungantiwar, is set to travel to London to formalize the agreement with the museum for the return of ‘Bagh Nakh.’ Earlier this month, he had stated, “In the first phase, we are bringing Wagh Nakh, and it will be brought here in November.” The intention is for the ‘Wagh Nakh’ to find its place of honor in the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Museum located in South Mumbai.
The historical significance of the ‘Wagh Nakh’ weapon is deeply intertwined with Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s legacy. It was this very nail that he used to eliminate Afzal Khan, a pivotal moment in the Maratha Empire’s establishment. The Battle of Pratapgarh in 1659, where the Marathas emerged victorious despite being outnumbered, showcased Chhatrapati Shivaji’s military brilliance and further solidified his reputation as a formidable leader.
However, even as this artifact returns to India, there is an ongoing debate in Maharashtra regarding the authenticity of the ‘Wagh Nakh.’ History expert Indrajit Sawant has raised doubts, asserting that Maharaj Shivaji did not actually use it. He points to information on the Victoria and Albert Museum’s website that contradicts this claim. Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Aditya Thackeray has also questioned the veracity of ‘Bagh Nakh’ and its historical accuracy, adding another layer of intrigue to this remarkable story of reclamation.