6056

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Indian Silver Column Lamp with Hamsa Finial Presented & Inscribed to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

India
20th century

height: 43cm, diameter of base: 14.3cm, weight: 522g

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Provenance

Given to Mr Barry Williams, police bodyguard to Prime Minister Thatcher by Dennis Thatcher, the Prime Minister's husband.

This standing lamp of very high-grade silver was made in India, probably in the 1980s, but importantly, was presented to Britain’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on her official visit to India in 1981.

The base has the inscription:

‘Presented by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay, to Rt. Hon’ble Margaret Thatcher, April 17, 1981’.

Mrs Thatcher commenced an official four-day visit to India on April 16, 1981, so the lamp was presented on the second day of her visit. The previous day, Mrs Thatcher had a two-and-half hour meeting with the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan is an Indian educational trust that was founded in 1938 by Dr  K. M. Munshi,  Indian independence movement activist, politician, writer and educationist, with the support of Mahatma Gandhi.

The lamp is similar to a traditional lamp used in Hindu ritual puja (prayer) ceremonies, and comprises a flared foot, a tapering column and a platform of five lamp pans topped by a sacred swan (hamsa) finial. The pan platform is decorated underneath with a fringe of pendant silver bells. The lamp is a fitting gift from an educational trust with its allegorical suggestion of spreading light and dispelling ignorance.

The lamp is in excellent condition.

It is accompanied by a letter from the British policeman who served as a bodyguard for Mrs Thatcher on the official visit to India describing how the lamp later was given to him by Dennis Thatcher, husband of the prime minister. (This letter is reproduced below.)

References

Anderson, S., Flames of Devotion: Oil Lamps from South and Southeast Asia and the Himalayas, UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, 2006.

Kelkar, D.G., Lamps of India, Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, India, 1961.

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