Antique arms collector held by ATS

4 Nov 2008, 0325 hrs IST, TNN

PUNE: Pune-based Rakesh Dhawade, arrested on Sunday by the state ATS investigating the Malegaon blast, is an arms and armour expert who has been
collecting, studying, documenting and conserving historical Indian weapons.

His collection of historical arms and armour includes nearly 2,000 items.

Some of the rare articles forming part of Dhawade’s collection are a sword, approximately 300 years old, with the Devi Kavach ‘stotra’ inscribed on its hilt; a 700-year-old Nepali sword belonging to a royal family; a matchlock gun, over 300 years old; and spears and armour for women.

Dhawade’s ancestors were primarily engaged in the manufacture of weapons during the age of Chhatrapati Shivaji. The Dhawade clan also finds mention in the Shivcharitra, considered the most authentic document on the great Maratha king, as well as in the Peshwa archives. Fond of fashioning weapons from copper wires since childhood, Dhawade’s talent for making imitations of Indian weapons received support from his school teachers in Pune.

In an interview to TOI in 2005 about his collection of arms and armour, Dhawade had declared, “I was born to promote and propagate the richness of Indian historical arms to GenNext.”

According to him, he is the only Indian member of the Arms and Armour Society, London. He was also a consultant for the Aamir Khan-starrer ‘The Rising’, centred on the 1857 Uprising hero Mangal Pandey, where he had provided guidance on the weapons used in Pandey’s era.

“No other country has as much variety of weapons as India has had. Although these weapons are outdated today, they spell out the metallurgy, sociology, economy and even the psychology of their respective eras,” he had state.

Pursuing his passion, Dhawade has traversed India twice and visited the UK, Russia and Tajikistan in search of weapons.

On his way back to Pune after participating in an exhibition in Allahabad a few years back, when dacoits struck the Prayag Express, Dhawade fought the thugs to defend his hard-earned assets, quite like a Hindi film protagonist.

Dhawade had said that he wanted to set up an exclusive museum for arms and armour. “We have also scientifically made replicas of the weapons for research,” Dhawade had said. Dhawade has also made a mark internationally – he challenged and proved the apt usage of one of the swords kept in the Reserve Collection of the renowned Victoria and Albert Museum (the V&A), London. He proved that the sword, which was wrongly identified as a sacrificial sword, was indeed a fighting one.

For his work, the Nehru Trust for Indian Collections at the V&A had bestowed on him the UK Travel Award 2000-2001.


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