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Slice of history slips past Hazarduari doors

Behrampore, Aug. 12: Three German silver antiques have been stolen from the Hazarduari palace in Murshidabad.

The three panjas (palm-shaped artefacts) were made 70 years ago during the reign of Wasif Ali Mirza. He was the nawab of Murshidabad from 1906 to 1959.

The theft at the palace, which has now been converted into a museum, was detected by the staff at the closure time of 5pm yesterday.

Goutam Haldar, the assistant superintendent of the museum, said: “Three of the five panjas kept in a showcase in room number 20 on the first floor of the museum have been stolen. The panjas were not very costly. They are used to decorate the tazia during Muharram processions.”

A tazia is a replica of the mausoleum dedicated to the martyrs Hasan and Husain. They are made of bamboo sticks, coloured paper and fabric.

Haldar said the museum employees searched the palace for the stolen items but in vain. “We lodged a complaint at Murshidabad police station last night. Although the panjas are not very costly, they have antique value,” he said.

The five panjas, three of which have been stolen. Telegraph picture

Additional superintendent of police Deep Narayan Goswami said the theft was being investigated. “We have sealed the room from where the objects were stolen. We found the showcase, in which the panjas were kept, locked. Forensic experts today collected finger-print samples from the showcase,” Goswami said.

He said the museum staff were being interrogated. A CID team would assist the police in the probe, Goswami added.

The palace was handed over to the Archaeological Survey of India in 1985 for better upkeep. Hazarduari has 20 galleries containing 4,742 antiquities, of which 1,034 are on display for public viewing. An ASI team from Delhi will also visit the museum to probe the theft.

The Hazarduari palace was built during the reign of Nawab Nazim Humayun Jah (1824AD–1838AD) by architect McLeod Duncan.

The palace has more than 1,000 real and false doors, the reason why it is called Hazarduari.

The collection of antiques at the museum include weapons, oil paintings by Dutch, French and Italian artists, marble, porcelain and stucco statues, rare books, old maps and manuscripts belonging to the 18th and the 19th centuries.

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