The Telegraph
Friday , January 22 , 2016

Court call after hookah auction

Dhubri, Jan. 21: A precious possession of the Gauripur royal family, a hookah, was auctioned on January 14 and 15 at the instance of Calcutta High Court and the bidding report was submitted to the court.

However, the hookah, presented by Mughal Emperor Jahangir to the family, is yet to be handed over to the highest bidder.

"The report of bidding, with the amount each bidder has offered, was submitted in the court, which will pass the final verdict after examining it," a relative of the royal family said today.

He said a section of people who has nothing to do with property matters of the family had raised an unnecessary hue and cry over "a family affair". He said three bidders took part and the amount offered by them was between Rs 7 crore and Rs 9 crore.

However, Prabir Coomar Barua, son Raja Prakritish Chandra Barua of Gauripur royal family, when asked about the auction of the hookah , pleaded ignorance.

"I am least interested about the auction of the hookah because of a lot of controversies over the object. Moreover, I was not present at the time of auction. I can't say who were the bidders and the amount offered by them," Barua said.

An official source in Dispur claimed to have submitted its objection before the high court, pleading to stop the auction as the 400-year-old antique ought to be preserved by the state government.

Assam commissioner (cultural affairs) Pritam Saikia had written a letter requesting Calcutta High Court to stop the auction, the source said. But the letter, which was sent by the state government a day before the auction, was not received by those appointed by the court, the source added.

Litigation and controversy over the hookah came to light when the Archaeological Survey of India wrote to the Dhubri deputy commissioner last month about the imminent auctioning of the item without following the rules and regulations laid down by the ASI on the sale and auction of antiques.

The hookah was gifted to Bijni prince Parakhit Narayan by Mughal Emperor Jahangir in 1635 and has been in the custody of receivers appointed by Calcutta High Court. The 24-carat gold hookah, weighing 1.5kg and studded with diamonds and pearls, is estimated to be worth Rs 20 crore.

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