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Sotheby's stops Sikh armour sale

7 April 08 09:32 GMT

The Sotheby's auction house has withdrawn from auction a set of body armour that Sikhs say once belonged to Guru Gobind Singh.

Guru Gobind Singh was the tenth and last religious head of the Sikhs.

Sikhs in India have staged protests at the proposed auction, saying the armour should be housed in a museum at Amritsar's Golden Temple.

Sotheby's said the armour had been withdrawn at the request of the seller. It gave no reason for the decision.

Nor would it give the identity of the owner of the armour.

'Suitable member'

A statement released by Sotheby's said the seller had asked the auction house to arrange for the "acquisition" of the armour "by a suitable member of the Sikh community".

The Sotheby's catalogue described the item as an 18th century "rare Sikh steel armour plate" from what is now the north-west India and Pakistan region, with an estimated value of £10-12,000 ($20-24,000).

Sotheby's had come under pressure to withdraw the armour following the Sikh protests in India.

But last week it said it had no evidence to support the claims that the body armour once belonged to Guru Gobind Singh.

"Sotheby's has researched the provenance of this piece... In the course of this research, Sotheby's has not found or been given any evidence to indicate ownership of this piece by Guru Gobind Singh," a statement said.

"We therefore do not deem the piece to be a relic of the Guru."

The body armour was due to have been auctioned on Wednesday.

The protests in India were mainly in the eastern Indian city of Patna - the birthplace of the Guru - and in Amritsar.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was urged to try to stop the auction and help get the armour.

Guru Gobind Singh was a military commander, as well as a poet and spiritual leader.

He fought many battles with the Mughal emperors and their allies.

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