Diamonds, artwork, watches and more: a glimpse of India’s Toshakhana

A diamond-emerald silver set, a few Rado watches, several Mont Blanc pens, daggers, vases, carpets, paintings and old coins. As exciting as all of this sounds, no one owns one. These are gifts received by officials in recent years and deposited in the Toshakhana or provincial treasury.

The Indian Toshakhana is a repository of items or gifts received by ministers, diplomats and heads of the armed forces in the performance of their official duties, from foreign sources. According to data available from the Ministry of External Affairs, between January 2019 and April 2022, Toshakhana received 2,036 items, which have a cumulative value of ₹7.76 crore. A 1978 Gazette indicates that each gift received by officials is valued by the Ministry of External Affairs and assigned a rate based on its value in the Indian market. Recipients are allowed to keep items worth less than ₹5,000. If it exceeds the limit, they can keep it by paying extra.

According to the Ministry of External Affairs, “Some of the expensive gifts received from foreign dignitaries have been sent from time to time to the National Museum for proper display. Several important gifts have been displayed at the Prime Minister’s official residence and at this ministry (MEA).” Some items, such as jewelry or items that are unlikely to be required for presentation, are also sold at government auctions. These items are kept in a double locked iron box. Gold coins or government minting are handed over to the treasury, while exhibited animals are sent to the nearest army service corps for advance sale or donated to zoological gardens.

In 2022, until the end of April, Toshakhana received 84 articles. All cumulative have a value of ₹8.04 lakh. The most expensive of these gifts is a small ring with a carved idol of Lord Ganesha that Prime Minister Narendra Modi received on April 7. She is valued at ₹81,000. Next came a set of pearl pendants which External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar received (₹72,000) and a pen gift package which Modi received (₹48,000).

While Jaishankar received 25 papers this year which were tabled in the Toshakhana, he is followed by V Muraleedharan, Union Minister of State for External and Parliamentary Affairs who contributed nine papers. Modi received seven articles in 2022.

In recent years, the number of articles received by Toshakhana has decreased. For example, the repository received about 768 items in 2018, while it dropped to 401 in 2019. In 2020, during the pandemic, it dropped further to 117. It increased slightly in 2021: 127.

Between 2019 and 2022, the most expensive item the Toshakhana received was a set of silver emerald and diamond jewelry. This was received by Sushma Swaraj, when she was Minister of External Affairs, on April 3, 2019. It was valued at ₹6.70 crore.

Sarah C. Figueiredo