Thursday, January 6, 2011

Two Indian Swords

I have put together a small collection of Indian weapons over the years.  
The sword above is a relatively rare kirach, which is now in my possession. Its blade is heavy, with a single almost straight edge, but with a forward curved spine.

I understand that this particular example was originally collected in North West India. It is probably a Maratha weapon, although provenance can be difficult to ascertain. 

Weapon style ebbed and flowed throughout India. A design that was obsolescent in one region could be just coming into style in another region. As a result, dating the sword can also be problematic.

The older kirach sword will usually come with the heavy Hindu style basket hilt. Later ones are found also with the Islamic Talwar style hilt, like my example, which dates to the late 1700s.

The sword measures 87cms in the scabbard, just under 85cms out with a broad forward curving blade just under 74cms.The hilt remains in very good condition with the majority of the original silverwork in place showing rather unusual designs.

The blade appears to be a native pattern welded blade with rubbed 'eyelash' quality markings.  These markings are finished with rubbed groups of three dots to each end and 7cms from the centre of this grouping are found clear groupings of three dots - a common theme on many Indian blades.

The blade has double fullers (grooves) and is hollow ground to just short of the tip.  Hollow ground is basically grinding of the metal between the edge and the center of the blade resulting in a lighter sword but as strong as before. The end of the blade is double edged for 21cms.

The scabbard is original and velvet covered. It is also in good condition but with slight timber losses and a small tear near the throat.

Also in my possession is an 18th century firanghi sword with talwar hilt.
The firangi sword characteristically measured  87cm to 95cm with a straight blade of either broadsword (two edged) or backsword (single edged) form. The blade often incorporated one or two fullers and had a spear-tip shaped point. The sword could be used to both cut and thrust. Firanghi refers to the provenance of the blade design. Loosely translated, the word means “foreigner.” The design of the sword initially utilised blades from Portugal although native copies of the blade were soon produced.

 Because of its length the firanghi is usually regarded as primarily a cavalry weapon. The sword has been especially associated with the Marathas, who were famed for their cavalry. However, the firanghi was widely used by the Moghuls and those peoples who came under their rule, including Sikhs and Rajputs.

Bajirao I - Maratha general (d:1740) with firanghi sword

Overall my sword is 94cm with blade length of 81cm. The blade has guild marks to one side with a single eyelash in the forte on the other side – a mark not commonly seen. There are multiple fullers on the blade which is back sharpened for approximately 23 cm. The hilt is an unusually large talwar hilt with a pommel disc measuring 7cms across. Some silvering is still extant on the handle.

Illustrations suggest a 16th century date for the development of this type of sword, though early examples appear to have had simpler cross-guard hilts, similar to those of the talwar. Images of Moghul potentates holding firangis, or accompanied by retainers carrying their masters' firanghis, suggest that the sword became a symbol of martial virtue and power.

Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan carrying a lily and a firangi sword as a symbol of  power

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