Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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Gonzoadler 29th January 2021 07:59 AM

How old is this Tulwar?
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I have received this Tulwar. It has an iron handle, a blade made of normal steel and a leather coated wooden scabbard. On the handle you can see remains of a silver koftgari.
dimensions: total 86cm; without scabbard 84cm; blade 73cm
My knowledge about Indian art is not very extensive, so it is difficult for me to estimate the age. The scabbard is looking younger than the saber, blade and handle maybe belong together but were refixed later. But I think the handle could be also older than the blade, I'm not sure.
Now, I'm very interested in your opinions how old this Tulwar or it's parts could be. 18th, 19th or early 20th century? :shrug:

complete with scabbard:

Gonzoadler 29th January 2021 08:00 AM

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Gonzoadler 29th January 2021 08:02 AM

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mariusgmioc 29th January 2021 10:06 AM

My guess would be around 1900. :shrug:

Kubur 29th January 2021 01:26 PM

Come on Marius, this is a very good 19th c. tulwar!
Maybe the scabbard is from the 20th c.
I have no idea if the thick blade is from the 18th or the 19th...
But I wont be surprised if the blade is older, if you read Elgood you can see that 95% of the tulwars have replacement hilts.
The blade looks Indian but I might be wrong.

mariusgmioc 29th January 2021 02:14 PM

18th century or earlier tulwars generally have thinner plain blades with no fullers.

This blade appears to be Indian but emulating the European blades.

Thus, I stand by my estimation of around 1900... or later. :cool:

Pukka Bundook 29th January 2021 03:13 PM


We cannot generalise in this manner.
Tulwars have been made with fullered blades for centuries.
Also blade thickness has nothing to do with age, as tulwar blades were made wide and flat, and narrow and thick for centuries and each type has its own name.
A Halab is still a tulwar, but has the narrower but thicker blade, and was used throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.
In a country as large and diverse as India, there are vast variations in styles and shapes.
I know Nothing of tulwars compared to Jens, and others here, and my time is always So limited I have not done half the research I would like to, but this V nice tulwar appears to me Rajasthan, ...and the diaper pattern koftgari , I'd put it in the middle of the 19th century, or maybe a bit earlier.
I may be wrong :-)

Does Jens still post here?

In his beautiful book showing his collection, you can see Very many fullered and multi-fullered blades from the 17th 18th century....And multi-fullered katar blades from the 16th century.

I would suggest you do a search on this forum;
Something like "19th century Tulwar, ( talwar) and see what shows up similar to yours.

All best to all!

Pukka Bundook 29th January 2021 03:19 PM

Apologies, double post!

Jim McDougall 29th January 2021 05:14 PM

VERY well said Richard!
Trying to itemize swords of India, especially the tulwar, is pretty much futile and really does require a great deal of research and knowledge of India's history to attempt specific classifications with any degree of viability.

As pointed out, there were many variations and options which existed contemporarily and also as well noted, swords were almost consistently remounted, as common with many ethnographic swords.
The replacement of scabbards is pretty much standard, as the materials were generally less durable of course and did not last through the longer working lives of the blades.

Rajasthan is sort of like the 'Texas' of India, it is huge, and the many centers of sword making were in these regions of India. Here were typically the shops producing hilts as well, and these often went to other locations, where they were decorated in the locally favored fashion, for example to Lucknow where enameling was prevalent etc.

With this tulwar, it is of course safe to say it is 19th century as this is the time when these examples became popularly known through the British Raj.
There was still much activity in hilt making, as well as blade making along with importing of them.
The blade here appears to be Indian, most likely from Rajasthan, and I would say safely mid to latter 19th c. It is not of the styling of European saber blades earlier nor of contemporary 19th c. European forms, though it reflects influence.

The hilt is of a number of Rajasthani types but I think these open hilt with close in quillons were typically Mughal (though here I am probably generalizing). The reason I say that is that the Rajput and Sikh examples seem to have more substantial elements (knuckleguard, larger pommel dish) and less 'decoration' (again generalizng).

Obviously those comments are subject to the countless exceptions which exist in tulwars, which were diversely used over much of India for centuries.

Gonzo I am inclined to agree with your excellent observation on the hilt, I think it is older than the blade (or at least not original to it) and seems to be more of the type I have usually regarded as 'court' or official type which typically have less substantial blades.

Norman McCormick 29th January 2021 05:42 PM

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The blades I have seen of this kind have been curved a bit more or less, but never to an extreme. The yelman can be more or less pronounced. They have no fuller or only a broad single one. They are all broad and heavy blades, and they are 17th or early 18th century blades.


The above is a comment on the particular blade in these photographs. I have another late 18thC Tulwar which also has a thick and heavy blade without fullers.

mahratt 29th January 2021 06:15 PM

Late 19th century ordinary tulwar
Scabbard - early 20th century

Gonzoadler 30th January 2021 03:44 PM

Thanks for your help and explanations.
Of course it's good to do an own research in the forum, but sometimes it is helpful to ask other collectors, especially if you are not that experienced in the topic. Often you get some additional information, like in this case.
It is my second Tulwar (my first was a very simple one) and for that it's not bad, I think.


Jim McDougall 31st January 2021 04:38 PM

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To reiterate more on the case for the classification of tulwars attempting to establish regional characteristics, much of which was popularized by Dr. G.Pant in "Indian Arms & Armor" (1980):
The impression is that the hilt forms reflect locally favored types which he names and illustrates, however, as can be seen by a map of the huge state of Rajasthan. most of these terms come from places in the geographic boundaries of that state.

The silver inlay which appears to remain on this hilt suggests a style of inlay which was created in the Bidri regions of Rajasthan. The style was widely copied and diffused to the point some arms were classified 'Bidri'.

The term 'katti' is a term for knife (if I recall) in the Kanada language used iin western India by Coorg's.
The term 'Sirohi' is often regarding the highly favored blades from this region for quality, but cannot be defined by any particular characteristic I know of.

Other terms like Mewari, Udapuri (actually same region) reflect an industrial center in Rajasthan where considerable production of hilts and swords took place.

To classify tulwars by ethicity or cultural denominators is equally difficult as Rajputs, Sikhs, Jains and Mughals all used them without particular favor to any one of these hilt styles. Blades were constantly traded, and diffused throughout sword hilting centers and arsenals.

Bikaner (in Rajasthan) is one of the few arsenals whose markings are well established on blades (stippled letters or numbers), and where huge volume of Indian arms have been found.

Tulwars were used of course in Sind to the north,northeast, in Punjab (traditional domain of the Sikhs)north, and in Lucknow, Delhi and other key locations of the Mughal empire to north, northeast.
The Rajputs were primarily situated in Rajasthan.

So decoration and certain motif and styling along with certain hilt elements can be used in some degree with tulwar identification, much as these are considered in degree for period, remembering that these hilts typically may have been produced somewhere in the vast Rajasthan region.

Naturally these are simply my own overviews from my own experience in the study of these, and I am certain there are likely different views as well as probably errors, so I welcome any input concerning my comments.

Gonzoadler 31st January 2021 07:51 PM

@Jim McDougall
Unfortunately I have no additions to your comments, but they are really interesting and informative. :)
Do you can recommend some literature concerning Indian arms?

mahratt 1st February 2021 05:45 AM


Originally Posted by Gonzoadler
@Jim McDougall
Unfortunately I have no additions to your comments, but they are really interesting and informative. :)
Do you can recommend some literature concerning Indian arms?

Hello. Let me answer a little earlier than Jim.
Here are the books that I think you will find interesting:
The Indian Sword, by Philip S. Rawson

Hindu Arms and Ritual: Arms and Armour from India 1400-1865. By Robert Elgood
Arms and Armour at the Jaipur Court: The Royal Collection. By Robert Elgood
Rajput Arms and Armour: The Rathores and Their Armoury at Jodhpur Fort. By Robert Elgood
Here you can find information about these books:

Mortal Beauty: Arms and Armour of India and China: Exhibition Catalogue. By Karlova

Jim McDougall 1st February 2021 06:09 AM


Originally Posted by Gonzoadler
@Jim McDougall
Unfortunately I have no additions to your comments, but they are really interesting and informative. :)
Do you can recommend some literature concerning Indian arms?

Thank you very much :)
I completely agree with Mahratt on his recommendations of books.
Robert Elgoods books are probably the most thoroughly researched, and his material is from many years of field research in India, and his cataloging of armouries there.
The Rawson book is a venerable and useful study of Indian swords that evolved from Mr. Rawson's cataloging of these arms for the Victoria & Albert museum iin the 1960s.

Beyond this, if you use the search function here you will find over twenty years of discussions we have carried on here on these topics on Indian arms. Quite honestly, I have been fortunate to learn much from the guys here and all of us sharing their knowledge, examples and findings.

Pukka Bundook 1st February 2021 02:05 PM

Jim and Mahratt have the books well covered I believe.
Jewant Paul's books are not in depth, but give a few rather delightful passages from historical Indian writings, covering specific incidents, battles, etc.
A Very well written book, is "The History of Rajasthan" by Rima Hooja.
She is a quite brilliant writer, and does an admirable job on an incredibly large subject.
Her style is such that she makes the book not in the least daunting, even though it does run to about 1200 pages!

To add a little to Jim's great information, I can only say that what does not help us these days, is that the arms of India are so diffused;
Many arms were found far away from where they were made, as they could be traded, or taken as spoils of war, etc.
Lord Eggerton's book has some V interesting anecdotes, but the arms are described as "from", in other words, where they were found, which can be a greatly different from where they started out!

All the best,

Gonzoadler 1st February 2021 07:00 PM

Thanks for the friendly recommendations. I will see where I can get some of these books and which is a good introduction. Of course the forum is a very informative source, too.

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