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Old 26th August 2022, 05:12 PM   #1
napoleon
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Default Recent Indian sword acquisitions help with marks

Three nice blades ,any help appreciated,the heavy kilij type blade has an interesting mark may represent a city gate,if so which one ?
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Old 29th August 2022, 10:53 PM   #2
Nihl
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Napoleon, with all due respect I don't think you will find much information asking about these marks here. Looking at all 3 of the swords you have posted here, it is pretty clear to me that all of them are from the 19th century, based on a variety of factors, including the marks present on the blades. The thing is, by the 19th century indian sword makers had adopted a practice to show that their blades were of higher quality than the rest - by copying those markings found on european sword blades. What mattered to these smiths was more that their blades *looked* like european ones, rather than that the symbols that they used to do so actually meant anything themselves.

This is to say that, most of the marks you show in your posts here don't actually have any meaning behind them, they're just imitations of european marks.

As for the sword with the "gate" on it, I think Jim did a good job commenting on that one. The one thing I'd like to note though, is that a rivet through the hilt isn't an exclusively northern practice, but one you see quite a bit of in the south as well, particularly on tamil tulwars. In general, riveted hilts seem to be common anywhere there was a particularly heavy european colonial presence.
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Old 30th August 2022, 06:40 AM   #3
Jim McDougall
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Thank you Nihl.
As you note, these markings are intended to imitate European markings seen on trade blades which were often quite present in India, and were more applied in the sense of 'quality' or 'power' so they were not 'artistically' rendered necessarily. It was the implication of what they imbued.
Although on this tulwar, can be seen three dots.

One of the highly copied European markings are the dentated arcs known as sickle marks or Genoan marks. These opposing arcs usually had three dots at the terminus of each arc. While it is tempting to suggest these dots seen on this blade might be from those, it should be noted that many tulwars have these three dots seemingly strategically placed at key places on the blade but alone. There is a suggestion this may have to do talismanically perhaps with the Trimurti, but difficult to elaborate further here. One of the most common markings of the sickle mark kind and similar blades seem to be on Afghan 'paluoars'.

The marks that seem to be imitated here appear to be the so called 'twig' type marks on Italian blades, but difficult to say for certain.

I must admit I am not too familiar with tulwars in Tamil or southern regions, however here I would note that the north Indian (now Afghanistan) version of the tulwar with down turned quillons known as the paluoar is believed to be from Deccani influence. There were notable connections between the Pathans and Southern India so the influences diffusing there would not be surprising.
I would very much appreciate examples of the tulwars from Tamil regions as I have not yet located any, but most references I have are on Hindu and not Mughal arms from the south.
It is known that Tipu Sultan spoke Urdu so the Pathan influences and tulwars most have been there. In British administration in the Raj, the Madras Presidency connected the north and south.
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Last edited by Jim McDougall; 30th August 2022 at 07:08 AM.
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Old 31st August 2022, 12:19 AM   #4
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Jim, your unfamiliarity with south indian tulwars is completely understandable! Compared to their northern counterparts, most south indian weapons are incredibly understudied and subsequently any findings in regards to their typology go largely unpublished (with the huge exception of those from thanjavur, along with the hooded bara jamdadu of vijayanagar, thanks to their codification in writing via a certain Robert Elgood).

My identifying of these riveted tulwars as being tamil in nature stems largely from the work of the late Roy Elvis, who did his best to publish his research in his own book The Hindu Warrior. This book explains his findings in the context of his own collection, which indeed predominately focuses on south india. Roy "himself" (writing in the book) only ever gives a few sentences to each piece, leaving the reader to mostly discern for themselves what else about the item could be evidence for a distinct style. As imprecise as this might seem, I've managed to use the book as something of a reference guide for telling apart different items that are otherwise lumped together online as just generally being "south indian" or "deccani".

As an example of this, indeed, Roy notes that tamil work is generally distinct in its use of sculptural, floral imagery. Typically either the knuckleguard finial, the pommel bud, or both will incorporate the image of a rather squat flower bud - likely intended to be a lotus - though it honestly looks more like a squash to me. This is often coupled with the presence of a more khanda-like stalk or tail at the pommel, despite the hilt otherwise being of a more typical tulwar form. This, combined with a tendency towards riveting the blade in place, is what actually all leads to the tamil attribution, rather than it just being by virtue of the rivet existing in and of itself. Certain tulwar hilts that might be from thanjavur specifically also tend to feature spiky grips, similar to those found on northern rajput swords, buts that's a different issue entirely .

Speaking of a possible connection with Tipu Sultan, one of my examples (the one with the grey background) actually has a mysorean armory inscription on the blade, so it's certainly possible they had an affinity for riveting their blades as well.

The reason why these south indian items are not as common, in my opinion, likely has to do with how most of them were either used up or subsequently confiscated and destroyed during struggles with the british/colonial powers. One of the reasons why south india is generally considered more "developed" than the north stems from the fact that the south was both colonized first and subsequently capable of modernizing earlier - the unfortunate byproduct of this indeed being the disarmament of local traditional militias and their suppliers, meaning again most of these items, willfully or not, were likely destroyed in an effort to comply with more "civilized" and "modern" ideas.

I suppose I should probably note that not all of my attached examples are of tulwar hilts specifically, but my intent is mostly just to prove that these hilt rivets can be found on south indian arms in general, not just north indian ones.
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Old 31st August 2022, 05:12 PM   #5
Jim McDougall
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Nihl,
Thank you so very much for your well detailed and thought out response, and I hope I can do so in kind. I would like to say that this information and these examples have prompted me to look further into my perspectives and seek more insights from personal contacts who are far better versed in Indian arms than I am.

First of all, while the centrally riveted cross guard on tulwars of Afghanistan and its northern environs is somewhat intrinsic in the hilt designs of these regions, it is not necessarily confined to nor entirely consistent in these areas. In looking further into this type of feature as far as its use elsewhere in India, it is important to consider that an evident rivet so placed in a hilt is most often the result of refurbishing of a weapon and securing the hilt. These processes and such placement of a central rivet in the guard therefore are widely known, and my suggestion that this feature had a distinct regional classification was incorrect and invalid, as would it be to presume it would apply in that manner anywhere overall.
Often it may be considered that such a fixture might suggest refurbishing of a weapon completed as a 'field repair' or by someone not necessarily highly skilled in finer metal work.

The Roy Elvis volume, as you have noted, is quite comprehensive , and as you also indicate, the precise date, place and classifications are without explanation. Without supportive data these become rather arbitrary, especially in regard to Indian arms, which require more concise definition due to the notable dynamic nature of their forms, variation and decoration. You are well on point to note that in many (perhaps most) proper identification of Indian weapons relies on decorative motif, in style and execution.

With the diffusion on weapon forms in India, it is therefore unlikely to formally and precisely identify or classify any particular one to any specific region entirely. Therefore the denominators so often used Deccani, Tamil, Mughal, Rajput, Sikh etc . in describing Indian weapon examples are often vague if not often misleading, with the terms 'northern' and 'southern' even more profoundly so.

I recall a conversation with an author of a book concerning Sikh arms, and asked ( embarassingly) how to identify if a weapon was Sikh. He wryly responded, "if a Sikh used it...it is Sikh!". It was a most telling response which showed as I later realized, how formidable the task of proper identification of Indian arms really is, as simple and precise classification without qualification or explanatory detail is not always reliable.

Very well noted insight into the elements of the colonization of India, which as you describe began in the south with the East India Company, as well as the unfortunate system of confiscation of Indian arms and wholesale destruction of them. Some of the descriptions of this are well described in narratives of the latter 19th c. and it is excruciating to imagine how many key and important weapons were destroyed.
Were it not for writers like Egerton and some of his contemporaries we would have even less understanding of these amazing weapons.

Last edited by Jim McDougall; 31st August 2022 at 10:27 PM.
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