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Old 5th February 2023, 08:04 PM   #1
AHorsa
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Default Tulwar with inscription - Help needed

Dear All,

I inhereted this Tulwar from my dad. He did a roadtrip to Afghanistan and India in the early 70ies and brought this Tulwar, together with a Khyber-knife and an afghan muzzle-loader back home.
I think the Tulwar was in use for a long time, as the blade is narrowed by sharpening many times. The rivet seems to be maltreated. It seems that the inscription consists of a seperate layer of metal, as in a few regions it is delaminating (s. corresponding last image).
I would love to know more about this weapon, especially the meaning of the inscription and its age as well as geographic origin.

Would be great if someone can help.

Kind regards
Andreas
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Last edited by AHorsa; 5th February 2023 at 08:25 PM.
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Old 5th February 2023, 08:05 PM   #2
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More images of the inscription for completion:
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Last edited by AHorsa; 5th February 2023 at 08:24 PM.
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Old 5th February 2023, 10:18 PM   #3
Jim McDougall
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This is one of the most extraordinary tulwars I have seen in a very long time!
I dont recall ever seeing this kind of blade motif, in which there are panels of what recalls the acid etched 'thuluth' inscriptions on North African kaskara in Sudan in late 19th c.
While the panels might contain Islamic characters, they seem applied in the manner of thuluth, in repetitive manner in a decorative sense. The other motif is decorative but perhaps with traditional symbolism within.

This is indeed very old, likely 18th into 19th c. and of the general type of tulwars well known in the Northwest Frontier of India, and into Punjab.
The blade is with what is known as 'the Indian ricasso' (Rawson, 1967) and these were used by Sikhs, Rajputs and Mughals, so it is hard to say which entity might apply here.

The thuluth inscriptions as seen in Africa seem to have been influenced by Mamluk, as well as Sufi metal work, and while Mamluks are not directly associated with India, there is an early tradition there is Delhi regions. Along with this is the Sufi influence which also prevailed in Mughal courts, especially through Jahangir in the 17th c.

These suggestions are purely speculative and only toward possible further input on this intriguing tulwar, which I hope will be forthcoming.
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Old 6th February 2023, 08:32 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall View Post
This is one of the most extraordinary tulwars I have seen in a very long time!
I dont recall ever seeing this kind of blade motif, in which there are panels of what recalls the acid etched 'thuluth' inscriptions on North African kaskara in Sudan in late 19th c.
While the panels might contain Islamic characters, they seem applied in the manner of thuluth, in repetitive manner in a decorative sense. The other motif is decorative but perhaps with traditional symbolism within.

This is indeed very old, likely 18th into 19th c. and of the general type of tulwars well known in the Northwest Frontier of India, and into Punjab.
The blade is with what is known as 'the Indian ricasso' (Rawson, 1967) and these were used by Sikhs, Rajputs and Mughals, so it is hard to say which entity might apply here.

The thuluth inscriptions as seen in Africa seem to have been influenced by Mamluk, as well as Sufi metal work, and while Mamluks are not directly associated with India, there is an early tradition there is Delhi regions. Along with this is the Sufi influence which also prevailed in Mughal courts, especially through Jahangir in the 17th c.

These suggestions are purely speculative and only toward possible further input on this intriguing tulwar, which I hope will be forthcoming.
Thank you very much for your reply, Jim! That sounds very exciting. Indeed my father must have bought the tulwar somewhere in the northwestern parts of India or on the way there, as they went to Delhi.
I just found a somehow similar blade in another thread in this forum:
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=20951
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Old 6th February 2023, 12:53 PM   #5
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There are 2 interesting features that may be informative:
1. Pin in the center of the quillon block : usually a feature of Afghani or NW Indian sabers.
2. Downturned quillons: traditionally dating the handle to 17th century.

The validity of either of the above is not absolute, but quite suggestive.
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Old 6th February 2023, 03:55 PM   #6
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Thank you for linking that discussion from some years ago!! Well done on the search..perfect discourse pertaining to this exact character displayed in this amazing tulwar.

As Ariel has well observed those downward angled quillons suggest much earlier hilts, and this example seems almost stylistically aligned with the distinct 'paluoar' of Afghanistan. In the 19th century these regions were regarded as 'India' and as seen in Egerton (1885) these paluoars were included the the tulwar spectrum as far as type.

While in the linked thread some of the examples had what appeared to be machine etched copies of this blade motif, but yours as I noted seems (visually) to resemble acid etched character, and the corrosive activity seems to support that.

After seeing the linked discussion, the three orb symbol comes to mind again, and indeed this was the 'cintamani' which is traditional hallmark represented throughout Central Asian material culture. In India it occurs often as the 'trimurti' and three dots often seen repeated on tulwars, but typically in the north. The 'three' is of course seen symbolically in other cases in religious symbolism, but here, it is the 'cintamani' of Tamerlane, who these people proudly claim their descent from.

Another idea came to mind while writing this, the style of this motif reminds me of that of the Kalash people of Chitral (formerly the Kafirs of Nuristan)
and some of their work. While these people are animists in their religion, and defied conversion to Islam, there were instances of nominal adoption of the Faith, and perhaps these examples might have some connection.

It is an intriguing and exciting example! worthy of much more research...it has great stories to tell no doubt! and a wonderful tribute to your dad, who seems to have had a dynamic sense of adventure.
I think he would be pleased to see this story told
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Old 6th February 2023, 09:56 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall View Post
1....those downward angled quillons suggest much earlier hilts, and this example seems almost stylistically aligned with the distinct 'paluoar' of Afghanistan. In the 19th century these regions were regarded as 'India' and as seen in Egerton (1885) these paluoars were included the the tulwar spectrum as far as type.

2.While in the linked thread some of the examples had what appeared to be machine etched copies of this blade motif, but yours as I noted seems (visually) to resemble acid etched character, and the corrosive activity seems to support that.

3.After seeing the linked discussion, the three orb symbol comes to mind again, and indeed this was the 'cintamani' which is traditional hallmark represented throughout Central Asian material culture. In India it occurs often as the 'trimurti' and three dots often seen repeated on tulwars, but typically in the north. The 'three' is of course seen symbolically in other cases in religious symbolism, but here, it is the 'cintamani' of Tamerlane, who these people proudly claim their descent from.
1. Up until 1948 NW India included both current India and Pakistan. Till now, the westernmost Pakistan contains the so-called Pakhtunkhwa district that is populated by the same Pashtuns as Afghanistan. The current border follows the Durand line, and successive Afghani governments tried in vain( and still do) absorb the Pakhtunkhwa district. Thus, Afganistan controls the eastern entry , and Pakistan the western entry into the Khyber Pass. Realistically it was a wise decision from the British point of view since it theoretically prevented any invasion.

2. I fully agree. The decorator used very strong acid and exposed the blade to it for a long time. As a result there was a lot of corrosion and the bottom part of some channels got eaten away laterally, underneath the surface.

3. I am in favor of a "Tamerlane" version rather than of " Indian Trimurti". The inscription is Islamic, and Babur, the conqueror of NW India, claimed his descent from both Chingiz Khan and Tamerlane.
Here are two Tamerlane coins with classic round ring symbols arranged in a triangle. Later Tamerlane descendants proudly kept this tamga .
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Old 7th February 2023, 07:33 AM   #8
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AFAIK, the Cintamani is a mythical jewel fulfilling its owner's wishes. Trimurti in Indian mythology is a unity of three gods and is symbolized as three solid dots. It was popularized by a Russian artist and mystic Nicholas Roerich as a banner of the so-called Roerich Pact, the universal agreement to protect cultural memorials of all religions and cultures.
Picture of Roerich banner attached.

Tamerlane tamga is not a triangle of solid dots, but of rings.
See:
JTC1/SC2/WG2 N5092
2019-06-06
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Old 7th February 2023, 12:51 PM   #9
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I am amazed by your comments and all that interesting information! I will need some time to sort it and to do own investigations based in your information.

I know this sword since my childhood but never paid much attention to it, as it somehow was just always there - nothing special. My father would be very happy if he knew that one of his souvenirs now attracts me so much in my field of collecting. Especially since it seems to be older than 19th century.

My father also left a diary of this trip. When I find the time I will browse it. maybe he mentions where he bought it. I would bet it was in the region where you locate the sword.

Is there some possibility to translate the inscriptions?

Thanks a lot and best wishes
Andreas
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Old 8th February 2023, 12:36 PM   #10
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Hello,

once I had a Pulwar/Pulowar with a very similar blade and I have seen further blades like this on some other Tulwars. The eched motifs were of poor quality (like in this case) and also the blade itself was not high end.
So I think the blade is an old touristic piece (maybe early 20th c., maybe later) and the handle was added in the regional taste.
All sabers with this etched blade I have seen were of low quality and in my opinion old wall hangers.

Regards
Robin
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