Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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B.I 10th January 2005 12:31 PM

Tipu Sword
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one of the few genuine tipu swords. found in his bedchamber during the storming of the citadel. now owned by a mysore businessman with political asperations. the sword itself, whilst having the overall form of a pretty standard tulwar, has a real presence. it is longer than standard, and the hilt it is the highest quality. the blade is probably german and if the 17thC, although possibly copied in the style of imported blades of the region. the area itself had a strong reputation of using imported blades and so this could be the case. either way, a great piece and one of importance due to its double provenance.

from an indian newspaper -

The sword was used by Tipu Sultan in the Fourth Mysore War against the British in 1799. Its calligraphic hilts are of the rarest type.

To many this would look like old junk — maybe worth enough to be put up at a museum that charges a fiver for entry. To those who know, though, it shines with a great legacy, an invaluable testament to our country’s history and o*ne of the State’s bravest sons.

“I wanted to bring this legacy of Karnataka back home,” said a proud Vijay Mallya, chairman of the UB Group, after he unveiled the sword of Tipu Sultan in Bangalore o*n Wednesday. The majestic sword was put under the hammer at an auction by Dix Noonan Webb Auctioneers and Valuers, London, last September and Mr Mallya was keen to “restore it to the soil of Karnataka”. The sword, for which the liquor tycoon shelled out Rs 1.5 crore, arrived here o*nly 15 days ago.

As his bid was anonymous, to ensure that price was not “unnecessarily hiked”, Mr Mallya proclaimed, “I am the mystery buyer.” The auction house had bought the sword from the descendants of Major General Baird to whom the then Army Commander Lt General Harris had presented it after the battle at Srirangapatnam o*n May 4, 1799.

Ruling out any intent of taking political mileage from this, Mr Mallya said, “This shall have no political ramifications. It is a personal affair. This is not an election meeting. I have paid money from my personal funds.” The base price at the auction was Rs 1.23 lakh but the bid was upped to reach Rs 1.5 crore.

Surprisingly, though, there were no other Indian bidders, o*nly a few international museums, Mr Mallya said.

The sword has a calligraphic hilt with a broad, straight and wide single-edged blade and a velvet covered, silver gilt mounted scabbard.

Its total length (in the scabbard) is 42 inches and the blade length is 36 inches.
In the finest gold inlay o*n the hilt, the five qualities of Tipu’s god shine: “O! the Helper, O! the Opener, O! the Protector, O! The Aide, O! the Supporter.”
The border of the blade is finely engraved.

It says: “THE SWORD OF TIPU SULTAN found after Srirangapatnam was taken by Storm o*n 4th May 1799 and presented by the ARMY to MAJOR GENERAL BAIRD through their Commander LIEUT. GENERAL HARRIS, as a token of their high opinion of his Courage and Conduct in the assault which he commanded, and in which TIPU SULTAN was slain.”

On being questioned where he would keep the sword, Mr Mallya said he was undecided. “All I am asking for is a secure place. During the week-long celebrations of Tipu’s birth anniversary, this sword will be put up for public display at Srirangapatnam. But right now it will be in my personal possession.”

The sword was unveiled in the presence of Janab Sahebzada Sayed Mohammed Ilyas Mian Maharaj and Sahebzada Sayed Mohammed Ayaz Mian Maharaj of Dargah Huzoor Khwaja Gharib Nawab of Ajmer.

B.I 10th January 2005 01:20 PM

another point
something worth noting, and that has been made apparant with this article, is that returning a sword to its rightful owner doesnt necessarily do it justice. this sword has now been returned to the mysore state, but is owned by local businessman who uses it for his own personal gains. he didnt disclose his ownership until it was the right time for him politically and although he claims it will be on show at some exhibition, i wonder if this is the case. buying the sword was campaign motivated, and not of national pride. i dont know the outcome, but the same thing happened a few years back with a 'guru' sword owned by dalhousie. it was petitioned by the sikh community to get the sword back and they did. i wonder if any sikh has full right to see this sword now? i know that there are fractions within the community and no general place for all sikhs to see their heritage. as i said, i dont know where this sword is and so may be showing my ignorance. apologies if i stand corrected.
again, the same is happening with shivajis sword, which was a gift to the english royal family, and now petitioned for its return. for my own selfish reasons, i hope it stays.

Jim McDougall 10th January 2005 03:06 PM

Hi Brian,
Thank you so much for posting this fascinating news item on one of the most prominant of the Mughal rulers, Tipu Sultan Shah Bahadur. It is outstanding to imagine a genuine example of one of the number of weapons attributed to Tipu being returned to its rightful home, and most interesting to know this particular sword was found in his bedchamber.

It is noted that the blade is unusually long, and likely an imported German blade. Tipu's father, Haider Ali, was known to have used German mercenaries, and many sabres of form interpreting European examples are termed in India 'Alamani' noting the German influence. Much of the training of troops and the manufacture of weaponry in Mysore in the time of Tipu was assisted by French advisors, which also may account for imported German blades as these trade blades were highly available.

Returning to the longer than usually seen blade on a sword found in the bedchamber of Tipu, the following note from Egerton (p.122) may offer some insight:
"...Tippoo lived in constant fear of assassination, and lest any person should fall upon him in bed, slept in a hammock which was suspended from the roof by chains in such a situation as to be invisible through the windows. After the capture of Seringapatam there were found in the hammock a sword and a pair of pistols".

Could it be that the unusually long sword blade (which seems awfully uncomfortable to sleep with!) may have been as with cavalry blades of the 18th century, for longer reach?

It is further noted by Egerton that, " the capture of Seringpatam a great variety of arms were tken. These were sent home by the East India Company, and many of them presented as trophies to distinguished persons".

The sword that is said to have been taken from Tipu at the time of his death at Seringpatam is shown in "Indian Arms & Armour", Dr.G.N.Pant, New Delhi, 1980,p.117 where it is stated that it is held in Her Majesties Collection at Windsor. A note concerning this sword in "Islamic Arms and Armour of Muslim India" by Dr. Syed Zafer Haider (Lahore, 1991, p.1991) describes the Persian distich inscribed in its blade: " blade that lays down the foundations of victory, is the lightning that flashes through the lives of infidels".

Another of his swords which is inscribed with his name and verses from the Holy Quran is displayed at the National Museum in New Delhi, and illustrated in Pant (op.cit. plate LXXIV). It is not stated when this particular sword was collected so it is unclear on its actual association with Tipu.

Dr. Haider in his book (p.143) notes that Tipu Sultan is buried beside his father at Seringapatam, and his epitaph reads:
"...the Light of Islam and Faith left this world; Tipu on account of the Faith of Mohammed became a martyr.
The sword was lost; the decendant of Haider received highest martyrdom".

It is important to recognize the profound reverence afforded to these very esteemed swords, not only of India, but such as those of Japan and many others, and it is good to see them find thier way home, with proper circumstances. Hopefully this sword will eventually find a successful outcome without being improperly exploited.

Best regards,

B.I 10th January 2005 04:43 PM

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hi jim,
eloquent and learned, as ever :) yes, the imported blades were revered locally, and throughout the area. walhouse was quite surprised at the amount found at tanjore. there is mixed feeling as to the true durability and opinion of wootz at the time. we admire its beauty but can but guess at its use as a fighting steel. the importance put on wootz blades at the time can be noted, as can the historian that described its form. but, you can argue this with those that ignored its use on a battle field, both from british accounts and indian. shivajis sword was a genoan blade, and, as you rightly stated, haider ali steered towards imported steel. however, there are many 'tipu' sowrds. some with imported blades and some locally made. windsor has two swords, as do powis castle. there is one in a collection in northern england, one in a private collection in germany. one in a museum in london. all of these offer provenance of the time. they were all handed as gifts to important people by those that led the storming. as all accounts show, tipu's body was found beneath the bodies of his bodyguard, and so any sword picked up then could have been tipus. as he armed his own body guard, and we can assume those closest to him would have been armed in a similar way, there is no way of knowing which was his. looting of that citadel was a free for all, and the important pieces handed in afterwards. there are no accounts of a sword being taken from his hand, and so even the queens sword could have been owned by his closest advisor and not himself.
the bedchamber sword was important because it was well known that tipu owned a collection of swords in his personal armoury, and everyday and different sword was brought to his bedchamber. saying that, we could ask why it was still in his bedchamber and not next to his body? either way, there were enough important names attributed to this sword to give it true provenance.
the sword below is attributed to tipu (along with a katar) and was given to the duke of wellington by his brother in law, the marquis of wellesley (i think, from scrawled notes from years ago). the sword is interesting in that its decoration is of the highest quality, but it holds no motifs associated with tipu. again, the provenance added by wellesly and wellington allow them the benefit of the doubt.
btw, just a personal opinion but i doubt very much the sword in the dehli museum was tipus. i would guess the catalogue tag was right, but the sword was long replaced by another locally bought. pure specualtion of course but pant or kk sharma would not know the difference.

Jens Nordlunde 10th January 2005 09:45 PM

Hi Brian,

I think it is a very interesting topic you have started, a subject some know about, but many don't.
The Tipu sword given to the Duke of Wellington is an interesting one, although I would have liked to see the blade and the top of the disc.
The quality seems to be very high, but I must say, that I personally find the design a bit busy. I like reliefs on hilts, but like Hendley and Watt writes the ealier hilt decorations were more ‘quiet’.

Thank you for starting the subject.


B.I 10th January 2005 10:30 PM

hi jens,
i know of your passion for pommels, but to take a picture of the pommel would require either 8 foot long arms or a step ladder. as the curator was kind enough to allow me in to see them, i thought a step ladder pushing my luck. sorry about the arms.
i know what you mean by busy but i dont find this at all. this style of decoration is of the highest quality and the fact that it is completely geometric shows the artistry to be of a top calibre. the 19thC koftgari was second rate in comparison. the decoration is of the 18thC and there is a katar in the wallace collection of the same style of work.
this is true tahinashan and very rare at this level.
as you say, hendley claims the best form of tahinishan to be of a simpler design but i cant see fault in this at all. i think mr hendley had more to compare it with :)
in the same paragraph, he goes on to mention a sword hilt from tonk in the V&A (then the south kensington museum). i have seen the hilt in question and and the embossed flowers were bold and i suppose of a simpler, less busy design, but i personally think the wellington hilt of a higher quality.
this same hilt (from tonk) was illustrated by h.h.cole in his photographic book of the simla exhibition of 1881 and so they both may agree with you :)

B.I 10th January 2005 10:38 PM

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oh, i forgot. the blade is sheathed but it is straight and wide. the photo shows a slight tilt to one side, but not sure if this is the case or its an optical illusion.
i'll risk showing the kris on the cabinet, knowing we will struggle to keep this post indian if i do :)

Jens Nordlunde 11th January 2005 09:04 AM

Hi Brian,

I don’t doubt that the quality of the Tipu sword is very high, my comment on the business of the design is my personnel opinion of designs in general, and I might very well change my mind if I had had an opportunity to see the sword.
The sword display is very nice, and so is the keris. BTW of the mails I have read about kerises I don’t remember to have seen any references to kerieses being used in India – they were, so maybe the keris you show ‘fits’ into the picture. In Robert Elgoods new book there are pictures showing warriors armed with a keris and a tulwar.


B.I 11th January 2005 12:41 PM

dangerous ground
i was teasing you jens, i know that decoration is down to opinion only, and i know that you will be suitably impressed if you saw this sword in life. who knows, maybe i'll get a chance to show it to you at some point.
i think you tread on dangerous ground, mr nordlunde. the keris in india? we stand a good chance of being flogged alive on this forum :)
an interesting note. herman goetz had full access to the bikaner amroury, and its accession notes (what little there was) as he wrote a book under the patronage of the maharja at the time. apparantly there is a sword owned by akbar in the armoury. it has a persian blade with an inscribed cartouche (no reference to the inscription stating its ownership) and a malaysian hilt! (cross piece is missing but hilt and blade show the witness marks of tis existence).
i dont know where the akbar attribution came from, but the malaysian hilt was no doubt adopted from a piece that was admired at the time, if not by akbar then by some important moghul/rajput.

Jens Nordlunde 11th January 2005 01:55 PM

Hi Brian,

Hmm yes, it occurred to me that you did try to pull my leg – now, which leg was it, the wooden one or the other?
Maybe I will be flogged, but let the ones doing so prove me wrong, it is all there in clear pictures, besides for the interesting text Robert Elgood writes about the kris in the Glossary.
I have only, very briefly, been the owner of a kris with a golden hilt, but that is many years ago – maybe I should have kept it.
The knife in the Bikarner armoury with the Persian blade and Malayan hilt, could have been a gift from someone, a pity that Herman Goetz did not draw it or at least describe it more in detail.


B.I 11th January 2005 02:13 PM

wooden leg
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have i ever let you down, jens?
it took me years to find this book and it cost the price of a wooden leg but was worth it.

Jens Nordlunde 11th January 2005 02:25 PM

The book must have been expensive, as a wooden leg is rather pricy these days, especially if it has to be of hard wood – only glad it is the leg, and not the head.
That is a most peculiar sword you are showing, in a way a pity for both the hilt and the blade, but interesting all the same. Do you know if the hilt and the blade is of the same age?


B.I 11th January 2005 02:48 PM

the blade i would guess to be 17thC, but my book is marginally better than the image i've shown, so can only speculate. the small stamps were used throughout 200+ years of sword manafacture and so wont offer a clue. the inscription seems genuine and not filled in like many of fiegels but again, speculation. even if the inscription is old, then who knows if it as old as the blade itself.
maybe the hilt will offer a clue, but this is not my area and couldnt even hazzard a guess. i will find out were the sword is, as there are two museums in bikaner and maybe track down a better image. however, it may be in the maharajas private collection (which i doubt) and then access is impossible.

Jens Nordlunde 11th January 2005 04:15 PM

It would be interesting to see a better picture, but which of these museums are you referring to?
Museums of Rajasthan : Ajmer Government Museum | Alwar Government Museum | Amer (Jaipur) Archaeological Museum | Virat Nagar Museum | Bharatpur Government Museum | Bikaner Fort Museum | Shri Sardul Museum and Anup Library | Ganga Golden Jubilee Museum


B.I 11th January 2005 05:16 PM

museums and gifts
a wonderful concoction of institutions :)
the bikaner collection is divided between the fort museum, and the jubilee museum (i think, form memory) and both are in bikaner. the maharaja has his own collection.
more on the sword -
the blade is actually a sossun pata, which makes it even more intriguing. the inscription bears the name 'sultan jalal-ud-din akbar' and is dated AH 1012 (1603). as the rajput line of bikaner were long under the dominionship of dehli, it is not known whether the sword was given by jahangir to raja sur singhji on the occasion of his investiture, or had already been presented to rai singhji by akbar, or was selected merely as a reminder to serve jahangir as faithfully as sur singhs father had served akbar (goetz).

Jens Nordlunde 11th January 2005 09:38 PM

Ah I see, now you are giving a bit in, telling some more about the blad, what is next?
The museums mentiond are all supposed to be in the Bikane region.


B.I 11th January 2005 10:02 PM

yes, jens, but the two i mentioned are in bikaner itself, not just in the surrounding area.
sorry about the blade information. unlike jim, i dont walk through the day with a library crammed in my head :)
i was pleasantly surprised by the blade shape, hinting it is not persian as i wrongly surmised.
you can get away with being wrong if you catch yourself out before others do!

Mare Rosu 13th January 2005 12:26 AM

Tipu sword which one?
Hi Brian:
Very interesting and informative article on Tipu Sultan sword.
I need to ask a question or two. #1 What sword are we talking about? I think the picture you show ( the first one) is not the same sword that Dr. Pant shows in his volume #2 ( I did an exhaustive and very comprehensive and through study of my references, my one book! :D ) so which one is right?
the picture in Dr. Pant book show a sword with a knuckle guard and your picture show a sword without a knuckle guard. Both were taken from his bedchamber
#2 Why would anyone in the position as Tipu even consider a blade made elsewhere. At that time the folks in Europe were trying to make Wootz steel but could not as they knew that the wootz steel was far superior to European steel.
Here is an article from the Department of Metallurgy, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore India The link to the web page is;
The article talks about Tipu sword and also a great article on Wootz.
However be prepared to sit back and read for a while as the article is 90 pages long, the section on Tipu sword is on pages 45-46.

B.I 13th January 2005 10:06 AM

hi earl,
dont expect an answer so soon. 90 pages!! your questions dont come cheap :)
jim would read this over breakfast. jens would spend a little longer, as he is more laid back and lives on a mountain, so he has a very distracting view outside his window.
me, i dont think i have that much time left on this planet to cover 90 pages of wootz study! just joking, will pour through it and skip the raw data and find the interesting bits.
can you scan in the picture from pant and post it? i have always doubted the piece in the dehli museum. the sword i posted in the original bedchamber sword, as it was inscribed just after the storming and before it was presented to baird.
although much of the wootz originated from the south, the blades were not revered. local 'fashion' lent towards the european imported blade. this is an on going discussion/debate, as to the importance of wootz in the south. the metalwork itself was untouched and the quality domintated the north (the ancusai discussed in elgoods forthcoming book show this) but you will find the finest worked steel hilts with european blades, created within the heart of the wootz region.
walhouse was present during the emptying of the tanjore armoury and he was surprised to note the amount of european blades on native hilts. there ar emany swords attributed to tipu, some more believable than others. he is well known to have had a collection of swords, which he alternated in use (hence, having a sword brought to his bedchamber every day)
there are 4 tipu swords of a specific type (hilt) that each have different blades. one is owned by the queen, one in the british museum, and 2 (including his 'beheading' sword) are in private collections. the hilts are of pure mysore design and tipuesque. all 4 of these swords were attributed to important people at the seige and were given as gifts of the time. 2 of these i know have european blades, and i think the other 2 do as well, from description but can only speculate.
the stibbert collection holds a fabulous tipu sword of high quality and design which, if not held by tipu himself, then must have been through him to one of his closest. the blade is without a doubt european (and not even of great quality) and has been decorated in gold with his tiger motif.
powis castle holds two tipu swords, collected by lord clive who sought his items at the time. these two swords are without a doubt his (due to clives connections of the time) and both hold mysore hilts. its been a while since i've seen them, but one definately has a european blade and the other most likely.
the wellington sword, although sheathed, probably doesnt. the hilt has no real connection with the region and it was most likely a gift to the court. from the quality of the hilt i would guess at an indian blade, even though straight double edged indian blades were relatively scarce and of uncommon design. i will strive to find out more on this piece.
the wallace collection holds a tipu sword which, again, doesnt have the form associated with tipus taste. the hilt is jade and the blade wootz, and again, incorporates the tiger motif. like the wellington sword, this could have been a gift, decorated whilst in tipus possession.
none of this actually answers your question. why were european blades favoured over wootz? in tipus court (which doesnt speak for the rest of the south) he seemed to cater for the fashion of the time. the trade routes in the south, both through the french and portuguese were extensive and there are early accounts of the bazaars selling european trade blades. there are accounts from early english sources, claiming they would not use native steel as 'butterknives' as there are brittle and not usable on a battle field. obviously these accounts are biased, but tipus reluctance and the evidence found at tanjore hint that this may have been a native feeling as well.
i think finding images of the tipus swords (those with some provenance) will be good to show.
or, maybe finding images is a delaying tactic to avoid reading 90 pages :)
i can hear mr mcdougall chuckling.

Jens Nordlunde 13th January 2005 11:20 AM

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Earl, thank you for the link – a print is ready for reading.

Brian, do you think that all the bedchamber swords found after Tipoo is be course he slept in the armoury?
I have a better picture of the hilt, plus a picture of the whole sword, from the auction catalogue.
Treasurers from India, The Clive Collection at Powis Castle. Herbert Press, England, 1987. In the book are shown a number of swords, katars and daggers, and like Brian says two are said to have been Tipoo’s.
I think it was in Travels in the Mogul Empire A.D. 1656-1668 by François Bernier, I read, that in the Sind area they did not like the European blades, as they found the steel inferior to the Indian steel.
Something went wrong I don't seem to be able to attach the picture of the whole sword - sorry.

B.I 13th January 2005 11:52 AM

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hey jens/earl,
the inscription on the bedchamber sword and a poor shot of the blade. i dont have a scanner at home, unfortunately.

B.I 13th January 2005 11:54 AM

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tipus beheading sword. the hilt is of the style of the one presented to the queen and apparantly found next to his body, and the one in the british museum and private collection.
sorry for the poor image.

B.I 13th January 2005 11:56 AM

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the fabulous piece in the stibbert collection.
jens, can you scan the powis swords?

Jens Nordlunde 13th January 2005 01:23 PM

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Here they are.

Mare Rosu 13th January 2005 01:29 PM

Dr. Pant picture on Tipu sword
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Hi Brian
You need to retire and spend more time reading and studying the good stuff. :)
This is a poor scan from Dr. Pant book on Tipu sword. The text indicates it was found on his body after the battle. You can see it has a knuckle guard and the Tiger motif.
( jens, you did good, your picture in "full living color" show the same sword that is in Dr. Pant book. OK Brian now what? :D

B.I 13th January 2005 01:59 PM

hi earl,
a slight confusion. the picture you attached is the sword owned by the queen, and is one of them that i mentioned. it is of the style of the beheading sword and the two others i mentioned.
i thought you meant a different sword. there is one in an indian museum, which i believe to be dehli (a guess) that attributes to tipu but am sure it isnt. as pant catalogued the dehli museum, i assumed it was this one you mentioned.
the sword jens listed was lord clives, and sits in powis castle and is of a different type.

Jens Nordlunde 13th January 2005 02:30 PM

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This sword is not a Tipu bedchamber sword, neither was it found under or on top of him when he was found, but maybe it belonged to one of his body guards.

Mare Rosu 13th January 2005 05:48 PM

Tipu sword
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For those that need help ( slow readers or what ever :) ) I am attaching the first page of the 90 page story. Enjoy, next page to follow.

Mare Rosu 13th January 2005 06:24 PM

Page two Tipu sword letter
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This is page two of the 90 page letter. It may save time for some slow readers? :rolleyes:
Great subject you started on Tipu sword.
forgot to add this web link:
look in the upper right side and you will see the "Wootz File" very good information to all wootzies. :D

Likhari 18th November 2017 04:52 PM

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Originally Posted by B.I
tipus beheading sword. the hilt is of the style of the one presented to the queen and apparantly found next to his body, and the one in the british museum and private collection.
sorry for the poor image.

Brian does this qualify as a Tipu Sultan sword ? The bubri design seems to be finely executed.

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