Ethnographic Arms & Armour

Ethnographic Arms & Armour (http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/index.php)
-   Ethnographic Weapons (http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/forumdisplay.php?f=2)
-   -   The Sinhalese Kastane: Its Development, Decoration and Symbolism (http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=18111)

napoleon 4th March 2014 09:44 AM

kastane
 
hello jim, salaams ibrahiim,firstly jim i fully appreciate that a great deal of work has gone into this subject over a great number of years,and more questions than answers is usual in any debate,here is one for you when does the knuckle guard appear?,pre or post portugese? ibrahiim the kastanes that are of a known point in time are one you yourself listed ,the sword of king raja singh 111,from the battle of gannoruwa 1638, and the marvelous pics offered by maurice of two swords piha kaetta and cannon captured from the palace at kandy by the dutch 1765,what can be said about these is that the construction of the first is not later than 1638 and in the second instance not later than 1765,so the point i am labouring over is that establishing chronology is possible, :) , i like the references to mainland india and its influence,and pictures of daggers still more food for thought , piha kaetta glad you brought these up as to my eyes earlier examples definatley seem more functional,another similarity with the kastane, and if any or all of this has been said before apologies,but it doesnt make it any less valid, :shrug: ,the purpose of debate is the advancement of the common cause,a question costs nothing,you can feel a bit of a fool for five minutes or spend the rest of your days wondering the answer (northern saying) :)

napoleon 4th March 2014 10:31 AM

kastane piha kaetta link
 
salaams ibrahiim,thanks for the link to piha kaetta,the bird headed ones are most unusual,the one holding the ball,could this be an adaptation of the chinese dragon chasing the pearl of wisdom i wonder ,great link though regards napoleon :)

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 5th March 2014 08:01 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by napoleon
salaams ibrahiim,thanks for the link to piha kaetta,the bird headed ones are most unusual,the one holding the ball,could this be an adaptation of the chinese dragon chasing the pearl of wisdom i wonder ,great link though regards napoleon :)



Salaams Napoleon...The dragon chasing feiry pearl design was indeed transmitted to Persia from Chinese style and is seen there on various ceramic and other materials as a decorative feature, however, insofar as a link to a birdhead holding what appears to be an egg on an Indian hilt (and regarding a possible design link to Kastane)~ that is a quantum leap and for me a bridge too far.

The bottleneck we are trying to penetrate beyond is the 1505 point when first the Europeans set foot in Sri Lanka..

Were Kastane produced before that time (and for how long?) or was there some collusion with the Portuguese working with Royal Workshops? In other words did the Portuguese introduce a basic design from European sword style upon which The Sri Lankan craftsmen built the lavish design or was it entirely unrelated...and a home produced item ?...If so is there influence from European swords into the region by other means perhaps from the Sri Lankan Moors or overland up the silk road then South through India or via other sea ports and thus other points of the ethnographic compass including Buddhist/Hindu sources from Java, Tibet, China and what is, if any, the connection to Nimcha style?

Your previous post refers to 1638 but that cannot be an accurate start point ... Potentially if the sword was home grown the date could be vastly earlier ...and simply could not be established suddenly at that point... thus I illustrate potential earlier production based upon the religious designs shown and backed by early proven steel production, Royal Workshops with known artesan castes; ...specialist horn and wood carvers, bladesmiths, Gold and Silver craftsmen etc etc

Of course notes on the general subject are most welcome however you seem to be intent on laying down a "how to research structure" that is simply not relevant(I regret that neither can I see a tie up in the two dates your refer to except that they are plucked at random from this thread), however, any researched facts on the subject to hand will be well received. Research so far has included countless hours of grinding through documents and references both in text books and the massive load of detail at web. Whilst we are not anywhere near a complete understanding of this weapon quest... "The Kastane conundrum" ...is well advanced compared to a few years ago..and we are at the cutting edge in that regard.

Put another way Napoleon... If you can see a gap in the research please feel free to examine that ... produce the research and fill the missing void... as you say ...the ink is free and there is nothing wrong in asking the question...and far less wrong in adding detail.

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi. :shrug:

Jim McDougall 5th March 2014 02:35 PM

Interesting notes guys. I would like to clarify something first of all, that this discussion is not a debate, it is far more an investigative mission in the development and history of the kasthane in its distinct form as known.
We are reviewing known facts and establishing perspective and ideas with these and any pertinent evidence which is found to either support or dismiss the plausibility of them.
The objective of course is to establish a comprehensive understanding of how these distinct hilts developed, when, and more on the variant examples as well.

At this point, I personally do not believe that the zoomorphic hilt style developed from any European intervention, either Portuguese or others later. It is recognized however as I had mentioned in earlier posts that these hilts apparently influenced some European designs in degree as exotica appealing to mercantile interests and as cultural novelties.

Also, while of certain significance, the 1638 date with the Raja Singh III example would not establish a terminus ante quem for the hilt form, as we know that the Hasekura example predated that by at least two decades and was in Japan by 1622. The items acquired by the Dutch in 1765 by the same token do not establish a terminus post quem as these, while related in degree to design and style, do not signal the end of the kasthane as a form.

I think we have established somewhat notably that the guard system and quillons configuration does appear to have arrived in Ceylon most likely through the Moors, who in turn seem to have adopted this system from Italian swords. This influence, and associations between North Italy via trade contacts and North Africa at one extent west, and as far as Ceylon to the east, is noted by Anthony North (1975, op. cit.) and citing Charles Buttin (1933, op.cit). These hilts with this distinct guard pattern had been in Italy from the 15th century, and were actually the basis for developing the fully developed rapier style guards later in varying degree.

While we have not determined as yet, irrefutable evidence of the earliest known kasthane hilt in its more recognizable form with the zoomorphic figures, as well as the distinctly formed quillon system, we do believe that the knuckleguard was of course part of those Moorish influences quite early.

The Portuguese arrival in Ceylon in 1505 is quite contemporary with the North Italian hilts of 15th century we are describing as having probable influence on the vestigially designed Sinhalese hilts, however there is no reason to think that their arrival brought the hilt form. This would seem apparent as the diffusion of the hilt guard form extended to regions of Arab trade which did not have Portuguese influence, North Africa for example.

While there is a great deal of focus on the Royal Workshops in Kandy for the production of significant examples of the kasthane, I would like to note that the variant forms and apparently other contemporary production seems to have been present elsewhere in Ceylon as well. I think case in point here would be the numerous examples which were mounted with the VOC blades, primarily in the 18th century (in concurrent discussion on another thread) .
Obviously no kasthane produced in the Royal Workshops would be mounted with these blades, and the question remains, were these so mounted kasthane produced with these blades as novelty for VOC forces, or to supply auxiliary allied Sinhalese forces there?

As shown, it is about questions and answers, not debate. At this point any type of chronology or typology is being developed from these, and remains pending as we continue. Ideally, it would be wonderful to have these kinds of neatly placed facts and tables set in place with the arms we study, but these ideals are goals we can only strive for in hopes of some success. What is important is that we do so together, and help each other learn along the way.

VANDOO 5th March 2014 04:30 PM

3 Attachment(s)
PERHAPS WE HAVE JUMPED TOO FAR FROM THE ORIGINS OF THESE WEAPONS. WE DISCUSS MOORS, PORTUGESE, DUTCH, CHINESE, ECT AND PERHAPS THESE DID HAVE SOME LATER INFLUENCES.
THE ISLAND OF CEYLON HAD AN ADVANCED CIVILIZATION LONG BEFORE THE ARRIVAL OF THESE OUTSIDERS AND AS A WARRIOR SOCIETY HAD WELL DEVELOPED WEAPONS AND MARTIAL ARTS. THEY WOULD HAVE MADE THEIR OWN WEAPONS BUT THE STRONGEST EARLY INFLUENCE WOULD HAVE BEEN FROM SOUTHERN INDIA BOTH IN RELIGION, CIVILIZATION AND WAR. WE NEED SOME ONE WELL VERSED IN THAT AREA AND ITS EARLY CULTURE TO SEE WHAT WAS THERE AND WHAT COULD HAVE EVOLVED INTO THE DESIGN OF THE KASTHANE AND THE PHIA.
PICTURES OF TWO EXAMPLES OF INDIAN WEAPONS THOUGH NOT AS OLD AS THOSE WE NEED TO SEE EXAMPLES OF.

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 5th March 2014 04:57 PM

While there is a great deal of focus on the Royal Workshops in Kandy for the production of significant examples of the kasthane, I would like to note that the variant forms and apparently other contemporary production seems to have been present elsewhere in Ceylon as well. I think case in point here would be the numerous examples which were mounted with the VOC blades, primarily in the 18th century (in concurrent discussion on another thread) .
Obviously no kasthane produced in the Royal Workshops would be mounted with these blades, and the question remains, were these so mounted kasthane produced with these blades as novelty for VOC forces, or to supply auxiliary allied Sinhalese forces there?


Salaams Jim...Thank you for your great post. That is a hugely significant question. Though it is quite late in the Kastane story it certainly falls into the categories of development and style thus I wonder where these Kastane were turned out? Was it "The Kastane" only made in Royal Workshops...or in some form of VOC controlled environment?..Could they have been made by artesans in Jacarta? Or was there collusion at the time with Royal Workshops who made all the essential parts and then the blades were fitted finally by...by who?? :) Certainly they were made for the EIC formation and at many levels as rank badges of office and similarly in the Dutch period..Probably for the latter half of the Portuguese too... but then the light is dimmer as we try to examine the important early Portuguese period.. and beyond.

My own view is that the Kastane shape arrived earlier as you indicate with the great sea traders The Sri Lankan Moors and the influence of form happened spontaniously with that specific form at its heart..."The Outside Influence Theory."

The other plausible possibility and my alternative view, is that this form happened without foreign influence and within the confines of Sri Lankan sword technology, religious and mythical influence and design ... The "Home Grown" Theory.

The trouble is that we simply do not have an early enough example to substantiate either theory.

Naturally it can't be both... or can it?
A sword form that perhaps had virtually died out was resurected as an in-vogue badge of office and court sword...by foreign invader groups.. why not? In fact that is one way of describing the VOC/ EIC effect... and shown to be the case earlier with the Popham Armour...It is known that the blade production capacity dropped considerably in Sri Lanka caused by cheap imported blades by the invaders...

Fascinating indeed is the Hasekura episode, however, a good defence lawyer would have a heyday tearing apart the inconclusive evidence since the Hasekura Kastane was not officially presented(thus documentation is thin) and may well have been cross hilted on a Chinese or Storta blade. The passing on and custodianship in Japan of that item are somewhat clouded. Being obtained, purchased or recieved as a gift in the Philipines does not help the case..but it is nonetheless very interesting not least because of the blade marks which may or may not be Hasekuras.

Local influence is clear and similar designs appear even on another home grown variety .. The Piha Khaeta which sports similar Hilt and lavish top of blade spill over design and similar design patterning as the Kastane ... hardly surprising since they came from virtually the same Royal Workshop section as Kastane... and may have even been made by the same artesans.

Regional influence through Buddhist and Hindu fused history plays a huge part in the puzzle with a complete quillon style that predates European quillons and may in fact not be quillons at all... but simply a design feature..taken from Tibettan Vajra finials. At least they appear not to function as Quillons. (hardly a requirement anyway as a court sword)

The other guards are so adorned with decorative religious mythical clutter it is almost impossible to sort out a base form. Though is that necessary? I think not... We don't try to strip down the Piha Khaeta why do it with the Kastane. I tend to view the two items through the same prism. The potential as absolutely ancient traditional and highly ornate weapons is there...

So what about the main hilt feature? This is straight from the traditions... ancient religious and mythical (Whether Lion or Monster from deep Ocean or Jungle it matters not.) The regional similarities between it and Indian and Javanese hilts is remarkable. What is absolute, however, is that this is Sri Lankan.

Clearly the Workshops Royale were tuned to create such masterpieces with craftsmen in the caste system expert in each segment of the product ...and flowing back through the early 16th C and beyond to arguably the time the great migration South from India occured in about the 3rd century BC.

Turning the coin the other way shows the potential of the Moors to have brought in a European weapon in pre European times, from Hormuz, Bazra or the Red sea or in fact for a weapon to have gone overland via the silk road Persia and India onward to Sri Lanka via any sea port on the Indian Ocean..and thence to the attention of Royal Workshops for adornment..but I have to say I think it perhaps the weaker of the two possibilities. At the same time compelling suggestions are present see #21 which must be seriously considered pointing at European potential influence.

There is also the possibility the Moors brought with them an Arabian design as the base shape.. The Algerian Flysa dagger springs to mind... and in the same paragraph (because I cant fathom where to put the detail) is the conundrum, if there is one, of the influence of or onto The Nimcha.

Development shows how the Kastane went on to the designs of Dog Hilts onto English and Continental swords..rather late in proceedings and in another curious direction ... onto belly dancing swords !!

~ and the rest as they say is history ~

or put another way... come on Forum its your turn !!

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi. :)

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 5th March 2014 05:03 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by VANDOO
PERHAPS WE HAVE JUMPED TOO FAR FROM THE ORIGINS OF THESE WEAPONS. WE DISCUSS MOORS, PORTUGESE, DUTCH, CHINESE, ECT AND PERHAPS THESE DID HAVE SOME LATER INFLUENCES.
THE ISLAND OF CEYLON HAD AN ADVANCED CIVILIZATION LONG BEFORE THE ARRIVAL OF THESE OUTSIDERS AND AS A WARRIOR SOCIETY HAD WELL DEVELOPED WEAPONS AND MARTIAL ARTS. THEY WOULD HAVE MADE THEIR OWN WEAPONS BUT THE STRONGEST EARLY INFLUENCE WOULD HAVE BEEN FROM SOUTHERN INDIA BOTH IN RELIGION, CIVILIZATION AND WAR. WE NEED SOME ONE WELL VERSED IN THAT AREA AND ITS EARLY CULTURE TO SEE WHAT WAS THERE AND WHAT COULD HAVE EVOLVED INTO THE DESIGN OF THE KASTHANE AND THE PHIA.
PICTURES OF TWO EXAMPLES OF INDIAN WEAPONS THOUGH NOT AS OLD AS THOSE WE NEED TO SEE EXAMPLES OF.



Salaams Vandoo... Great pictures thank you... I was just looking at a deity headed Indian sword stick and your post popped up...! It is amazing what influences were around and Indian being bang on the doorstep must have had a lot of bearing on design... in Sri Lankan style. It is great to have such examples placed on thread as such good quality pictures bring the thread alive...

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi. :shrug:

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 6th March 2014 03:11 PM

Salaams All; Note to library. :shrug:

No study of ethnographic arms and armour can be completed without some reference to the historical mixture of peoples in a country under scrutiny.. This is magnified many times over in a country like Sri Lanka and to that end and to give a balanced picture as to the possibility of the Moors(The Mercantile traders of Sri Lanka) having transmitted certain weapon technology and style I recommend a look at http://sailanmuslim.com/news/wp-con...ankan-moors.pdf which is an astonishing account of the Sri Lankan Moors.

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi. :shrug:

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 8th March 2014 07:56 AM

2 Attachment(s)
Quote:
Originally Posted by VANDOO
PERHAPS WE HAVE JUMPED TOO FAR FROM THE ORIGINS OF THESE WEAPONS. WE DISCUSS MOORS, PORTUGESE, DUTCH, CHINESE, ECT AND PERHAPS THESE DID HAVE SOME LATER INFLUENCES.
THE ISLAND OF CEYLON HAD AN ADVANCED CIVILIZATION LONG BEFORE THE ARRIVAL OF THESE OUTSIDERS AND AS A WARRIOR SOCIETY HAD WELL DEVELOPED WEAPONS AND MARTIAL ARTS. THEY WOULD HAVE MADE THEIR OWN WEAPONS BUT THE STRONGEST EARLY INFLUENCE WOULD HAVE BEEN FROM SOUTHERN INDIA BOTH IN RELIGION, CIVILIZATION AND WAR. WE NEED SOME ONE WELL VERSED IN THAT AREA AND ITS EARLY CULTURE TO SEE WHAT WAS THERE AND WHAT COULD HAVE EVOLVED INTO THE DESIGN OF THE KASTHANE AND THE PHIA.
PICTURES OF TWO EXAMPLES OF INDIAN WEAPONS THOUGH NOT AS OLD AS THOSE WE NEED TO SEE EXAMPLES OF.



Salaams Vandoo~ There are many examples of the Indian Zoomorphic Mythical variety ... I bumped into this one ... A simple sword stick on a Yaali hilt (pot metal) without scabbard.. in Buraimi Souk... I think it safe to assume the Buddhist-Hindu linkage in decorative design upon the Kastane as being entirely home grown within the regional influence of other countries close by with similar religious aspects, though, the indicators seem also to point toward a possible European sword base design perhaps introduced by the Mercantile activities of the Sri Lankan Moors.

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.

Jim McDougall 8th March 2014 09:27 PM

Great discussion, and interesting points guys!
I think it is important to remember that much of the iconography seen on the hilts of the kasthane are indeed those connected to Southern India culturally and religiously in large degree. These stylized zoomorphics and certain other features may be connected to elements of weapons from the Deccan, Madras (Chennai) and of course Tamil Nadu. There was as I understand strong Tamil presence which seems in the north of Ceylon predominantly so certainly influences would have diffused accordingly.

The weapons shown by Vandoo are a Hindu style dagger of chilanum/bichwa/khanjharli blade type with the zoomorphic pommel hilt and langet similar to other daggers of Deccan to Tanjore.
The sword with downturned quillons is of course of the form known in Afghanistan as the paluoar (to collectors though not necessarily locally), but which derives from Deccani influences. These carry Persian influence, most notably the quillons in creature heads (often termed dragon heads) and from 16th-17th c.. These sabres while typically associated with Afghanistan are actually a form of tulwar with strong Deccani associations, and the Afghan preference for the form its northernmost Indian context. Until the 20th century, Afghanistan was part of India (Northwest Frontier).

The use of zoomorphic hilts depicting mythical creatures important in religious iconography does not need to have relied on European suggestion as the adaption of the religious imbuement of arms seems to have well in place with that found in temples. While weapons in early Ceylon seem to correspond to those of early India in general form, the application of zoomorphic images of mythical creatures would seem to have occurred independent of European influence.

The adaption (vestigially) of quillon systems similar to those found on North Italian swords from 15th century onward seems likely to have filtered into Moorish settlements in Ceylon prior to the Portuguese arrival, though in timeline seems quite close as that was 1505 and these hilts from Italy are only slightly earlier. The similarities are discussed as previously noted in North, 1975 and Buttin, 1933).
As far as I am aware, there were no Portuguese sword forms using zoomorphic hilts, nor of course were Arabic or Moorish forms either in these times.

In references I have seen it noted that the influence of the exotic mythical themes on the developed kasthane style hits, and probably the piha kaetta, had the profound fascination and intrigue of the merchants and colonials of European countries . It would seem that these were exported 'from' Ceylon via these mediums rather than brought in.
By the same token, it would seem that the application of iconographic images onto weapons was likely a development from influence from the subcontinent and that the themes seen on the kasthane hilt decoratively likely developed there accordingly.
The hilt structurally probably absorbed influence from the Arabic and North Italian forms and was integrated with the decorative embellishment as noted.

It is my impression that likely early forms of Sinhalese weapons may have had some sort of mythical creature embellishment however that to me remains unclear. The adaption of the more developed guard seems to have been adopted around the same time generally as the curved sabre blades of course through Moorish influence (as noted by Deraniyagala, 1942).

That is my personal perspective at this point based on my own earlier research as well as the outstanding material that has been shared in this thread and the others connected .

VANDOO 9th March 2014 04:46 AM

FOR INFLUENCES ON A CULTURE ONE NEED ONLY LOOK AT ITS RULERS. WHO WERE THEIR ALLIES, WHO WERE THEIR ENEMYS AND WHO DID THEY TRADE WITH. THE EARLIEST INFLUENCES ARE USUALLY BASED ON ONE RULER EITHER FRIEND OR ENEMY HAVING SOMETHING THE OTHER DOES NOT HAVE AND THE SECOND RULER TRYING TO MATCH THAT AND TOP IT. FOR INSTANCE IF RULER #1 HAS A ELEPHANT TO RIDE RULER #2 MUST GET A BIGGER AND BETTER ONE AND PERHAPS SEVERAL MORE. THE ARMS RACE IS NOT SOMETHING NEW :rolleyes:
THE EARLY CONTACTS WERE NO DOUBT WITH SOUTHERN INDIA BECAUSE OF PROXIMITY AND THE CULTURES DID HAVE A LOT IN COMMON AND LIKELY HAD CULTURAL CONNECTIONS FAR IN THE PAST. SO IF THE SWORDS OF OTHERS ARE MORE DECORATIVE OR LARGER ONE MUST MATCH AND EXCEED THAT OF THE COMPETICIAN. WAR, SHOWING OFF AND FASHON ALL ACCELERATE INOVATION AND CHANGES IN A SOCIETY. SO I VOTE FOR SOUTHERN INDIA AS THE STRONGEST INFLUENCE.

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 9th March 2014 02:44 PM

The Kastane story may continue ad infinitum to develop and based on the excellent material unearthed by Forum so far.. For me, however, the culminating note is unveiled by Wikepedia the famous on line encyclopedia which states ~

The Kastane.

Quote"The Kastane is a short traditional ceremonial/decorative single-edged sword of Sri Lanka. Kastanes often have elaborate hilts, especially shaped and described as a rich mythical style inherited from Buddhism and Hinduism and in blending a variety of Deities including Makara, Lions, Kirtimukha, Serapendiya, Nagas, crocodile/human monsters and other dragon and gargoyle like effigies. Some are emitted onto the hand guard and cross guard with Vajra style pseudo-quillons whose finials are also decorated by minor monsters and a rain-guard decorated by the Makara or Serapendiya Peacock tail or fish scales which occasionally flows over and onto the blade at the throat. The Scabbard is occasionally seen with a miniature beasts head at the Chape also emitting a Deity or cloud pattern. Sometimes a small human face decorates the hand-guard which is a half human/half crocodile monster.

The main aspect of Kastane Hilts shows the central Deity accompanied by supporting minor Deity forms and the peculiar guard arrangement incorporating Buddhist style Vajra quillons, cross and hand guards and decorated handguard with further embelishment often spilling over onto the blades throat. In approaching a description authors should observe each Kastane separately since no two are identical and the main Hilt theme thus could be either of the variant Deities Lion or Makara/ Serapendiya etc. and since artist and artisan may well have applied a broad ranging interpretation of the form.

In 1807 it is recorded that the sword was an indicator of Official Rank so that the more senior persons would wear a more lavishly adorned weapon etc...and that this was also the intent though perhaps to a lesser degree in the Portuguese and Dutch periods.

They may first have arisen in the Kandyan Kingdom (15/16th century ?), perhaps inspired by European swords brought by the Portuguese period in Ceylon or in fact imported by the great Sri Lankan sea traders ... The Moors....The basic form being lavishly adorned so much so that it is almost impossible to designate a base pattern though North Italian or Venetian seems plausible. The hilt resembles South Indian weapon designs. The blade comes in a variety of sizes and it can be either straight or slightly curved. They are usually single-edged and most frequently are made in Europe(Solingen). None of the blades bear either Portuguese marks or English East India Company trademarks (EIC), however, there are many examples of Dutch influence with blades marked VOC. The single part of the sword that shares the similar characteristics is the hilt. It has two or four quillons. In the 4-quillon version the smaller two quillons are swept downwards toward the tip of the blade. In fact it is arguable if these are Quillons since they are mirror images of the Vajra projections on the Buddhist religious axe and perhaps serve no defensive purpose.

The pommel and the quillons are very beautiful as each of them ends with a carved Deity's head. The hilts are often encrusted with gemstones as in the eyes of Ruby stones and inlaid with silver or made entirely of silver or gold. The scabbards of the Kastane swords are made of wood or rhino horn and are decorated with brass, silver and/or gold. It is a testament to the skill of the traditional craftsmen operating in Sri Lankas ancient Royal Sword Workshops".Unquote.

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.

napoleon 10th March 2014 06:23 PM

kastane
 
salaams ibrahiim,firstly im not intent on telling people how they should research,not at all ,what i was trying to establish,was known provenanced items,if enough examples can be gathered,might begin to show a broad frame work,starting for the sake of arguement with known portugese examples of the period,already been said i know,but does anyone have any? :D also yes point taken jim regarding debate/discusion stand corrected thank you,ibrahiim you refer to the examples plucked at random :) not at all just the only two examples i could find that stood a chance, speaking demonstrably,but as jim pointed out could be earlier(although not later) :) so could still be used in a broader framework, ibrahiim i do see a gap in the study its called typological chronology :D ,however bear in mind i am a relative novice in the subject of these beautifull swords,but one thought i had was the gemstones used,certain cultures favour different gems,a possible pointer?although i still feel more examples are needed,and in order for any of us to learn more more images,another thought has anyone explored the archeological record of sri lanka for swords,battle site finds? regards for now

Jim McDougall 11th March 2014 05:24 AM

Hi Napoleon,
Nicely stated, and I would like to note that my intention was not as much correction as clarification, and understand your notes toward research were more to your placement in coming into the discussion. While you have noted you are relatively new to the research on these weapons, I commend you for your enthusiastic participation and would point out that here we are all students on arms study in varying levels and degrees, but all working toward the same goals, learning together.

You are asking well placed questions, some which have indeed been somewhat travelled in other discussions, and some which have not. Your note on gems is interesting, though I am not certain that this complex aspect of decoration and often talismanic properties would be pertinent to our objectives here on the kasthane.

Good question on the archaeological aspects, and indeed there are numerous studies on Sri Lankan sites as well as the iconographic sources.
Deraniyagala , 1942, p.111) notes, "...the earliest swords appear to have been straight, leaf shaped and double edged, resembling bronze age weapons. Their shape suggests they were mainly offensive. A subsequent development was the wavy blade, and ultimately the curved scimitar type which increased enormously the power of a slashing cut, but sacrificed efficiency in thrusting or parrying (footnote: the scimitar type is probably of Arab origin). "
It is further noted that the early swords depicted on the Tivunka Patimaghara (misnamed Demala Malia Sigiriya) at Polonnaruva are of the leaf pattern and that others from Sigiyira in the Columbo Museum and of the 5th century are single edged and long, straight and double edged. Other excavations of 12th century site at Polonnoruva revealed long straight single edged blades with obliquely truncate point.

It is noted that these are some of the types depicted on frescoes and paintings up to the 18th century "..when the curved, scimitar shape with the lions head comes into fashion".

These interesting entries indicate of course that the early swords of Sri Lanka over a very long time were functional and decoratively austere until relatively recent times. Clearly the 18th century date for the lion head hilts is not quite correct as we are already aware of earlier examples, however I believe the author is referring to the ceremonial sword of rank rather than likely earlier forms bearing some degree of traditional iconography.

Typological chronology is of course an ideal goal, but one which is particularly elusive in the study of most histories of ethnographic forms as reliably provenanced examples are rarely available. Even iconographic sources are sometimes unreliable as artists often tended to be anachronistic in their work as they depicted events of earlier times. As you engage further in this and other studies of these types of weapons it is interesting to see how these kinds of discussions do benefit comprehensive knowledge by compiling data . In these cases, seen throughout the archives here many impressive results have been accomplished.

While you may be a newcomer Napoleon, you ask great questions and follow the course, and its great to have you with us on the adventure! :)

All the best,
Jim

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 11th March 2014 02:57 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by napoleon
salaams ibrahiim,firstly im not intent on telling people how they should research,not at all ,what i was trying to establish,was known provenanced items,if enough examples can be gathered,might begin to show a broad frame work,starting for the sake of arguement with known portugese examples of the period,already been said i know,but does anyone have any? :D also yes point taken jim regarding debate/discusion stand corrected thank you,ibrahiim you refer to the examples plucked at random :) not at all just the only two examples i could find that stood a chance, speaking demonstrably,but as jim pointed out could be earlier(although not later) :) so could still be used in a broader framework, ibrahiim i do see a gap in the study its called typological chronology :D ,however bear in mind i am a relative novice in the subject of these beautifull swords,but one thought i had was the gemstones used,certain cultures favour different gems,a possible pointer?although i still feel more examples are needed,and in order for any of us to learn more more images,another thought has anyone explored the archeological record of sri lanka for swords,battle site finds? regards for now


Salaams napoleon. As you rightly point out we have very little to go on... Early examples are few 'n far between and this is illustrated by the need to look at even the most extreme cases such as artwork on the Popham Armour (to my mind the only artwork showing the Kastane on European armour) and a vague but fascinating early weapon now in the Sendai Museum in Japan.

Where we can... I think broad logic is allowed e.g. an eye to the European influence and since it is a weapon just slightly removed from the Arabian sphere...a clue as to how it may have arrived in basic form with the Moors...and of course their Arabian and African (and other regional) contacts. Knowing a lot more about the Royal workshops and the religious structure and the way people lived in the early days allows some balanced supposition...Where these nebulous ideas are not carved in stone it can be interesting to see where these ideas lead...though, a good detective will only have these penciled in the margin until proof positive can be made.

I was pleased to see you wheel out the big guns: Typological Chronology but that depends on examinig the early items, simply not available... The subject of digs is interesting ... but as you may be aware there are certain sensitivities in this regard and anyway you will be aware of cultural problems where Buddhist/ Hindu countries are very much not obliged to excavate and for religious reasons etc...The archeological ministry in Tibet for example is a very small organism... in fact it doesn't exist! and though I am not saying archeology is non existant in Sri Lanka I make the point from the cultural understanding generally... and of course you will be aware of the delicate nature of digs not unrelated to recent internal strife in that country but which is politically ringfenced.

What you have outlined is in fact very true... that unless a researcher is in country how difficult it is (but not impossible) to unearth the facts. When we started we had so little to go on... Now the library contains masses of detail never before viewed.

I think the study of gemstones is an excellent idea for you to undertake regarding Kastane ... another which I disguarded was the detail contained in ancient poetry which could yeild results.

One other field that looked promising was ancient martial arts weapons but I was unable to get sufficient detail as persuing that back 500 years and beyond proved impossible .. We know that the national martial art system was made illegal by colonial English powers punishable by being shot in the knees..Permanently crippling the individuals...The martial arts weaponry pre Portuguese (Pre 1505) may well have contained Kastane but absolute proof would be needed. Naturally that would be more or less game set and match regarding the time frame but I couldn't get much further back than about 1800 in this regard.

The VOC system is being viewed very successfully in another thread effectively setting down a thorough compendium of details on the entire Dutch period ...

Overall I think the rolling result... (because it never stops)... is excellent, though, we should never expect to fully hit the check-mate button... Total understanding may never be complete but I mean why should it?...since this is such a non worldly item drenched in mythology, religions, sliced with foreign powers interference and tainted in not a little majic ... not least in it's name "Kastane"...


Thank you for your post...Typological Chronology ! Bring it on !!


Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi. :shrug:

David 11th March 2014 03:36 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ibrahiim al Balooshi
The Kastane story may continue ad infinitum to develop and based on the excellent material unearthed by Forum so far.. For me, however, the culminating note is unveiled by Wikepedia the famous on line encyclopedia which states ~

The Kastane.

Quote"The Kastane is a short traditional ceremonial/decorative single-edged sword of Sri Lanka. Kastanes often have elaborate hilts, especially shaped and described as a rich mythical style inherited from Buddhism and Hinduism and in blending a variety of Deities including Makara, Lions, Kirtimukha, Serapendiya, Nagas, crocodile/human monsters and other dragon and gargoyle like effigies. Some are emitted onto the hand guard and cross guard with Vajra style pseudo-quillons whose finials are also decorated by minor monsters and a rain-guard decorated by the Makara or Serapendiya Peacock tail or fish scales which occasionally flows over and onto the blade at the throat. The Scabbard is occasionally seen with a miniature beasts head at the Chape also emitting a Deity or cloud pattern. Sometimes a small human face decorates the hand-guard which is a half human/half crocodile monster.

The main aspect of Kastane Hilts shows the central Deity accompanied by supporting minor Deity forms and the peculiar guard arrangement incorporating Buddhist style Vajra quillons, cross and hand guards and decorated handguard with further embelishment often spilling over onto the blades throat. In approaching a description authors should observe each Kastane separately since no two are identical and the main Hilt theme thus could be either of the variant Deities Lion or Makara/ Serapendiya etc. and since artist and artisan may well have applied a broad ranging interpretation of the form.

In 1807 it is recorded that the sword was an indicator of Official Rank so that the more senior persons would wear a more lavishly adorned weapon etc...and that this was also the intent though perhaps to a lesser degree in the Portuguese and Dutch periods.

They may first have arisen in the Kandyan Kingdom (15/16th century ?), perhaps inspired by European swords brought by the Portuguese period in Ceylon or in fact imported by the great Sri Lankan sea traders ... The Moors....The basic form being lavishly adorned so much so that it is almost impossible to designate a base pattern though North Italian or Venetian seems plausible. The hilt resembles South Indian weapon designs. The blade comes in a variety of sizes and it can be either straight or slightly curved. They are usually single-edged and most frequently are made in Europe(Solingen). None of the blades bear either Portuguese marks or English East India Company trademarks (EIC), however, there are many examples of Dutch influence with blades marked VOC. The single part of the sword that shares the similar characteristics is the hilt. It has two or four quillons. In the 4-quillon version the smaller two quillons are swept downwards toward the tip of the blade. In fact it is arguable if these are Quillons since they are mirror images of the Vajra projections on the Buddhist religious axe and perhaps serve no defensive purpose.

The pommel and the quillons are very beautiful as each of them ends with a carved Deity's head. The hilts are often encrusted with gemstones as in the eyes of Ruby stones and inlaid with silver or made entirely of silver or gold. The scabbards of the Kastane swords are made of wood or rhino horn and are decorated with brass, silver and/or gold. It is a testament to the skill of the traditional craftsmen operating in Sri Lankas ancient Royal Sword Workshops".Unquote.

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.

Forgive me for mentioning this Ibrahiim…but isn't this Wikipedia entry written by YOURSELF? If so how can it unveil to you a culminating note in your own research? :shrug:

David 11th March 2014 05:40 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ibrahiim al Balooshi
What you have outlined is in fact very true... that unless a researcher is in country how difficult it is (but not impossible) to unearth the facts. When we started we had so little to go on... Now the library contains masses of detail never before viewed.

Interesting that you should say this Ibrahiim, because when we actually had a native Sri Lankan that was steeped in the culture and history of ancient Sri Lankan weaponry and actually had his feet on the ground in that country you did nothing but argue his very informative posts until he threw up his hands and left the conversation. Fortunately, the "Library" still contains those very informative posts. :)

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 11th March 2014 05:43 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by David
Forgive me for mentioning this Ibrahiim…but isn't this Wikipedia entry written by YOURSELF? If so how can it unveil to you a culminating note in your own research? :shrug:



Salaams David... In fact, no, it is not all my work though of course I am a contributor and why should I not be..and you already know this so why are you questioning in such a way? Indeed you pointed to the fact a month or two ago... though I couldnt understand why your tone was unsupportive then and I am baffled by it now... Wikepedia is the world wide webs encyclopedia... not mine... I just contribute freely. I find it extremely useful and since it is continually updated ..very current and accurate. It does, in fact, do exactly as I have penned ~ do you not agree?

I add that since my involvement as a contributor on Forum to this subject that the Wikepedia entry has been considerably and accurately updated with the latest current information researched by me. It stands therefor as a pinnacle of finely tuned detail in parallel with the latest doctrine on the subject...

Surely you would be delighted with that..from the Forum viewpoint?

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.

David 11th March 2014 07:38 PM

Wikipedia is what it is. It is neither good or bad, accurate or incorrect. It is only as good as the information presented and the reference material used to back up that information. It is regulated by its users so an entity really has absolutely no academic integrity beyond its own bibliography, which isn't to say that there are not some very well researched and documented Wikipedia entries. The Kastane entry, i am afraid, is not one of them. It is hardly the "pinnacle of finely tuned detail" that you would make it out to be. This is not because the information is necessarily wrong, though so of it might be, but because the entry has no footnotes or academically reliable references to follow through on. All that are provided at the bottom of the page are a group of links to images on the Oriental Arms page and other sales sites, a youtube video of a kastane on the Antiques Roadshow (and i can assure you that these guys notoriously get their info on swords from these regions wrong) and an article on the use of the kastane as a belly dancing sword written by a guy who was banned from this site long ago. So my complaint here Ibrahiim is that it is rather self-serving for you to present the info on this page as being some kind of "unveiled culminating note" when it is mostly written by you without much academic backing. This has been a wonderful and no doubt useful exercise in speculation and conjecture so far. Don't get me wrong, i am not being sarcastic when i call it useful as i believe that speculation is a very useful tool in the process of discover, and we have certainly seen and read a lot of pertinent material in these many threads on the subject. But until we can nail some of our speculative thinking down to actual fact i don't think we have anything to congratulate ourselves over. ;)
By the way, since you are so keen on fine tuning your Wikipedia page on the subject, you might, as i previously suggested, want to reconsider the use of the term "Deity hilt". The lion, makara, serapendiya or whatever mythical beasts we wish to believe are represented on these swords are not, AFAIK, considered to be "deities" per se. Many Hindu deities do in fact incorporate various animal features in their depiction (Ganesha, Hanuman, etc.), but these mythical beasts are only associated with specific deities (i.e. a makara is often associated as the vehicle for the river goddess Ganga and the sea god Varuna) but are not seen as deities themselves.

fernando 11th March 2014 10:09 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Quote:
Originally Posted by David
...because when we actually had a native Sri Lankan that was steeped in the culture and history of ancient Sri Lankan weaponry and actually had his feet on the ground in that country you did nothing but argue his very informative posts until he threw up his hands and left the conversation. Fortunately, the "Library" still contains those very informative posts....Fortunately, the "Library" still contains those very informative posts. :)

... Which certainly have a value ratio far greater than countless perorations which, although containing some peripheral (but not intrinsic) info, make us ponder on their immense space occupied in the archives versus their juice, after squeezing them.
It is obvious that despite Jim’s industrious initiative to transfer this theme to a new thread under a multiple (triple) range of attributions, the nuclear point remains the same: the origin, date and outer influences in the Kastane. However it is not the hammering on the same nail head, time and time without count, that will bring light to the subject. No one forgets that certain approaches were repeated a zillion times … sometimes with the very same wording.
Resuming that, taking in consideration the recurrent (massacred) pre and post Portuguese ‘key’ to the matter ...
It can not be questioned that the Kastane was born in Ceylon … and not result of a ‘joint venture’.
The probabilities that it had western influences along time, namely Portuguese, it could only be in the hilt, namely the lower recurved quillons... the ricasso a giveaway.
The blade in itself would never be Portuguese, simply because they were not blade makers. Actually the Kastane blades seen out there are so varied that i have already seen one made in brass.
Assuming that Portuguese sword designs were common to other Peoples … Spanish, Venetians and so, we may view these probable influences, for the matter, as being Portuguese, because they were indeed the first to actually reside and mix cultures with the locals.
But obviously the admissible influence of Portuguese, for one, is a hypothesis that would be easily knocked down by evidential appearance of the missing link: example/s of Kastane prior to this period ... no matter how different or of how many different forms they timely were.
Based on this eternal fait divers and talking about (Portuguese) influences, i feel entitled to upload here a hybrid that i have pictured in one of my library books, which belongs in the collection of its author, titled HOMENS ESPADAS E TOMATES, by Rainer Daehnhardt, whom owns one of the largest collections of weapons and documentation covering, among other, the Portuguese discoveries period.

.

Jim McDougall 12th March 2014 12:56 AM

Fernando, thank you so much for adding this most pertinent example which reflects the kind of diffusion seen with these clearly Sinhalese influenced hilts, and most important showing the Portuguese perspective.
Thank you as well for adding your perspective on the 'origins of the kasthane dilemma', which seems of course to correspond pretty much with the views expressed already.

Actually the reason I started this thread was because of the outcry on the other thread concerning the emphasis on the kasthane in a thread whose title indicated Sinhalese swords, including the kasthane. There it was claimed that the thread was being derailed by emphasis on the kasthane, remarkable since it followed the topic in the title. Just the same, I thought a more deliberately titled thread would allow focused discussion on the kastane without such consternation.

Now we have a derailment toward the perils and worth of the Wikipedia online source! It seems to me that any source of material used in research is useful but with the caveat that the material must be considered along with corroborating material as well.
It seems that here the issue has become that the source material cited by Ibrahiim from Wikipedia is considered questionably because he has contributed to its content. I will say here that I often use Wikipedia to augment and add to data I use to write along with my own notes and other resources. In most cases it has proven quite reliable although in many cases politically charged material is somewhat questionable.

It should probably have been reiterated that he had added to the Wikipedia material he cited, but I honestly thought he had mentioned that before.

Whatever the case, I would like to see this thread return to the subject matter and forego this unnecessary point of contention.

Fernando, again, wonderful example!!!!

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 12th March 2014 07:26 AM

Originally Posted by David...The lion, makara, serapendiya or whatever mythical beasts we wish to believe are represented on these swords are not, AFAIK, considered to be "deities" per se. Many Hindu deities do in fact incorporate various animal features in their depiction (Ganesha, Hanuman, etc.), but these mythical beasts are only associated with specific deities (i.e. a makara is often associated as the vehicle for the river goddess Ganga and the sea god Varuna) but are not seen as deities themselves.[/QUOTE]


Salaams David. I believe that they are in fact Deities and that you have mixed them up with the religious Deities of India. The Buddhist/Hindu mixture in Sri Lanka is slightly different. The Kastane hilt is filled with Deities. One of the main Deities is the Makara not only associated with one aspect but across the whole spectrum ... On water spouts ...supporting doorways...associated with the Kurtimukta and minor humano crocodile form, On Jewellery, Door knockers, Weapon adornment, artwork, Gunpowder containers, tobacco pipes etc.

Where the main feature appears lion like ... it too has a mythical story behind it. The point about myth and legend coupled with the Kastane is not so much centred around whether XYZ is a Deity but whether these forms were introduced at an earlier stage than European intervention in the Indian Ocean...Naturally with so few early examples it should not try the brain cells over much to realise that certain logical appreciations are needed to ascertain what may have taken place...

Nobody is trying to slam-dunk the Kastane problem and I disagree entirely that anyone would have left the discussion because of some disagreement... Is that not the basis upon which Forum feeds... I disagree... I put in the evidence... Member X disagrees and counters with his/her proof... A consensus is then arrived at and discussed... or arrives in the vicinity of the plausible truth. Of course where people cant take the heat... they get out of the kitchen... Whereas that ought not to happen it is always sad... but anyway they can just as easily rejoin the discussion when they are ready..

Comments are always welcome provided they are constructive no?

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 12th March 2014 08:16 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
It can not be questioned that the Kastane was born in Ceylon … and not result of a ‘joint venture’.
The probabilities that it had western influences along time, namely Portuguese, it could only be in the hilt, namely the lower recurved quillons... the ricasso a giveaway.
The blade in itself would never be Portuguese, simply because they were not blade makers. Actually the Kastane blades seen out there are so varied that i have already seen one made in brass.
Assuming that Portuguese sword designs were common to other Peoples … Spanish, Venetians and so, we may view these probable influences, for the matter, as being Portuguese, because they were indeed the first to actually reside and mix cultures with the locals.
But obviously the admissible influence of Portuguese, for one, is a hypothesis that would be easily knocked down by evidential appearance of the missing link: example/s of Kastane prior to this period ... no matter how different or of how many different forms they timely were.
Based on this eternal fait divers and talking about (Portuguese) influences, i feel entitled to upload here a hybrid that i have pictured in one of my library books, which belongs in the collection of its author, titled HOMENS ESPADAS E TOMATES, by Rainer Daehnhardt, whom owns one of the largest collections of weapons and documentation covering, among other, the Portuguese discoveries period.

.



Salaams Fernando, Thank you for your post which includes the fascinating picture from your library of the Kastane influenced sword. I assume this example to have been a back fed influence as the Portuguese were withdrawing from the Indian Ocean? It is an early example of a Kastane influenced hilt. Very interesting.

Whilst you state that the origin of the hilt cannot be questioned; that is certainly not how it was originally on this or any other thread.. and since the same sort of decoration appeared on gunpowder weapons of the combined workshops of Portuguese and Sri Lankan craftsmen I am amazed at your revelation... and since you supplied the artwork showing the similar decoration ..even more amazing. See http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...98&page=3&pp=30 at #66 :)

Whilst the Portuguese were the first Europeans to "mix cultures" with the Sri Lankans they were not the first culture ... You omit the Moors..Not only were they hundreds of years before the Portuguese but they were the Mercantile Marine... of Sri Lanka. It is to them that the transition of basic blade form may be attributed. Personally I don't think the Quillons are solely attributable (many people do and that is accepted) but viewing the Vajra I see that as being perhaps the dominant influence.

To what period do you place the appearance of a brass blade?... It is known that cheap non Sri Lankan blades appeared in brass as belly dancer items often with a reversed hilt... in the 19th C.

You place Portugal very highly in the definitions concerning the Kastane yet only at post 80 have you entered your input, though, it is well recieved.... but by-the-way in terms of repetition was not your only other post here on the Mudaliers essentially repetition of a previous one ... by myself; see #2. What I mean is that in generating the discussion and in threads that are very long...understandably repetition happens...though they are not designed towards any individual but in bringing the hundreds of other interested members into focus and updated with the subject.

It was partly because of this that we have now this separate thread on Kastane. Hugely successful !!....leaving the older thread to be developed along the lines of other Sri Lankan weapons. The other support thread on VOC is of course another excellent main artery thread concerning Sri Lanka.

Those few members who were so vociferous in condemning the Kastanes virtually solo appearance on the old thread will no doubt be building up that thread at http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...8&page=10&pp=30, no? :shrug:

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.

Prasanna Weerakkody 12th March 2014 05:15 PM

I must say that I had decided to stay away from the thread; not due to being unable to stand argument as some might suggest-but as it no longer seems objective about the study that for me is one of profound personal interest. same things repeat over and over with minor contortions while (sadly) quickly forgetting all the information that has been Included in the previous thread where this discussion initiated. I did feel quite sad as among the noise there was also some very important material being shared and raised and I must say I did learn a lot being part of it.

The reason I am writing this note is to at least provide a re-cap of points that were presented in the other thread that seem to be getting forgotten and to at least try in some way to counter some of the mis-information that seem to be taking root within the thread. being from the country of origin of the Kasthana - It is sometimes difficult not to be amused by some of the things that continue being said (despite errors being pointed out). Many theories about Sinhala arts, crafts, culture and history portrayed seem alien and quite new to me having been a student of Sinhala Art history all my life. - it’s quite an eye opener how much mis-information; just starts as a wild guesses becomes realities and can take root through the internet. (may be it is my disadvantage to be from Sri Lanka - otherwise may be I would have enjoyed the fantasies more freely.)

As David already very correctly pointed out- In Sri Lanka neither Lion, Makara nor Serapendiya are ever considered deities or gods in any form; they are depicted as no more than mere decorative “BEAST” forms (though auspicious- like the lotus or conch-shell). They are used as Icons; Lion representing Sinhala race, Makara as a symbol of protection and regeneration. etc. etc.

The only goddess or deities represented on Kasthana seem to be images that may be Sri-Devi/Luxmi, or Patthini devi depicted sometimes on the outer side of the hand guard and/or on the langet. These on occasion may be only figures of “Nari-latha” or tree nymphs. It is a significant area of study to identify the mostly female deities present on a weapon instead of a warrior gods such as karthikeiya or Kali.

Forum still does not seem to recognize the sources I provided that in a Sri Lankan/ Sinhala historic context clearly establish the Kasthana Sword to mid 16th century. which at least in a local context is backed by examples that have good provenance and supported by strong literary evidence. There is solid local evidence to prove that the Kasthane sword in its proper form and name existed at least in mid 16th century if not earlier. . (please check earlier thread for reference) I do understand that the forum members are at a loss when it comes to reading original historic sources written in Sinhala. but the reality is that they do exist. the post 14th century era saw the emergence of a long series of books written as “Hatan Kavya” (war poems) which give significant details of battles and warriors and arms used.

If the sword (and the name Kasthana) was in existence in the early to mid 16th century and associated well with King Rajasinhe I. it is clear that the origin of the weapon clearly and significantly pre-date the Kandyan kingdom and its workshops; and would have its origin more in the Sithawaka and/or Kotte kingdoms- post the transfer of the capital to Kandy the workshops there would have continued production of the swords. but it would not have originated in “Kandyan workshops” which is a misnomer. The design trends associated with the early (more refined) form of Kasthana can be associated with art trends of even the Dambadeni or Gampola Kingdoms which predate even the Kotte Sithawaka era.

The Sinhala crafts and technology was influenced by more than the 3 European invaders and the moors, The country was visited 3 times by the Navy of Cheng ho (Zheng He) shortly before the arrival of the Portuguese; and there was prolific trade, diplomatic, religious and cultural ties to Thailand to Burma and most of East Asia and even up to China. Mainland India both Northern and Southern continued to be in strong contact throughout time. large Sinhala trade ships are documented sailing to Chinese ports and even to Roman courts more than a millennia before. the concept that the moors were the “mercantile marine” of the sinhales is in error though they did carry out trade in Sinhala ports during the 15th century and supported the Sinhales in some battles as the Portuguese was a direct threat to their trade. The Sinhales craftsmen were good at adapting foreign technology encountered often giving them a local twist. The location of the country at the southernmost tip of the Indian sub-continent necessitated any ships plying the coasts of South Asia would use it as a trade hub. The 14th century text “Kandauru siritha” list many types of foreign swords used by the kings army including swords listed as Pandi, Wadiga, Jaina, Malaya, Madura, Thelangu, Java, Vanga, Ayodhya swords. A total of 32 types of swords are listed including “Wak kadu” or curved swords which may have been the predecessor of the Kasthana type blade- which if true would date the type of blades significantly before the Portuguese encounter.

The craft based “cast” system was in existence in Sri Lanka till the end of the Kandyan Kingdom in 1815. The system was broken down only under the British rule.

The Early Kasthana was possibly designed with a lot of thought and reason for each of its components. The traditional systems carry rather firm disciplines in proportions and use of its elements. The texts like the “Vaijayantha-thanthra” are examples. which set guidelines for the length and breadth of blades and the types of decoration and iconographies to be followed. most of the sword lore and smiting techniques became extinct under the extreme repression of the British raj. The Brits took over the country using intrigue not the force of arms in which they repeatedly failed as long as the Sinhala crown lasted. so the Brits knew the need to suppress anything that was even connected to martial traditions in the Sinhales. Orders were given to shoot at anyone practicing “Angam” and all arms and armor related crafts perished in the post 1815 era.

Recently I was rather saddened to see a small “ola leaf” technical manual on ancient sword making being dismantled and sold piecemeal page by page to gullible tourists in an antique shop the South of the country purporting to be “Lord Buddha’s own handwriting”. But the bit that I saw remaining indicate firm guidelines set in construction of the blades.

Though I would not feel confident in identifying the inspiration for the Kasthana design- Based on the way a TRADITIONAL kasthana is constructed and put together I believe that the use of the quillons and the langet is used mainly to strengthen the base of the sword, provide a good seat on the scabbards and also to deflect a sliding cut away from the hand. not for the purpose of holding and locking enemy blades. The association of tibetan vajra with kasthana is purely artificial in a Sinhala context- as I pointed out before the Mahayana/Vajrayana buddhist traditions to which vajra symbolism belonged was extinct or only vestigially present in Sri Lanka the time in question. The predominant Theravada Buddhist traditions give no significance to it. the quillon shape is quite regular within the framework of Sinhala motifs without a need to associate it with the Vajra

Ibrahim I think your classification of Kasthana to include characters of all degenerate deviant sub-species counters the identification of proper kasthana swords- the true Kasthana carries a single edged blade that is curved, The quillons are always 4 and the primary animal heads on quillons, guard and hilt is 6 (or more- never less). There is a firm order and tradition of composition of animal head types and accessory figures and iconography on hilt and quillons. but I shall refrain on commenting further on this as I have given sufficient level of my comments on that topic elsewhere in the earlier thread but the issue within this forum stays stubbornly muddled.

Ibrahim I am not sure how these modern illustrations of Hindu gods become useful in the purpose of the thread. if needed look for period specific reference that may have more value here.

Napoleon- it is best to visit the earlier thread which carried some good illustrations of Kasthana, There are a modest amount of direct historic evidence available within a Sri Lankan archaeological/ historic records. If you would look at my posts I have included some references to heirloom swords still remaining with the original families they were gifted to by Kings which give good provenance as some still even carry gift deeds, flags and other items presented along with the kasthana to the chieftains who excelled in battle. I am also very interested in the typological chronology of the kasthana which seem quite clear path of evolution from the earliest (most refined) to late (of more valuable material but weak craftsmanship and design). a lot of modern poor quality replica’s also float around including brass bladed items. previously I made a possible reference to a source that could well stand as an earlier example of a Kasthana timeline based on the evolution of design elements.

I just hope the forum stay objective and selective in acceptance of the material provided- unless the thread may do more harm to the study of the Kasthana than good.

p.s. Ibrahim thank you for the private message to me. I was any way thinking of posting this.

Regards prasanna

David 12th March 2014 06:04 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Prasanna Weerakkody
I just hope the forum stay objective and selective in acceptance of the material provided- unless the thread may do more harm to the study of the Kasthana than good.

Thanks you so much for returning to this subject once more Prasanna to impart your insights.
Jim seems to think that i am trying to derail this discussion and that i have brought up "unnecessary point(s) of contention". Nothing could be further from the truth. I am simply trying to re-track the train and correct its course as there has been so much misdirection, half-truths and straight out incorrect info somehow portrayed as being correct knowledge reached by some imaginary "consensus" of the members participating here. To be clear, writing the most amount of words on a subject does not create a "consensus". Even if it did, a consensus of this group on any particular idea is useless if in fact it is historically incorrect.
Prasanna, i do hope you stick around this conversation just a little bit longer. I realize that it might feel like you are beating your head against a stone wall at times, but do understand that some of us value the direct cultural input you provide into these questions and are not swayed by the seeming endless flow white noise that attempts to obscure it.

Jim McDougall 12th March 2014 07:46 PM

Prasanna, thank you so much for rejoining us here!!! and especially for your outstanding and valuable summary of most important data and perspectives reflecting your command of Sri Lankan history as well as that of the weaponry including the kasthane. Your distinct advantage in this knowledge is of course that you not only are Sri Lankan, but have tenaciously studied the history which is your own ancestry and legacy, and I admire that very much.
I can well understand your previous reluctance to participate as certain errors and misperceptions occurred in degree in our discussions here and on other threads, as these can be frustrating of course for someone as well versed as you are in the history you have devoted a lifetime to. With that I would also note that I hope you will stay with us here, and ask for your patience as we look into learning more on the history of these fascinating swords.

David, I would like to note that while your intent may have been to clarify various aspects of the discussion at hand, it may have been more advantageous to address key talking points specifically and offering alternative views as you did with the term 'deity'. In spending quite some time going through a number of sources to learn more on this definition (as I admit to not clearly understanding it myself prior to this), I found that the term itself has remarkably wide scope. Primarily of course its use seems to refer to supernatural, immortal beings thought to be sacred, holy or even divine. In extremely subjective studies of things mythical, metaphysical and theosophical there are naturally profoundly wide views, so equally wide parlance in various context may be understandable.

The point is, rather than being objective in addressing the issue, the demeanor of your approach seemed dismissive with regard to Ibrahiims participation in the compilation of the Wikipedia entry noted. Obviously the presentation could have been better qualified in being cited, but still the accusatory comment was counterproductive and the subsequent dialogue directed to the values and issues with Wikipedia was in effect 'derailing' in my opinion. Aside from that I appreciate your concerns over the integrity of the discussions and always welcome objective and constructive participation focused on the subject matter at hand.

David 12th March 2014 08:36 PM

Jim, the definition of the word "deity" is pretty cut and dry, for any particular cultural application.
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/deity
The importance of understanding the difference between deities and mere mythical creatures and what purposes they serve in the culture at hand is of great importance if there is to be any understanding of the weapons under consideration here.
A discussion of the merits of Wikipedia entries is indeed pertinent as well. I also use Wikipedia quite often for quick references when seeking information, but am wary enough to take such info with a grain of salt. It is NOT a credible source for academic study, period. This isn't to say that it isn't useful. As i mentioned before, some entries are better researched with a multitude of references and footnotes. Others, like the kastane entry not so much. What i objected to in Ibrahiim's last posting of his wikipedia entry was that it was being presented as a "culminating note…unveiled by Wikepedia the famous on line encyclopedia" firstly, without full disclosure that it is indeed of his own hand and opinion (sorry, his previous admission to this is buried in a ten page thread that has long since fallen off the main page and does indeed need restating for full transparency) and it is full of errors and speculation. Ibrahiim responds to my questioning with the following:
"I add that since my involvement as a contributor on Forum to this subject that the Wikepedia entry has been considerably and accurately updated with the latest current information researched by me. It stands therefor as a pinnacle of finely tuned detail in parallel with the latest doctrine on the subject...
Surely you would be delighted with that..from the Forum viewpoint?"

No, Ibrahiim, i am not delighted from the "Forum viewpoint". What is written in the wiki article is not "a pinnacle of finely tuned detail in parallel with the latest doctrine on the subject…", it is merely your opinion and some of it is incorrect. It is not the culminated consensus point of view that has come as the fruit of these forum thread discussions on the subject so why should it please me from the Forum viewpoint?
Jim, we will probably, as usual, have to agree to disagree on these points, but i call it like i see it and will continue to do so. It is not an attempt to be dismissive or counterproductive, but rather to keep a sense of transparency and accountability in these threads and allow those with other opinions the room to speak them rather than be carried away by the avalanche of words that seem to dominate the discussion most of the time. If you continue to disregard the number of forum members who have been turned away from this discussion because of this you do so at your own peril of researching a complex subject with a minimum of forum input.

fernando 12th March 2014 10:32 PM

1 Attachment(s)
ආයුබෝවන් Prasanna

No one will doubt that this authentic treatise on the Kasthana is more than enlightening in the most varied points ... speaking by my humble self .
If i am not insisting too much on the same point, i would dare to ask you objectively whether outer influence in the Kasthana form is to be excluded. By placing the Kastana in the mid XVI century we may infer that it was born whilst the Portuguese stayed in the Island; the same Portuguese that a century later mentioned in chronicles various Sinhala weapons (Calachurro and all) but not the Kasthana. Maybe this is due to such sword not being a field weapon, its involvement in bellic narrations didn't occur. I didn't however give up searching this theme in Portuguese history of the period, as i find it hard to beleive that the Kasthana, or the equivalent term attributed by Portuguese, is not mentioned here or there.
Concerning quality of these swords, it is easy to understand that it degenerated within time, specialy attending to the fact that its adornment purposes didn't need their martial skills to prevail in use.
But knowing less than nothing about the subject, i fail to discern how modern examples with blades made of brass are. In page 57 of the book above mentioned, i face the picture of two Kasthanas; one in chiseled gold and silver and rubies in the beast eyes and another with a brass blade and the hilt (and scabbard?) made of turtle.
The pictures are in black and white and not of the best quality. But judging by the knowledge of the owner, i wouldn't imagine this brass example having been used just the other day in belly dance ... although for lack of knowledge i will not reject the idea.


.

Rick 12th March 2014 10:44 PM

As a long time member I feel I must comment:
Both Kastane threads, were they to be considered in corporeal form would,
IMO, be called morbidly obese .
I believe that the essence has become lost within the folds of 'fat' surrounding the subject under discussion; it becomes obvious that the subject here is, and will remain solely about the kastane .

Gentlemen, I think theis subject has been about laid to rest; I don't believe that I am the only member that feels this way .
I lack the necessary filter and patience to continue to swim in these waters . I expect so do many others of us here on the sidelines .

I also fear for our credibility .

Jim McDougall 12th March 2014 10:46 PM

I guess we have pretty well covered the term 'deity' at this point, and yes, that is yet another dictionary definition. However, as is often the case with words, they can often end up with varying interpretation in parlance with colloquial or contextual usage .
For example, one reference notes, "..all the gods have some animals and birds as their vahana or vehicle, and in the process of time these creatures have become a great object of Hindu veneration".("Sacred Hindu Symbols" Abhinav Publications , 2001). This reference goes on to note, "..another mythological animal DEITY is makara, the sea monster who is the vahana of the Vedic god Varuna". Another reference I came across passim, noted the makara as an elephant headed sea beast is considered to be a benevolent sea DEITY.
The three principal animal deities are described in another reference on Hindu mythology as Ganesha, Garuda, and Hanuman. While this would by implication seem to exclude the makara, it does seem that the term has rather wide latitude. In cases such as metaphysical, mythological and other philosophical and theosophical studies it would seem far less than 'cut and dry'.
One of the best references, in my opinion, for understanding matters of perception in the application of these kinds of mythical figures and decoration on many of these weapons is found in "Hindu Arms and Ritual" (Robert Elgood, 2004, p.130). Dr.Elgood notes, "...since the power of the gods is held to be infinitely greater than than that of man, it follows that their weapons are replete with the supernatural qualities of their owners.They are frequently captured or gifted, thereby transferring potency from one deity to another".
Further, "...lions are symbols of royalty and Vishnu, the Buddha and the ain saviours all sit on lion thrones (Simhasana) while the goddess Durga has a lion as her vehicle".

It would seem that in these views concerning deities that in some cases the lion is indeed representative of supremacy, and in varying circumstances that it may represent a 'vehicle' much as the makara. Since 'deities' are defined as supernatural beings, thought of as divine or sacred and that some are supreme while others are of different ranks...might this not suggest that the term deity could be perceived comprehensively to include these mythical creatures?

Obviously, though Sri Lanka may have different perceptions of these facets of Hindu mythology and the terminology used, these are my own views set forth here as I understand them. In other references I have seen, it is noted that in some faiths it is considered blasphemous to imagine or depict a deity as having a concrete form.
Perhaps this might account for the seemingly stylized interpretations of these mythical creatures and why those of us virtually in layman status find it so difficult to identify them, let alone agree on what to call them or how to term them.

These are the kinds of questions we hope to discover answers for, and to better understand these swords and their history. Since the term 'deity' has become deemed of importance at this point, then we should address it accordingly and return to the kasthane.

I will also point out that my 'industrious' venture here to allow unimpeded focus on the kasthane specifically I believe has been most useful, and that in many cases discourses of this volume often require reiteration....often readers don't read the previous post, let alone the considerable text of the thread. Case in point is Ibrahiims not mentioning his Wikipedia contribution which was 'buried' in previous text. Therefore in many cases it becomes necessary to reestablish material again, even if it seems repetitive for some readers.


All times are GMT. The time now is 11:31 AM.

Powered by: vBulletin Version 3.0.3
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.