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derek 24th May 2005 04:36 AM

Piha Kaetta (not European)
Finally, one in my collection with a stylus. No wonder so few survive, it seems to be solid silver (top. bottom tip is steel fitted into the top) as opposed to steel covered in a thin silver sheet. I imagine a few have been pawned off over the years.

The grip is probably somewhat rare in that it has been completely covered in silver. A good example of the level of craftsmanship the four workshops of Kandy attained. Being solid, it reminds me of the "european piha" in the other thread. Who knows, they may have worked from a very similar example.

Conogre 24th May 2005 04:49 AM

While I hate to just say "good job!", that's about all I can do, never having been lucky enough to add one to my own hodge-podge.
In truth, I'm happy to see items like this go to those who can really appreciate them, so......."Good Job!" and congratulations!

derek 24th May 2005 12:51 PM

Thanks, Mike.

Here is a little info about the stylus, obtained from Mr. Mohan Daniel, a Sri Lankan collector and gallery owner:

"The stylus is a 'ULKATUVA' used to train a student to write on a palm leaf. Once he is trained he is permitted to use a different type of stylus the 'PANHINDA'."

He also notes that a "student" was not necessarily a youth. In fact, this would not likely be the case as these knives were made for the Kandyan kings and worn by them or other chiefs.

tom hyle 24th May 2005 01:03 PM

The swept back point is unusual; more usual is a somewhat saxlike tip that angles down from the spine to the cutting edge? Consequently, the sheath's tip is also "backwards" to the usual orientation.

derek 24th May 2005 02:16 PM

Hi Tom,

I don't know which is more common, but this style is usually smaller than other styles (note the exception to the far left), and is the only style I have seen with a stylus. I have seen some allusion to sinhalese terms for the various shapes and styles, but I haven't quite worked that out. Here is an "assortment":

tom hyle 25th May 2005 02:20 AM


Conogre 27th May 2005 02:27 AM

A grouping like that is truly impressive, as well as beautiful.
It must be frustrating to specialize in a type of bladed implement where there is so little known, compared to other cultures that have much more information readily available, but I imagine this also adds to the challenge somewhat.
How much have you seen the information on these expanded in the time that you've been collecting them, if I might ask?

derek 27th May 2005 05:31 AM

Hi Mike,

Not a lot. Jim has dug up two very good articles. I have located two books, both very old and rare (one was used by Christie's for their description of the piha in a catalogue), and some very good collections & examples. Maskell used to have one of the biggest collections I have known about. I have heard about a private collection in Europe that has not been photographed or displayed that has over 200 examples. I have 18. Rod has several very good examples. But the examples don't equate to knowledge. I started to see what I could gather and disseminate, but it's not been high priority lately. I was surprised at how few Sri Lankans I spoke to had even a basic knowledge about them. I made a lot of phone calls to dealers/gallery owners and professors, and sent a lot of emails and got a few nuggets of information for the effort. Everything I have is on the site, with the exception of one article that I think I will break down and scan in now. I've been putting it off, but it's too good not to include and share. I think I'll do it now..............

derek 27th May 2005 07:58 AM

It's almost 3am and I scanned the whole article and loaded it here:

It is entitled: Sinhala Weapons and Armor and it is a VERY big PDF, so I recommend right-clicking and saving if you don't want to drag your browser down too badly.

Also, it was sanned from copies made previously. It's very readable, but it ain't pretty.

It is a fascinating article with some insights on all aspects of Ceylonese weaponry, but there are some especially interesting explanations of pihiyas. Once again, there is evidence to suggest that the term piha kaetta is erroneously applied to all these knives.

going to sleep now......


derek 27th May 2005 08:06 PM

1 Attachment(s)
I had not read this article for some time and went back through it as I scanned the pages. There are some specifics given for the different types of daggers and knives. Here are some that relate the knives we classify as piha kaetta (the author calls them "pihiya"):

"Dagger blades vary as follows: -- (c.) a straight blade tapering gently to a point; (d) a straight edged blade with an almost truncate tip coming down abruptly to a point; (e) a concave edged blade gradually tapering to a point; (f) the blade is antire and devoid of panels (g) the blade has decorative panels inlaid with some other metal extending from the hilt along the back; (h) this panel may possess a groove containing small balls which move up or down; (j) the panel might cover as much as half or even two-thirds of the blade and be perforated.

Dagger possess a variety of names depending upon the material forming the hilt and the shape of the blade. Thos with handles of rocks such as crystal (J.F. Pieris 1938) or green marble are "Gal Mita Pihiya", the delicate narrow blades are "Ul Pihiya", the curved ones are the "Vak Pihiya" (see e.), and the chopper form is the "Pihiya Kattha" (see q.) The hilt is either straight with the pommel twisted downward towards the edge, or downward and then upward towards the reverse of the blade."

And here is the plate referred to in the paragraph above (I added bolder letters to help ID them as referenced). I wish it was a better pic:

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