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Old 29th August 2012, 02:35 PM   #13
Ibrahiim al Balooshi
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Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Thank you Ibrahiim for posting this thread! You truly are a master at navigating through these archived threads and material, and Im glad to remember Emanuel who has not posted for a while but also did valuable work on nimcha research. We of course remember the misnomer in the term 'nimcha' but use it here for convenience in discussion focused on the sword type rather than etymology.

The kastane mentioned was actually 17th century and acquired by Japanese in a diplomatic and trade mission through several Asian ports of call and returned to Tokyo in 1622 (I believe the sword is in Sendai museum if I recall). As you have noted, it does seem likely that the sword form must have existed at least some time before that, and the zoomorphic figures seen in the motif were indiginous to the mythology and traditions of the region. In the mid 17th century there were a number of lionhead swords issued to VOC fleet owners and it is tempting to consider they may have been influenced by presentation weapons produced by Sinhalan artisans. Some of these are seen in ivory.

The weapons in use in Sinhala pre 17th century may be presumed to be of South Indian forms and probably varying degree of Arab arms which would have been in the colonial stations described. As the kastane itself was apparantly in use in an almost regalia type status in earlier times it may be presumed that it was probably adorned with these lionhead and makara features accordingly. It is hard to say which of the weapon forms may have been adopted as the medium for this distinct form, but the figures and the hilt structure were likely an amalgam which became the kastane prior to the 1622 date.

While this seems to sidetrack from the nimcha and its development, the kastane remains key in the sense of being the eastern element of these suggested influences.

All the best,

Salaams Jim~ I note that it is somewhat uncertain as to exactly where the Japanese delegation collected the Kastane either in Rome or Southern climes... not that it matters strategically ... just a passing note. Quote "One of the earliest examples known of the Kastane was one, now in Tokyo, acquired by the Japanese Keicho diplomatic mission to the Vatican (1613-1620)." Unquote. Please see for an interesting Keris and Kastane presented, as you correctly mention, to Sendai City Museum by the delegation mentioned above.

On the subject of Sri Lankan artesans I should bring Forum awareness to the amazing way they were organised and one such document is worthy of registering in library terms : see note below. It is a big note, however, none of it could be erased and you will find it stuffed with little interesting mirrors of detail, relevant to the Kastane, for library purposes. It is a description of the Kandyan Dynasty which was never brought to heel by the invaders neither Portuguese nor Dutch but which eventually fell to British control in 1805. There were treaties cleverly enacted by the Kandyan rulers prior to that but no takeover and no control "per se". The Kanyan kingdom comprised most of the eastern three quarters of the entire country..

What is reflected in the note extract below is the fine quality of craftsmanship in gold, silver ivory, wood etc and in the eye detail... decoration of the human eyes was a prized skill (I mention that because of the absolutely exquisite detail in the eye of the Kastane hilt often with a ruby as the eye and decorated beautifully around.) There were craftsmen who excelled in horn decoration including Elephant Ivory and others who worked in gold. One of the expert departments in the Royal household involved swordmaking.. Their woodwork was fabulous reflected in their carvings. The pointers are there for scrutiny and some artesan detail I have highlighted in red.

My questions are ~
1.With such fine artesans built into the Kandyan system when considering a fabulous court sword as the Kastane was it not the Kandyans who produced these artefacts from their own devices and history?
2.With such a hilt could the date of the Kastane be earlier than thought ?
3.Is it not a religious/historic important hilt style predating the Portuguese of circa 1500 AD?
4..I have no problem with the imported blades on Kastane being Portuguese, Dutch and British traded European blades but Sri Lanka had a long history of blade making suggesting an earlier original blade form...Kastane with Sri Lankan blades? Are there any?
5.In fact one stumbling block for me is that the Sri Lankans had no reason to ingest foreign styles in their sword other than the country on their very doorstep and with almost identical traditional style- India. In fact in the notes this important fact is outlined in blue... If there was to be any influence in the Kastane style would it not have been from that direction?
6. I add this last question ~ What if any influence does the Kastane have on designs of European hilt shown on the late Antony North treatise or vice versa?

Regarding Moorish influence ~ The Moors of Sri Lanka who may be suspected of bringing the Nimcha style (Kastane) to Sri Lanka because they arrived in quite large numbers in the 8th C and the 14th C though they are reputed to have been around the region from the 1st C ! However, there is the chance that the Moors may be a Red Herring viz;

1. The entire sword may indeed have only sprouted with the appearance of the Portuguese...The Kandyan period makes this entirely possible.. 1593-1815 ...but I have my doubts.
2. The Kastane may be earlier than the advent of the Portuguese but still unrelated to the Moors. Purely traditional ancient Sri Lankan.

Ibrahiim al Balooshi.

Notes; Quote "Arts and Crafts in the Kandyan Kingdom
Monday, 30 March 2009 10:58

Speaking of arts and crafts during the Kandyan period which is considered the time between 1593-1815 with Kandy as the Capital of the Kandyan Kingdom, we notice several aspects of art and crafts. From Architectural point of view Buddhist temples and deistic shrines built during this period occupies a prominal place. They include monuments such as Len Vihara, Tampita Vihara and Ambalamas.

The Buddhist physician, John Davy, writing an “Account of the Interior of Ceylon” (1821:104-105) described the royal palace of the last Kings of Kandy. He gives us a long list of official attached to the place. Among them were, the officers in charge of music, Dance and handicrafts. The Ran Avuda Maduwe Lekam Mahattaya was the Secretary of the Golden Arms. The Avudage Vannaku Nilame was the officer in charge of the Armoury. The Netum illangame Muhandiram Nilame was in charge of the Department of Dance. The Kavikara Maduwe Muhandiram was in charge of the court of Musicians. The Wahala Ilangame Muhandiram Nilame was in charge of the Royal Dance Ensemble. The Tamboru Purampattukara Muhandiram Nilame was in charge of the musicians who played the Tamboru and Trumpet.

The most skilled craftsmen in the country were selected from among several thousand workers and were raised to the rank of Royal craftsmen. They were attached to the royal palace itself. These masters craftsmen worked within four workshops called the Pattal Hatara: (1) Abharana Pattale (the workshops of the jewelers); (2) Rankadu Pattale (the work shop of the craftsmen engaged in making golden swords); (3) Sinhasana Pattale (the work shop of the craftsmen engaged in making the royal throne which included painters and ivory carvers) and (4) the Otunu Pattale (consisted of craftsmen engaged n making the Royal Crown). The chief of the work shop was called the Mulachari and he was in attendance at the Royal place. Each Department or Workshop was in charge of a Kankanama or a supervisor, sometimes called a Muhandiram or Hangediya according to the type of craft. It was considered a high honour and prestige for an artist at the time to achieve this distinction. He not only enjoyed prestige but also royal privileges such as land grants and royal titles. The status of the artist was something that the kings had honoured from the remote past.
There were also 14 offices in charge of Baddas (Departments). They were organized on a caste basis to perform certain duties to the palace, such as supplying clothes, pots, mats and various other necessities. During the time of the Kandyan Kingdom, there were two such Departments, one for the Kandyan areas and the other for the Low Country areas.

Besides the functions attached to the royal palace these craftsmen were also organized under the district administration headed by a chieftain called the Dissave. The artists and the craftsmen received patronage from the king himself who represented the central administration; the Disave at the district level; the lay chiefs if the temples of gods (devale) known as the Basnayake Nilames and the Buddhist temple (viharas)headed by the Diawadana Nilame of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in the Kandy. While government administration supported various categories of artists and craftsmen by means of land grants and other rewards for their services to the royal place, and to the chiefs of the districts, the viharas and devales also gave patronage to the artists and the craftsmen for the services performed for these places of worship included, the painters, sculptors, drummers, and dancers as well as other craftsmen such as the blacksmiths, the silversmiths and the goldsmiths.
The various artists and craftsmen organized into a caste system in the Kandyan period acquired certain flexibilities. These caste group were attached to state department called Kottal Badda (The Department of Artificers) who were dawn from Nawandanna caste (families of craftsmen). They inter – married with the South Indian craftsmen who had settled in the Kandyan Kingdom. They were divided into two groups known s Achari (the metal workers) and Waduwo (wood/stone workers). Still later, they were sub-divided into several castes such s Achari (black smith), Badallu (gold and silver smith) Waduwo (Carpenters), Galwaduwo (Stone cutters), Hitaru (Painters), and Lokurovo (brass founder), etc. The gold and silver smiths, the painters, ivory carves and brass workers were known as Gamladdo or Galladdo and were regarded s the highest rank. As the name suggests they ere people who enjoyed royal lands granted to them. In return these craftsmen supplied various items such as Chunm boxes, Arecanut cutters, Bill-hooks, and Coconut scrapers, to the Rajakeeya Gabadawa (the Royal Stores).

There is ample evidence available as to show these artists and the craftsmen were looked after by these organizations. This information is found in Sannas (copper plate grants) given by the king himself and on ola leave (tudapat, sittu and panivida panata) given by the district chiefs. The Medawala copper plate grant given by King Kirti Sri Rajasinha of Kandy (1755 A.D.) records the benefit received by the Buddhist Vihara at Madawela. This pious king, who heard of the negligence of the Viharaya, had rebuilt an image house decorated with murals, statues, and exquisitely rich wood carvings. The copper plate (Ez.Vol.V.1965:466-486) explains how this was carried out and also the manner in which the artists and craftsmen were rewarded.

“When after the completion of the wood work of the two storeyed seven cubit image house, artist were summoned for the work of planting and the work on the image commenced, the King heard of the ceremony and made a grant of a thousand coins from the Royal Coffers, and from the royal Offices and Commandants, that the services should be rendered without delay and gave without any shortcoming all gifts such as rice and beetle to the master craftsmen.”

“When it came to the ceremony of the painting of the eyes, this was conducted, having given t the Master Craftsmen without shortfall two yalas and ten amunas of raw rice which was contributed for the –ceremony of Atamangala and the placing of pots of luck connected with the shrine, twenty three cows for the Gowasa (the cattle enclosure set apart for the use of shrine), one hundred and one pieces of cloth, one thousand one hundred and fifty fannamas, the neck ornament of Pandiran gold from Pandyan?) and Uttaran (pure gold) for adoring the five fold bodily members and all the rest. So was complete the eye ceremony that the master craftsmen may be pleased and so give thanks”.

It is also believed that at the time that the Gangarama Viharaya in Kandy was completed, Kirtisiri had an entire costume presented to the master artist and also tied a gold frontlet (Nalalpata) to the forehead of the artist. He is also known to have given Gannoruwe Davunda Abharana Achariya, a skillful goldsmith working in the King’s Place, land, money and an elephant Furthermore, when Marukona Ratna Abharana Wedakaraya appeared at the place gate before King Rajasingha the Second he was ordered to make jewellery prepared for Royal Dress. Having done so, he stated that he required Mottuwela Nilapanguwa Badavidilla in Pallesiyapatttuwa of Asiri Korale in the Matale District for his maintenance. In the year 1665 the King granted the request to this craftsmen. According to popular legend, when Kirtisri Rajasingha was on his way to Hanguranketa, he spent a night in the house of a goldsmith, Ratnavalli Navaratna Abharana of Neelawela. If this was true, then it shows that the King never treated the artists as low. We have ample examples of ancient Sinhalese Kings who were themselves proficient in various arts such as literature, ivory carving, etc.

The Kandyan arts and crafts are not completely free from foreign influence. It is evident from historical sources that during the latter part of the Kandyan Kingdom of the 18th century, various arts and craftsmen were invited to the Kingdom from South India by the last generations of Kings in Kandy who were Nayakkars of South Indian origin.
“The Navandanna or artificers at any one time, speaking of the 18th and immediately preceding centuary at least consisted partly of indigenous craftsmen and partly of newly settled Tamil artificers, coming from South India to work for the King, who showed them favour and made the grants of land. Hence, it is that not only do we find the close correspondence in detail and technique between South Indian (Tamil) and Sinhalese work, but also that the Artificer families have often Hindu names (such as Rajesvera, Devasurendra) they preserve traces of Siva workship and of other Hindu ceremonies (Netra Mangallaya) etc. The technical works are obviously a part of the Indian Silpasastra, some of the technical terms are corruptions of Tamil words, they make use of the Hindu Mntrams. They are occasionally referred to as Kammalar, and so forth.

(Ananda Coomarasamy, Medieval Sinhalese art.)
As far as the tradition of dancing in the Kandyan hills is concerned, it is clear that it has derived inspiration from the village ritual known as Kohomba Kankariya. According, to the popular beliefs prevalent among these traditional dancers,’ the vannamas of the present day tradition of Kandyan dance were introduced by the famous Silpadipati Ganitalankara of Kerala. Sinhalese arts and crafts flourished throughout a magnificent period of several centuries and absorbed this particular foreign influence. When the country was ruled by these South Indian Nayakkara rulers, local artists lives and worked together harmoniously with South Indian artists and crafts and craftsmen which resulted in new tradition of arts and crafts which is Kandyan.

The social organization of the Kandyan Kingdom, then consisted of various social groups practicing various trades under a Badda (in the strict sense it means a caste). Thus a new caste system emerged solely’ on The basis of occupation, which is only partially true of the Indian system. This generation of artists, who worked within this system of occupational divisions, continued to live in Kandy and its suburbs even after the down fall of the Kandyan Kingdom in 1815. The following list will show the continuation of these divisions of labour and the traditional villages to which various craftsmen are attached, even to this day:

Craft Village
Bras work and casting Madawla, Kirivavula,Embekke
Silver and brass Danture,Ullandupitiya,Arattana
Gold and Silver Embekke and Nilawela
Lacquor and wood work Gunnepana,Embekke and Hapuvida
Cloth Talagune
Mat weaving Henawela
Drum making Kuragala, Kuragandeniya
Crystal work Kirivavula
Dancing and drumming Tittapajjala,Malagammana,Ihalawela,Molagoda,
Decorative art Kulugammana
Painting Nilagama
Ivory Kundasale, Mawanella.

Though the castebased social organizations remained intact, the artists and the craftsmen, as well as their arts and crafts suffered immensely after the downfall of the Kandyan Kingdom as no support and patronage was provided. In 1882, for the first time, the artist and the craftsmen in the Kandyan Provinces were brought together by the British Government of Kandy represented by Sir Frederick Dikson, who organized the Kandyan Arts Association, which has continued to this date.

With a magnificent new building complex constructed for the centaury this Association located in Kandy, near the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, continues to serve the artists and the customers alike maintaining its great traditions. The National Crafts council of Sri Lanka, the Department of Small Industries and government organizations such as Laksala have joined hands in looking after the arts and crafts of the old Kandyan Kingdom." Unquote.
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