EAA Research Consultant
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Thank you Prasanna for the update on the museum publication, and I would add the article also by de Silva;
"Unique Kastane Sword in Japan", Sunday Observer, 15 Nov 1998.
This is the source for the reference I noted in earlier discussions concerning the term 'kastane' likely deriving from the Portuguese 'castao' for the decorative hilt of a walking stick.
This provides a presumed early period for the zoomorphic hilt and quillon system on these swords as the example in Japan is from the Hasekura Tsunenaga embassy sent by Date Masamune 1613 return to Sendai, Japan in 1620.
This example is believed to have been obtained in Spain from Philip III and presented to Hasekura in reciprocation for Japanese weapons gifted, as it was unlawful to give Spanish weapons so this was in lieu. It is unclear how the kastane reached Spain, but these were clearly stately weapons which were also found with English merchants (Alexander Popham).
from : "The Kastane and the Keris and Thier Arrival in Japan, 1620"
Sasaki Kazuhiro, Royal Armouries Yearbook, Vol.3, 1998
Also discussed in "A Fundamental Study on Hasekuras keris and Kastane"
Bulletin of Sendai City Museum, Japan
The Deraniyagala reference(1942) noted by Runjeet, is the only truly comprehensive work on Sinhalese weapons overall, and some of these references are noted in
Robert Elgood, "Hindu Arms and Ritual" (London , 2004).
An article titled "A Royal Dagger from Ceylon"
'The Connoisseur" 1938
discusses the iron smelting and production of royal arms in the Kandyan shops in the island interior.
* iron smelters were discovered archaeologically in 1996 ("Ancient Smelter Used Wind to Make High Grade Steel", John Noble Wilford, N.Y.Times Feb. 6, 1996).
The kastane is of course referenced in Stones glossary, and cursorily noted in many general arms references where it has been claimed to be the 'national sword of Sri Lanka'.
These are added to the already listed materials discussing the fascinating arms of Sri Lanka, and now that we have them established, there are many questions unresolved on the kastane.
1. What creatures are represented in the pommel of the kastane and the quillons.? While the sinha (lion) is suggested, might this be the makara, and the quillon heads as well?
2. Is the kastane in its hilt configuration derived from the Arabian sa'if, or directly from European hilts such as those from North Italy, which also appear to have been the influence for the sa'if.
3. Was the kastane hilt with its zoomorphic pommel influenced by European hilts with lion or mythologic creature heads popularized by trade contact, or vice versa? We have established the motif of what appears to be a kastane with the Hasekura sword c.1620.
4. Were these kastanes actually fighting swords, or courtly and status swords worn by merchants and individuals of status.
5. Were the blades typically produced in the Kandyan shops, why were many with trade blades such as VOC blades in the 18th century.
Its good to have you back with this topic Prasanna, and I hope we can get discussion going on this clearly under researched topic!
Thank you again!
All the very best,