Originally Posted by Prasanna Weerakkody
Ibrahim, My issues with your earlier posts was due to you being too quick to adopt and back the alternate history propagated by the recently defeated separatist/ terrorist outfit here (Which is still a sore point here), It could have been different if you also give fare or adequate consideration on the Main stream history, Which I think was beginning to emerge on your later posts. As long as any arguments are not taken on a single concept based on limited sources and not jumping to accept them as true too fast it is not a issue to use them for the purpose in hand. I think you have become more objective in latter post while you have taken time to read more…
My contention with your view of the Kasthana hilt being a Makara comes from 1. the assessment of the portrayal of Makara and Lion figures in Sinhala ornamentation in a general context broader than the Kasthana. 2. There are references in the surviving “Angampora” traditions (which is the remnants of the indigenous martial arts of Sri Lanka with a clear history at least to the 16th century) which describe the hilt of a Kasthana as a Lion head. Your point about the makara being adopted as the hilt due to a link to the Karava cast is not valid as 1. The makara is not endemic to the Karava cast as well as they were not the leading warrior classes in the country though they were part of the whole. 2. The primary warrior schools were the “Maruwalliya” and “Sudaliya” (which included warriors from all main casts including the Govi-gama, Karawa and many others) at the time and they would be the main contenders to design influence if any.
Sinhala Heraldry in the period was well developed and the Lion was a primary emblem of the Sithawaka kingdom under the Rajasinghe I (Raja-Singhe = Royal Lion) who was undoubtedly the Greatest Warrior King in the Late-Post Medieval Sri Lanka, The use of Lion in heraldic devises is widespread in the period.
The adoption of up curved single edged blades in Sri Lanka is believed to have originated around the 16th Century. It is rather likely that the blade forms were influenced by the Moors as there were significant trade links with them and military allegiances as with that of the Samorin of Calicut, It is also believed that the indigenous and endemic Sinhala hand gun the “Bondikula” was also derived from the Moor Bunduq. This was a time of craft revival and people would take pains in to turning even everyday items in to minor works of art. The motifs though having some similarities with Indian and even south East Asian forms has distinct indigenous twists on many occasions. The Sinhala Makara is mostly portrayed spewing plant forms (kalpa Wruksha- Tree of eternity) out of its mouth instead of animal forms etc. Judging by the variety of weapons that have endemic sub groups to the regional weapons created by local craftsmen and my earlier indications I also tend to believe the origin of the Kasthana is Lankan.
Jens, Apologize for error in spelling- Yarl for Yali, As you rightfully pointed out about the presence of Makara over Yali - the Sinhalese stories of origin (Vijaya or Prince Simhala etc) point to a North Indian link which was further strengthened by several other embassies and import of North Indian Crafts and traditions during the time of Emperor Asoka of India etc. The regular wars with invading parties from the South Indian Chola Kingdoms strengthened the Sinhala Identification with the North Indian Aryan culture over the Southern Dravidian whose design elements begin to influence Local art only post to the 8th Century and relocation of the Kingdom to Polonnaruwa from Anuradhapura.
One additional but significant point that confirms the use of Kasthana in the Battlefield is in the Sinhala “Hatan-Kavya” literature of the period. these poetic narrations of wars including sometimes detail descriptions of each of the heroes in the battles and the weapons they used include many references to use of Kasthana in the field.
Salaams Prasanna Weerakkody~ Thank you for your excellent and informative reply. Virtually no previous information existed previously on Kastane on Forum, therefor, I make no excuses for drumming up as much as I can get my hands on so that an informed opinion can perhaps be drawn at some point about this great subject. I repeat that no offence was intended with reference to your National Emblems however it is clearly an interesting situation and I believe comparisons to the Makara are well founded historically pointing to that as the inspiration to the Kastane hilt. Makara are seen in many other settings with other deities coming from their mouths; Surely the Kastane hilt illustrates this ?
The Lion is a contentious issue and I would prefer to leave it on record and for information whilst other details can be pieced together ...
It is perfectly normal and to be expected that where rivalry exists one particular tribe will be favoured by its followers to the detriment of the others. Whilst there may be an argument for this occurring in Sri Lankan society I also step aside, but as before, include the information.
Your information about short and long blades is very interesting. The Moors arrived over a long period some in the 1st century and others in the 8th and the 14th, I understand. Looking at the picture of your Sri Lankan man wearing the Kastane it is obvious that the weapon could be a ships item and could have been a Moorish sword. I think however that in observing the Kandyan Royal Workshops system the weapon is ideally placed to have been made there. The different workshops included~
1. Master Swordmakers.
2. Gold and Silver artesans.
3. Specialist Carvers of horn and bone (Rhino)
4. Eyemakeup specialists. Mentioned because great emphasis was aplied to this as an art form and the treatment of the eyes of the Kastane hilt are notable...likely to have attracted the attention of another group of specialists~
5. Specialists in semi precious and precious stones.
6. Specialist metalworkers ... For the Scabbard.
Of particular interest is the early Kastane mentioned by you ... Can we see a picture of that please. The other very important detail is your reference to poetry which may be an extremely important source of fact concerning the Kastane. (or Kasthane)
It is my opinion that the Kastane is a purebred Sri Lankan sword and must have been designed before 1620 and more than likely previous to the appearance in the Indian Ocean the Europeans.
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.