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Old 12th October 2012, 06:31 PM   #49
Ibrahiim al Balooshi
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Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
As noted in Elgood ("Firearms of the Islamic World",1995) notes , when Ludevico di Vathema arrived in Ceylon in 1505, the year before d'Almeida, he notes the Sinhalese use of lances and swords. I am presuming that these swords were probably of the types used in Southern India in these and previous periods.

From Cordiner (1807, "Ceylon", p.115-16) "...the evolution of the decorative hilt of the curved scimitar like kastane is not without interest. From a weapon of utility the sword became a sign of rank and the heads of lions, serapendiyas and human figures increased in number. Originally the hilt consisted of a lions head, the knuckleguard and the two quillons terminating simply. "
Also, "...a sword said to have belonged to Analepola Adigar with straight blade with low crested lionhead pommel" in Kandy Museum.

In Deraniyagala (1942, p.113) "..the development of the ceremonial sword of rank soon unfitted it for fighting purposes as the elaborate crest to the lionheaded hilt comes into uncomfortable contact with the heel of the users had or wrist, while it is also significant that swords so ornamented generally appear too small for war, unlike the larger ones which have no crests. The latter swords also possess as many as four quillons. "
Also noted, "...the mitta (=hilt) ...sinha munu mitta (=lion faced hilt).
The quillons are noted as serapendiya.

Cordiner (op.cit. p.97) states everyone in office wore a sword with hilt of silver as well as scabbard of silver and the design and workmanship indicated rank of wearer. The lowest were of wood.

With these notes I am thinking that perhaps the hilt indeed represented lionheads on the Sinhalese courtly swords, as these were regally symbolic. I cannot see any evidence to suggest that lionheads would have come from European influence as these are longstanding in the subcontinent from Rajputs and Sikhs (singh=lion) . Elgood ("Hindu Arms and Ritual", p.294) notes, ".....the Hindu court used iconographic lions earlier than 17th century as architectural evidence demonstrates".

I am wondering if perhaps the lionhead kastane would be of course the Sinhalese sword well recognized, and the 'variant' head forms might indeed be makara and more associated with kavara as suggested. While there is an obvious separation between the Kandy kingdom and many of the other primarily coastal regions, as well as the colonial circumstances, it seems that such interpretations could be possible.

It seems virtually all examples of kastane with VOC markings and dates are invariably 18th century, during thier reorganization efforts. As far as I know, there are no British EIC marked blades, and David Harding ("Small Arms of the East India Company") indicates no swords were so marked, only firearms and bayonets.

Salaams Jim, I missed that post entirely ! Your references as always are excellent. I am at complete logaheads with the details for reasons outlined in my previous posts in that the very essence of the Kastane is its Makara hilt.. The authors are wrong in my opinion and have been spun a line or have reached the wrong conclusions. To anyone who thinks I can describe that in less shocking terms believe me I have tried but words fail me...

The hilt of the Kastane is from the ancient Makara head not the lion. Further more the modern flag illustrates an English Heraldic Lion not a lion from India or Sri Lanka where the only lion architecture are fitted around urinals. Makara on the other hand adorn all sorts of traditional artifacts including the door archways of temples, battle flags, axe weapons, and water spouts and of course Kastane hilts. The Makara, in Sri Lanka is an ancient historical mythical figure ~ the Lion is not.

The written word is the most difficult to correct ... Authors of the past are difficult or impossible to correct~ I believe they are completely wrong about this description but frankly as it effects the questions we have does it matter...I wish it didn't but I'm afraid it does.

Trying to get into the time frame of 15/16th century Sri Lanka and to view the construct of a sword hilt which is part of the psche of the Sri Lankans is important... to see if this was a Sri Lankan or invader design or both, when the question hangs over the proceedings; Is it a Lion or Makara hilt?

Perhaps the solution is to look at both possibilities ~ maybe the result will be similar? I knew this would run into a brick wall as the idiosyncracies of caste in Sri Lanka have forced the issue and facts have been played with and history has been rewritten but we ought to continue unabated...without emotion and get to the truth.

The Makara,for me, is the inspiration behind the Kastane hilt and we are back to the question of when did it appear and who designed it?

Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
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