Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
I have decided to open a thread specifically addressed to the Sinhalese kastane as described in the title, in hopes that we might have focused discussion on the many aspects and sometimes complex aspects of these fascinating Sri Lankan swords and their history .
There is of course a concurrently running thread titled 'Sinhala/Sri Lankan swords', however there has been considerable consternation on that thread becoming overburdened with the notable complexities of the kastane in particular.
Obviously the kastane is one of the most distinctly recognizable of Sri Lankan swords, however it would seem that it requires its own specifically titled thread to address its inherent complexities without disturbing a the other threads apparently broader scope.
Some of the aspects of the well known kastane which have been brought to discussion have been
1. Just how old is the zoomorphically featured hilt, and what creatures are represented on its basic forms. While most references typically list the pommel as having a lionhead , which seems to correspond to the name of the people on this island, as well as the island itself (sinha=lion), Sinhala and Sinhalese....there are apparently some variations of the hilt.
2. There are interesting details in the important example of the kastane which was brought to Japan from the historic Keicho mission sent by Date Masamune and returned in 1620. It would be good to examine objectively the resources and data addressing this sword specifically, as has been done in degree on the other thread noted, but hopefully may be continued here.
3. The kastane appears to have developed from earlier combat weapons into the more regalia oriented court sword form in high embellishment. Hoping to establish some type of chronological line of development.
4. Many kastane of the 18th century seem to be mounted with VOC (Dutch East India Company) blades. Were these mounted to supply Sinhalese warriors? or were these used by Dutch sailors using local hilts and the blades off issued hangers?
We know the British were there as well, but as far as I have known, no blades (except bayonets) were ever marked by the English EIC. What other trade or colonial blades have been found on kastane?
I very much look forward to discussion focused on the kastane here, and to add to the advancing knowledge and understanding we have gained on the forum within other threads and discussions.
Salaams Jim ~ What a splendid idea to open this thread. You questions are very interesting and echo your final paragraph which I certainly endorse.
I wondered what the best way would be to enter this particular discussion and have decided that people may better get a grasp of the broad time-span by focusing on the three invading countries presence in reverse order i.e. The British, Dutch and Portuguese periods.
One aspect of all three periods is in fact The Kastane ...worn by one particular group of Sri Lankan dignitaries in what was practically a development of the landed gentry..an upper class Caste almost; The Mudalyars. I refer Forum to http://karava.org/other/mudaliyars
for in depth detail on the subject and further reading;
Mudaliyar is a South Indian and Tamil name for ‘first’ and a person endowed with wealth. References to the traditional Mudalis of Sri Lanka are to be found in historical literature such as the Rajavaliya, Mukkara Hatana and also Portuguese and Dutch
colonial records. In feudal Sri Lanka Mudali was a military title and as such was borne only by the Kshatriya warrior caste. They were royal military officials.
The 18th century Dutch rulers appointed a few migrant Tamil Vellalas as Mudaliyars . The British who succeeded the Dutch appointed large numbers of Mudaliyars from several castes and communities in the 19th century by enlisting natives who were most likely to serve the British masters with utmost loyalty. Most of them eventually formed a caste identity called Govigama and created an interlinked family network. They called themselves Hamus and their homes Walauvas.
This class resembled English country squires, complete with large land grants from the British, residences of unprecedented scale (Referred to by the Tamil word Walauu or Walvoo) and British granted native titles - which their descendants now use as surnames. They had a uniform consisting of a Somana cloth, a long coat with decorative buttons, a sash and a short ceremonial sword called Kasthana (a corruption of 'Katana' a type of Japanese sword blade)"Unquote.
(An interesting last comment but one which is generally not agreed with here.)
Here below is a Mudalyars Kastane and a series of men given the tittle..shown wearing the weapon.
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.