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Old 5th March 2014, 05:57 PM   #66
Ibrahiim al Balooshi
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While there is a great deal of focus on the Royal Workshops in Kandy for the production of significant examples of the kasthane, I would like to note that the variant forms and apparently other contemporary production seems to have been present elsewhere in Ceylon as well. I think case in point here would be the numerous examples which were mounted with the VOC blades, primarily in the 18th century (in concurrent discussion on another thread) .
Obviously no kasthane produced in the Royal Workshops would be mounted with these blades, and the question remains, were these so mounted kasthane produced with these blades as novelty for VOC forces, or to supply auxiliary allied Sinhalese forces there?


Salaams Jim...Thank you for your great post. That is a hugely significant question. Though it is quite late in the Kastane story it certainly falls into the categories of development and style thus I wonder where these Kastane were turned out? Was it "The Kastane" only made in Royal Workshops...or in some form of VOC controlled environment?..Could they have been made by artesans in Jacarta? Or was there collusion at the time with Royal Workshops who made all the essential parts and then the blades were fitted finally by...by who?? Certainly they were made for the EIC formation and at many levels as rank badges of office and similarly in the Dutch period..Probably for the latter half of the Portuguese too... but then the light is dimmer as we try to examine the important early Portuguese period.. and beyond.

My own view is that the Kastane shape arrived earlier as you indicate with the great sea traders The Sri Lankan Moors and the influence of form happened spontaniously with that specific form at its heart..."The Outside Influence Theory."

The other plausible possibility and my alternative view, is that this form happened without foreign influence and within the confines of Sri Lankan sword technology, religious and mythical influence and design ... The "Home Grown" Theory.

The trouble is that we simply do not have an early enough example to substantiate either theory.

Naturally it can't be both... or can it?
A sword form that perhaps had virtually died out was resurected as an in-vogue badge of office and court sword...by foreign invader groups.. why not? In fact that is one way of describing the VOC/ EIC effect... and shown to be the case earlier with the Popham Armour...It is known that the blade production capacity dropped considerably in Sri Lanka caused by cheap imported blades by the invaders...

Fascinating indeed is the Hasekura episode, however, a good defence lawyer would have a heyday tearing apart the inconclusive evidence since the Hasekura Kastane was not officially presented(thus documentation is thin) and may well have been cross hilted on a Chinese or Storta blade. The passing on and custodianship in Japan of that item are somewhat clouded. Being obtained, purchased or recieved as a gift in the Philipines does not help the case..but it is nonetheless very interesting not least because of the blade marks which may or may not be Hasekuras.

Local influence is clear and similar designs appear even on another home grown variety .. The Piha Khaeta which sports similar Hilt and lavish top of blade spill over design and similar design patterning as the Kastane ... hardly surprising since they came from virtually the same Royal Workshop section as Kastane... and may have even been made by the same artesans.

Regional influence through Buddhist and Hindu fused history plays a huge part in the puzzle with a complete quillon style that predates European quillons and may in fact not be quillons at all... but simply a design feature..taken from Tibettan Vajra finials. At least they appear not to function as Quillons. (hardly a requirement anyway as a court sword)

The other guards are so adorned with decorative religious mythical clutter it is almost impossible to sort out a base form. Though is that necessary? I think not... We don't try to strip down the Piha Khaeta why do it with the Kastane. I tend to view the two items through the same prism. The potential as absolutely ancient traditional and highly ornate weapons is there...

So what about the main hilt feature? This is straight from the traditions... ancient religious and mythical (Whether Lion or Monster from deep Ocean or Jungle it matters not.) The regional similarities between it and Indian and Javanese hilts is remarkable. What is absolute, however, is that this is Sri Lankan.

Clearly the Workshops Royale were tuned to create such masterpieces with craftsmen in the caste system expert in each segment of the product ...and flowing back through the early 16th C and beyond to arguably the time the great migration South from India occured in about the 3rd century BC.

Turning the coin the other way shows the potential of the Moors to have brought in a European weapon in pre European times, from Hormuz, Bazra or the Red sea or in fact for a weapon to have gone overland via the silk road Persia and India onward to Sri Lanka via any sea port on the Indian Ocean..and thence to the attention of Royal Workshops for adornment..but I have to say I think it perhaps the weaker of the two possibilities. At the same time compelling suggestions are present see #21 which must be seriously considered pointing at European potential influence.

There is also the possibility the Moors brought with them an Arabian design as the base shape.. The Algerian Flysa dagger springs to mind... and in the same paragraph (because I cant fathom where to put the detail) is the conundrum, if there is one, of the influence of or onto The Nimcha.

Development shows how the Kastane went on to the designs of Dog Hilts onto English and Continental swords..rather late in proceedings and in another curious direction ... onto belly dancing swords !!

~ and the rest as they say is history ~

or put another way... come on Forum its your turn !!

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
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