EAA Research Consultant
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Great discussion, and interesting points guys!
I think it is important to remember that much of the iconography seen on the hilts of the kasthane are indeed those connected to Southern India culturally and religiously in large degree. These stylized zoomorphics and certain other features may be connected to elements of weapons from the Deccan, Madras (Chennai) and of course Tamil Nadu. There was as I understand strong Tamil presence which seems in the north of Ceylon predominantly so certainly influences would have diffused accordingly.
The weapons shown by Vandoo are a Hindu style dagger of chilanum/bichwa/khanjharli blade type with the zoomorphic pommel hilt and langet similar to other daggers of Deccan to Tanjore.
The sword with downturned quillons is of course of the form known in Afghanistan as the paluoar (to collectors though not necessarily locally), but which derives from Deccani influences. These carry Persian influence, most notably the quillons in creature heads (often termed dragon heads) and from 16th-17th c.. These sabres while typically associated with Afghanistan are actually a form of tulwar with strong Deccani associations, and the Afghan preference for the form its northernmost Indian context. Until the 20th century, Afghanistan was part of India (Northwest Frontier).
The use of zoomorphic hilts depicting mythical creatures important in religious iconography does not need to have relied on European suggestion as the adaption of the religious imbuement of arms seems to have well in place with that found in temples. While weapons in early Ceylon seem to correspond to those of early India in general form, the application of zoomorphic images of mythical creatures would seem to have occurred independent of European influence.
The adaption (vestigially) of quillon systems similar to those found on North Italian swords from 15th century onward seems likely to have filtered into Moorish settlements in Ceylon prior to the Portuguese arrival, though in timeline seems quite close as that was 1505 and these hilts from Italy are only slightly earlier. The similarities are discussed as previously noted in North, 1975 and Buttin, 1933).
As far as I am aware, there were no Portuguese sword forms using zoomorphic hilts, nor of course were Arabic or Moorish forms either in these times.
In references I have seen it noted that the influence of the exotic mythical themes on the developed kasthane style hits, and probably the piha kaetta, had the profound fascination and intrigue of the merchants and colonials of European countries . It would seem that these were exported 'from' Ceylon via these mediums rather than brought in.
By the same token, it would seem that the application of iconographic images onto weapons was likely a development from influence from the subcontinent and that the themes seen on the kasthane hilt decoratively likely developed there accordingly.
The hilt structurally probably absorbed influence from the Arabic and North Italian forms and was integrated with the decorative embellishment as noted.
It is my impression that likely early forms of Sinhalese weapons may have had some sort of mythical creature embellishment however that to me remains unclear. The adaption of the more developed guard seems to have been adopted around the same time generally as the curved sabre blades of course through Moorish influence (as noted by Deraniyagala, 1942).
That is my personal perspective at this point based on my own earlier research as well as the outstanding material that has been shared in this thread and the others connected .