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Old 11th September 2017, 05:48 AM   #185
Ibrahiim al Balooshi
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[QUOTE=Jim McDougall]Ibrahiim, , once again your tenacious online research amazes me!
I have been going through these old threads, notes and references, and trying to regain my footing in these discussions over the years.

It seems that the manner of investigative study into the history of many weapon forms becoming an often complex, tedious and frustrating process involving many side roads, red herrings and misconceptions. In looking back at the discussions here, we can see many losing patience with the often highly detailed presentations of support and evidence. However, it is through these kinds of discussions that so much is achieved in better understanding the history of these arms.

I had honestly forgotten the nature of the 'Sendai' example, and that it was indeed a Chinese blade with the mythical beast head situated in the blade decoration. It is clearly coupled with a hilt of Ceylonese character, and as noted was apparently acquired as a souvenier along with a keris in Manila near the end of the Keisho mission about 1619.

I think the point of these comparisons is mostly noting the widespread influence of these distinctively styled hilts, whether directly from examples actually of Sri Lankan origin, or variant interpretations which seem to have occurred in many other cultural spheres.

We know that in Holland in the 17th c, numerous hilts on hangers and other edged weapons reflect such influences with mythical beasts and figures that appear Asian , some very much like the Buddhist style lion heads. In these times the portrait of Alexander Popham wearing what appears to be a kastane in about mid 17th century suggests the favor for such exotica among merchants and as status oriented dress weapons.

It is typically difficult, at least for me, to determine exactly what most of these mythical creatures actually represent as there seems to be a degree of latitude in how they are interpreted. However it appears that the range of interpretation has resulted from the artistic perception of local artisans who are fashioning from the influence of the varied forms which have diffused into many areas.

Salaams Jim, Thank you for your post.

I would now like to play the devils advocate in regard to the Sendai Museum "Kastane" and aim to prove that this is indeed an early Sinhalese fighting weapon; purely and almost 100%.

B. POST # 182 AND 183 of this thread
C. The sister Thread at

In following up on the decorative Makara design on the Sendai blade it struck me that there was no difference in the Indian Makara and the Srilankan ...I was further concerned that a blade expert, Hasekura, a Samurai, had not noted anything awry in the blade chosen when he was on the return journey and in the Filipines, Manila where they docked in 20 June 1618 and remained there for about 2 years. After the purchases of the two swords as presents he wrote from there to his son.

In describing the Sendai weapon I must point out that it is correct Kastane form with hilt and vajra quillons as well as knuckleguard and is decorated on a broad machete style blade with a Makara decoration toward the tip. The decoration is typical of Sri Lankan and Indian form and echoed with similar but not exact Makara across the Buddhist Hindu spectrum. The blade shape is not known precisely. The closest Makara resemblance is at the Museum in Lahore as a stone block engraving carved on a solid rock slab. Thus most of the weapon is Sri Lankan with the question of what is the blade? yet to be proven.

Since the decoration is Makara and of the Sri Lankan form it, the blade, although not yet identified must be considered as Sri Lankan. As a samurai and blade specialist Hasekura must have known that this was a blade of some importance and probably not a rehilt.

As a matter of interest most Kastane only appeared in the 18th C and with the Dutch to begin with...and the civil servants or Mudaliers as badge of rank insignia and court swords. Before and during that period it would be difficult to attribute blades since there are hardly two the same and where blades were fitted they were often European and all different. It would therefor not be unreasonable to assume that this habit telescoped back in time on the fore runner to the Kastane in the Portuguese period and beyond where choice blades from different countries were fitted to a style recognizable as Kastane but more austere as fighting weapons. Such blades could have come from a number of places including the Iberian Peninsula and at post #62 shows a similar shaped blade.

The decoration could have been added in S.E. Asia and transmitted via trade to the Philipines. Since no boundaries are set because the type of sword had by fashion a blade fitted at the owners discretion numerous other forms of similar type would be perfectly suitable in this early weapon including storta and other blades from the orient including Chinese ... There were perhaps no rules and regulations. It was the fashion.

Such was the importance of the weapon that he had it engraved with his personal stamp between the Vajra quilons. (Below). This may well have been because the weapon was related to a question of religion and perhaps linked to his conversion to Christianity. The Catholic conversions in the Filipines and in Sri Lanka may have given rise to this affiliation of ideas and his crest had a cross at the top. It should be remembered that the point of the mission was linked to Japan possibly being a convert to Christianity and the meetings all along were of a religious nature. (See Reference E.)

Regarding Vajra Quilons; Whereas the function on a normal sword is to dislodge the opponents sword by trapping the blade with the Quillons and giving strength to the hilt may be observed that in Machete style there is little time or function in trying to trap the opponents blade...This is a chopping slashing weapon thus any blows to the cross-guard would be dangerous with such a heavy blade thus cushioning of those blows could be the reason for inclusion on such a fighting weapon. It may be that this is the reason why the fighting weapon has quilons right against the blade narrowed throat...and why such a fashion passed on to the non combat role of the Kastane later.

Note that the early stone Freize (Below)"Kastane" does not have Quilons but this may be down to the Portuguese carver who cannot be blamed for missing out such a trivial item nor for possibly getting the cross guard wrong. The stone carving was something of a hearsay project and done some time after the event. Although slightly unreliable it is interesting for its broad blade and lion head format very similar indeed to the Sendai example.

What appears missing in the Sendai is the scabbard however, I show below three swords from a woodcut in Early Sri Lankan illustrations where similar blades appear (and the immediate words Machete Blades!! is distinctly heard) with no scabbards. (Below)

Although no scabbard is present it could be that no scabbard was worn in the fighting style and shown similarly at the 3 woodcuts and in the stone freize here. Although no exact blade has been yet identified the terrain in Sri Lanka like a lot of South East Asia is jungle and bush therefor a Gollock or Machete blade is probably not uncommon although it can be seen how foreign weapons entered local service with items like the Partisan spear and other styles brought by the invaders that could have displaced this weapon. Neither is it beyond the spheres of possibility that a blade like this could have found its way into the system regionally since by about 1500 trade in the Indian Ocean was dominated by Arab, Indian, Malay, and Chinese merchants, who together used various seafaring craft to transport a spectrum of cargo, from spices to elephants.

It is suggested that the fighting weapon was later Iconised and became a court sword and badge of rank mirroring the old fighting sword in many respects but becoming a dress sword and badge of rank indicator only.

In terms of timeline an interesting hilt of carved Ivory is shown from the V and A as possibly 15th C and Upper section of a hilt for a Sinhalese sword (kastanaya) carved in the form of a mythical lion (sinha). When acquired, it was reported that this hilt had been presented to an ancestoral member of the Weerasingha family by Parakrama Bahu VI, ruler of the kingdom of Kotte (r. 1410-62). Well before the Portuguese.

In summary the Sendai Example may now be considered as all Sri Lankan whilst not including the blade that was by choice decided upon by the owner and perhaps from Europe or India/Asia/China.. and conforms to a decorative blade Makara aspect as well as sporting the correct hilt, knuckle and cross guards with supporting Vajra Quilons of "The Kastane".

Below pictures in no particular order
1. Sendai Museum Hilt.
2. Hasekura Ships Pendant.
3. Sendai Museum blade detail and Hasekura Crest.
4. 3 sketch/woodcuts with broad sword machete scabbard?
5. Ivory Hilt pre Portuguese.
6. The Pinhao sword stone carving.
7. North Indian Makara carving.
8. Letter from Hasekura in Manila to son. In Sendai Museum.
9. Document with sketch of Hasekura in Rome where he converted ...showing Crest in top right corner.
10. Another North Indian Makara.
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
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