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Old 1st February 2012, 09:02 PM   #1
KuKulzA28
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Default Sinhala / Sri Lankan Swords?

Hello! I've been curious about Sinhala swords... There doesn't seem to be as much information of Sri Lankan arms on this forum as there is on say Indo-Persian, European, Moro, and others. All I found were a few threads about Piha Kaetta and Kastane.

Does anyone have knowledge and/or sources on Sinhala weaponry especially swords? Anyone actually own examples?

Aside from kastane, the few images I have seen are from the angampora website which shows "urumi"-like flexible blades and also rustic looking sabers/cutlasses with simple guards and wooden cylindrical grips.

I have little to no knowledge of Sinhala swords and other weapons, so I was hoping maybe some EAA Forum members would have knowledge on this matter.

Thanks!
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Old 1st February 2012, 11:50 PM   #2
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THE WEAPONS OF CEYLON / SIRI LANKA SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN NEGLECTED. PERHAPS THERE IS A SCHOLAR OUT THERE SOMEWHERE PUTTING TOGETHER A REFRENCE BUT I PERSONALLY KNOW OF NO BETTER REFRENCE THAN WHAT WE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO COBBLE TOGETHER HERE ON THE FORUM. THE THREE FORMS WE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO ASSOCIATE PRIMARILY WITH CEYLON ARE THE KASTANE, PHIA AND A FORM OF SPEAR.
I WASN'T ABLE TO DO MUCH EXCEPT TRY AND IDENTIFY WHAT DIFFERENT MATERIALS WERE USED IN CONSTRUCTION OF THESE WEAPONS AS WELL AS TAKEING APART A PHIA THAT WAS IN BAD SHAPE TO SEE HOW IT WAS PUT TOGETHER. FOUND ONE EXAMPLE WITH A BRONZE BLADE BUT ALL OTHERS HAD STEEL BLADES, CLEANED THE BLADE ON THE DIS- ASSEMBLED PHIA BUT SAW NO SIGNS OF PATTERN IN THE STEEL.

I WOULD HAVE TO ASSUME THERE WERE MANY OTHER FORMS OF WEAPONS USED EVEN WAR ELEPHANTS WERE USED, SO THERE MUST HAVE BEEN WEAPONS ASSOCIATED WITH THEM. THE PROBLEM IS I SUSPECT MANY WEAPONS WERE COPYED OR IMPORTED FROM INDIA SO DISTINGUISHING A WEAPON OF A COMMON INDIAN FORM WAS FROM CEYLON WOULD BE PROBLEMATIC. MOST LIKELY ALL THE WEAPON FORMS PRESENT IN SOUTHERN INDIA WERE USED IN CEYLON AS WELL.
THE KASTANCE IS SET APART AS THE NATIONAL SWORD OF CEYLON, I DON'T KNOW WHEN OR WHY IT WAS DESIGNATED AS SUCH.? THE PHIA IS ALSO A SPECIAL FORM ASSOCIATED WITH CEYLON, THESE TWO FORMS MAY HAVE BEEN PRESENT IN INDIA AS WELL. WE WERE LUCKY THAT ONE MEMBER HAD A VERY LARGE COLLECTION OF PHIA SO WE AT LEAST HAD A WIDE RANGE OF THEM TO OBSERVE AND DISCUSS BUT MORE RESEARCH NEEDS TO BE DONE. PERHAPS THERE ARE REFRENCES AVAILABLE SOMEWHERE ON THE SUBJECT BUT I AM NOT AWARE OF THEM.
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Old 2nd February 2012, 10:44 PM   #3
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Vandoo, I appreciate the feedback. I guess I shall start researching Southern Indian arms more thoroughly and hopefully get a better idea of what Sinhala warriors used. As I've said, some of the weapons shown in angampora look very similar to those in kalaripayattu.
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Old 3rd February 2012, 04:13 AM   #4
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There is an older publication about these weapons, a very small one but it is somewhere to start...I have it amongst my library but it is like a say small in in the ocean of books and paperwork and I can not currently locate it...I am sure Jim will be able to recall the title with ease.

Gav
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Old 3rd October 2012, 10:22 AM   #5
Prasanna Weerakkody
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Lightbulb New Publication on Sinhala Swords

There has been a very good publication " Ancient Swords, Daggers & Knives in Sri Lankan Museums" by P.H.D.H. De Silva and S. Wickramasinghe, - Sri Lanka National Museums Publication. 2006
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Old 3rd October 2012, 04:10 PM   #6
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[QUOTE=VANDOO]THE WEAPONS OF CEYLON / SIRI LANKA SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN NEGLECTED. PERHAPS THERE IS A SCHOLAR OUT THERE SOMEWHERE PUTTING TOGETHER A REFRENCE

Salaams Vandoo, I certainly hope so!

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
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Old 3rd October 2012, 07:44 PM   #7
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I think the small book Gav is talking about is 'Sinhala Weapons and Armour' by P.E.P.Deraniyagala, originally published in 1942 but recently re-printed by Ken Trotman Publishing http://www.kentrotman.com/indexmn.htm

It's a must have for anyone studying Indian or Sinhalese Arms.

Regards,
Runjeet
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Old 3rd October 2012, 08:19 PM   #8
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I also collected Sri Lankan swords years ago before I decided to focus on those from the Malay archipelagos.
There is a subchapter in H. Parker's Ancient Ceylon from 1909 on "The Ancient Weapons", consisting of 28 pages.
Below are the main illustrations.

On page 532 is mentioned:
"The Kris, Kriciya (c pronounced as ch), is shown by its name to be borrowed from Malaya. It is rarely seen, and does not often appear in the wihara paintings; but is represented at the Dambuhalla wihara, where it is held as a dagger. The fact that a broken blade which appears to belong to this weapon, with at least three bends, was discovered in the Tissa excavations, in the lowest pottery stratum, proves that it had been introduced into the island in very early times. Unfortunately I preserved no drawing of the blade, which is now in the Colombo museum."

Maybe some forumite can take a look in Colombo what it looks like and if it really is an old keris?

Michael
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Old 4th October 2012, 01:47 AM   #9
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Thank you Prasanna for the update on the museum publication, and I would add the article also by de Silva;
"Unique Kastane Sword in Japan", Sunday Observer, 15 Nov 1998.
This is the source for the reference I noted in earlier discussions concerning the term 'kastane' likely deriving from the Portuguese 'castao' for the decorative hilt of a walking stick.
This provides a presumed early period for the zoomorphic hilt and quillon system on these swords as the example in Japan is from the Hasekura Tsunenaga embassy sent by Date Masamune 1613 return to Sendai, Japan in 1620.

This example is believed to have been obtained in Spain from Philip III and presented to Hasekura in reciprocation for Japanese weapons gifted, as it was unlawful to give Spanish weapons so this was in lieu. It is unclear how the kastane reached Spain, but these were clearly stately weapons which were also found with English merchants (Alexander Popham).
from : "The Kastane and the Keris and Thier Arrival in Japan, 1620"
Sasaki Kazuhiro, Royal Armouries Yearbook, Vol.3, 1998

Also discussed in "A Fundamental Study on Hasekuras keris and Kastane"
Bulletin of Sendai City Museum, Japan

The Deraniyagala reference(1942) noted by Runjeet, is the only truly comprehensive work on Sinhalese weapons overall, and some of these references are noted in
Robert Elgood, "Hindu Arms and Ritual" (London , 2004).

An article titled "A Royal Dagger from Ceylon"
J.F.Pieris
'The Connoisseur" 1938
discusses the iron smelting and production of royal arms in the Kandyan shops in the island interior.
* iron smelters were discovered archaeologically in 1996 ("Ancient Smelter Used Wind to Make High Grade Steel", John Noble Wilford, N.Y.Times Feb. 6, 1996).

The kastane is of course referenced in Stones glossary, and cursorily noted in many general arms references where it has been claimed to be the 'national sword of Sri Lanka'.


These are added to the already listed materials discussing the fascinating arms of Sri Lanka, and now that we have them established, there are many questions unresolved on the kastane.

1. What creatures are represented in the pommel of the kastane and the quillons.? While the sinha (lion) is suggested, might this be the makara, and the quillon heads as well?

2. Is the kastane in its hilt configuration derived from the Arabian sa'if, or directly from European hilts such as those from North Italy, which also appear to have been the influence for the sa'if.

3. Was the kastane hilt with its zoomorphic pommel influenced by European hilts with lion or mythologic creature heads popularized by trade contact, or vice versa? We have established the motif of what appears to be a kastane with the Hasekura sword c.1620.

4. Were these kastanes actually fighting swords, or courtly and status swords worn by merchants and individuals of status.

5. Were the blades typically produced in the Kandyan shops, why were many with trade blades such as VOC blades in the 18th century.

Its good to have you back with this topic Prasanna, and I hope we can get discussion going on this clearly under researched topic!

Thank you again!

All the very best,
Jim
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Old 25th October 2012, 03:48 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KuKulzA28
Hello! I've been curious about Sinhala swords... There doesn't seem to be as much information of Sri Lankan arms on this forum as there is on say Indo-Persian, European, Moro, and others. All I found were a few threads about Piha Kaetta and Kastane.

Does anyone have knowledge and/or sources on Sinhala weaponry especially swords? Anyone actually own examples?

Aside from kastane, the few images I have seen are from the angampora website which shows "urumi"-like flexible blades and also rustic looking sabers/cutlasses with simple guards and wooden cylindrical grips.

I have little to no knowledge of Sinhala swords and other weapons, so I was hoping maybe some EAA Forum members would have knowledge on this matter.

Thanks!


Salaams KuKulzA28 ~ I hope you find the thread interesting so far. Any input you might have would be useful... and that goes for all our Forum friends and any onlookers ~ (who I urge to join ! ) Kind Regards.
Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
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Old 25th October 2012, 04:13 PM   #11
fernando
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Thanks for playing the forum host, Ibrahiim; i wouldn't do it better myself !!
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Old 25th October 2012, 04:52 PM   #12
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Salaams ~ Note to Forum.

In order to focus on the possibility of Portuguese Sri Lankan 15th 16th and 17th Century sword making style it is possible, looking at the Kastane style, that some influence is there from the Jineta design. The apparent finger ring / turned down quillons may be a direct take off in that regard though they seem only decorative. Certainly lavish decorated quillons would add to the weapon being adopted in the role as a court sword rather than a fighting weapon. This is unclear. The problem being that blade length varied enormously.

Could some have been court sword and others weapons?

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.

Note; See # 10 on http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=6768
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Last edited by Ibrahiim al Balooshi : 25th October 2012 at 05:35 PM.
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Old 26th October 2012, 10:12 AM   #13
Prasanna Weerakkody
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Balooshi -All images I presented (posts 76 and 78)on the Lion and Makara figures are for one purpose- to illustrate
1. Not only Makara figures are portrayed with figures emanating from their mouths.
2. In a SINHALA CONTEXT most Makara figures do emanate foliage (all images included) and is not limited to beasts.
Also I don’t think you can assess the elements purely on regional references. As with the difference in Swords; the Sinhala Motifs have its own sub culture distinct from the regional/ Indian system. All assumptions must be based on this.
..

Strangely it seems you are UNABLE to see the differences that define the “species” of beast heads that figure on the Kasthana swords. Please check definition in my post #23. for a definition which expands on format given by Ananda Kumaraswami. Your assumption “The Hilt, The KnuckleGuard, The Quillons and The Cross Guard are of one linked style” and your “advise against separating the pommel decoration from the rest of the Hilt” are in Error.

There are three common types of beasts portrayed on them. The only figure that emanates a secondary figure consistently on the Kasthana is the figure that appears at the base of the Knuckle guard. which is almost always a Makara. the figure on the opposite terminus of the cross guard also on occasion extrude a short floral extension. On some instances the terminal figure of the Knuckle guard is portrayed emanating either floral or animal forms. This figure is either of a Serapendiya or Makara design. The Quillons too can be either Serapendiya or Makara. on occasion the figures on the cross guards also consist of Serapendiya heads. It is also important to note that the Serapendiya is also figured with forms appearing from its mouth which seem not to be limited to the Makara. The Lion only appears on the pommel of the hilt and is not proper on any other part except in some weak later period swords that do not follow tradition properly. I cannot recollect seeing any Kasthana with the pommel Lion figure emanating anything from its mouth except for a simple extended tongue (consistent with lion figure in other Sinhala art forms)

Image of a possible deity on a Kasthana occurs infrequently on the outer surface of the Knuckle guard which is still not identified with certainty as yet. Godesses Sri Devi and Patthini are the most likely candidates though it may be just a figure of “Nari-latha” or a figure of a Half woman half plant form. (This is possibly a matter for a separate thread of discussion) There are no cultural elements defined as Nagas in a Sinhala context that can be associated with motifs on the Kasthana. In rare occasions figures of similar deities may be found in the ricasso as well.

Note on images in post #56
The top Kasthana originating from a latter period workshop is highly influenced by British or late Dutch (?) design. it seem to not have too much Sinhala cultural discipline. The pommel figure still carries three ruffs signifying it is a Lion head. The other figures are strange as the faces are modeled as lion heads (similar to most late period degenerate Makara forms) but without the ruffs… they do not show the distinct short proboscis that make a Makara a true Makara.

The lower figure of a Kasthana from an earlier period; for me is my period of interest in Kasthana where the source of its origin, design and real function lie. Here the pommel figure is again clearly a lion of the early period design (not of European influence) with the distinct three ruffs. The terminal figure on the extended knuckle guard is a Serapendiya while the other four figures at the base of the hilt are all Makara.


Fernando,
Always a pleasure to see your interesting posts. -thank you for sharing. In surviving traditional form there is a type of knuckle duster known as “Kala-kiringne” (I am not sure how to spell this proper; it’s a very nasal pronunciation akin to some other words with links to Portuguese descent”) The indirect association of “Kala” with death is sound- as found in “kala-thuwakku” (Cannon), “Kalama” (curses used in war) and “Kala-kiringne”etc.. Kirichchi as you say is a short stabbing dagger similar to a Kris. There is also another short dagger with a two finger grip which is sometimes attributed to Kala-kirichchi as well. I was not confident of its link to a short sword.
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Old 26th October 2012, 11:40 AM   #14
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Default Earlier records of Kasthana

The Hatan kavya text “Seethawaka Hatana” written by a warrior who was supposed to have fought in the Great Battle of Mulleriyawela include a narrative in which he refers to at least 5 chiefs who fought with Kasthana swords by name. These include Chiefs Kuruppu (of Korathota), Athulpana, Kahandawa, Weragoda and Wijeyakoon. The Mulleriyawela Battle occurred in 1559 and the text is dated circa 1585. I think this conclusively establishes the existence of Kasthana swords to mid 16th century and conforms my earlier note on the gift of a Kasthana sword to the Arachchi of the Illangama fighters Korathota (see picture above post #62). I need to re-locate my copy of “Rajasinghe Hatana” text which may provide additional reference to confirm the record

This also establishes the fact that Kasthana was originally used in war.
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