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Old 8th October 2019, 03:39 AM   #1
kahnjar1
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Default QAJAR "REVIVAL" SWORD for Comment

Another snip from a local auction. I believe that these are popularly referred to as Qajar "revival" swords, and date from 19th century sometime. The blade is heavily decorated, and is both flexible and sharp. I can see no reason why these would not be a useful weapon.
Perhaps one of our Members can be more informative regarding these swords.
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Old 8th October 2019, 05:00 AM   #2
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Hi kahnjar1

I read an article in which it is written that such swords, strongly decorated with inscriptions, were made for processions that Shiites conduct on the holiday of Ashura. Also, such swords were made for actors "tazieh" who performed religious mystery (performance). And at a later time, such swords were made especially for Europeans, as an "oriental exotic" ...


But I like these swords as a work of art. True, I like straight swords more

Tazieh - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ta%27zieh
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Old 8th October 2019, 12:20 PM   #3
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I have one of these next to my desk as I type as I'm selling it for a friend and I must agree - there's no reason why the blade wouldn't be acceptable in combat, given the correct sharpening.
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Old 8th October 2019, 02:25 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MForde
I have one of these next to my desk as I type as I'm selling it for a friend and I must agree - there's no reason why the blade wouldn't be acceptable in combat, given the correct sharpening.


How would you know?!

Unless you really test the blade simulating real use conditions, you cannot get even a close guess. What may appear like a reasonably elastic blade can shatter like glass or bend like clay in real use conditions.
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Old 8th October 2019, 04:02 PM   #5
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Excellent and interesting perspective on these Qajar items and these ceremonial events Dima! I have often wondered more on these 'revival' pieces and how they were used.

It is interesting how these heavily etched blades very much resemble the well known thuluth examples from Sudan in the Mahdist period of end of 19th c.
It has often been argued whether these highly decorated blades were actually used combatively, or simply as symbols of authority for chiefs or leaders. Some consider them as carried by the warriors in an almost votive manner as symbolizing the 'sword of the Mahdi'.
However, I have seen examples of these thuluth kaskara which were sharpened and would certainly have been usable in combat.

While these Qajar swords were made clearly for ceremonial use, like many weapons in such context, it is possible they might be used in a 'situation' as a weapon, even if blunt force trauma were the outcome of their use.
In the American Civil War, one of the chief problems with the use of the sword was that the soldiers failed to sharpen their blades.

An observation regarding possible use of weapons of course cannot always be entirely accurate in these kinds of discussions, but hypothetical comments cannot always be discounted. Obviously hands on examination would better lend to outcome one way or another, much like evaluating and assessing weapons shown on these pages from photos only.
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Old 8th October 2019, 05:15 PM   #6
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Reference;
A. https://www.academia.edu/36217967/S...y_Mahdist_Sudan


Quote"Decorations & Calligraphy.

Many Sudanese swords blades were covered with calligraphic inscriptions, either real or pseudo-inscriptions (Fig. 3). Sometimes these inscriptions are connected to symbolic dates such as 1718 or animals such as the snake and the dragon. The Arabic calligraphy etched in the blade was typical ‘thuluth’ script. Thuluth is a script version of calligraphy invented by the Persian official ibn Muqlah Shirazi. Most often they were religious inscriptions from the Qur’an, but also these weapons wear the names of places of production like Omdurman and manufacturing dates. This type of decoration was also used on other Sudanese weapons including dervish axes and daggers. These calligraphic ornamentations will have been placed to serve a purpose. It is clear that the verses of the Qur’an, Arabic and the writing act in general as magical and symbolic elements. Calligraphy is present as a motif rather than as actual writing. Its main function is talismanic; sometimes lucky-charms or gris-gris are also attached to the handle of the weapon." Unquote.
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Old 8th October 2019, 08:41 PM   #7
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Thank you for the comments. I fully expected that this sword was probably used primarily in a ceremonial roll, but I have no doubt that given the right circumstances it could also be used as a true weapon. As I mentioned, the blade is quite sharp (no sign of resharpening), and flexible.
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Old 8th October 2019, 10:07 PM   #8
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It might be Indian as well, the hilt is not typical from these Persian swords.
Clearly very end of the 19th if not very early 20th c. 1880-1914
They were also used for Persian theater Tazieh as mentionned by Mahrat.
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Old 8th October 2019, 11:10 PM   #9
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Kubur:
The hilt of this Qajar sword is not Indian, it is vice versa: Indian hilts of that configuration were modeled after Persian examples.
Indo-Persian culture was almost completely one-way street:from Persia to Moghuls and from them to the rest of India.

Jim,

I am with Marius. Of course, under certain “ conditions” these swords could have been used as weapons. But so did forks or candlesticks.
Revival swords were manufactured en masse as a propaganda tool, to instill a sense of pride in Iran’s Achaemenid past among the masses. Having inspired the needed emotion they were sold to tourists or suchlike.
In reality, at that time Iran was too impotent to engage in any kind of military adventure and was busily ( and rather inefficiently) trying to convert its anachronistic army into a European -like force. They were making ( and buying) European-style swords ( that were also virtually useless by the end of 19 century, but emphasized luxurious mustaches of their officers).
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Old 9th October 2019, 09:27 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
Kubur:
The hilt of this Qajar sword is not Indian, it is vice versa: Indian hilts of that configuration were modeled after Persian examples.
Indo-Persian culture was almost completely one-way street:from Persia to Moghuls and from them to the rest of India.


I agree with you Ariel, of course.
I think that most - if not all- the forum members know about Indo Persian relations. These are very well established facts.
I confirm what I wrote: this hilt is very basic and it might be Indian 19th c or very - very - late Persian early 20th c.
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Old 9th October 2019, 01:01 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mariusgmioc
How would you know?!

Unless you really test the blade simulating real use conditions, you cannot get even a close guess. What may appear like a reasonably elastic blade can shatter like glass or bend like clay in real use conditions.


I admit to some employing degree of presumption but I feel it's justified. The sword I have here feels robust and flexible and similar in the hand to those of proven fighting sword patterns. Of course, as you say, one never truly knows what hidden secrets a blade holds until it's actually used but we can't very well go around hitting people or armour with all our swords to test each one, only being allowed to extoll their virtues after rough use. Also, these 'Revival' swords are sometimes described as having ceremonial-only blades, and perhaps some do, but it's a sentiment I felt important to mitigate.
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Old 9th October 2019, 01:32 PM   #12
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Thank you Ariel for this extremely well honed insight into the 'climate' in which these ceremonial type swords were used in these performance events. I had often heard of these referred to as 'passion plays' , but never fully understood the manner in which these weapons were used (as well illustrated by Dima), nor the political circumstances of Iran during these times described as you have explained.

Actually I was not disagreeing with what Marius said, simply the way he said it. Ironically, by analogy, his comment ('how would you know?)personally directed toward the observation by Mforde pretty much proved my point, that even a blunt instrument(weapon, or comment) can produce potentially harmful result. As I was pointing out, and in accord with your comment on the use of virtually many objects as weapons of opportunity, even a combatively inert weapon could well be used 'in the moment'. While I am sure Marius probably did not mean the words to come across the way I perceived, the initial effect seemed pertinent.

I think Mforde's riposte well qualifies his observation, and elaborates on the most obvious condition in discussing this interesting sword, that each item in this category must be evaluated on its own merits. Naturally hands on examination provides the necessary character and facts typically denied by photos unless highly detailed closeups, but here we can offer only assessments presumed without such physical examination.

Thank you Ibrahiim for the additional insights into the Sudanese thuluth covered weapons which I had mentioned in analogy. These weapons have certain parallels to the sword pictured in the OP in that they are covered in similar calligraphic script, and are often debated as to whether they were actually used in combat.
As I had mentioned, while many of these kaskara were indeed blunt and likely used by certain key individuals in the field in as yet unclear manner, I have seen examples with sharply honed and flexible blades which certainly could have been combatively used. The accounts describing these found strewn on the battlefield among other weapons suggests they may well have been.

Again, this mention of the Sudanese swords is intended only as an analogy toward the use of ceremonial or symbolically imbued weapons in an actual combative situation.

Last edited by Jim McDougall : 9th October 2019 at 02:38 PM.
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Old 10th October 2019, 06:55 PM   #13
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Jim,
I think Marius did not mean anything objectionable. Likely, it was a grammar issue. In Russian and Hebrew conversational languages, for example, both innocuous and aggressive inquiries routinely use “you” as the address instead of a passive form or faceless “we”. English, on the other hand, is very persnickety in this regard.
Have no idea how it is in his native tongue, but I would not hold it against him in this case.

My 5 cents.

As to the Revival swords, I personally do not like them at all. Far too theatrical to my taste. Never had one, never will.
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Old 11th October 2019, 07:04 AM   #14
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I think, I may not have expressed clear enough what I wanted to say.

Unless YOU test the sword in similar conditions to those of real battle (or very close to those conditions) YOU cannot know if it is good or not. And when I say "YOU" I do not mean, you Jim, or you MForde, but "you" in general.

All steel has a deformation threshold from where elastic deformation stops and breakage or plastic deformation occurs, and for a steel of unknown composition this threshold can only be determined by testing.

So, the blade can look and feel strong and elastic and you can bend it 5 degrees without any bad effects. But, then if you bend it just one degree more, it breaks, or much more often, becomes permanently bent.

The Qajar revival blades were not thermally treated and were made of low carbon content steels, so are nothing but purely decorative weapons.

It is something completely different from battle ready blades that have decorations applied later.

PS: These "swords" are not even mentioned in "Arms and Armor from Iran" by Mr. Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani which is the most comprehensive book on Persian weapons... as they are not real weapons but decorations.

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Old 11th October 2019, 08:27 AM   #15
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Marius, I agree with you.
But in rare cases, there are exceptions. For example, when the blades of the Qajar revival blades are made of wootz steel (like this one of my sword).
But, of course, with respect to most of the richly decorated Qajar revival blades you are right.
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Old 11th October 2019, 01:21 PM   #16
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Every rule has some exceptions, and yes, there might be very rare examples of functional Qajar revival blades.

And yes, a wootz blade would definitely qualify for being such an exception but...

... how do you know it is a Qajar revival blade, and not an older, battle-ready blade, remounted and decorated at a later period?

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Old 11th October 2019, 01:29 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mariusgmioc
... how do you know it is a Qajar revival blade, and not an older, battle-ready blade, remounted and decorated at a later period?



You're right again It's quite possible
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Old 11th October 2019, 02:12 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mariusgmioc
... how do you know it is a Qajar revival blade, and not an older, battle-ready blade, remounted and decorated at a later period?


Easy
some of these blades are signed by sword makers from the 19th c.
Look at this MET sword (I have one from the same maker with a revival hilt...)
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Old 11th October 2019, 03:19 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kubur
Easy
some of these blades are signed by sword makers from the 19th c.
Look at this MET sword (I have one from the same maker with a revival hilt...)


Well... nope! This is actually a confirmation that you have an older blade that was re-hilted.

Then...

1. How do you know the signature is of a 19 century swordsmith;
2. How do you know that the blade wasn't originally meant for business/battle;
3. How do you know that the signature wasn't added at the later date?!

There is a significant difference between early 19th century, when swords were still made and used in battle, and late 19th century when swords became more of a fashion item.

My two cents.

PS: I am not aware of any documented 19th century Persian swordsmiths that produced wootz. I would appreciate any information about this topic.
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Old 11th October 2019, 05:13 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mariusgmioc
PS: I am not aware of any documented 19th century Persian swordsmiths that produced wootz. I would appreciate any information about this topic.


My Dear Marius,
all your questions especially the last one, can be answered in one sentence:
It is because you are not reading books.
Please read Rivkin a study of the eastern sword
then Islamic arms and armour of the MET
then you will feel much better
stop etching your blades and read, at least to rest a bit
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Old 11th October 2019, 05:59 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kubur
My Dear Marius,
all your questions especially the last one, can be answered in one sentence:
It is because you are not reading books.
Please read Rivkin a study of the eastern sword
then Islamic arms and armour of the MET
then you will feel much better
stop etching your blades and read, at least to rest a bit


Ok, ok, I can accept one thing here, one thing there but to STOP ETCHING MY WOOTZ BLADES...!?

NEVER... unless I am running out of etchant (like I am now)!


PS: Thank you for the bibliogrphy!

PPS: I do not have Rivkin's book but as soon as I got home from work I checked the Metropolitan book, and it seems the answers to my three questions are:

1. The signature is fake and is of an early 18th century swordsmith (Lotf Ali Shirazi)

2. The swod you posted is NOT a "revival" sword but a honest battle-ready weapon. The fact that yours has Qajar revival hilt does not make it a revival sword.

3. There is no evidence the other inscription saying "Nasir al-Din Shah Qajar" (ruled 1848-1896) was not added later on an older blade.

I already feel better!

Last edited by mariusgmioc : 11th October 2019 at 08:21 PM.
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Old 11th October 2019, 07:49 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mariusgmioc
I am not aware of any documented 19th century Persian swordsmiths that produced wootz. I would appreciate any information about this topic.


Marius, I’m not sure I understood your PS correctly Therefore, I'm sorry if I answer out of place

In the 19th century, there were undoubtedly blacksmiths in Persia who made swords from wootz. They exactly produce wootz in the 19th century. There is an article of 1842, which was written by a Russian officer who was in Persia and himself observed this process.
Unfortunately, the article is written in Russian. But I can post it here if it's interesting, by attaching scanned pages.
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Old 11th October 2019, 07:51 PM   #23
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Marius, very nicely explained, and please accept my apology for my remarks. I did try to note that you 'probably' had not meant the comment as I perceived it but I unfortunately used it at your expense, to make a point. That was improper, so again, my regrets.

Some good points have come up here in the ongoing discussion, that many 'revival' weapons do indeed bear actual combat or trophy components. This is much the same as weapons used in votive context in temples, etc.

Well noted as well on the absence of Qajar weapons in certain references and compendiums on Persian weapons. I would note that Manoucher's book, if I understand, is focused more on premiere examples and not on the broader spectrum of these weapons.

An interesting case in point in in the discussions we have had here concerning certain Omani broadswords, which have always been collectively termed 'kattara' in collectors parlance. What evolved is that in actuality, the majority of these swords were not actually 'weapons' , but used in Omani events where a sword dance was an impressive and key ritual.

It was argued that the 'kattara' was not a 'dance' sword, but indeed a sword used in combat. While there were examples of these cylindrically hilted swords which had substantial European blades, these were status oriented accoutrements worn by individuals of standing in a dress or court sword type demeanor.

The 'dance' versions were blades made primarily for dramatic effects with flashing shine and reverberating undulation with flexible but dreadfully sharp blades. The argument was that these WERE used in combat, but it was realized by many that there WAS distinctly a difference between the same visually appearing swords by the type of blades they had.
While obviously, the flimsy 'dance' blades would probably have not served well in combat, the dress versions with stout blades, if properly sharpened, may have. However the open hilt determined not likely.

This analogy simply is to illustrate that in certain cases, the composition of the blade metal and its manufacture is, as you well illustrate, most important. Obviously decorative character blades do not necessarily require the durability necessary for a combative blade.

However, the decoratively etched or engraved blades of Indian and Persian hunting swords (I believe termed shikargar) do seem to maintain the integrity of a usable blade. Perhaps numbers of these 'revival' blades were made in this manner, and thus serviceable if sharpened as mentioned.

Again, each case on its own merits, and that includes trophy, remounted former combat blades and even wootz
Again, my apologies for my own 'blunt' response earlier.
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Old 11th October 2019, 07:56 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mahratt
Marius, I’m not sure I understood your PS correctly Therefore, I'm sorry if I answer out of place

In the 19th century, there were undoubtedly blacksmiths in Persia who made swords from wootz. They exactly produce wootz in the 19th century. There is an article of 1842, which was written by a Russian officer who was in Persia and himself observed this process.
Unfortunately, the article is written in Russian. But I can post it here if it's interesting, by attaching scanned pages.


I am familiar with the existance in Persia and India of wootz producing swordsmiths well into 19th century. However, I am not familiar with any of 19th century Persian swordsmiths signing the blades they produced.
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Old 11th October 2019, 08:02 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mariusgmioc
I am familiar with the existance in Persia and India of wootz producing swordsmiths well into 19th century. However, I am not familiar with any of 19th century Persian swordsmiths signing the blades they produced.


Yes. The swordmasters who signed wootz blades in the 19th century, I can’t remember ... Perhaps because I also do not have Rivkin’s book
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Old 11th October 2019, 08:32 PM   #26
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Citing from "Arms and Armor from Iran," page 201, column 1, e

"The double-edged, straight swords with downward quillons were by no means a revival movement specific to the Qajar period. There are a number of Iranian straight swords from earlier periods kept in Russian museums as discussed earlier. Hence, the tradition of making double-edged, straight swords in Iran goes back to the Timurid and Safavid eras, meaning there was a coexistence of straight and curved swords during the Safavid era [...]"

Further down the lines Mr. Moshtagh discusses briefly the Qajar straight swords stating that even some with highly decorated blades were fully functional.

So it seems I was wrong twice

1. saying these swords are not mentioned in the book, and
2. in my previous assumption, as I underestimated the qualities of the decorated Qajar "revival" swords.

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Old 12th October 2019, 04:47 AM   #27
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What was meant there by “ highly decorated?
There are many ways besides wall-to-wall etching to decorate a blade.


How different in heft and sturdiness were these swords?
The Qajar era Revival swords usually had thin flat blades without even a T, resembling sheet metal ( no fullers, no midrib). Many ( like this one) imitated Ottoman Palas without being graciously contoured.
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Old 12th October 2019, 01:13 PM   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
What was meant there by “ highly decorated?
There are many ways besides wall-to-wall etching to decorate a blade.


How different in heft and sturdiness were these swords?
The Qajar era Revival swords usually had thin flat blades without even a T, resembling sheet metal ( no fullers, no midrib). Many ( like this one) imitated Ottoman Palas without being graciously contoured.


"Highly-decorated" was my expression. To avoid any further ambiguity, I am posting herewith a photo of the last of the two pages discussing these swords. Two pages out of about 750...

I have handled several of these swords but didn't keep any as I judged them to be purely touristy crap (exactly as described by Ariel, with flat blades like cut from sheet steel, with no - or very poorly shaped - cutting edge and fairly poorly executed etching).

So, in my uneducated oppinion (based on personal observation), many, if not most of the "Qajar revival" swords are purely decorative and probably don't even belong to the Qajar period but are much later (20th century).

I also believe the text in the book refers strictly to the genuine Qajar period straight swords and not to the vast majoity of touristy crap that invaded the markets in the 20th century.
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Old 15th October 2019, 02:06 PM   #29
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The Indo-Persian culture this is not a mixture of Indian and Persian culture. This is the muslim culture of one large region from Iran to South Asia including of course Central Asia.
How much there were Shiites centres and how many "Persian" subjects of weapon were prodused in India not only for European travelers?

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