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Old 11th December 2020, 05:07 PM   #1
Drabant1701
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Default Indian sword with strange markings for comment

I have this indian sword that has me a bit puzzled, so I am hoping some of the more seasoned collectors of indian arms can enlighten me.

It's a large and heavy sword, about 90cm. I think its south indian, maybe second half of the 18th century. It has a ricasso. On one side there is a Genoese eye lash mark. On the other side there are arabic numeral 436, most likely added later as a collection or armory mark. And then there is a very strange marked carved into the blade, I have no idea what it is. If you remove some bits, it may resemble a unbrella. But this is obviously not a royal sword. I have also read that most umbrella marks are added later to add to the sword value, but if that is the case why put this odd thing on it at not a simple umbrella.

I would appreciate any additional information on the sword and the markings. Thanks for looking!
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Old 11th December 2020, 10:21 PM   #2
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Elgood, in his most recent book about Jodhpur armory has a special chapter about the umbrella mark.
They were put left and right to signify royal ownership, with which they had nothing in common. They might have been put later in sword’s life, but also by the original master. In retrospect, such forgeries are benign, silly and naive, and just add some human touch. I would not hesitate to hang this sword on my wall.
And overall, it is a very fine sword.
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Old 12th December 2020, 02:28 PM   #3
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I have a similar one with only eyelash markings and a T shaped spine.
I believe these are known as Tegha type for cutting through cloth armour.
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Old 12th December 2020, 02:32 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
Elgood, in his most recent book about Jodhpur armory has a special chapter about the umbrella mark.
They were put left and right to signify royal ownership, with which they had nothing in common. They might have been put later in sword’s life, but also by the original master. In retrospect, such forgeries are benign, silly and naive, and just add some human touch. I would not hesitate to hang this sword on my wall.
And overall, it is a very fine sword.


Thank you, Ariel for your comment, as always much appreciated.
Personally the most enjoyable part of collecting ethnographic antiques is the hours of research I get from almost every item I purchase. Most things I will eventually find in my books or on the Internet. But then there are things like this strange mark. And the ring of dots. Why? At some point I accept that at this point in time there is no answer and move on. I do however always enjoy the journey.

I also found a sword with similar fabric on the handle. That one is a documented battle sword, maybe it served to better the grip during battle
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Old 12th December 2020, 02:37 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Will M
I have a similar one with only eyelash markings and a T shaped spine.
I believe these are known as Tegha type for cutting through cloth armour.


That sounds likely. The blade is all business, very rigid and heavy.
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Old 12th December 2020, 05:24 PM   #6
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I very much agree with Ariel's well stated comments, which reflect the observations of Robert Elgood in this outstanding reference concerning the 'umbrella' marking.
The use of this marking was indeed meant to signify regal association and as is often the case, became widely used in the manner that makers often spuriously used the marks of the 'espadero del rey' (for example)as a quality symbol. This type of spurious use to present and suggest strong imbuement in a blade is of course pretty much well known through blade making history.

The tegha is indeed intented as a heavier bladed weapon and is, as in this case, more associated with the Deccan into the northwest regions. I would presume this to be a Rajput weapon despite the umbrella which is typically regarded nominally to Mughal context.

The circled dot marking seems to be added to the umbrella in some augmenting manner or embellishment rather than having key symbolic meaning. It may be considered a solar representation which is often significant in Rajput context in association with symbolism concerning the clans, solar, lunar, fire etc.

The use of textiles on weapons is often used in auspicious manner, and colors were keenly used in accord with significant meanings in Rajput context. These are often well explained in Robert Elgood's work as well.
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Old 12th December 2020, 06:40 PM   #7
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For some reason this mark reminds of those enigmatic comet or shooting-star type marks occasionally found on Sudanese kaskara blades ...
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Old 12th December 2020, 07:34 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by colin henshaw
For some reason this mark reminds of those enigmatic comet or shooting-star type marks occasionally found on Sudanese kaskara blades ...

Well observed Colin!! In is that same convention it is likely intended, or at least its inspiration was. It is often hard to say when such markings are copied by subsequent makers as they often apply such marks without realizing the original intent, and replicate them to add desirability to the blade.

We have still never really figured out those markings on kaskara, which are profoundly enigmatic. Its always fascinating to see the many well thought out ideas many have entered on these, many quite compelling.
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Old 13th December 2020, 02:28 AM   #9
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AFAIK, the word “ tegha” stems from “tigh”, i.e. just “ sword” :-)
I can’t recall mentioning its ability to cut through cloth armor.
Bent baluster suggests 17th century.

The “ wings” of the handle undoubtedly owe their existence to the Khanda handle, and it in turn stems from the “ old Indian basket” encountered on old Southern swords.

My guess ( a guess, no more) that we may me talking of a Mahratta/ Deccan as a nexus of that construction: Northern Mughal curved blade and a Southern- inspired handle.

Real ch’hattra ( umbrella sign) was always very simple and compact, with no embellishments. This one has circles with dots, a crescent base etc. that look rather vulgar. Those are indications of a spurious marking, kind of “ too much to be true” phenomenon.

But decorations aside, the worth of a sword is in its fighting ability and I have very little doubt that it could perform admirably in the hour of need.

I have never encountered( or just cannot remember) another Indian sword with such fabric wrappings. But your example of a similar one indicates a somewhat more widespread use. You might be correct: some people just felt that it improved their grasp.

Last edited by ariel : 13th December 2020 at 03:13 AM.
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Old 13th December 2020, 05:13 PM   #10
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Many thanks for your comments. It would be nice if the sword is actually older than I thought, often it is the other way around.
Anyways, I have new theory what the mark is. Ariel mentioned Rajput Arms and Armor by Elgood, and the chapter about umbrella marks. I have the book (very heavy, good read) so I read that part again. Elgood writes:

"In India the state umbrella was believed to be the abode of the goddess Lakshmi"

So I googled Lakshmi, she sits on a bed of lotus petals. Some times with an umbrella or/and a pointy hat.

I think the anchor shaped part of the sword mark is representing the bed of lotus. The rings with dots could represent lotus flowers. I added some pictures of paintings of the goddess I tried to find old examples. What do you think?
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Old 14th December 2020, 01:35 AM   #11
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Very interesting. I never thought of that angle.
But .... where is Lakshmi?

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Old 14th December 2020, 01:47 PM   #12
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Why umbrella?! And even less likely an Indian umbrella.

To me, it looks more like some sort of palm tree.

One can clearly distinguish the characteristic trunk and the soil with tall grass.

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Old 14th December 2020, 04:38 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
Very interesting. I never thought of that angle.
But .... where is Lakshmi?


Considering the quality of the engraving the carver probably thought carving the goddess was outside his skills set. Kind of like the cross of Christianity, its easy carving a cross but try carving Jesus Christ on it. It's not a picture of the goddess but a symbol in her place.

Maybe the mark has nothing to do with the royal umbrella, and its only purpose was to aid the swords wielder with good fortune in battle.

Marius
I will entertain any idea, and it sure looks like the trunk of a palm tree.
However If you look at picture below you will see that i have highlighted the dots below the shade that symbolize suspended pearls. These are a common trait on umbrellas on Indian swords. The handle represents the gods as the center of the universe. And as you can see on the far superior umbrella that I put next to mine that one also has a palm tree for a handle.

I realize that the mark could look like many things but in the context that its in what is a resemble assumption. There are many examples of umbrellas on Indian swords. There is also insentive to put them there both cultural and for status reasons.

I have looked at the palm tree as a possibility but can find no examples of trees carved into swords from this period. The palm branch can be a symbol of victory, so I would not completely rule out putting palm trees on swords.
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Old 14th December 2020, 05:11 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mariusgmioc
Why umbrella?! And even less likely an Indian umbrella.

To me, it looks more like some sort of palm tree.

One can clearly distinguish the characteristic trunk and the soil with tall grass.


Interesting suggestion, and well illustrates the 'Rohrshach' circumstance when markings become highly stylized or poorly executed, or both.
As Ariel has noted, this particular 'umbrella' is a bit 'overembellished' as would be the case when an artisan is striving for ultra imbuement.

There are cases of Indian blades where the 'sickle marks' as often seen on blades in Northwest India, are used in linear fashion lining the entire blade along the back (not spine). There are many cases of other markings being imitated in various interpretations.

The case of the 'Passau wolf' is a good one concerning 'stylization' and these representations of the 'wolf' are seen in dramation variation, some virtually just chops in a pattern which barely resembles a wolf or any particular quadruped. Oakeshott once noted that these were seen as a unicorn in some cases, and it seems other interpretations are known as well.

With the numbers on the blade, it does seem these are 'stippled' which would concur with the method of numbering or administrative inventory used by the Bikaner armory iin Rajasthan. These were however in Devanagari or other dialectic Indian script. Whatever the case, this is hardly an aesthetic addition, and further suggests this was probably a combat oriented weapon rather than court intended accoutrement.
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Old 14th December 2020, 05:12 PM   #15
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Drabant, we crossed posts, and just read your excellent observations, very well explained.
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Old 14th December 2020, 07:23 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Interesting suggestion, and well illustrates the 'Rohrshach' circumstance when markings become highly stylized or poorly executed, or both.
As Ariel has noted, this particular 'umbrella' is a bit 'overembellished' as would be the case when an artisan is striving for ultra imbuement.

There are cases of Indian blades where the 'sickle marks' as often seen on blades in Northwest India, are used in linear fashion lining the entire blade along the back (not spine). There are many cases of other markings being imitated in various interpretations.

The case of the 'Passau wolf' is a good one concerning 'stylization' and these representations of the 'wolf' are seen in dramation variation, some virtually just chops in a pattern which barely resembles a wolf or any particular quadruped. Oakeshott once noted that these were seen as a unicorn in some cases, and it seems other interpretations are known as well.

With the numbers on the blade, it does seem these are 'stippled' which would concur with the method of numbering or administrative inventory used by the Bikaner armory iin Rajasthan. These were however in Devanagari or other dialectic Indian script. Whatever the case, this is hardly an aesthetic addition, and further suggests this was probably a combat oriented weapon rather than court intended accoutrement.


Well put Jim. A similar example to the wolf and umbrella is the Assad Allah Lion. On many Qajar swords you know it's a lion mark because its always a lion mark. For someone not knowing what they are looking for it may as well be a dog, a pig or hippopotamus.

I was doing some more reading in the umbrella thread on the forum.

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...hlight=umbrella

There is some discussion about the tree of life in connection to the umbrella in south Borneo. So there might be a tree in there after all.

The thread also has the photo below. I am not claiming it to be similar to the mark on my sword. It does however have a half circle+ at the bottom. So there are other umbrellas out there with unorthodox bottoms.
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Old 14th December 2020, 09:19 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Drabant1701
Well put Jim. A similar example to the wolf and umbrella is the Assad Allah Lion. On many Qajar swords you know it's a lion mark because its always a lion mark. For someone not knowing what they are looking for it may as well be a dog, a pig or hippopotamus.

I was doing some more reading in the umbrella thread on the forum.

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...hlight=umbrella

There is some discussion about the tree of life in connection to the umbrella in south Borneo. So there might be a tree in there after all.

The thread also has the photo below. I am not claiming it to be similar to the mark on my sword. It does however have a half circle+ at the bottom. So there are other umbrellas out there with unorthodox bottoms.



Excellent example! This is clearly a Mughal application and reminds me of similar cases with Tipu Sultan. What this is would be the Mughal 'umbrella' incorporated into the familiar cross and orb symbol often used on German blades, virtually a hybrid symbol denoting quality and status.

In some cases Tipu amalgamated his own personal symbol with that of the East India Co. in that same sense, ironically even though they were enemies. In some way it seems possibly that this was a kind of metaphor as I think it was superimposed, as if showing him overcoming the EIC, but of course this may be reading into it too much.

The umbrella symbol as a regal indicator pretty much goes back into ancient times, and was well known in Asia. With the strong Persian influence in Mughal courts, and of course such influences which came to them from the east, it stands to reason the notion filtered into Mughal symbolism.

The Assad Adullah lion was used on Persian trade blades, and was so used to afford interpretation or awareness to basically illiterate or uninitiated buyers, as a pictogram rather than wording as usually in cartouche. While typically in the Islamic context, the pictograph would be readily interpreted as the "Lion of God" , in other cultures using the blades, obviously other versions of perception might occur.

The hippopatamus note I think comes from a reference (Reed, 1987) referring to a Sudanese chieftain who was looking at a Passau Wolf on a blade for a kaskara and claimed that was what it was.

Again, an outstanding tegha example! and all the more so with these great markings. These are not commonly seen as it is, and this with Rajput character (the Hindu basket hilt) and Mughal type markings makes it remarkable in my opinion.
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Old 15th December 2020, 03:23 AM   #18
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Drabant,
I was wrong about the issue of " cutting through cloth armour". In the excellent review of Deccani swords by Robert Elgood ( " Sultans of the South") there is a photo of a tegha with identical handle , only very rich and gilt all over.
It has a wide D-guard, curved baluster and the " wings" at the knuckleguard. It is attributed by R.E. to Deccan, 17th century and mentions cloth armour.
I shall look around and send you the paper.
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Old 15th December 2020, 07:21 AM   #19
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OK, thank you Drabant!

Now I see the "umbrella."

Was looking upside down because it seemed to make more sense.
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Old 15th December 2020, 09:10 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
Drabant,
I was wrong about the issue of " cutting through cloth armour". In the excellent review of Deccani swords by Robert Elgood ( " Sultans of the South") there is a photo of a tegha with identical handle , only very rich and gilt all over.
It has a wide D-guard, curved baluster and the " wings" at the knuckleguard. It is attributed by R.E. to Deccan, 17th century and mentions cloth armour.
I shall look around and send you the paper.
The best way is if you give me your e-mail address.
You can use PM.


Found it!
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?p=197808#p

That tegha is spectacular I would not mind that on my wall
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Old 15th December 2020, 03:32 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Drabant1701
Found it!
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?p=197808#p

That tegha is spectacular I would not mind that on my wall


Wait in line, old son! :-)
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Old 15th December 2020, 06:45 PM   #22
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Blades show an interesting similarity with 16thC Styrian dusägge sabres. The Indian ones seem slightly more curved. Also some of the fullers are similar to dussägge in some cases.
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Old 15th December 2020, 11:25 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Victrix
Blades show an interesting similarity with 16thC Styrian dusägge sabres. The Indian ones seem slightly more curved. Also some of the fullers are similar to dussägge in some cases.


One cannot help but wonder if there a connection between those dusagge blades and these heavy bladed Indian 'tegha'. Note the 'sickle marks' on the blade of the dusagge and consider how often copies of these marks occur on Indian blades.
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Old 16th December 2020, 11:56 AM   #24
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i also notice a similar umbrella type sign on a sikh sword. here is the link: https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/15335/lot/544/
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Old 23rd December 2020, 10:38 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
One cannot help but wonder if there a connection between those dusagge blades and these heavy bladed Indian 'tegha'. Note the 'sickle marks' on the blade of the dusagge and consider how often copies of these marks occur on Indian blades.


King Christian IV purchased a large number of German dussägge to arm Norwegian farmers. It’s not impossible that some might have found their way to India. The blades sometimes look very similar, even some fullered ones. The sickle/eyelash marks are associated with Genoa but later likely copied by smiths elsewhere, like Styria in my example.
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Old 24th December 2020, 05:20 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Victrix
King Christian IV purchased a large number of German dussägge to arm Norwegian farmers. It’s not impossible that some might have found their way to India. The blades sometimes look very similar, even some fullered ones. The sickle/eyelash marks are associated with Genoa but later likely copied by smiths elsewhere, like Styria in my example.



That is extremely well noted!!! and I had not actually thought of that particular vector into India for the well known 'sickle marks'. The Danish presence in India is not especially well known, but interestingly some very good specimens of Indian arms are in Danish collections and from these early periods. Even in our modern times, Denmark has been notably associated with Indian arms, in fact the venerable "The Indian Sword" (1967) was produced through the Danish Arms & Armor Society (printed by our own Jens Nordlund, who owns one of the foremost collection of tulwars and katars ).
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Old 27th December 2020, 10:09 PM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Victrix
King Christian IV purchased a large number of German dussägge to arm Norwegian farmers. It’s not impossible that some might have found their way to India. The blades sometimes look very similar, even some fullered ones. The sickle/eyelash marks are associated with Genoa but later likely copied by smiths elsewhere, like Styria in my example.


Records show hundreds of dussägge produced in Styria, Austria during the Ottoman wars. Some were stored in the armoury in Graz and some were probably distributed to the local farmers to defend themselves (bauernwehr) against frequent Ottoman irregular raids during which thousands of people were abducted.

Not that many dussägge remain in the region which raises the possibility that they may have been exported as military surplus to places like Denmark, but perhaps also India which would have appreciated the wide curved blades.
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Old 28th December 2020, 12:30 PM   #28
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Hi,
Although not the same one of the markings on this Kora of mine exhibits some similarities with the one on the sword in question.
Regards,
Norman.
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Old 4th January 2021, 10:53 PM   #29
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Default Fabric On Hilt

I've found an image to add to the group of swords with fabric or leather around part of the hilt. It's on p89 of

Asiatische Blankwaffen
Asian Edged Weapons

Deutsches Klingenmuseum Solingen

(Barbara Grotkamp-Schepers & Maximilian Berkel)

This pulouar seems to have a similar dark wrap around part of the hilt.
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