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Old 26th May 2019, 02:53 AM   #1
Jim McDougall
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Default The spike or spine on the khanda pommel

In other discussions the question has come up about methods of holding certain Indian edged weapons in use, and whether certain features make allowances for use in a two hand hold in striking.
Clearly, the weapon that comes to mind is the khanda (sometimes 'firangi' if with foreign blade), which often have an extension out of the pommel which may be regarded as a spike or spine.

In Pant, "Indian Arms and Armor" (1980, p.48) it is noted about the khanda, "...there is very often a spike on the pommel which acts as a guard for the arm, and for a grip when making a two handed stroke. It is also used as a hand rest when the sword is sheathed".

My question is just how reliable is this suggestion in the use of the khanda? Was the two hand stroke really necessary, and if a warrior was also holding a shield, or for that matter, if a horseman was holding reins in the other hand, how would this be feasible?

It seems that vestigial element of a stem much smaller occurs on some tulwars and is known as 'dungarpuri' (Pant, p.108) named for the place in Rajasthan where this feature was 'invented' (?) and is said to be a 17th c. affectation. Clearly this element is not intended for such 'second hand' application on the tulwar, but perhaps suggests some symbolic meaning.
Could the 'spike' or perhaps 'stem' on the khanda also carry some symbolism rather than the two hand hold idea?

Attached plate from Pant on khandas with 'spikes' and a tulwar with an unusual perpendicularly angled spike discussed here in 2016.
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Old 26th May 2019, 07:46 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
In other discussions the question has come up about methods of holding certain Indian edged weapons in use, and whether certain features make allowances for use in a two hand hold in striking.
Clearly, the weapon that comes to mind is the khanda (sometimes 'firangi' if with foreign blade), which often have an extension out of the pommel which may be regarded as a spike or spine.

In Pant, "Indian Arms and Armor" (1980, p.48) it is noted about the khanda, "...there is very often a spike on the pommel which acts as a guard for the arm, and for a grip when making a two handed stroke. It is also used as a hand rest when the sword is sheathed".

My question is just how reliable is this suggestion in the use of the khanda? Was the two hand stroke really necessary, and if a warrior was also holding a shield, or for that matter, if a horseman was holding reins in the other hand, how would this be feasible?

It seems that vestigial element of a stem much smaller occurs on some tulwars and is known as 'dungarpuri' (Pant, p.108) named for the place in Rajasthan where this feature was 'invented' (?) and is said to be a 17th c. affectation. Clearly this element is not intended for such 'second hand' application on the tulwar, but perhaps suggests some symbolic meaning.
Could the 'spike' or perhaps 'stem' on the khanda also carry some symbolism rather than the two hand hold idea?

Attached plate from Pant on khandas with 'spikes' and a tulwar with an unusual perpendicularly angled spike discussed here in 2016.


I think it was Elgood who casually mentioned that crooked spike of Tulwar handles was fashionable around 17th century.
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Old 26th May 2019, 02:17 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by ariel
I think it was Elgood who casually mentioned that crooked spike of Tulwar handles was fashionable around 17th century.


Elgood (2004, p.123) does refer to the influence of imported Deccani designs in early 17th c. so as the khanda was essentially Deccani (Maratha) possibly the spike may have in some degree inspired these on talwar hilts.

Elgood also notes (p.90) that the talwar 'disc pommel' appears first seen in records in the A'in-i-Akbari (completed 1589) but in earlier references of 16th c. ( Nujum ul Alam; Hamzanama, both 1560s+) the talwar pommels are globular or small cup shaped.

Since the 'Hindu basket hilt' seems to have become popular in the early 17th c. as well, the spike seems to have possibly come along with that development, at least in accord with examples I have seen. The earlier khanda seems loosely of similar design, but with cup shaped pommels and a full guard plate under quillons of a kind.
It was mostly the addition of the knuckleguard plate in a kind of extension of the guard plate that gave the hilt the 'basket' appellation.

Perhaps the 'spike' on these khanda is simply presumed a feature for second hand grip, but in actuality is a symbolic element representing a bud.

In "Arts of the Muslim Knight" (2008, p.102, #66) a khanda (basket hilt) is shown and the 'spike' described as "..a long and slightly tilted 'bud' arising from an inverted dome set into the pommel bowl".
None of the khandas with spike from pommel elsewhere have this or any other notation toward them in this reference, nor is any mention of the feature intended for use as a secondary hand grip.

Is it possible that this seemingly consistent feature on these 'basket hilt' khandas was a symbolic element representing a 'bud' perhaps lotus? as emanating from a cup in a floral type theme?
On the Dungarpuri type talwar hilt (Pant.op. cit. p.108) the smaller stem seems more like a bud.

Last edited by Jim McDougall : 26th May 2019 at 02:41 PM.
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Old 26th May 2019, 03:10 PM   #4
Jens Nordlunde
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The hilt attached, south India 17th century, only have a short spike.
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Old 26th May 2019, 05:43 PM   #5
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The 'Bud' on my khanda which has had it's 'basket' removed is much too small to aid in gripping with the off hand, which as noted would be better off holding on to the shield.
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Old 26th May 2019, 08:04 PM   #6
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This could be due to fashion, or due to evolution, as I have others with big almost straight spikes. It could also be a question from where the sword came, as in some places they might have prefered the short spikes, while in other places it could be different.
In this question, as in so many other questions, we know far too little.
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Old 26th May 2019, 08:09 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jens Nordlunde
The hilt attached, south India 17th century, only have a short spike.


This is a breathtaking example Jens! Thank you.
It seems amazing that the ribbed motif on the grip as well as the 'peaked' grip midriff seems to recall Rajasthan styled tulwars of later. There was one you have that you found the same motif on a huqqa/pitcher with similar band at the top.
Also the elongated leaf reminds me of design on some katars.
The whole spike/spine seems very botanical and overall seems to support the idea of this being a symbolic decoration rather than hand hold.

Your note on the differences in the 'stem/bud' size and length possibly reflecting regional and other distinctions is well placed, and surely may account for variations.

While the 'basket hilt' khanda seems to have evolved in Deccani regions from Orissa in the east to the Maratha regions west, it does seem to have become popularly known of course with Rajputs toward the northwest by early 17th c. (naturally my limited geographic distinctions are only suggestions).

Last edited by Jim McDougall : 26th May 2019 at 08:37 PM.
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Old 26th May 2019, 08:23 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
The 'Bud' on my khanda which has had it's 'basket' removed is much too small to aid in gripping with the off hand, which as noted would be better off holding on to the shield.


This is a really intriguing example Wayne! but I see it as a talwar (that is an Indo-Persian hilt) rather than a khanda. While I know 'khanda' is a dialectic term for sword, just as talwar, in our parlance they have become distinctive to familiar hilt forms.

This seems to have had the blade tip rebated to more squared end, and seems shortened. The blade also seems to have the 'Indian ricasso' at the edge near hilt. Those decorative circled dots are also fascinating as they are often seen on weapon motif in Afghan and Northwest Indian regions.
I think what was likely removed was the knuckleguard, which seems to have been a somewhat known remedy for the larger hands on many Afghans.
Here again, the stem or extension is very much like a 'bud' and of course not remotely associated with a second hand grip (as you well note should be busy holding a shield).
Also as mentioned earlier, this may well be the 'dungarpuri' style hilt associated with Rajasthan but of course was found throughout these areas into northwest.

It would seem that weapons of course were captured or lost and retrieved and became used by other tribesmen who would have had them altered to suit their own requirements.
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Old 26th May 2019, 10:00 PM   #9
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GREAT THREAD Jim... I thought the spike on the hilt was for a number of possibilities !!

1. Protecting the slice by an opponent to the sword hand wrist. In the Khanda with the right angle turn that could disarm the opponent>
2. Possibly used to finish an opponent by using a two handed grip using the spike in its straight form for the spare hand...
3. As a striking weapon to the opponents face neck or eyes again in the straight form.
4. As a counterweight to the blade simply adding weight at the pommel.

Wikepedia notes many Gods wielding Khanda and in Indian Martial Arts particularly the form called Gatka the Khanda is often seen.

HERE below is a goddess from the 7th C. using a Khanda form. By Pavan Srinath - http://waxingnonsensical.blogspot.com, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16635629

Such importance is given in the indian martial arts systems that I should mention Gatka, the Sikh Martial Art form Please see https://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Gatka

Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
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Old 27th May 2019, 04:27 AM   #10
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Thanks very much Ibrahiim!
There are truly a number of considerations for the purpose or meaning of the stem or spike extension on the khanda, but these are a convention which seems to have arisen with the 'Hindu basket hilt'. This was of course the evolution of the guard system of the traditional khanda sword dating into ancient India, and is generally thought to have occurred post European contact.

The traditional khanda did seem to have the cup like pommel, but I am not aware of the spike feature on the pre 17th c. swords without finger guard plate (joining guard plate and pommel).

While the spike, as we have discussed surely may have been used in the manner suggested if of sufficient length, there are many variations where these are inadequate for such functions. With this being the case, we cannot say the spike was never used as a hand hold, it might have been done incidentally.

It is really helpful to have this kind of input here to review examples and references which give us a greater overview on these swords.
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Old 30th May 2019, 07:12 PM   #11
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While having no knowledge whatever regarding these hilts, I'm struck by two thoughts on the subject.

First, the gorgeous examples above appear to be "parade" or "display" weapons. I can't imagine using them in battle. One might infer that the protrusions would therefore be more fanciful than utilitarian.

Second, many of these swords which I've seen depicted, of a far lower level of adornment, seem to have more nearly straight protrusions. Going on the basis of form following function, I see them as useful in striking against an attack from behind or below the sword-bearer. A backhand blow would be more quickly delivered than a 180 degree turn to bring a long blade into action. A descending blow from the hilt, assuming a mounted or more elevated position of the sword-bearer, would certainly crush a skull, for example. The mass of the sword would enhance the force of the stroke.
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Old 31st May 2019, 09:28 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob A
While having no knowledge whatever regarding these hilts, I'm struck by two thoughts on the subject.

First, the gorgeous examples above appear to be "parade" or "display" weapons. I can't imagine using them in battle. One might infer that the protrusions would therefore be more fanciful than utilitarian.

Second, many of these swords which I've seen depicted, of a far lower level of adornment, seem to have more nearly straight protrusions. Going on the basis of form following function, I see them as useful in striking against an attack from behind or below the sword-bearer. A backhand blow would be more quickly delivered than a 180 degree turn to bring a long blade into action. A descending blow from the hilt, assuming a mounted or more elevated position of the sword-bearer, would certainly crush a skull, for example. The mass of the sword would enhance the force of the stroke.



Thank you Bob for these very astute observations, much appreciated. I think your points are well made, and I remain convinced that these protrusions COULD be used to grasp in an incidental situation, they were not made with such intent. Regarding the parade or ceremonial aspect, it is noted in a number of references that the 'stem' served as a hand rest.

One thing I noticed in recent research, there are 'khanda' (Hindu basket ) type hilts on maces as well as axes with combo firearms, and some of these have the same extension/protrusion on them out of the pommel. Clearly these would not serve for a 'two hand' stroke as suggested with the swords...at least not in the same sense.
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