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Old 3rd February 2014, 10:19 PM   #1
Jim McDougall
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Default The Sinhalese Kastane: Its Development, Decoration and Symbolism

I have decided to open a thread specifically addressed to the Sinhalese kastane as described in the title, in hopes that we might have focused discussion on the many aspects and sometimes complex aspects of these fascinating Sri Lankan swords and their history .
There is of course a concurrently running thread titled 'Sinhala/Sri Lankan swords', however there has been considerable consternation on that thread becoming overburdened with the notable complexities of the kastane in particular.

Obviously the kastane is one of the most distinctly recognizable of Sri Lankan swords, however it would seem that it requires its own specifically titled thread to address its inherent complexities without disturbing a the other threads apparently broader scope.

Some of the aspects of the well known kastane which have been brought to discussion have been
1. Just how old is the zoomorphically featured hilt, and what creatures are represented on its basic forms. While most references typically list the pommel as having a lionhead , which seems to correspond to the name of the people on this island, as well as the island itself (sinha=lion), Sinhala and Sinhalese....there are apparently some variations of the hilt.

2. There are interesting details in the important example of the kastane which was brought to Japan from the historic Keicho mission sent by Date Masamune and returned in 1620. It would be good to examine objectively the resources and data addressing this sword specifically, as has been done in degree on the other thread noted, but hopefully may be continued here.

3. The kastane appears to have developed from earlier combat weapons into the more regalia oriented court sword form in high embellishment. Hoping to establish some type of chronological line of development.

4. Many kastane of the 18th century seem to be mounted with VOC (Dutch East India Company) blades. Were these mounted to supply Sinhalese warriors? or were these used by Dutch sailors using local hilts and the blades off issued hangers?
We know the British were there as well, but as far as I have known, no blades (except bayonets) were ever marked by the English EIC. What other trade or colonial blades have been found on kastane?

I very much look forward to discussion focused on the kastane here, and to add to the advancing knowledge and understanding we have gained on the forum within other threads and discussions.
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Old 5th February 2014, 04:18 AM   #2
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Default The Mudaliyars.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
I have decided to open a thread specifically addressed to the Sinhalese kastane as described in the title, in hopes that we might have focused discussion on the many aspects and sometimes complex aspects of these fascinating Sri Lankan swords and their history .
There is of course a concurrently running thread titled 'Sinhala/Sri Lankan swords', however there has been considerable consternation on that thread becoming overburdened with the notable complexities of the kastane in particular.

Obviously the kastane is one of the most distinctly recognizable of Sri Lankan swords, however it would seem that it requires its own specifically titled thread to address its inherent complexities without disturbing a the other threads apparently broader scope.

Some of the aspects of the well known kastane which have been brought to discussion have been
1. Just how old is the zoomorphically featured hilt, and what creatures are represented on its basic forms. While most references typically list the pommel as having a lionhead , which seems to correspond to the name of the people on this island, as well as the island itself (sinha=lion), Sinhala and Sinhalese....there are apparently some variations of the hilt.

2. There are interesting details in the important example of the kastane which was brought to Japan from the historic Keicho mission sent by Date Masamune and returned in 1620. It would be good to examine objectively the resources and data addressing this sword specifically, as has been done in degree on the other thread noted, but hopefully may be continued here.

3. The kastane appears to have developed from earlier combat weapons into the more regalia oriented court sword form in high embellishment. Hoping to establish some type of chronological line of development.

4. Many kastane of the 18th century seem to be mounted with VOC (Dutch East India Company) blades. Were these mounted to supply Sinhalese warriors? or were these used by Dutch sailors using local hilts and the blades off issued hangers?
We know the British were there as well, but as far as I have known, no blades (except bayonets) were ever marked by the English EIC. What other trade or colonial blades have been found on kastane?

I very much look forward to discussion focused on the kastane here, and to add to the advancing knowledge and understanding we have gained on the forum within other threads and discussions.



Salaams Jim ~ What a splendid idea to open this thread. You questions are very interesting and echo your final paragraph which I certainly endorse.

I wondered what the best way would be to enter this particular discussion and have decided that people may better get a grasp of the broad time-span by focusing on the three invading countries presence in reverse order i.e. The British, Dutch and Portuguese periods.

One aspect of all three periods is in fact The Kastane ...worn by one particular group of Sri Lankan dignitaries in what was practically a development of the landed gentry..an upper class Caste almost; The Mudalyars. I refer Forum to http://karava.org/other/mudaliyars for in depth detail on the subject and further reading;

Quote''Mudaliyars
Mudaliyar is a South Indian and Tamil name for ‘first’ and a person endowed with wealth. References to the traditional Mudalis of Sri Lanka are to be found in historical literature such as the Rajavaliya, Mukkara Hatana and also Portuguese and Dutch colonial records. In feudal Sri Lanka Mudali was a military title and as such was borne only by the Kshatriya warrior caste. They were royal military officials.

The 18th century Dutch rulers appointed a few migrant Tamil Vellalas as Mudaliyars . The British who succeeded the Dutch appointed large numbers of Mudaliyars from several castes and communities in the 19th century by enlisting natives who were most likely to serve the British masters with utmost loyalty. Most of them eventually formed a caste identity called Govigama and created an interlinked family network. They called themselves Hamus and their homes Walauvas.

This class resembled English country squires, complete with large land grants from the British, residences of unprecedented scale (Referred to by the Tamil word Walauu or Walvoo) and British granted native titles - which their descendants now use as surnames. They had a uniform consisting of a Somana cloth, a long coat with decorative buttons, a sash and a short ceremonial sword called Kasthana (a corruption of 'Katana' a type of Japanese sword blade)"Unquote.

(An interesting last comment but one which is generally not agreed with here.)
************************************************** ******

Here below is a Mudalyars Kastane and a series of men given the tittle..shown wearing the weapon.

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
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Old 5th February 2014, 07:17 AM   #3
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Salaams all Note to Library;

A vast amount exists pertinent to Royal Workshops at;

http://www.craftrevival.org/Extrali...PageCode=P00014

http://www.craftrevival.org/CraftAr...raftCode=003531


This description below from http://members.tripod.com/~images_of_ceylon/arms.html struck me as pertinent though there are many others and it is important to realize that dragon may mean Gargoyle, Lion, Deity or anything conjured up broadly related...

For another superb example of a described and illustrated blade please see http://www.caravanacollection.com/?...=kasthane-sword not shown here.

Kastana (or Kasthane) http://members.tripod.com/~images_of_ceylon/arms.html

Quote''The national sword of Ceylon. Typically a short curved single-edged watered blade, double-edged at the point. The hilt comprises a knuckle-guard and down-turned quillons, each terminating in a dragon's head with large in-set eyes. The dragon's head is usually decorated throughout with gold or silver panels and the pommel with tongue is formed from a piece of wood or red coral. The dragon's mane trails down the grip and is decorated with silver and gilt repousse floral designs. The entire hilt is often made of silver or gold and even inlaid with jewels. The blade close to the hilt is decorated with floral or thatched designs. The scabbard is made from wood and is covered with embossed and chased silver worked with flowers with leafy borders and richly ornamental.

The swords were intended to serve as badges of rank. Rev. James Cordiner in 1807 wrote that everyone in office wears a sword with a silver hilt and scabbard. These swords were made in the Royal workshops known as the "Rankadu Pattala" or "golden sword workshop" and the quality of the piece always depended on the rank of the wearer."Unquote.

Thus positive evidence supporting the theory about badge of rank status of this weapon coupled with the Mudaliyar detail in the previous post linking back through the 3 separate invading groups. It is however quite tantalizing that pre-Portuguese history continues to beckon since much of the detail in the Kastane is related to early religious design influence.

Was the Kastane a result of joint workshops design with the Portuguese or is it a purely Sri Lankan concept? Perhaps a map of the region showing the area of occupation over which Portugal held sway could form part of the clue.

See below the area controlled by Portugal; Would an invader nation be positioned to negotiate the design of such an iconic sword with only half the territory under its control...and a sword which ostensibly spread to other unconquered Kingdoms from this tenuous hold? Conversely did the design spring solely from Sri Lankan historical influence?

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
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Old 5th February 2014, 02:52 PM   #4
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I'm not seeing the word 'Dragon' anywhere in the description given:
http://www.caravanacollection.com/?...=kasthane-sword
This especially fine kasthane has a silver pommel chiseled as a typical simha (lion) head with a prominent crest made up of an entwined liya-pata motif covered in sheet gold. A narrow, pala-peti design is around the mouth and this too has been covered in sheet gold. The gaping mouth has an orange agate or carnelian tongue that projects right out of the mouth and rows of especially sharp and naturalistically-rendered teeth. The snout on each side has a characteristic 'S' scroll. The eyes are large and distinct and comprise pink sapphires in gold mounts and with magnificently scrolled eyebrows. The ears are prominent and in leaf form.
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Old 5th February 2014, 03:11 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick
I'm not seeing the word 'Dragon' anywhere in the description given:
http://www.caravanacollection.com/?...=kasthane-sword
This especially fine kasthane has a silver pommel chiseled as a typical simha (lion) head with a prominent crest made up of an entwined liya-pata motif covered in sheet gold. A narrow, pala-peti design is around the mouth and this too has been covered in sheet gold. The gaping mouth has an orange agate or carnelian tongue that projects right out of the mouth and rows of especially sharp and naturalistically-rendered teeth. The snout on each side has a characteristic 'S' scroll. The eyes are large and distinct and comprise pink sapphires in gold mounts and with magnificently scrolled eyebrows. The ears are prominent and in leaf form.



Salaams Rick No I didn't say that though the wording in my badly constructed sentence could be misleading and I have corrected the mistake thank you..I have placed the web coordinates for the Caravana item as you have written but the one I write at length about is a different quote of which there are lots...for example and by typing into web search Kastane Dragon masses of similar detail is supplied....such as:

From The Victoria and Albert Museum see http://www.vam.ac.uk/users/node/17494

Quote"Sword and sheath (kastane) with a dragon-headed pommel

Steel, chased and embossed gold sheath
Travancore, Kerala, India
19th century
Museum nos. 2573:1,2(IS)

The kastane is the national sword of Sri Lanka. It typically has a short curved single-edged blade, double-edged at the point. The hilt comprises a knuckle-guard and down-turned quillons, each terminating in a dragon's head. The swords were intended to serve as badges of rank; the quality of ornamentation depending on the status of the wearer.

The establishment of European trading contacts with South Asia by the late 16th and early 17th century led to these swords becoming fashionable dress accessories among European gentlemen. A kastane can be seen in an equestrian portrait of Colonel Alexander Popham at Littlecote House in the care of the Royal Armouries Collection.''Unquote

I'm not in the business of issuing edicts on whether this was a cat or a lizard, a lion or a Makara since it could well be down to artistic licence and as you may know some deities morphed through several phases; The Lion even taking on Elephant form and the Makara or other deities vaulting from one design shape or imagined mythical style to another and at best very easily confused with each other. I leave that with the experts!

One part of the design I did like was the humano/crocodile face on the handguard...most peculiar! Perhaps we can address design features as we progress..and many thanks for the question about the dragon.

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.

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Old 5th February 2014, 07:24 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ibrahiim al Balooshi
This description struck me as pertinent though there are many others and it is important to realize that dragon may mean Gargoyle, Lion, Deity or anything conjured up broadly related…for another superb example of a described and illustrated blade please see http://www.caravanacollection.com/?...=kasthane-sword

Kastana (or Kasthane)

The national sword of Ceylon. Typically a short curved single-edged watered blade, double-edged at the point. The hilt comprises a knuckle-guard and down-turned quillons, each terminating in a dragon's head with large in-set eyes. The dragon's head is usually decorated throughout with gold or silver panels and the pommel with tongue is formed from a piece of wood or red coral. The dragon's mane trails down the grip and is decorated with silver and gilt repousse floral designs. The entire hilt is often made of silver or gold and even inlaid with jewels. The blade close to the hilt is decorated with floral or thatched designs. The scabbard is made from wood and is covered with embossed and chased silver worked with flowers with leafy borders and richly ornamental.

The swords were intended to serve as badges of rank. Rev. James Cordiner in 1807 wrote that everyone in office wears a sword with a silver hilt and scabbard. These swords were made in the Royal workshops known as the "Rankadu Pattala" or "golden sword workshop" and the quality of the piece always depended on the rank of the wearer.

Well, i can see why Rick might have been confused by your post Ibrahiim. You write "This description struck me as pertinent…." and then end that sentence with a link before quoting from a completely different source which you do not credit. While i do not wish to imply that you were being purposefully deceptive here i do hope you can see how this might seem misleading to some.
It should also seem obvious that simply because one can find numerous references to the kastane hilt as a "dragon" does not in anyway prove that ANY of these hilts were ever intended to be dragons or anything other than a lion. How many times misinformation is repeated on the internet does not in turn make these misinterpreted statements "facts" and they cannot really be used to support any theory that the pommels of kastanes are meant to represent anything other than a lion. Even one of your "dragon" descriptions goes into detail about the mane of the "dragon", not a detail usually ascribed to dragons throughout various cultures. The stylized manes on these creatures should be a clue that these are indeed lions being depicted on these pommels. Certainly there is some "artist license" involved in the depiction of the lion which is proofed out by the variants that we find in existence, but i seriously doubt that court artists would be permitted to change the actual symbolism of the hilt by depicting some completely different creature than what is traditionally designated for the form. I have yet to see a true kastane pommel that cannot clearly be seen to be meant as a stylized lion head.
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Old 5th February 2014, 07:50 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David
Well, i can see why Rick might have been confused by your post Ibrahiim. You write "This description struck me as pertinent…." and then end that sentence with a link before quoting from a completely different source which you do not credit. While i do not wish to imply that you were being purposefully deceptive here i do hope you can see how this might seem misleading to some.
It should also seem obvious that simply because one can find numerous references to the kastane hilt as a "dragon" does not in anyway prove that ANY of these hilts were ever intended to be dragons or anything other than a lion. How many times misinformation is repeated on the internet does not in turn make these misinterpreted statements "facts" and they cannot really be used to support any theory that the pommels of kastanes are meant to represent anything other than a lion. Even one of your "dragon" descriptions goes into detail about the mane of the "dragon", not a detail usually ascribed to dragons throughout various cultures. The stylized manes on these creatures should be a clue that these are indeed lions being depicted on these pommels. Certainly there is some "artist license" involved in the depiction of the lion which is proofed out by the variants that we find in existence, but i seriously doubt that court artists would be permitted to change the actual symbolism of the hilt by depicting some completely different creature than what is traditionally designated for the form. I have yet to see a true kastane pommel that cannot clearly be seen to be meant as a stylized lion head.


Salaams David, Certainly no deception on my behalf. I simply illustrate that learned bodies such as The Victoria and Albert describe the hilt in different ways and it is not my intention to go into why they think a dragon has a mane.. After all you may view the hilt as a lion like shape but many other specialists use a different explanation including prestigious museums etc.

As I also point out I prefer to leave the discussion about Lion or whatever else it may be to the experts unless you know for certain that it is created from a Lion..and when such an interesting side topic exists as yet to be unfurled as we analyse the pre Portuguese period and look into the swords historical and religious influences.

What is also interesting about Ricks quote from Caravana is the part that is missing .. The Bibliography... which mentions a certain king whose Kastane is now in museum in Sri Lanka but which is unclear as to which king?... and that turns out to be the 7th in succession in power; at the same time as the Portuguese early period. http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~lkawgw/gen3000.html King Bhuvanaikabahu the 7th.

I do, however, agree that my sentence structure was open to misinterpretation and I have corrected that mistake and though I had lost the reference I have now checked my notes, discovered the reference and placed the quote correctly using as close a professional structure as I can; I think near enough to the Harvard Referencing system as we need apply.

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.

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Old 5th February 2014, 08:23 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ibrahiim al Balooshi
Salaams David, Certainly no deception on my behalf. I simply illustrate that learned bodies such as The Victoria and Albert describe the hilt in different ways and it is not my intention to go into why they think a dragon has a mane.. After all you may view the hilt as a lion like shape but many other specialists use a different explanation including prestigious museums etc.

Perhaps you have missed my point Ibrahiim, which was more about the WAY you presented the information than the information itself.
I would be more inclined to view prestigious museums such as the Victoria and Albert as "generalists" rather than "specialists". They are a museum of art and design that houses almost 5 million objects ranging from fashion and David Bowie to gothic art and photojournalism. I don't think that it would be fair to say that they are "specialists" on the kastane simply because they are a well established museum.
I am not sure what "experts" you are referring to that you would rather leave this discussion to, however i would like to point out that the zoomorphic symbolism of the pommel is the very first discussion point Jim brings up in his recap on the past discussions and i have only posted here because YOU yourself have brought the subject up yet again.
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Old 6th February 2014, 04:23 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David
Perhaps you have missed my point Ibrahiim, which was more about the WAY you presented the information than the information itself.
I would be more inclined to view prestigious museums such as the Victoria and Albert as "generalists" rather than "specialists". They are a museum of art and design that houses almost 5 million objects ranging from fashion and David Bowie to gothic art and photojournalism. I don't think that it would be fair to say that they are "specialists" on the kastane simply because they are a well established museum.
I am not sure what "experts" you are referring to that you would rather leave this discussion to, however i would like to point out that the zoomorphic symbolism of the pommel is the very first discussion point Jim brings up in his recap on the past discussions and i have only posted here because YOU yourself have brought the subject up yet again.



Salaams David, The specific parameters of this thread are indeed outlined at #1 and in each of the three categories of recommended study,(Its Development, Decoration and Symbolism) the design features are dominant.

Naturally when viewing the key area of early European involvement it is important to realise that there are three prisms to look through ... one for each invading nation. Getting beyond the 16th C is in itself wrought with inconsistency not least because of the socio-political nature of the beast.(excuse pun)

The Lion Makara debate has been modified; replaced by a more carefully considered, balanced overview and in sympathy with the religious and cultural traditions of Sri Lanka. The fact is we don't know what form the artists were considering at the time nor whether the artists were working alone or with Portuguese artisans on these Kastane. Can you say that it is a Lion? Can you say you are sure what the artisans were doing in the Kotte Royal Workshops 500 years ago? If so, please do prove it.

It may be noted that simply viewing the hilt from the western ideal of Zoomorphic fails to address the full story since some of the Deities are half humanoid; take for example the little face on the hand guard (half human half crocodile at #2 above) thus they take the form more of the demi-god..though that is also a generalization and since many of the deities transform, change and re enter the equation as a completely different monster type... depending upon what phase they are depicting.

Another half humanoid monster "Kirtimukha" sometimes decorates the Kastane Rainguard see http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...t=indian+armour at #56.

Nevertheless the in-depth study of pre 1505 AD Portuguese involvement has yet to be administered on this thread but research and notes are well in hand. What form the hilt actually is may be impossible to absolutely determine but eventually this may be part of the intrigue and only really possible with the insight of some Guru and historical master specializing in Buddhist/ Hindu religious expression.

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.

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Old 6th February 2014, 05:15 PM   #10
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Beautifully added material Ibrahiim, and I do appreciate you following the course of questions I hoped to address here.
No worries on the relatively inconsequential slip in wording as the corpus of material you are searching is of considerable volume and trying to present that much data can be daunting . I commend your courtesy in responding to comments pointing out any errors, and it is always comforting to know that these are being carefully observed to avoid any misperceptions in the data being presented.

I very much agree that it is profoundly difficult to consider what might be in the minds of artists and artisans or long ago, and all we can do is try to consider contextual material and speculate on plausible possibilities.
The concept of therionthropic human/animal beings extends far into prehistory, case in point the 'sorcerer of Les Trois Freres in the cave in France of some 30,000 years ago (attached). We cannot know the exact meaning or metaphoric concept of what this painting meant, but we believe he was a shamanic figure and with totemic value in his characterization.
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Old 6th February 2014, 05:54 PM   #11
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Just an interesting aside Jim, we may need to wonder what was in the mind of Henri Breuil when he made that sketch of the "Sorcerer" back in the 1920s when we look at an actual photograph of the cave drawing made years later.
http://www.strangehistory.net/2011/...e-art-cobblers/
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Old 6th February 2014, 08:42 PM   #12
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To continue my earlier post from an outside interruption, the point I was alluding to with the mysterious therionthrope in Trois Freres was of course that these curious figures, just as in considerable ethnographic iconography or for that matter even medieval heraldry etc it is often hard to determine what is actually represented . We can of course speculate using known contexts associated with the example being considered, but these things can seldom be proven with any large degree of certainty.

It seems well substantiated that the ancient mythology of Sinhala has considerable focus on the lion, therefore seemed well in place by the time of trade contacts and later colonial incursions. With this it seems quite reasonable to assume that the sinha (lion) would be represented on the pommel of these hilts . As with many forms of Asian iconography, the embellishment and flourishes extend far beyond what western interpretations of various creatures might expect.

Since there seem to be variations on the appearance of the creatures featured on the pommel of different examples of the kastane, we have clearly instances of artistic license possible, as well as potentially other influences affecting the portrayal of the figures on the hilts.

I believe the analysis of these varying forms are more to the artistic aspects iconographically and individual examples should of course be attended to on their own merits and unique features.

Returning to the larger scope of our discussion, what we are trying to determine is just how long ago the use of figured iconography began its use on Sinhalese swords, specifically the kastane. Just how far back does the kastane hilt as familiar today go back in Sinhalese history?

Until the discussions on the previous thread ('Sinhalese/Sri Lankan Swords) I had assumed the Sendai Museum sword to be one of the earliest examples of the hilt (c.1600-20) but interesting instances farther back were presented by Prasanna. Hopefully we can gain more data and perhaps images of those.

The Sendai (Hasekura) example (Keicho Mission) for Date Masamune of Japan has proven most interesting with the question of exactly where it was obtained by Hasekura. While it was speculated that this sword was acquired from Philip III of Spain while the mission was in Madrid, it is now my understanding that this was probably acquired in the Philippines in the two years Hasekura was there. Rather than being a 'presented' item, this seems to have been more an acquired item along with the kris with it. This seems more in line with the lack of documented narrative concerning these items.

The questions which intrigue me on this particular kastane are more toward the interesting blade, of somewhat falchion form and with the 'monster' head at the blade peak which indeed does correspond to similar creature detail on a glaive type Chinese blade posted by Vandoo. We know of course that the Philippines as a trade entrepot had presence from Sri Lanka, China, Indonesia and of course the major powers .
Could this kastane have been mounted with this blade in the Philippines and been acquired by Hasekura as an interesting novelty to present to the Date?

These are the questions I hope to follow here. The dialogue on the artistic representation on kastane hilts is always interesting, but I think that its subjective nature often creates a certain volatility. Just the same, these figures are of course an integral part of the history of this weapon, and should be approached with a great deal of patience as differing views are examined.
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Old 7th February 2014, 04:19 AM   #13
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Salaams Jim,

Thank you for bringing the thread back to track. Your suggestion of the two weapons being procured not presented is well placed as no proof appears in the meetings of Hasekura on his travels having been presented with these items moreover there are several details indicative of the purchase or acquired nature of these weapons viz;

Japan in Philippine history
By Ambeth R. Ocampo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
10:42 pm | Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Quote"Hasekura Tsunenaga was a Japanese samurai who was received in Mexico, Spain, the Vatican, and the Philippines as a Spanish ambassador in a romantic seven-year journey. He was given an audience by King Philip III in Madrid, was baptized at the Real Monasterio de Descalzas Reales where the Duke Lerma stood as ninong, then was received by Pope Paul V and granted honorary citizenship by the City of Rome.

Hasekura’s last stop was Manila, where he wrote a cheerful letter to his son in 1619 saying he was shopping and preparing to sail home. The original letter is displayed in the Sendai City Museum together with an Indonesian kris and a dagger from Sri Lanka that Hasekura acquired in the Philippines. I was disappointed that no Philippine artifacts were extant. Not in the exhibition are archival documents on the Hasekura mission from the Archivo General de Indias in Sevilla written during Hasekura’s stay in Manila: an inventory of presents sent to the Shogun by the Governor-General of the Philippines, reports from the Bishop of Cebu and the Archbishop of Manila regarding the rivalry between the Jesuits and the other religious orders doing missionary work in Japan, and reports on the continued persecution of Christians in Japan".Unquote

There is an interesting background description to the Kris at forum on http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...ht=kris+kastane by A.G. MAISEY that is essential background reading and from which I have recovered the picture below.

Wikepedia carries the same artwork and under it states that they were "acquired" from The Philippines. Please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hasekura_Tsunenaga

See also http://www.japanartsandcrafts.com/8212.html Indonesian kris and Ceylonese dagger (acquired in the Philippines), presented by Hasekura to Date Masamune upon his return;

Quote"Sendai City Museum Hasekura reported his travels to Date Masamune upon his arrival in Sendai. It is recorded that he remitted a portrait of Pope Paul V, a portrait of himself in prayer (see website), and a set of Ceylonese and Indonesian daggers acquired in the Philippines, all preserved today in the Sendai City Museum."Unquote

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Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
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Old 7th February 2014, 09:30 AM   #14
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Default Hasekura items at Sendai Museum.

Readers may wish to update on the epic voyage of Hasekura Tsunenaga at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hasekura_Tsunenaga with particular reference to weapons (see my previous post) he presented to Date Masamune, the Daimyo of Sendai on his return to Japan one of which forms one of the earliest Kastane preserved today...in the Sendai Museum in Japan.

Using the finest library on Ethnographic weapons, (our own) and web searches; No proof seems to exist that these two weapons were either obtained together or that they were presented, however, some persuasive detail exists already detailed at my previous post that they may have been procured in the Philipinnes. In addition, logically, had they been presented by King Philip III would there not have been more exacting supporting evidence?

The blade appears similar to a Storta and naturally therefor similar to the Falschion yet also rather similar to the Chinese form...and what is more ...the fullers are remarkably like Chinese style as shown in the spear head and fullers below .The monster at the blade tip is very much in the style Makara as shown in the attending Makara detail..for comparison.

* What blade style is this and how did it arrive in the Philippines??

* Is this a Kastane hilt form following in the imaginative mythical and stylistic Lion design with accompanying Deities over a typical Kastane hilt formed around a hand and cross guard with "apparent" quillons in the Vajra style and the remains of a Vee shaped rainguard?

* Why is it that no scabbard seems to exist?

* Could Hasekura Tsunenaga have modified his coat of arms to include a cross and have had that stamped on the Kastane (hybrid) blade? (He was, after all, converted to Christianity, baptised in Spain and had a European name; "Francisco Felipe Faxicura.")

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Old 7th February 2014, 05:42 PM   #15
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Excellent Ibrahiim!!! I had overlooked that letter of 1619 and its content, which of course mentions Hasekura 'shopping' (the letter now in Sendai Museum) and is on display with the kris and Ceylonese 'dagger' (actually a kastane). While we assume these were acquired in the Philippines, there is as yet no supporting narrative to accurately provide that provenance.

We note the curious blade of the kastane and the mythical beast feature and its remarkable similarity to Chinese weapons and such features. While we remain compelled to consider the acquisition point of this kastane to be the Philippines, that would seem to favor those regions with the strong trade presence of China there. Naturally many other regions are represented there as well.

The hilt style does seem to correspond to those of the kastane of course, but the blade is remarkably atypical. The scabbards on many forms of edged weapons in these regions seem less than durable in most cases, and these arms are often refurbished with new scabbards many times in their working lives. The fact that this one does not come with a scabbard en suite would suggest to me that it is less than a 'presentation' weapon, and far more likely to have been 'acquired'.
If the kastane and the kris were sent back to Japan prior to Hasekura's return and with a letter to his son, perhaps these items were at that point simply novelties meant for his son or his own keeping. The portrait of the Pope does not seem included in that transport back to Japan precluding his return, so it would seem that was specifically intended for Date Masemune
These edged weapons on the other hand, acquisitions seemingly less than presentation grade, were perhaps included as second thought to Date along with the portrait.

These circumstances might better facilitate the idea that perhaps Hasekura might indeed have adopted a heraldic arms in European style to reflect his status as a baptized Christian, which was of course powerfully important to him . It remains unclear whether these stamped devices on the blade may have been applied in this regard, but the possibility is interesting .

Returning to the broader scope of our discussion, one of the reasons for such interest in the 'Hasekura' kastane is to establish a provenance example of the kastane form hilt has been to establish a time frame for the development of the hilt style.

While there has been considerable discussion on what zoomorphic creatures are depicted in the decorative motif on these hilts, the very nature of these depictions remain quite subjective and notably debated . Naturally since the artistic license inherent in depictions of mythical creatures as well as stylistic renderings of actual ones is often profound, it is difficult to accurately analyze these figures . It does have certain importance in the possible reasons for variation or exactly what creature is represented however.

For example, and treading carefully into sensitive matters, is it possible that the lionhead (Sinha) is indeed represented on all distinctly Sinhalese examples of the kastane, and that the variants might be provenanced from other ethnic origins? Naturally I implore complete objectivity here, and offer the suggestion only as a possible accounting for the variations in style.

I do not believe that the styling of these zoomorphic hilts was directly resultant from European collaboration, however it is known that beautifully carved ivory hits were produced in Ceylon for European markets as early as 16th century. The work of these artisans certainly had considerable bearing on Europeans fascinated with the exotica of these faraway places, and I believe there was likely considerable cross diffusion in place through the colonial periods.

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Old 8th February 2014, 05:17 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Excellent Ibrahiim!!! I had overlooked that letter of 1619 and its content, which of course mentions Hasekura 'shopping' (the letter now in Sendai Museum) and is on display with the kris and Ceylonese 'dagger' (actually a kastane). While we assume these were acquired in the Philippines, there is as yet no supporting narrative to accurately provide that provenance.

We note the curious blade of the kastane and the mythical beast feature and its remarkable similarity to Chinese weapons and such features. While we remain compelled to consider the acquisition point of this kastane to be the Philippines, that would seem to favor those regions with the strong trade presence of China there. Naturally many other regions are represented there as well.

The hilt style does seem to correspond to those of the kastane of course, but the blade is remarkably atypical. The scabbards on many forms of edged weapons in these regions seem less than durable in most cases, and these arms are often refurbished with new scabbards many times in their working lives. The fact that this one does not come with a scabbard en suite would suggest to me that it is less than a 'presentation' weapon, and far more likely to have been 'acquired'.
If the kastane and the kris were sent back to Japan prior to Hasekura's return and with a letter to his son, perhaps these items were at that point simply novelties meant for his son or his own keeping. The portrait of the Pope does not seem included in that transport back to Japan precluding his return, so it would seem that was specifically intended for Date Masemune
These edged weapons on the other hand, acquisitions seemingly less than presentation grade, were perhaps included as second thought to Date along with the portrait.

These circumstances might better facilitate the idea that perhaps Hasekura might indeed have adopted a heraldic arms in European style to reflect his status as a baptized Christian, which was of course powerfully important to him . It remains unclear whether these stamped devices on the blade may have been applied in this regard, but the possibility is interesting .

Returning to the broader scope of our discussion, one of the reasons for such interest in the 'Hasekura' kastane is to establish a provenance example of the kastane form hilt has been to establish a time frame for the development of the hilt style.

While there has been considerable discussion on what zoomorphic creatures are depicted in the decorative motif on these hilts, the very nature of these depictions remain quite subjective and notably debated . Naturally since the artistic license inherent in depictions of mythical creatures as well as stylistic renderings of actual ones is often profound, it is difficult to accurately analyze these figures . It does have certain importance in the possible reasons for variation or exactly what creature is represented however.

For example, and treading carefully into sensitive matters, is it possible that the lionhead (Sinha) is indeed represented on all distinctly Sinhalese examples of the kastane, and that the variants might be provenanced from other ethnic origins? Naturally I implore complete objectivity here, and offer the suggestion only as a possible accounting for the variations in style.

I do not believe that the styling of these zoomorphic hilts was directly resultant from European collaboration, however it is known that beautifully carved ivory hits were produced in Ceylon for European markets as early as 16th century. The work of these artisans certainly had considerable bearing on Europeans fascinated with the exotica of these faraway places, and I believe there was likely considerable cross diffusion in place through the colonial periods.



Salaams Jim ~ I agree and perhaps we may examine your last point on styling though I cannot rule out diffusion / influence from a variety of European styles and since Sri Lanka had a healthy network of maritime links through the Moors of Sri Lanka their highly skilled seagoing experts and merchants, thus, goods as you note such as elaborately carved hilts whilst flowing out, could well have been balanced by sword forms flowing in...at least from the influence viewpoint. We may perhaps assume that Mediterranean swords including Jinetta and Nimcha variants could have been imported well before Portuguese intervention in 1505.

It is, however, worth viewing what parts of the Kastane are home grown and what parts are not...and having done that to see by stripping away the home grown structures what is left?


The hilt or handle is obviously Sri Lankan and taken from their rich Buddhist and Hindu traditions. Regarding gold, silver, blade making, ivory and gems~ evidence to show ivory carving specialists stretches back into their history. See The caste system incorporates the full range of specialists to take on the very elaborate work required and Royal Workshops were highly tuned to these methods. The abundance of religious deities spilling down the handguard, and finials on crossguard and rainguard is evidence of the very powerful influence from mythology and spiritual belief..In particular the so called Quillons form a reminder of ancient religious design clearly reflected from Vajra structures from ancient Buddhism. It could be argued that the quillons are purely artistic since they are neither there to trap an opponents sword nor can a finger be placed to give added pressure or power to a strike. The rainguard though practical in securing the weapon in the scabbard is elaborately decorated in scrolls or in the peacock style in line with Deity artform..

The blade is occasionally straight either straight or curved and can be elaborately worked in a way that reflects blade decoration also employed in Pihae Kheata knives.

What then having stripped away these local concepts and designs is left so that we may be able to indicate possible links to European, Indian or other weapons?


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Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
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Old 8th February 2014, 06:38 PM   #17
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THE KRIS PICTURED WITH THE KASTANE MAY BE CLOSER TO THE EARLY PHILIPPINE KRIS OR MALAY KRIS. IT WOULD BE INTERESTING TO KNOW THE MEASUREMENTS ON THE TWO ITEMS TO HELP DETERMINE IF THIS IS A KERIS OR A KRIS. THE TWO COUNTRYS WHERE THE KERIS BECAME LARGER AND CHANGED TO WHAT WE NOW CALL THE KRIS WE BELIEVE WERE MALAYSIA AND THE PHILIPPINES. LIKE THE KASTANE THE HISTORY OF THE KERIS IS UNSURE WITH MANY QUESTIONS UNANSWERED. I HAVE A VERY OLD KRIS SIMULAR TO THE ONE SHOWN THAT HAS BEEN DISCUSSED ON THE FORUM BUT MORE QUESTIONS CAME UP THAN WERE ANSWERED.
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Old 8th February 2014, 10:21 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VANDOO
THE KRIS PICTURED WITH THE KASTANE MAY BE CLOSER TO THE EARLY PHILIPPINE KRIS OR MALAY KRIS. IT WOULD BE INTERESTING TO KNOW THE MEASUREMENTS ON THE TWO ITEMS TO HELP DETERMINE IF THIS IS A KERIS OR A KRIS. THE TWO COUNTRYS WHERE THE KERIS BECAME LARGER AND CHANGED TO WHAT WE NOW CALL THE KRIS WE BELIEVE WERE MALAYSIA AND THE PHILIPPINES. LIKE THE KASTANE THE HISTORY OF THE KERIS IS UNSURE WITH MANY QUESTIONS UNANSWERED. I HAVE A VERY OLD KRIS SIMULAR TO THE ONE SHOWN THAT HAS BEEN DISCUSSED ON THE FORUM BUT MORE QUESTIONS CAME UP THAN WERE ANSWERED.

Barry, i wouldn't want to derail this thread that is specific to the kastane with a discussion on keris, but i don't think there is much doubt that the keris in the Sendai museum is indeed an Indonesian one. There may be some room for debate about it's exact origin (Bali, Jawa???), but it has too many tell-tale features (including kinatah which i have never seen on a Moro kris) of Malay work. I has been described as being 511mm in length, which i believe includes the hilt. A very detailed description of it can be found on this thread (post #40) link below, which i believe Ibrahiim has previously provided a link to and i would suggest that you revive that thread if you would like to discuss the keris so this thread can continue with it's specific investigation into the kastane. http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...ht=sendai+keris
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Old 8th February 2014, 11:37 PM   #19
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I AGREE DAVID PERHAPS IT WOULD BE BEST TO REMOVE THE POSTS THAT MAY DERAIL THIS DISCUSSION INCLUDING THIS ONE. NOW I HAVE THE MEASUREMENTS AND IT IS FAIRLY LONG AS THESE KERIS GO BUT IT IS NOT COMPLETELY OUT OF THE KERIS SIZE RANGE. I WOULD APPRECIATE THE REMOVAL OF THE POSTS THANKS BARRY
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Old 9th February 2014, 08:04 AM   #20
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Salaams all ~ Note for comparison. There are several sword groups that may have influenced the Kastane design and viable evidence suggests who may have delivered similar sword forms throughout the early years and encompassing(and bracketing) the first Portuguese arrival in 1505. I turn to "Islamic Arms" by the late Anthony North for two such swords for comparisons. The vehicle for such cross pollination in styles are possibly the famous sea traders of Sri Lanka; The Moors. (see note below*)

The weapon displaying quillons with remarkably similar dragon style finials from the above "Islamic Arms" is Quote"The hilt of carved jade mounted in gold, the blade of watered steel Persian, late 15th century Topkapi Palace, Istanbul".Unquote.

The weapons known as Nimcha are equally intriguing as to potential design influence where Moroccan style may have been transmitted.

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.

Note.*See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sri_Lankan_Moors for a more detailed rendition of the Sri Lankan Moors..
Quote"Sri Lankan Moors (commonly referred to as Muslims) are the third largest ethnic group in Sri Lanka comprising 9.23% of the country's total population. They are predominantly followers of Islam. The Moors trace their ancestry to Arab traders (Moors) who settled in Sri Lanka some time between the 8th and 15th centuries."Unquote.
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Old 10th February 2014, 06:08 PM   #21
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These are outstanding references Ibrahiim, and thank you for the interesting link to the online reference on the Sri Lankan Moors, which indeed adds some important perspective to understanding some of the ethnic and colonial complexity of Sri Lanka.

As you have well noted, Anthony North does address the potential influences of Venice and Northern Italy on these swords, and specifically cites the distinguished French arms historian Charles Buttin:
"...Charles Buttin, who had a considerable number of Moroccan swords in his own collection, and published a paper on them, detected a number of influences in their very individual hilts. He pointed out their similarity to the indigenous sword of Ceylon, the kastane, and discussed their relationship with European swords".
(from "Les Poignards et Les Sabres Marocains', C.Buttin, Hesperis, TomeXXVI, 1939, p.1)

In this the distinct similarities in the guard systems of the hilt are noted, and in his closing comments, North states, referring to the North African hilts, that "...at least one of the influences of these hilts-and perhaps the strongest-came from North Italy-possibly as early as the 15th century".

from "A Late 15th Century Italian Sword" , A.R.E.North, 'The Connoisseur, December , 1975, pp.238-241)

It would seem clear that the influences of Venice in their powerful trade networks almost certainly introduced their weapon forms and styling into many cultural spheres . In this case it would seem that this style hilt configuration quite likely was filtered into Sri Lanka through the Arab traders who populated the Sinhalese littoral in their ports.

The guard and quillon configuration was specifically placed on the original Italian swords to correspond to their unique style in fencing techniques and as part of the developing hand guard systems of these swords. It would seem that this quillon arrangement was adopted by Arabian and of course the North African regions noted in more of a stylistic sense.

In the case of the kastane, while the hilt form is of course stylistically similar, it has become even more vestigial in the downward quillons next to the blade, and the terminals of the guard and quillon are vehicles for the subordinate beast heads.

The identification of the key figure on the hilt, the zoomorphic on the pommel, of course remains a quandary, and it seems in most cases must be considered specifically with each example as there appear to be numerous variations. Naturally in the scope of journalistic references the pommel beast is described by authors in much variation, which seem to reflect whatever sources they may have used in their research.
In one article for example, a kastane in a news item from 2008 is described as "..an ornamental sword that was the symbol of office of the Kandyan Lords, Kings, Adigars and the Dissawas" . The head on the pommel is described as a makara, and in the photo, I must note that the creature does appear to have a snoutlike feature, very much like the architectural makara figures I have seen.
This particular article was written for the Sri Lanka Express by Emmanuel Silva (April 5, 2008) and expressed great concern for these valuable antiquities being dispersed in auctions, flea markets etc.

Naturally, this material is included here in the discussion impartially, for consideration in the examination of data and detail as we work toward learning more on the kastane.
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Old 11th February 2014, 09:10 AM   #22
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Salaams Jim,
Thank you for your post and superb references putting some considerable meat on the bones of my previous notes. I delight in seeing your last paragraph noting the stylistic nature of the pommel in certain cases and underlining the great reverance applied to such iconic features whether Lion or Makara. Were the key concepts simply artistic impression and customer requirements? The Kandyan Kingdom, of course, never succumbed to Portuguese agression so it is difficult to imagine how they could have been involved in its design. One viable situation could be that the Moors having fetched various swords into the country and transmited the essentials of design to the Royal Workshops prior to the Portuguese influx; In that way it seems plausible that a Royal or VIP dagger sword could have found universal Sri Lankan favour..It seems that an essential European sword framework to which great embelishment was then added could carry the formula? A Sri Lankan Kastane (Kasthane) resplendent with embelishment and religious symbolism...perhaps built around a European basic form.

For interest below ~ Portrait of King Rajasingha II of Kandy (1608-1687) (Reign 1635 – 6 December 1687)
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Old 11th February 2014, 07:39 PM   #23
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In more efforts to revisit articles and notes as well as reviewing the discussion, it seems that the complexities and conundrums of the mysterious kastane remain as elusive as ever. In continuing to examine the nature of the creatures imaged on the hilts of these swords, it seems that consideration of Sinhalese art as a whole may reveal some perspectives .

In "Medieval Sinhalese Art", (A.K. Coomaraswany, 1956) it is noted that "...medieval and modern Sinhalese art is essentially Indian art, but it is not modern Hindu, rather it is such an art as might have survived in some yet Buddhist part of the mainland, if Buddhism had not there been entirely merged in Hinduism"

In "A Royal Dagger of Ceylon" (J.F. Pieris, The Connoisseur, Jan-Jun 1938, Vol, CI) , it is stated that "...much ingenuity and art have been lavished by the Sinhalese craftsmen in adornment of his daggers". While clearly this article is toward the piha kaetta it is important to consider the notes toward this adornment, much of which concerns botanicals, but the use of the serapendiya is mentioned as "...a mythical creature whose decorative possibilities have been freely exploited by craftsmen".
Deraniyagala (1942, p.110) discusses the piha kaetta stating that early examples are unadorned but later featured the lions head, and in final form a floral scroll issued from the lions mouth

While these descriptions are toward the piha kaetta dagger, what is key are the references to the kind of decorative motif and artistic influences in place in Ceylon as the kastane developed . While it does seem that later some degree of influence may have been imported through European presence, I would consider that more nuanced than notable. Naturally I am referring to the decorative features of these swords, as my earlier comments on the guard structure of the hilts probably Italian filtered through Arab traders remain my opinion as stated.

To me it is extremely doubtful that the Sinhalese were in any way in league with the Portuguese in the evolution of the lionhead kastane hilt. The Kandyan kingdom and the Royal Workshops, which remained autonomous through and far beyond those times seem of course where this evolution probably occurred . It seems that artisans and craftsmen in these workshops, like other Sri Lankan artists, were taught to have a degree of latitude in their creativity. However they were also required to learn from early treatises such as the Vaijayanta, and the Rupavaliya how to draw gods and mythical animals.
Deraniyagala (p.101) notes this interesting description of the Royal Sword apparently from the Vaijayanta, "...the hilt of the sword should have a pommel of lotus petals; the middle part should be decorated and possess auspicious figures of lions etc."

What seems interesting here is that this obviously quite early reference notes the pommel with lotus petals, while the lion although auspicious, is curiously in a relatively subordinate position on the hilt. I am not familiar with this treatise nor its period, but it seems to note at least the use of some zoomorphic and botanical embellishment on Royal swords.

The extreme organization of the workshops at Kandy is described in a Dutch plan of the Royal Palace in 1765, "..showing armouries for different types of weapons and quarters for the armourers, and proves the great attention paid to weapons by the Sinhala royalty". (Deraniyagala, p.99).
The organization of these workshops and artisans was quite complex and specialized, but apparently in some cases weapons could be commissioned by others than royalty for specific fees. I am wondering if these private commissions, which obviously require further research, might account for some of the more notable variations in some kastane?

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Old 12th February 2014, 03:07 PM   #24
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Salaams All... I am in more or less parallel agreement with the post above..(Thank You Jim !) indeed I find it extremely difficult to separate the design and workshop artistry involved in both Kastane and Piha Kheata in that I cannot imagine the Portuguese being involved in either... or put another way... if they were involved in one they must have had a hand in the other. The description of Royal Workshops mentions the same divisions being responsible for both weapons but no mention is alluded to Portuguese involvement in either.

Whilst some caution may be needed in viewing sketches of the period and since there are so few.. it seems the responsibility for such designs were purely down to Sri Lankan artesanship.

Where a difference evolves in the subject of the main hilt could it be that one Kingdom applied/favoured Lions and the other Makara? Perhaps it may simply be stylistic licence.

Oddly, whilst there are blade marks attributable to The Dutch (VOC) it seems there are none from the other invading powers and apparently none from the EIC though several reports speak of such marked blades.

An exceptional report may be viewed on http://www.craftrevival.org/Extrali...PageCode=P00014 detailing the craftsmen, Royal Workshops details and responsibilities, specialist gold and silver workers and sword makers etc etc ...

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.

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Old 12th February 2014, 05:37 PM   #25
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is it known if any of these can be attributed to specific makers workshops or schools?also anyone care to show examples they own?and if these are derived of simpler undecorated earlier types does anyone know of any?regards napoleon
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Old 12th February 2014, 08:49 PM   #26
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Napoleon, I very much agree! Those out there with examples please post them, we really need to see a range of examples so that we can look more into variations in the pommels and other features.
Very good question on the attribution to certain makers or schools. As far as I have known, these were invariably unsigned and produced by artisans who combined their skills on various elements of the swords.
We know that of course, the larger number of these seem to likely be from the Kandyan workshops. However, a great deal of consideration must be made toward variations of these swords possibly produced in other parts of the island.

I believe the interpretation of the style and form of the creatures, the pommel head in particular, may reflect either sinha (lion) or makara in various instances. It is always interesting seeing descriptions and captions in either auctions, catalogs or references often using the term makara in a rather collective sense where typically the lion head is what is actually depicted .

As far as I can see, the makara has a sort of trunk or projecting snout, where the lion of course does not. Again, it is extremely hard to identify what mythical creatures are represented

Ibrahiim, I believe you are spot on in your view that the variation in interpretation of the creatures may well be due to cultural, ethnic or politically oriented circumstances.

You bring up a very good point on the blades on these kastane. It seems unclear where the early blades came from but as previously mentioned a large number of Dutch VOC blades appear to be mounted in kastanes.
These were typically marked with the VOC blademark and a date, most seem to date in the 18th century (for some reason 1760s seem prevalent).

I don't believe Ive ever seen a Portuguese blade on one of these, nor British for that matter. Naturally these would be hard to identify as the majority of blades of these types were often Solingen produced . As earlier noted the English EIC did not mark sword blades, only firearms.

I do hope we can get some examples posted which can be examined comparatively .

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Old 12th February 2014, 08:54 PM   #27
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i just would like to thank everyone who has contributed to this thread ,as its been a pleasure to read so far,
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Old 12th February 2014, 09:09 PM   #28
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thank you jim for your reply,just a couple of thoughts,i dont know if there is a conection between travancore and candy,but some of the art on the capstones of the temples built by rajaraja cholan seem similar in decoration to the lion hilts on the sword in question ,also i dont know what they are called but there is a species of small dagger with elephant head pommels the trunk of which forms a knucklrbow but below this is a cross guard of far superior workmanship,they are usually cased in a plain brass sheath ,indian im sure, but its the cross guard thats relevant to the discusion, again great topic
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Old 13th February 2014, 04:06 AM   #29
Jim McDougall
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Thank you Napoleon, those are most interesting observations, and Travancore, along with other kingdoms and regions in South India did of course have connections to Sinhala from ancient times. We are of course considering that Indian art and symbolism is well represented in the creatures on these various kastane hilts.
It is interesting also that the Dutch VOC lost control of Travancore in the war with them (1739-1753).

One of the things we have been considering here is whether the apparent variations of kastane hilt (sinha or makara)are simply interpretive representations or distinctly intended figures that may reflect these hilts being from various parts of Ceylon.

We know that the 'Royal Swords', which were the more sumptuously produced examples of kastane were likely produced in the Royal workshops in Kandy. Regarding your question earlier on whether craftsmen were identified with certain swords, I found this in a reference online (from a New Delhi study, Craft Revival.org) , "...the names of various craftspeople are recorded in 'sannas' (royal edicts/charters) and in various other deeds but cannot be matched or associated with any particular piece of work". While this reference is regarding the craftsmen at the royal workshops collectively it does suggest a larger circumstance.

As for kastanes produced in other areas, it seems unlikely that it would be possible to attribute examples to certain makers or workshops as the hilts were made to hilt trade blades most likely. This brings me to the next question :

Where were blades obtained, and most likely mounted?

We have discussed earlier that one of the most distinctly recognized and identifiable blades often found on kastanes seem to be those marked with the Dutch VOC. These seem to invariably be with a year stamped with that balemark. They appear to be in most cases 18th century hanger type blades and dates are typically 1749; 1757; 1768;1775 but these years noted are from examples sold and from collections in recent years. Suggestions in earlier discussions noting years 1609 (the VOC was formed in 1602) and 1660 so they seem far too early and have generally been viewed as possibly 'talismanic ' numbers (c.f. 1414; 1441).

The Dutch were busily minting their coins for these colonies through the 18th century and it is interesting to see the VOC, dates and sometimes similar features like the four leaf from these coins also appear on sword blades. It seems from examples I have seen of other Dutch swords with VOC on larger arming swords that they are typically without these large dates on the blade, and with the other often seen motif sun, moon etc.
Would this suggest these dated swords were specifically for trade?

In a sale description (Christies, 2000) it is noted that VOC blades were traded to the Sinhalese and mounted locally, often remaining in use until the 20th c. The Dutch colonial period is regarded as 1658-1796 . While the Dutch controlled the maritime provinces, they never occupied Kandy.
After the war with Kandy, 1761-65, the King recognized Dutch sovereignty in the maritime provinces. The Dutch surrendered these to England in 1796.

It would seem that these blades coming into the trade ports, along with other hanger type blades unmarked probably from Solingen and Leige, would have been hilted locally in interpretations of the favored kastane.
We know that kastane like swords have been seen attributed to Southern India, Thailand and other locations.
Is it possible that the makara like hilts might have been produced in port regions in the north of Sri Lanka, Jaffna for example?

The Sinha type hilts perhaps may be more likely attributed to Colombo, Galle, Kotte? and again interpretations of the more classical swords of Kandy.

Last edited by Jim McDougall : 13th February 2014 at 04:49 AM.
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Old 14th February 2014, 05:13 PM   #30
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As I have continued researching, and having posted a concurrent thread in hopes of more information on the VOC blades, there are a number of ideas which come to mind regarding the disposition of these varying examples of the kastane.

I can recall over years reading of the renowned production of fine steel in Ceylon in which the wind fueled smelters date into ancient times. I always wondered why more Sinhalese blades were not known, did they not have bladesmiths to forge blades? Apparantly there were in Kandy, according t the records of the Royal Workshops.
It seems that the kastane produced in these workshops were relatively small in number, to the variations which in so many cases were mounted with Dutch VOC blades. It would seem perhaps that these blades coming into the ports controlled by the Dutch may well account for local production in those cities, and these blades naturally would not have been considered in the Royal Workshops for obvious reasons.

While the Hasekura example is considered in our discussion very much contextually as a provenanced example of the lionhead form hilt, the Popham example serves as an interesting example of the influences of these hilts in foreign settings. It seems that by the middle of the 17th century the lionhead hilt of the kastane had profound influence on the hilts of many Dutch cutlasses and hangers. There are apparently substantial numbers of versions of these lionheads as well as the fingerstalls and general look of the kastane known.
By around the end of the century numbers of these kinds of hilts were being adopted by the English on their cutlasses and hangers, with the interest in these forms already established in the prototype occurrence with Popham.

These beasthead pommels were termed doghead or lionhead apparently, and of course show interesting variation in form, though essentially of 'kastane' form.

It would seem, to elaborate further on what has already been suggested, that perhaps the port cities, and local armourers there, may account for the apparent sundry versions of the kastane and varying interpretation of the decoration. While these often have equally varying blade forms of the same cutlass or hanger type, it would seem that many were either Solingen or Liege products. As noted, by around the 1730s it appears that the VOC blades begin to be seen with the boldly emblazoned dates, and these last until 1770s .

The VOC was of course a private company, not military, and perhaps the popularity of these exotic lionhead hangers and cutlasses eventually led to these men seeking these kinds of hilts on their issued swords. It is tempting to consider this scenario along with the circumstances of trade blades being in place as well. It is of course known that in many colonial situations, there are cottage industries of local artisans supplying soldiers and colonists with these kinds of exotica .
Naturally the high end kastane which would have remained in the perview of the Royal Workshops and in Kandyan regions would have remained true to form and without trade or issue blades.

Meanwhile, the locally produced versions of kastane in the port cities in the Sinhalese littoral would possibly have reflected other ethnic or demographic variation in degree in their interpretations, and accordingly been mounted with these trade or issue blades .

I hope to hear the views of others toward these thoughts as always, and look forward to continuing these discussions with these perspectives in mind and their plausibility.
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