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Old 12th March 2021, 02:14 AM   #1
drakharios
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Default Question on usage of the 'mel puttah bemoh'

Hi all,

Would anyone have information on the origins and usage of the Indian sword called mel puttah bemoh? I'm asking because I'm making a mod of a game and including that weapon in it. Specifically:
  • Which Indian cultures or regions used it?
  • What branch of the military used it?
  • How was it used?

This illustration from the Nihang-nama shows two combatants using mel puttah bemoh in what seems to be half-swording technique. This got me wondering if this sword was based on Portuguese montantes, specially since it seems mel puttah bemoh did not appear until before the 16th or 17th century. Anyone have info on this?

Thanks!
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Old 13th March 2021, 06:09 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drakharios
Hi all,

Would anyone have information on the origins and usage of the Indian sword called mel puttah bemoh? I'm asking because I'm making a mod of a game and including that weapon in it. Specifically:
  • Which Indian cultures or regions used it?
  • What branch of the military used it?
  • How was it used?

This illustration from the Nihang-nama shows two combatants using mel puttah bemoh in what seems to be half-swording technique. This got me wondering if this sword was based on Portuguese montantes, specially since it seems mel puttah bemoh did not appear until before the 16th or 17th century. Anyone have info on this?

Thanks!
What a game if not a secret?

1. Deccan sultanates and Marathi as part of the army of these sultanates.
2. Specially trained troops fought with this sword. Not individually.
3. Indian martial arts are very practical. Think of Durga and strike with all your might.

I don't know anything about Portuguese background. This sword has quite an Indian look. But here I could be wrong.

Be so kind, don't use this term - "mel puttah bemoh" - it's delirium. The sword has a well-defined name. When I will start to play your mod, you will already know it. I hope by the end of the year.
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Old 14th March 2021, 03:19 AM   #3
Jim McDougall
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This is a most interesting question, as noted, these are most rare swords, and as you have mentioned the term 'half sword' you must be familiar with this sword technique. These do not seem associated with Portuguese styles of sword fighting nor swords, but German two hand (zweihander).
The only possible Portuguese connection might be the blades that came frm them, often rapier blades.

These appear to have been known in 16th century and referenced by c. 1620.
The use of terms for various Indian weapon forms has been an ongoing dilemma even before the spurious debates of more years here than I can say.

Even the author of the Nujum al Ulum, suggests the term 'bank' for this weapon, but then notes the disparity of the word also used for a kind of dagger.
He says further many of the names of the weapons are known of course to the Indians, but not to him.

It would seem these extended hilt swords were supplanted by the Deccani khanda with an extended spur from the pommel which afforded the use with two hands in the latter 16th c.

The term 'mel puttah bemoh' was used by Stone in 1935, which conveyed it into the general glossary of collectors terms.
This of course does not mean the term is patently improper, at least jn the vernacular of collectors, but not necessarily in accord with terms used in local dialects for the same weapon.

Mercenary, it seems well established here that you have a resounding knowledge of Indian arms, and you have piqued my curiosity!
What is the proper name for these rare and mysterious Indian swords?
I am always fascinated by words, and here was delighted (after looking it up) to find out what a Portuguese 'montante' was. (doesnt everybody knw that!?)
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Old 14th March 2021, 04:34 AM   #4
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A picture always helps for us novices...The two gentlemen mentioned above are apparently Sikh Nihangs.
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Last edited by kronckew; 14th March 2021 at 05:20 AM.
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Old 14th March 2021, 12:57 PM   #5
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Unfortunately, or rather fortunately, not everything is so simple. This sword had a name. So far, we can say for sure that it is very likely that such a sword was used by "Banabaz" troops by analogy with "Shamshirbaz". The point is, in order to accurately understand the term (and the subject itself), it is necessary to understand the etymology. Even now, the names of objects are not given without any meaning ("smartphone" f.e.) especially in ancient traditional culture. I would not like to publicly voice something that I am not completely sure about, it takes time to clarify this, but it is very likely that in India such a sword was presented as consisting of two parts and and could be named by analogy with how "an arrow" could be named by the name of one of its parts.
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Old 14th March 2021, 02:37 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Even the author of the Nujum al Ulum, suggests the term 'bank' for this weapon, but then notes the disparity of the word also used for a kind of dagger.
He says further many of the names of the weapons are known of course to the Indians, but not to him.
Two different words that sound the same in one language, in another language will be spelled similar. But these are two different words.

The author of the treatise knew what he was writing. Treatise on astrology. About dagger "bank" it is not his fantasy, I think.
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Old 14th March 2021, 03:38 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mercenary
Two different words that sound the same in one language, in another language will be spelled similar. But these are two different words.

The author of the treatise knew what he was writing. Treatise on astrology. About dagger "bank" it is not his fantasy, I think.

Thank you Mercenary, very well explained and all points well taken. There are many instances of words written the same or pronounced the same, which may have entirely different meanings when taken out of context.
I think Robert Elgood was most prudent in pointing out in his glossary ("Hindu Arms and Ritual") that the term 'mel puttah bemoh' was may have not been the proper term in local parlance, but noted it more as a point of reference.

Wayne, thank you for the illustrations! As always, especally in this case, a picture is indeed worth a thousand words!!!

Most collectors strive for concise and exact categoric descriptions, and this is perhaps the reason behind the plethora of 'collectors term' that plague the serious study of ethnographic arms. As you well point out, 'it is not quite so simple'.It seems however that while scholars in these studies of course seek more accurate and proper terminology, collectors and the general populace go for a term that serves collectively in their own vernacular.

In following your use of analogy, take for instance the case of the Sudanese 'kaskara' broadsword. Years ago studying these I was surprised when I discovered that in virtually the entirety of regions using these swords, this term was NEVER used to describe it, only (as in many Arabic speaking areas, the word sa'if was used). Using that term to speak to locals was pretty much useless. Years later we found that the term was from tribal dialect in regions west of Sudan, and in my opinion likely entered the collectors lexicon with Sir Richard Burton (a linguist, "Book of the Sword", 1884) to describe these.

Simiilar dilemma occurred with the 'katar' situation, which seems to be generally held that Egerton (1885) transposed the term from another dagger to the transverse grip 'jamadhar' (as per Pant, 1980), thus, again, entering the collectors lexicon accordingly. While most of us know the term is technically incorrect, the the sake of expediency, we use 'katar' in discussion and descriptions.

In that convention, it seems that mel puttah bemoh serves for the same purpose, while more etymologically and linguistically proper term will hopefully be added to the scholarly literature as research develops into conclusions.

Wayne, thank you for the excellent illustrations! As said, a picture is worth a thousand words, especially in these kinds of situations!!
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Old 14th March 2021, 04:24 PM   #8
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You are welcome, Jim. I note in Mercenary's photo a pair of these two handed weapons that have a snakelike double finger guard, each 'wiggle' protecting a section of grip below the corresponding disk guard, I'm assuming for parrying. (And an elephant proboscis 'hook' on the pommels)

Just for stupidity, Forged in Fire, series 5, episode 11 'Indian two handed sword' features these with spherical 'guards' being abused in time honoured silly destructive tests, including the "it's got a round grip - you lose because I didn't know how to use it like that" "Indexing" blackmark. FIF, you have not made the cut and you must leave the forge, please turn in your weapons.

Last edited by kronckew; 14th March 2021 at 04:37 PM.
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Old 16th March 2021, 05:00 AM   #9
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Thanks for the replies! Mercenary, what is the proper name for this sword in the Deccan? Bank?

And yes, I was thinking of having it used in the way of a zweihander. Looking at the hilt design, I'm thinking this is an improvement over the hilt design of a zweihander, you can do a 'choke' grip (I don't know the proper HEMA term) well with it without having to grip the blade because the haft is so long you don't effectively shorten the weapon as much.
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Old 27th March 2021, 08:44 PM   #10
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Adding my 2 cents here to this little linguistics discussion; while it might not be the correct term for the sword form itself, it's worth noting that the "puttah" in "mel puttah bemoh" is likely a phonetic spelling of the hindi/sanskrit word "patta", or long straight leaf blade (leaf blade as in a plain blade of grass, not the more curvaceous tree leaf shape more commonly thought of for swords). Indeed, this is the same term that is also used to refer to the more common gauntlet sword, as, like the MPB, its overall profile is relatively uniform, symmetrical, and straight (like a blade of grass is). This word, though I could be mistaken, is also likely the root of the "pattani" in "pattani jamdadu", an old and probably just as dubious term used to refer to (mostly south indian) katars that have long, straight blades.

Of course what "mel" and "bemoh" likely mean is all up in the air for me . While it's possible that for "bemoh", like with "puttah", the open vowel at the end of the word has been transliterated with an extra h to indicate aspiration/emphasis (making the third word "bemo"), there's no real reason as to why this would have to be the case.

Use-wise, I'd have to imagine they'd be used as some sort of spear/sword hybrid. That is to say with the handle likely gripped in spear fashion, but, as with most indian weapons, probably used to cut with more than thrust, especially with such a long blade.
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