Gold 'Hindu Deity' Tulwar
Origin: India (North India - Punjab (Lahore))
Date: late 18th/early 19th century
Length: Total Length: 90cm
Materials: Steel and Gold
A Gold Koftgari Hilt Tulwar with a strong blade.
The hilt is of an open guard form and elegantly decorated with gold koftgari in the form of flowers and geometric patterns. Embedded within this geometric and floral patterns is Durga and Hunuman, the Hindu deities. Their figures almost blends into the geometric pattern and shows the skilful and playful nature of the craftsman. Hunuman is a symbol of strength and energy. He is worshipped for his unyielding devotion to Rama and is remembered for his selfless dedication to the God. The Goddess Devi (Durga) represents the power of the Supreme Being that preserves moral order and righteousness in the creation. Durga is also seen as the Divine Shakti, which protects mankind from evil and misery by destroying evil forces (negative energy and vices). Throughout, there are also animals such as elephants and tigers that perfectly blend into the floral patterns.
The hilt is made of iron and was blackened to provide a fine contrast to the gold koftgari. The details is impeccable and the gold work is 100% in tact, making this a sought after hilt. This type of hilt is sometimes associated with Lahore. The rounded, slightly forward leaning quillons and large vase-style grip section also point towards the hilt being of Lahore manufacturing. Sikhs, and arms manufacturers of Lahore were fond of including Hindu deities in their works. Rawson (in Philip S. Rawson; The Indian Sword. Herbert Jenkins, London, 1968. Page 30.) states that Sikhs were fond of engraving Hindu deities on sword blades:
For example at Lahore, whereas under the Mughals sword blades had been chiselled with rows of animal and human figures in Persian style, under the Sikhs the same type of chiselled work was carried on, but the figures were of Hindu origin, such as Avatars of Vishnu, or the Planetary Divinities.
The blade is of a Sirohi type where is there is a slight curve from approx. three quarters of the blade. Hendley attributes 'Sirohi' swords to the state of Sirohi, a southern state famous for creating swords of a high standard. He says “Rajputana, Rajasthan, or the land of the Rajputs, the sons of kings, should produce, and does produce, everything necessary for carrying on the art of war. Sirohi [southern Rajasthan], the small state in which is stated Mount Abu, the Mons Capitalium of Pliny, had been famed since the days of Herodotus [5th century BC] for its sword blades, and at the Jeypore Exhibition it retained its ancient reputation by carrying off the first prize for arms. This small state of the Deora Rajpurs supplies blades and spear points to all Rajputana, but every court employs its own armourers, some of whom have attained fame beyond their homes.” Pant however describes the Sirohi based on the blades architecture, which is slim and slightly curved, and of a very hard temper. Pant also states that this type of sword was favoured by the Rajputs.
On one side of the blade there is a cartouche-esque style stamp in gold work. This is partially lost where there would usually be a makers/owners name. The remaining inscription is in Shahmukhi. (Shahmukhi شاہمُکھی, Gurmukhi: ਸ਼ਾਹਮੁਖੀ, lit. 'from the mouth of the shah') is a modified perso-arabic alphabet used by Punjabi muslims (primarily in Punjab - Pakistan prior to partition) to write the Punjabi language. This type of writing was popular during the Sikh rule in the 19th century, particularly in their court.
The inscription appears to read as the following:
This would mean beautiful light - referring to the swords blade, character and nature. A way of praising the sword.
On the other side of the blade there is a variation of the 'Aad Chand' (crescent moon) with a flower bursting through the centre. This is homage to the Chandravansh or Lunar Dynasty of the Kshatriya warrior clans. The Chand is also associated with Shiva, the destroyer, who is often depicted adorning the Aad Chand. It was a popular symbol amongst the warrior classes of India.
Overall this is a very good quality Tulwar with fine attention to detail in the gold work. Throughout the sword, there are nods to the Vedic traditions of India. The sword is left in its original condition, no cleaning or restoration has been done. This gives the tulwar its period and historical look. A professional clean could restore the blade and possibly reveal a wootz pattern to increase its value.