Wootz Sirohi dated 1855
Materials: Steel, Silver, Wootz
An interesting Sirohi with a Rajasthani hilt and Wootz blade - belonging to Rup Singh Sangawat, dated c1855.
THE SIROHIHendley 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.
This example is true to the traditional regional design of Rajasthan. The steel hilt is anointed with a thick application of silver overlay. The design throughout is consistent, and represents nature as it shows tendrils, flowers and birds; elegant and appealing to the eye. The silver overlay is almost 100% intact. The silver work is crisply executed with fine attention paid to the details. The underside of the pommel disk also features a fine inscription in Devangari. The pommel features a pommel spike, often used for striking. The pommel disk features a fine Surajvanshi (sun-burst) design, which is of Suryavansh origin. Suryavansh are of the Rajput dynasties and link their lineage to ‘Surya’ who is the Sun God. Suryavansha is mentioned in classical Indian texts like the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
The blade is nice and broad, featuring a slight curve - as a sirohi should. The blade features indian wootz steel with an active pattern. The blade has a sharp and active cutting edge, often known as a Dhaar (in Punjabi). The wootz blade of this sirohi has a visible tight grain and uniform pattern. Towards the forte, there is even a 'scarf weld', which was a common feature on Rajput swords. This was considered 'talismanic' (or auspicious) and was referred to as a ‘mala’ (term used for sacred prayer thread) by Indians. Due to the age of this sword, the blade could benefit from a professional cleaning to reveal the wootz beauty underneath, though it is not necessary if you would like to preserve the aged value. The blade has not previously undergone cleaning or sharpening and this is a good sign as the real historical nature and value has been preserved. The blade and hilt joint redone at a later stage.
INSCRIPTION, ATTRIBUTION & DATING
Under the pommel of the hilt, lies an 'owner inscription' in a circular format. The inscription is in devanagari and remains 100% intact, just like the silver koftgari on the hilt. One inscription reads:
Shri Baldevji Sahay
This means ‘With the protection of Shri Baldev ji’. This invocation is to a deva (deity), possibly ‘Baladeva’ (deity of strength and agriculture), the brother of Krishna, who is seen as one of the ten incarnations of Vishnu. Interestingly, this very inscription is also on a Shield (Dhal) held at the V&A Museum. According to the V&A, that particular Shield was Given by the Right Hon. the Earl Kitchener of Khartoum. That shield belonged to a Maharao Ram Singh of Kotah - who was often referred to as Ram Singh of Kotah. The shield at the V&A is attributed to c1840. Inscriptions on arms and armour were very valued in the 18/19th century and were utilised to show to whom or which region/clan it belonged to. Ram Singh of Kotah was a Rajput, as was Rup Singh Sangawat, so sharing the same inscription would be common as they would share values, beliefs, etc.
The second inscription contains the name of the owner and the date that this Sirohi was made. It reads:
Rup Singh Sangawat Samvat 1911
The year (date) provided is in the traditional Hindu (Indian) Samvat calendar. When converting Samvat 1911 to the Georgian calendar it equates to 1855 AD.
Sangawat is a Rajput clan which links its lineage to the Suryavanshi lineage. The term Rajput derives from the Sanskrit raja-putra, "son of a king". The Rajputs are a community of Hindu origin, who claim to be of the Kshatriya or warrior varna (class) and Kings/rulers of States. The Suryavanshi lineage (also known as the Raghuvanshies or Solar Dynasty) are clans who believed to be descent from Surya, the Hindu Sun-god. It is said that the Sangawat clan is a sub-category of the Chundawats, who were a Rajput clan and were powerful chiefs in the Mewar region during the 1700s. They are the descendants of the 15th century Mewari prince Chunda Sisodia, the eldest son of Rana Lakha. The Sangawat clan also held a Jagir (land) known as Devgarh (lit meaning 'house of the demi-gods'), which is located 38 kms NE of Udaipur.
The suffix ‘Singh’ was also used by Sikhs by those who were initiated into the group known as the ‘Khalsa’. Though, ‘Singh’, was also used by Rajputs prior to this. It is not clear who exactly Rup Singh Sangawat was. He would have been an individual of status or some form of importance as names were only inscribed on swords for individuals of importance (possibly a officer or close associate of a Rajah (King)).
A near-identical comparable example can be found in the infamous, "On Damascus Steel", Leo S. Figiel, M.D., New York, 1991, page 93, fig. 34. Also see Butterfield Butterfield catalog (Aug 24, 1998), p. 64, #2058, which sold items from the Figiel collection. The silver overlay design is identical and it also features an inscription under the pommel. The example from the Figiel collection sold for over $8,000.
Overall a very good example of a Rajasthani Sirohi with provenance. The Sirohi is in a good state of preservation; the silver overlay almost 100% intact and the wootz blade is showing an active pattern. What makes this a fine item is the fact that the inscription provides the name of the owner and the date it was made. This is a rare and unique addition, which adds great value to the sword.
Further readings/referenced materials:
G.N. Pant Indian Arms and Armour, vol. II. p79
Th. H. Hendley. Memorials of the Jaypore Exhibition, 1883. p1
Translation provided by private collector Jens Nordlunde, author of 'A Passion of Indian Arms: A Private Collection' (2016)