Gold Lahore Kirach
Date: Late 18th century/early 19th century (1780-1840)
Length: Sheathed 88 cm / Sword 83 cm
Materials: Iron, steel, silver, gold, wood, velvet, brass
A fine quality Kirach (sword) with hunting scenes, from Lahore.
A Kirach is an Indian sword with a single edge blade that is straight or almost straight blade with a slight downward curve near the tip. The term originates from its Urdu name, kirach (کرچ). This type of blade/sword is one, if not the most, rarest forms of the Indian sword. It was only given to the best warriors.
This fine example stays true to the form and nature of the Kirach. The blade has a typical profile and has a downwards curve. On the edge, the blade is sharpened and the blade reaches a narrow point. This allows for a nice balance in the blade. The blade itself is constructed of pattern welded steel, a strong steel that collectors praise and compare to the quality of Wootz. The blade shows a very active pattern and shows very good state of preservation - the blade is in near mint condition. Throughout the blade, scenes of hunting and animals fighting are deeply chiselled in. Each scene is profusely elaborated and clear, leading to a vidid story and scene. The pattern welding watering of silver and great makes these scenes more vivid and eye catching. These types of hunting scenes are often seen of Tulwars or shamshirs - but very rarely on Kirach. On the blade, towards the forte, there is a stamp, almost like a small fort - which is either the makers mark or an inventory stamp. This type of engraving on the sword was primarily done under the Mughal rule. When the Sikhs took power, the changed the animal hunting engravings to Hindu deities.
Phillip Rawson (see Philip S. Rawson; The Indian Sword. Herbert Jenkins, London, 1968. Page 30) states:
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 lesser elements of design, however, remained fixed in the Islamic tradition.
As the blade is following the conventional style of Mughal work, it is probable that the blade itself is a earlier example or at least a late 18th century example, where the Mughal power was slowly decreasing and the Sikhs were coming into power - as the blade is Mughal inspired, yet the hilt is strongly associated with Lahore. When you see hunting scenes engraved on a sword, there are different degrees of quality. Our blade represents the highest of quality work - it does not get any better than this.
The hilt is large and of good form, without a knuckle guard. The short rounded quillons point that this particular hilt is from North India, more specifically Lahore. The Hilt is thickly silver-plated, which was then fire-gilt. Furthermore, the hilt is engraved with floral motifs. A fire-gilt hilt is a rare find as the process of manufacturing such a hilt was lengthy. The hilt would have first been plated in silver, with the floral motifs crosshatched in, then fire gilt on top. The fire gilt was done by mixing gold and mercury, which was applied onto the silver. Mercury evaporates, which would entail that the gold stays to provide the end product we have here. A thick layer of gold would remain and therefore prove to be very durable and less prone to coming off. This technique was popular in the south, Delhi and seen on earlier pieces in the 17/18th century.
A sword is not complete without its scabbard. This particular one comes with its original wooden scabbard which has been wrapped in red velvet with a silver trim along the middle (trim slightly lifting in some areas due to age). At the end, a brass chape has been applied which is in itself pierced into to provide a fine finish. The brass chape is secure but slightly damaged.
Overall, the condition of this is very good. The blade is excellent, near perfect and only showing some signs of age. The hilt has 95% of its fire-gilt gold remaining which is very good. The scabbard completes this fine piece and shows signs of wear and age. The piece is ‘ceremonial’ given its ornate features and finish. However, Indian swords were known for being ceremonial yet very practical. This is an exemplary example of such a sword. Given the way in which the sword is crafted and designed, it is from Lahore, and most likely would have belonged to the ‘Sikhs’. This particular Kirach is 'ceremonial' and would have been used for court wear.
Czerny's 'Fine and Scarce Antique Arms & Armour' on 25-03-2017 sold 'A Rare Shikargar Tulvar, dating circa: 1800' for £5131 (inc VAT). The blade was a tulwar type but is near identical to your example, in regards to the hunting scenes, and it also has a pattern welded blade of similar form. It is very likely that both this and our example was from the same workshop.
Sikh Heritage: Ethos & Relics by Bhayee Sikandar Singh and Roopinder Singh, page 146 shows a tulwar belonging to Guru Gobind Singh and dated to the early 18th century. The style of engraving (hunting scenes) on the blade is similar and comparable to the style on our example.
The Sword of Akbar preserved in The Royal Ontario Museum, Rome features a similar hunting scene but is less detailed than our example and is not featured on pattern welded steel. The persian influence is apparent. As this is on a Kirach, it makes it all the more sought after and rare.
Another later comparable example is at the Mehrangarh Fort Museum, Bikaner, India
All in all, this is a very nice and rare example, complete with its scabbard. The hunting scenes pattern welded blade is in excellent condition and well preserved. The sword is definitely of Punjabi manufacture, therefore it would have been made in Lahore - where Sikhs arms and armour were produced. This is ideal for those looking to add Sikh/Punjabi manufactured arms and armour to their collection.
The condition of this Kirach is also very good, making this a sought after piece for collectors.