Kayamkulam sword of the Malabar coast | Peter Dekker's Mandarin Mansion: Antique Arms & Armor

Kayamkulam sword of the Malabar coast

A kayamkulam vaal sword from the Malabar coast, south India

Overall length: 86.5 cm / 34 inch
Blade length: 74 cm / 29.1 inch
Blade thickness: forte 5 mm, middle 3 mm, near tip 1 mm
Blade width: forte 25 mm, middle 17 mm, near tip 13 mm
Weight without scabbard: 545 grams
Point of balance: 10 cm from center of crossguard

Origin: Malabar coast, India
Materials: Iron, steel, silver, brass.
Dating: 18th century

Description

A very rare example of an Indian sword of the Malabar coast, called kayamkulam vaal. Kayamkulam refers to the medieval Kingdom established in the 11th century and incorporated into Travancore in 1746, after which it became a princely state. Vaal is the local word for double edged sword. It were the armies of Travancore, mostly consisting of Nair, that defeated the Dutch at the Battle of Colachel in 1741, successfully ending Dutch authority over the Malabar coast.

The sword has a long, slender double edged blade. Its springy temper may be indicative of European manufacture, imported European blades often feature on south Indian arms. It bears a mark that vaguely resembles the number 48.

The iron handle of characteristic form with flanged disc pommel. Other typical features of these hilts are the conical protrusions at the crossguard and the cusped ends of the langets. The forged iron hilt is decorated with attractive geometric designs in silver lines and dots, most of which remains intact.


Comparable examples

Very few examples survived or have been published. The most famous is probably the sword of Velu Thampi (1765–1809) who was prime minister of Travancore between 1802 and 1809 and who rebelled against the British East India Company. Another is in The National Museum, Edinburgh, Scotland. It is illustrated on the back of the dust jacket of Hindu Arms & Ritual by Robert Elgood. Another example is still held in the old Kayamkulam royal Palace in Krishnapuram.1


Conclusion

A seldom found Kayamkulam sword from the Malabar coast. They are rare enough as a type, this one has a beautiful iron hilt with most of the silver decoration still intact.



RESERVED



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Notes
1. See a photograph of the sword on Wikimedia Commons

A kayamkulam vaal sword from the Malabar coast, south India

A kayamkulam vaal sword from the Malabar coast, south India

A kayamkulam vaal sword from the Malabar coast, south India

A kayamkulam vaal sword from the Malabar coast, south India

A kayamkulam vaal sword from the Malabar coast, south India

A kayamkulam vaal sword from the Malabar coast, south India

A kayamkulam vaal sword from the Malabar coast, south India

A kayamkulam vaal sword from the Malabar coast, south India

A kayamkulam vaal sword from the Malabar coast, south India

A kayamkulam vaal sword from the Malabar coast, south India

A kayamkulam vaal sword from the Malabar coast, south India

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