Swords from the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim | Mandarin Mansion

Swords from the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim

Three antique swords from the Kingdom of Sikkim.


Introduction

In this article I will present to you three swords from the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim.

The Kingdom of Sikkim (1642-1975) was a monarchy in the Eastern Himalayas. It became a princely state of India in 1890. Its population consisted of Lepchas (Indigenous Sikkimese) and Bhutia (Sikkimese of Tibetan ancestry). Their national sword was called ban by the Lepchas and chipsa by the Bhutia. It was an all-purpose tool, reportedly used as:

"plough, toothpick, table-knife, hatchet, hammer, and sword.".1

-Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker
Hooker was a botanist, adventurer, and close friend of Charles Darwin.
He traveled through the Himalayas and India between 1847–1851.

When you hold one in your hand, you can immediately understand how it did all of the above. They are heavy but well balanced for cut and chop, and the thick spine may well work as a hammer. They were said to be worn on the left hip (native style), on the right hip (Bhutanese style) or diagonally in the front (Tibetan style), showing the cultures the Lepcha took influence from.


Sikkim Lepchas.
Some Sikkim Lepchas depicted with their swords on old 19th century postcards.



Notes to introduction
1. Heath, Ian; "Armies of the Nineteenth Century: Asia: Central Asia and the Himalayan Kingdoms", Foundry Books, Guernsey, 1998. Page 148.


1. Sikkim "ban" sword with very good blade

An antique sword from the Kingdom of Sikkim.
Overall length: 59 cm / 23.2 inch
Blade length: 43.5 cm / 17.1 inch
Thickness: forte 9 mm, middle 8 mm, near tip 5 mm
Blade width: forte 37 mm, middle 37 mm, near tip 37 mm
Weight without scabbard: 693 grams
P.o.b. 15 cm from guard


Origin: Kingdom of Sikkim
Materials: Iron, steel, hardwood, silver, turqoise
Dating: 19th century


Description

A rather nice example of a Sikkim ban sword. These swords are often fairly well-made but tend to be simple in their execution, but this is an exception. It was probably once owned by somebody relatively important.

Its thick blade of wedge shaped cross-section has flat sides without grooves as to show off it's interesting steel construction. The blade is made with fine hairpin forging, somewhat akin to Tibetan and Bhutanese work with with much finer lines. The blade also shows prominent effects of differential heat treatment, creating a darker, hardened area near the edge that runs all the way to the very tip. It starts a few cm up the blade, a common feature also on some of the earliest Chinese steel swords. The start of this hardened area has a vague white line that goes up. Among Japanese sword collectors this is known as mizukage (水影), literally "water shadow" and demarcates the place until where the cooling was fast enough to create martensite crystals in the steel.

It comes with the typical Sikkimese hardwood scabbard that is open on one side, retaining the sword with two metal bands. The metal bands and a decorative plate at the bottom of the piece are all decorated with fine filigree, and hold turquoise stones. Once 9 in total, 4 now lost.

The hardwood handle is wrapped with silver wire, forming five separate bands. The octagonal cross-section of the pommel shows the clear kinship with Bhutanese work. There is a repair to one of the quillons of the wooden handle, it's well-done and hardly discernible.



€ 750,-



Interested? Questions?
Contact peter@mandarinmansion.com



Antique sword from the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim.

Antique sword from the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim.

Antique sword from the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim.

Antique sword from the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim.

Antique sword from the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim.

Antique sword from the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim.

Antique sword from the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim.

Antique sword from the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim.

Antique sword from the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim.

Antique sword from the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim.

Antique sword from the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim.

Antique sword from the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim.

Antique sword from the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim.

Antique sword from the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim.

Antique sword from the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim.

Antique sword from the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim.

Antique sword from the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim.





2. Large Sikkim "ban" sword

An antique sword from the Kingdom of Sikkim.
Overall length: 72.5 cm / 28.5 inch
Blade length: 58 cm / 22.8 inch
Thickness: forte 7.5 mm, middle 6.5 mm, near tip 6 mm
Blade width: forte 45 mm, middle 44 mm, near tip 44.5 mm
Weight without scabbard: 766 grams
P.o.b. 20.2 cm from guard


Origin: Kingdom of Sikkim
Materials: Iron, steel, hardwood, brass, gold / silver alloy
Dating: 19th century


Description

A rather large Sikkim ban sword with good quality blade. It has a wide and shallow hollow ground section just under the spine, and a thickening in the cross section before leading up to the edge. It doesn't reveal signs of its construction in its current state, but if anything, there are no forging flaws. The work is very tight. There is a shallow dent in the edge near the tip.

At the base of the blade is a copper alloy sleeve. The hardwooden handle, of characteristic form, is wrapped with braided metal wire of what seems like a gold and silver alloy. The simple scabbard is open on one side, holding the blade with two brass bands. Some losses to the sides of the scabbard, as is common on these. The end of the scabbard is reinforced with a piece of hardwood, nailed in place with iron nails. An ornament is missing, probably a silver rosette, possibly holding a semi-precious stone. There is a small but skillful repair to one of the quillons at the handle.

A very large piece for this culture. Heavy but with good handling characteristics.



€ 500,-



Interested? Questions?
Contact peter@mandarinmansion.com



Antique sword from the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim.

Antique sword from the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim.

Antique sword from the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim.





3. A Sikkim "ban" sword

An antique sword from the Kingdom of Sikkim.
Overall length: 52.5 cm / 20.7 inch
Blade length: 39.9 cm / 15.7 inch
Thickness: forte 7 mm, middle 6 mm, near tip 6 mm
Blade width: forte 42 mm, middle 40 mm, near tip 39 mm
Weight without scabbard: 458 grams
P.o.b. 15.3 cm from guard


Origin: Kingdom of Sikkim
Materials: Iron, steel, hardwood, brass, gold / silver alloy
Dating: 19th century


Description

A simple but rather characteristic Sikkim ban sword. This one is closest to the sword worn by the Lepcha photographed in Darjeeling, shown at the beginning of this article.

The blade with attractive geometry, consisting of two wide and shallow grooves that tastefully terminate at the tip. The grooves divide the blade in three equal sections, the last section consisting of the "meat" that leads to the edge. It is probably forge folded, but only some vague hints of its construction can be made out in its current condition.

Wooden handle and scabbard of typical form. The sword is held in the scabbard with two iron bands.

A handy and nimble sword in the hand, one can feel it can hit hard for its size and would work well for many purposes.



€ 350,-



Interested? Questions?
Contact peter@mandarinmansion.com



Antique sword from the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim.

Antique sword from the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim.


Antique swords from the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim.

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