An enigmatic type of axe, this one probably from tribal north India.
Sword 95 cm
Base 6 mm
Middle 4.5 mm
5 cm from tip 3.5 mm
Base 38 mm
Middle 32 mm
5 cm from tip 21 mm
(from center crossguard)
Steel, wood, velvet, gold, pitch
Hilt dated 1887
Blade probably same age
UK antique art market
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Persia was known as a center of making excellent wootz blades, and smiths in places like Isfahan and Khorasan produced many sword blades specifically for export. Many of these carried the mark of Assad Allah, "The Lion of Allah", a semi-legendary swordsmith that may have lived in the 17th century during the time of Shah Abbas (ruled 1588-1629).1
In any case, blades carrying its lion mark started to appear in the late 17th century and were highly coveted. Other smiths exploited its fame and started to produce blades with lion marks, and by the late 19th century the practice to add lions to one's blade had spread far and wide.
1. Ann Katharine Swynford Lambton; Islamic Society in Persia. 1954. She mentions: "Shah Abbas is said to have received a helmet from the Ottoman sultan, who offered a sum of money to whoever could break the helmet with a sword. No one was able to do this until a certain Asad, a sword-maker, made a sword with which he cut through the helmet." (Quoted from Oliver Pinchot; The Persian Shamshir and the signature of Assad Allah.
The steel blade appears to be an Indian interpretation of a Persian export blade; the single-edged blade with a slight forward curve is very Indian, the type is known as kirach. The overall layout of the blade and its decor is more Persian, with a complex geometry featuring sunken panels and grooves and a rounded spine.
It is forged out of a fine grained wootz, barely visible through the bright polish, only under just the right light.
At the forte on the left are a five-pointed star, a crescent moon, a round cartouche with a stylized lion, and a medallion-shaped cartouche with Arabic script.
On the right side, there is a large sunken panel with text.
Further up, the blade has a groove of which the bottom half fades towards the edge. There's a single dorsal groove on either side. The double-edged tip has a raised panel in the form of a spearhead, with two wide fullers within the spearhead.
The hilt with wide pommel plate and broadly extending quillons with flat ends are typical for the Rajput Kingdom of Marwar in present-day Rajasthan. Its decor consists of floral designs chiseled in high relief, highlighted with gold koftgari overlay.
It carries a long inscription on the back of the pommel plate:
Mahārājā śrī Raghunath Sing Ji kabjā aham bete kaasibvaan ka
"Maharajah Raghunath Singh's son took ownership of kaasibvaan"
Saṃvat 1943 mitī posh 1 samdi ēkam śukravāra
In the year samvat 1943 (1887 A.D.) day X 1 XX friday.
I have not been able to find a Maharajah of that name that aligns with this period, but there were many smaller states which have not been well documented. The overall design of the hilt points towards the region of Kota as a place of likely manufacture.
The word kaasibvaan is puzzling. It could be the name of the sword, or the whole inscription could commemorate an event. Words that come close are Kashibai (काशीबाई), a female name, and Kāsībāsa, a village near Kashipuri, which is not far from Kota. I hope a subsequent owner can learn more from the partially translated inscription.
The purple velvet-covered scabbard has some age but is much later. Some wear and tear.
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