Signed Hirado Ju Kunishige
89.5 cm / 35.2 inch
77 cm / 30.3 inch
forte 5 mm
middle 4 mm
near tip 3 mm
forte 39 mm
middle 31 mm
near tip 26 mm
Steel, iron, brass, wood, velvet, gold
Probably late 1800's
UK antique arms market
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The talwar or talvār (Hindi) is the standard saber type of India. The typically have blades of modest curvature and a characteristic hilts with large disc pommel and two quillons as a guard. The hilt is meant to restrain the wrist into a very secure grip, limiting the ability to stretch the saber out for longer percussive strikes and instead optimizing its use for deep and powerful draw cuts up-close.
A small group of talwar have turned up with chevron patterned blades, such as this one. It is made by welding alternate sections of pattern welded steel and darker homogenous steel on top of each other to create the dramatic effect seen here.
An impressive Indian talwar with chevron patterned blade, consisting of 18 separate pieces of steel forge welded on top of each other. The pieces are of alternating constructions of high-contrast pattern welded "damascus" steel and darker grey sections of more homogenous steel. The edge is polished bright and is slightly wavy. The effect probably deliberate, the apex of each "wave" being in the middle of the darker segments. The blade has a wide, shallow groove on either side.
Opinions vary on the usability of such swords, some assert that the construction can never be strong enough for actual use. I've asked around and swordsmiths seem to agree that there is no reason why it would fail, provided the welds are well done. Strength comes from the V sections that effectively enlarge the contact points, and the fact the welds are not at right angles with the blade. The consensus among people working with steel all day seems to be that although the construction certainly doesn't make the blade stronger, it doesn't necessarily make it too weak to perform.
Bladesmith Richard Furrer went so far as to bend a chevron dagger he made 90 degrees and bend it back again. None of the welds came apart in the bending of the subsequent straightening. Read the article.
Hilt & scabbard
The iron hilt is of exaggerated form, with comparatively wide quillons and large disc pommel with a spike in the center. Around the spike is a large stylized sun. The hilt is covered in sheet gold and engraved with typical motifs of flowers and plants. Some losses to the gold leaf. Elgood attributes this hilt style to Jodhpur. The sun is a reference to the mythical Suryavansha or "Solar Dynasty" that is mentioned in classical Indian texts like the Ramayana and Mahabharata, of which some Rajput dynasties claimed descent.4
It comes in its original scabbard that I refurbished using antique velvet in a color close to the remains of the original. It retains its original scabbard mouthpiece of gilt copper alloy, pierced with floral designs and retaining its original mini-tassel.
Various swords with an identical pattern are published. Two are in Figiel's "On Damascus Steel" dated to the 17th and 19th century, the 19th-century piece being thought to be a court sword. Some others are mentioned.1
Nordlunde lists another two in his book and asserts that the 17th century dating of some of these is wrong and most are from the 19th century. He believes at least some were made by smiths to show off their skills at colonial trade shows.2
Elgood lists a 20th-century example in the Jaipur court collection. He states that these are called lehria in Rajasthani which means "of a chevron pattern". He further mentions that the current lineage holder from a family of Udaipur arms makers, Gopilal, stated that his family has been making such blades for the Maharanas of Mewar for generations. He claims their family invented the type of blade in the late 19th century.3
A rather fine example was auctioned on Sotheby's Art of the Islamic World sale, April 2012, London, lot 598.
Other known examples are in the National Museum in Delhi, and in the Victorian and Albert Museum, London.
A large and imposing talwar with chevron patterned blade and golden overlaid hilt with large disc pommel. It was probably made in the late 19th century.
1. Figiel, Leo S.: On Damascus Steel, Atlantis Arts Press, New York, 1991. Pp. 104-107 Item #IS7 and IS8
2. Nordlunde, Jens: A Passion for Indian Arms, a Private Collection. Self Published. Denmark, 2016. Item #108 Page 190-193 and item #38 Page 198, 200.
3. Elgood, Robert: Arms and Armour at tje Jaipur Court. Niyogi Books, New Delhi, 2015. Pp. 146-147.
5. Ibid. Pp. 146-147.
4. Ibid. Pp. 126-127
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In the style of a Malay keris panjang.
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With all silver construction, including the blade.
Japanese sword guard depicting three wise monkeys conveying the message see no evil, hear no evil, speak no…
Of a style often associated with Tanjore, the seat of the Vijayanagara empire.