A Northern Wootz Talwar
Rajasthan, Northern India – ca. 1800
Materials: Iron, Steel, Gold
The ‘Talwar’ or ‘Talwar’ is a typical sword only found in India. The hilts are known for their disc shaped dome hilts, pronounced langets and quillons. The ‘Talwar’ is noticeable for its curved blade like the Persian ‘Shamsheer‘ and Turkish ‘Kilij’ and originates from around the 16th century. The Islamic hilt style was a popular feature until well in the 20th century. ‘Talwar’ swords of higher quality were carried both as weapon and status symbol. Hilts and scabbards could be decorated with ‘koftgari’ or damascening in gold or silver, made of wootz steel and gold damascened, or even set with precious gem stones. The blades could be locally forged, or imported from Persia with fine contrasting wootz blades.
A very similar example is held in the National Army Museum (UK) and belonged to General Sir John Hearsey (1793-1865) who carried it in 1817 while capturing a Pindari battery at Seetabuldee near Nagpur during the 3rd Maratha War (1816-1819).
Of Islamic form, called ‘Hakim Shahi‘ which is a Persian term for royal or imperial. The hilt can be distinguished from others by the pronounced V-shape in the mid section of the hilt pointing towards the langet. The quillons have rounded ends with a floral ‘koftgari’ decoration. The langets have an openwork end which is also decorated with traditional ‘koftgari’. One quillon has an attached knuckle guard ending in a ‘Makara’ head with gold overlay decoration and a moveable tongue. The disc shaped pommel has a star shaped petal decoration with gold crosshatched decoration. The pommel has a pierced bracket which was used as suspension and the surface of the hilt was blackened in traditional way.
Heavy, well balanced and made of a very high quality wootz and pattern welded steel. The form is typical for a scimitar with flat spine, decorated with gold and recessed towards the yelman which ends in a false edged tip. The blade has a sharpened cutting edge on which a fine pattern can be seen running down the entire blade. The forte has a clear wootz structure and seems to be quite consistent throughout the blade. Near the tip, a slight ladder pattern could be seen in the welding which could resemble the praised ‘Kirk Narduban’ or ‘Mohammed’s ladder’ An Islamic talismanic feature seen on Indian wootz blades. An etching would reveil the pattern better, but taking into account that the finish of these wootz or pattern welded blades was not ment to show, but was purely chosen for its quality, I decided to leave it in this order.
A respectable large ‘Talwar’ in very good condition. The blade is functionally made and the hilt of high quality. A type sought after on todays market with a potential ‘Kirk narduban’ blade of fine quality. The disc hilt features a subtile floral design which was done in crosshatched gold overlay.
Condition: Very good, some minor old traces of treated pitting on the hilt and some dents in the cutting edge, likely due to functional use. No scabbard.
The Talwar of Sir John Hearsey, National Army Museum acc.nr. NAM. 1984-11-236-1
Blade spine thickness: 7mm
Total length: 94.5cm
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