Talwar

Last updated
Talwar
Sword (Talwar) with Scabbard MET 32.75.298ab 002Jun2015.jpg
Typical 18th-century talwar, with iron disc-hilt and knucklebow, and a fullered blade.
Type Sword
Place of origin Indian Subcontinent
Production history
ProducedEarly types from c. 1300, the classic form from c. 1500 to present (mostly within Mughal Empire)
Specifications
Blade  typeSingle-edged, curved bladed, pointed tip.
Hilt  typeUnique Indian "disc hilt"
Scabbard/sheath Leather or cloth covered wood and the same with metal mounts, all metal and leather covered metal.

The talwar (pronounced  [t̪əlʋaːr] ), also spelled talwaar and tulwar, is a type of curved sword or sabre from the Indian subcontinent. [1]

Contents

Etymology and classification

The word talwar originated from the Sanskrit word taravāri (Sanskrit : तरवारि) which means "one-edged sword". [2] Talwar also means ''sword'' in Hindi, Bengali and Urdu. [3] [4]

Like many swords from around the world with an etymology derived from a term meaning simply 'sword', the talwar has in scholarship, and in museum and collector usage, acquired a more specific meaning. Unfortunately, South Asian swords, while showing a rich diversity of forms, suffer from relatively poor dating (so developmental history is obscure) and a lack of precise nomenclature and classification. The typical talwar is a type of sabre, characterised by a curved blade (without the radical curve of some Persian swords), possessing an all-metal hilt with integral quillons and a disc-shaped pommel (sometimes called the 'Indo-Muslim hilt' or 'standard Indian hilt'). However, many variations exist. Swords with straight blades and the disc-pommel hilt are usually referred to as 'straight-bladed talwars', those with the same hilt, but yatagan-type forward-curved blades are termed 'sosun patta'. Swords with sabre-blades and all metal Indo-Muslim hilts, but having the pommel in the shape of the head of an animal or bird, instead of the disc, are termed talwar, without being differentiated by name. [5]

History

The talwar originated alongside other curved swords such as the Persian shamshir, the Turkish kilij, Arabian Saif and the Afghan pulwar, all such swords being originally derived from earlier curved swords developed in Turkic Central Asia. [6] The talwar typically does not have as radical a curve as the shamshir and only a very small minority have the expanded, stepped, yelman typical of the kilij. [7] [8]

The introduction of the curved sabre-blade to the Indian Subcontinent, and its subsequent adoption and widespread use, is not well documented. Some of the earliest images of curved blades (other than recurved blades, sharp on the concave edge) are found on the 11th-12th century temples of Khajuraho, built by the kings of Bundelkhand. However, many different types of sword are depicted. [9] The distinctive, all-metal, Indo-Muslim hilt was developed in Medieval western India. [10] The increasing influence in India of Turco-Afghan, and later Turco-Mongol, dynasties (employing Persian and Central Asian arms) in the Late Medieval and subsequent eras led to ever greater use of sabre-like, curved swords. By Mughal times, the talwar had become the most popular form of sword in the Subcontinent. The talwar was the product of the marriage of the curved blade derived from Turco-Mongol and Persian swords and the native all-metal Indo-Muslim hilt. [11]

Characteristics

Talwar with a wootz blade and silver koftgari decoration to hilt and blade forte. Note the widening of the blade near the tip. PB210833.JPG
Talwar with a wootz blade and silver koftgari decoration to hilt and blade forte. Note the widening of the blade near the tip.

The talwar was produced in many varieties, with different types of blades. Some blades are very unusual, from those with double-pointed tips (zulfikar) to those with massive blades (sometimes called tegha - often deemed to be executioner's swords but on little evidence). However, all such blades are curved, and the vast majority of talwars have blades more typical of a generalised sabre. As noted above, swords with blades other than curved sabre-blades, or possessing hilts radically different from the Indo-Muslim type are usually differentiated by name, though usage is not entirely consistent. [12]

Many examples of the talwar exhibit an increased curvature in the distal half of the blade, compared to the curvature nearer the hilt. Also relatively common is a widening of the blade near the tip (without the step (latchet) to the back of the blade characteristic of the yelman of the kilij). The blade profile of the British Pattern 1796 light cavalry sabre is similar to some examples of the talwar, and it has been suggested that the talwar may have contributed to the design of the British sabre. [13]

A typical talwar has a wider blade than the shamshir. Late examples often had European-made blades, set into distinctive Indian-made hilts. The hilt of the typical talwar, is of the Indo-Muslim type, and is often termed a "disc hilt" from the prominent disc-shaped flange surrounding the pommel. [14] The pommel often has a short spike projecting from its centre, sometimes pierced for a cord to secure the sword to the wrist. The hilt incorporates a simple cross-guard which frequently has a slender knucklebow attached. [15] The hilt is usually entirely of iron, though brass and silver hilts are found, and is connected to the tang of the blade by a very powerful adhesive resin. This resin, or lac, is derived from the peepal tree, it is softened by heating and, when cooled, it sets solidly. [16] More ornate examples of the talwar often show silver or gold plated decoration in a form called koftgari. [17] Talwars of princely status can have hilts of gold, profusely set with precious stones, one such, preserved at the Baroda Palace Armoury, is decorated with 275 diamonds and an emerald. [18]

Use

The talwar was used by both Cavalry and Infantry. The grip of the talwar is cramped and the prominent disc of the pommel presses into the wrist if attempts are made to use it to cut like a conventional sabre. These features of the talwar hilt result in the hand having a very secure and rather inflexible hold on the weapon, enforcing the use of variations on the very effective "draw cut". The fact that the talwar does not have the kind of radical curve of the shamshir indicates that it could be used for thrusting as well as cutting purposes. The blades of some examples of the talwar widen towards the tip. This increases the momentum of the distal portion of the blade when used to cut; when a blow was struck by a skilled warrior, limbs could be amputated and persons decapitated. [19] The spike attached to the pommel could be used for striking the opponent in extreme close quarter circumstances when it was not always possible to use the blade. Due to the presence of a blunted ricasso the talwar can be held with the fore-finger wrapped around the lower quillon of the cross guard. [20]

See also

Notes

  1. Swords and Hilt Weapons. London: Prion. 2012. ISBN   9781853758829.
  2. Talwar
  3. "Swords meaning In Urdu".
  4. "Talwar meaning in Hindi".
  5. Jaiwant Paul, plate facing p. 32, pp. 46-47, 77
  6. Nicolle, p. 175
  7. Bull, p. 176
  8. Stone, Fig. 770. The illustration shows 6 talwar, only 1 of which has a Turkish-style yelman.
  9. Jaiwant Paul, p. 35
  10. Jaiwant Paul, p. 37
  11. Jaiwant Paul, pp.36-37, 46
  12. Stone, see entries Talwar and Tegha (the glossary is alphabetical).
  13. Robson, p.23
  14. Evangelista and Gaugler, p. 575
  15. Evangelista and Gaugler, p. 575
  16. Jaiwant Paul, p. 118
  17. Jaiwant Paul, p. 118
  18. Jaiwant Paul, pp. 116-117
  19. Nolan, Louis. Cavalry: its History and Tactics (Bosworth 1853, Pallas Armata facsimile reprint 1995)
  20. Jaiwant Paul, p. 46

Related Research Articles

A sword is a bladed melee weapon intended for cutting or thrusting that is longer than a knife or dagger, consisting of a long blade attached to a hilt. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epoch or the geographic region under consideration. The blade can be straight or curved. Thrusting swords have a pointed tip on the blade, and tend to be straighter; slashing swords have a sharpened cutting edge on one or both sides of the blade, and are more likely to be curved. Many swords are designed for both thrusting and slashing.

Falchion One-handed, single-edged sword

A falchion is a one-handed, single-edged sword of European origin, whose design is reminiscent of the modern machete. Falchions are found in different forms from around the 13th century up to and including the 16th century. In some versions the falchion looks rather like the seax and later the sabre, and in other versions the form is irregular or like a machete with a crossguard.

Hilt Handle of a sword or similar weapon

The hilt of a knife, dagger, sword, or bayonet is its handle, consisting of a guard, grip and pommel. The guard may contain a crossguard or quillons. A tassel or sword knot may be attached to the guard or pommel.

Sabre Type of sword used for combat on horseback

A sabre is a type of backsword with a curved blade associated with the light cavalry of the early modern and Napoleonic periods. Originally associated with Central European cavalry such as the hussars, the sabre became widespread in Western Europe in the Thirty Years' War. Lighter sabres also became popular with infantry of the early 17th century. In the 19th century, models with less curving blades became common and were also used by heavy cavalry.

This is a list of types of swords.

Shamshir Type of Persian/Iranian curved sword

A shamshir is a type of Persian/Iranian sword with a radical curve. The name is derived from the shamshīr, which means "sword" in the Persian language. The curved "scimitar" sword family includes the shamshir, kilij, talwar, pulwar and nimcha.

Kilij

A kilij is a type of one-handed, single-edged and moderately curved scimitar used by the Timurid Empire, Mamluk Empire, Ottoman Empire, and the later Turkic Khanates of Central Asia and Eurasian steppes. These blades developed from earlier Turko-Mongol sabers that were in use in lands invaded or influenced by the Turkic peoples.

Pulwar

The pulwar or pulouar is a single-handed curved sword originating in Afghanistan.

Nimcha Type of sabre from North Africa

A Nimcha is a single-handed sword from north Africa, especially used in Morocco and Algeria, a type of scimitar or saif. Becoming popular in north Africa during the 16th century, surviving nimcha are usually from the late 18th century onward and are notable for often using older blades. Stylistically they often bore Arabian type handles with tugrah inscribed on the blade.

Mameluke sword Sword

A Mameluke sword is a cross-hilted, curved, scimitar-like sword historically derived from sabres used by Mamluk warriors of Mamluk Egypt after whom the sword is named. Egypt was, at least nominally, part of the Ottoman Empire and the sword most commonly used in Egypt was the same as used elsewhere in the empire, the kilij.

Shashka

The shashka or shasqua, is a kind of sabre; single-edged, single-handed, and guardless backsword. In appearance, the shashka is midway between a typically curved sabre and a straight sword. It has a slightly curved blade, and can be effective for both cutting and thrusting.

Flyssa Type of traditional long knife or sword of the Kabyles

The Flyssa is a traditional Sabre of Algeria produced and used during the 19th century and earlier. It originates from the Kabyle Iflissen Lebhar tribal confederacy.

The Pattern 1796 Light Cavalry Sabre is a sword that was used primarily by British light dragoons and hussars, and King's German Legion light cavalry during the Napoleonic Wars. It was adopted by the Prussians and used by Portuguese and Spanish cavalry.

Scimitar Sword

In English the word scimitar refers to a backsword or sabre with a curved blade. Adapted from the Italian word scimitarra in the mid 16th century from an unknown source, the word became used for all 'Oriental' blades which were curved, compared to the more commonly straight and double edged European swords of the time. This is apparent in Thomas Page's The Use of the Broad Sword. Published: 1746:

"The Sword was of enormous length and breadth, heavy and unweildy, design'd only for right down chopping by the Force of a strong Arm; till Time and Experience discovering the Disadvantages, by Degrees contracted its Length and lighten'd its Weight in to the more handy Form of the Scymitar; which was first invented by the Eastern Nations, and has continued to be their principal Weapon to this Day:....""The Saracens, Turks and Persians, made use of but three different Throws with the Scymitar, and one of those, only on Horseback; the other two on Foot."

Firangi (sword) Sword

The firangi (Marathi:फिरंगाना) was an Indian sword type which used blades manufactured in Western Europe, particularly Solingen, and imported by the Portuguese, or made locally in imitation of European blades.

Claymore Sword

A claymore is either the Scottish variant of the late medieval two-handed sword or the Scottish variant of the basket-hilted sword. The former is characterised as having a cross hilt of forward-sloping quillons with quatrefoil terminations and was in use from the 15th to 17th centuries.

Niabor Type of Sword, Cutlass

Niabor is a curved sword from Borneo, a characteristic weapon of the Sea-Dayaks.

Piso Halasan Type of Sword

A Piso Halasan is a traditional sword of the Batak people from North Tapanuli Regency, North Sumatra, Indonesia.

Turko-Mongol sabers Cavalry Sabre

These swords were used by the Turkic nomads of the Eurasian steppes primarily between the 8th and 14th centuries. One of the earliest recorded sabres of this type was recovered from an Avar grave in Romania dating to the mid 7th century. Although minor variations occur in size and hilt, they are common enough in design across 5 centuries that individual blades are difficult to date when discovered without other context.

The Pattern 1831 sabre for General Officers is a British army pattern sword prescribed for the use of officers of the rank of major-general and above. It has been in continuous use from 1831 to the present. It is an example of a type of sword described as a mameluke sabre.

References

Further reading