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Heavy Tulwar

Place of Origin: JAIPUR, RAJASTHAN

Date: 19th Century

Overall Length: 920mm

Reference: 234

Status: Reserved

Full Description:

Elegant in its simplicity and robust in its construction, this sword is exceptionally well made. The hilt is laminated with wootz steel while the blade is pattern-welded, both components showing high contrast watered patterns.

The wide, thick blade has a pair of slim fullers close to its spine while, towards the tip, a raised false edge—or yelman—appears just as the fullers vanish.

The hilt has facetted quillons, their silhouettes flowing seamlessly into the bulbous grip and then upwards to the langets. Each langet terminates in a trefoil, and more of these appear arranged perfectly around the disc pommel’s hub.

The blade is marked twice. The first is an oval, stamped cartouche that records the bladesmith’s name in Persian: “Made by Ibrahim”.

Ibrahim is probably one of the famous Alwar artisans mentioned by Powlett in the 1878 Ulwur Gazetteer[1]. According to Powlett,, these artisans were known far and wide and given land in lieu of pay—a testament to the high esteem they were held in by their royal employers. A blade made by Ibrahim resides in the Royal Collection and boasts of similarly high quality steel[2] (Royal Collection Trust of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II), and illustrated in the recent book by Kajal Meghani, Splendours of the Subcontinent: A Prince’s Tour of India 1875–6, page 128 (RCIN 11297.a-b).

Although Ibrahim is renowned for dark-coloured wootz blades, this hilt and its mechanical Damascus blade are still of the quality we would expect to see from an artisan of his calibre.

The second inscription has been inlaid into the blade in silver Devanagari letters, supporting the fact that this was a high quality object made for an important man. It reads:

“From the Silekhana (armoury) of Maharaj Shri Udai Singh the great donor.”

 

[1] Powlett, Gazetteer of Ulwur, 1878, p.118.

[2] https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/11238/sword


 

The identity of Udai Singh is not currently known[1], but it should be noted that the title used is Maharaj, not Maharaja, and is a term of endearment and honour: not necessarily an official royal title. However, it is likely that he was a man of power, perhaps being a local ruler. What we do know is that he must have been a giant of a Rajput to control this heavy sword which weighs 2.5 kilograms. The Rajputs were known for using weapons as substantial as this and the new book accompanying the travelling exhibition Peacock in the Desert[2] provides us with insights:

“The Rajputs trained hard using weights and exercise bows. Their personal weapons were heavier than the average in use in India. They also took opium in large quantities, which had the effect of giving them energy, dulling the appetite and pain from wounds, and acting as a coagulant. These factors together with their clan spirit and desire for heroic death made them exceptional warriors whose effectiveness on a battlefield far out-weighed their numbers.

“Seventeenth-century miniature paintings show the very substantial size and weight of Rajput arms[3].”

The fine Damascus blade is protected by the original scabbard which is made from a wooden core covered in black leather, finished with iron mounts.

For comparison, a sword attributed to Jaipur from the last quarter of the 19th century appears in Arms & Armour at the Jaipur Court by Robert Elgood[4]. This also has a wootz hilt of similar form and a similar stamp at the heel of the blade.

 

[1] Tahakore Udai Singh, 13th on the gaddi (throne) of village Danta in the Sikar district has been suggested (part of the Kachawa Jaipur darbar) but this has not been substantiated. My thanks to Viraj Singh Chudasama for his input.

[2] K. Jasol / R. Elgood Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India, Yale University Press, 2018, p.109

[4] R. Elgood, Arms & Armour at the Jaipur Court: The Royal Collection, Niyogi Books, 2015, p.142. cat.no.97