‘Mohammed’s Ladder’ Shamshir
Place of Origin: Persia and India
Date: 18th Century
Overall Length: 980mm
A fine and important Indian Shamshir sword with a Persian Kirk Narduban 'Ladder' blade. A ‘Kirk Narduban’ or ‘Laddered blade’ is a blade of high quality Wootz steel with approximately forty mechanically created distortions of the crystalline structure, called steps, which are located at regular intervals, and compact the ‘watering’ pattern into narrow linear bands between the edge and spine of the blade. Figiel 1991 (p.70) suggests that the use of a sword, particularly one with ‘Mohammed’s ladder’ in a holy war, would ensure entry to paradise.
The blade is of Persian manufacture, made by the celebrated swordsmith ‘Mohammed Kazem Shirazi’ (Mayer p.73 and p.48). The striking wootz pattern of silver and grey wavy and motley lines on a dark background result in the Kirk Narduban pattern being clearly visible on both sides. Inlaid in gold to one side with two inscription filled cartouches, a further band of inscriptions and a magic square.
The cartouches read:
Help from God with an Early victory.
The Work of Mohammed Kazem Shirazi, made for Mohammed Xedmaktar.
The hilt has a two piece ivory grip- the ivory having a beautiful glossy patina, the iron pommel cap decorated with thick gold koftgari in floral patterns, with the iron cross guard decorated with gold koftgari and covered on all sides with low-relief Islamic calligraphy.
The Cross Guard reads:
In the name of God, Compassionate and Merciful, we look for help from him.
Help from God and Early Victory.
The Quillions read:
Oh the Compassionate, Oh the Gracious, Oh the Bounteous, Oh the Benevolent, Oh the Guide/Oh the Reasoning, Oh the Friend and Oh the Merciful, Allah, Mohammed.
The scabbard is covered in black leather (later), and the original high quality steel mounts. This sword is evidence that Wootz blades of the highest quality are still available on the market today.
Known works by Mohammed Kazem Shirazi include:
1) Leo Figiel collection - lot 2016 Butterfields & Butterfields - Persian Shamshir with tulwar hilt, belonging to Fateh Ali Shah Qajar.
2) The Wallace collection, London (see Mayer p.48), an Indian tulwar for (Sarkar-i) Mir Murad Ali Khan Talpir (likely Talpur not ‘Talpir’)(no.1503).
3) Splendeur Des Armes Orientales, Missilier & Rickets (p.129, no.215) - Tulwar style hilt with Persian blade, purportedly belonging to a ruler of Sind.