Place of Origin: COORG, SOUTH-WESTERN INDIA
Date: 18th or 19th Century
Overall: 540mm (21 ¼ inches)
A fine example of this imposing weapon-type, an Ayda Katti, the traditional sword of the Kodavas in Coorg (the modern-day state of Karnataka).
At the base of the hilt is a wooden elliptical pommel-plate covered with red lacquer, the grip enclosed by strips of silver gilt which are each fastened in place with small bolts – a red tassel has also been attached to the pommel for suspension. The remainder of the red wooden hilt emerges through the other side of the grip and sits just below a stepped ferrule which has been closely engraved with a series of horizontal rows containing triangles in a mirrored arrangement.
In keeping with the original function of the Ayda Katti as a means for cutting through dense undergrowth (although it is unlikely our example served this purpose), the blade is essentially hatchet-shaped. A thin ricasso notched at each edge and engraved with a single beaded line continues out from the ferrule before the blade sharply widens at the base – the back edge extending horizontally before recurving inwards, whilst the front edge extends initially and then is cut back to form a short four-stepped protrusion. The greater part of the blade’s length is then of typical form, the cutting edge distinctly convex where the back-edge is mostly straight before recurving and tapering towards the ricasso. Visible on one face of the blade is a stamp containing a stylised letter ‘E’, perhaps the mark of the family that was originally given this blade as part of a ceremonial gesture.
An Ayda Katti with similar decoration at the hilt is preserved in the Powys Castle and Garden in Wales as part of the National Trust Collections (Object No. NT1180585), having been accepted by HM Treasury on 21st March 1963 in lieu of tax and subsequently conveyed to National Trust ownership on 29th November 1963.
The attached label reads:
“Ex Lord Rolls coll.
From this we can surmise, with other information, that the sword was in the Rolls family (Lord Charles Rolls was co-founder of the Rolls Royce car manufacturing firm) who had their family home, The Hendre, in Monmouth, Wales.
The label implies the sword was sold in August 1962 for £3, in Stratford-upon-Avon (it is worth noting that Robin Wigington, a noted arms & armour dealer, had a shop and museum in the town).
The 1962 date on the label is relevant, as a year earlier, in 1961 Lady Eleanor Shelly-Rolls died. Eleanor was the sister of Lord Charles Rolls, who like his two other brothers, died leaving no children to inherit the estate, so it fell to Lady Eleanor. She also died leaving no children, and upon her death the estate passed back up the family line to the closest member of the family with surviving descendants. The Harding-Rolls branch of the family continued to live at The Hendre until 30 August 1984 when, following a failed time-share operation, it was sold.
One might say this sword is literally the Rolls Royce of Adya Katti!