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Inventory

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ARUNGZEB SWORD BLADE

Place of Origin: MUGHAL, INDIA

Date: 17th Century

Overall: 950mm (37 ½ inches)

Reference: 322

Status: Reserved

Full Description:

The tang of this rare and unusual blade widens gently before broadening at sharp angles to continue into the blade itself which is formed of dark wootz steel of excellent quality, the characteristic metallic carbides imbuing this sword with a refined pattern of whorling bands. The width of the blade then remains mostly consistent until its final third, where it becomes double-edged and widens before tapering to a short tip. Two nasta’liq inscriptions, engraved into the steel surface and then inlaid with gold, help us to understand the exciting history of this blade, the inscription on the spine reading as follows:

shah e’alamgir

“the world-seizing king”

And on each face:

“there is no hero but Ali, no sword like Dhu’l-fiqar” (together with a Persian couplet)

Two specific comparanda here merit further discussion in order to better understand the likely context of our own example, the first being a talwar preserved in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York named bi-mehr (‘merciless’) – Accession Number 36.25.1591a, b),[1] which similarly includes Aurangzeb’s title or epithet alamgir (as above: “world-seizing”).[2] The second (Museum Number IS.218&A-1964)[3] was given by the Right Hon. The Earl Kitchener of Khartoum to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, coming directly from the armoury of Aurangzeb himself – alamgir appears once again among the blade’s various inscriptions.

Our example is unlikely to have belonged to the Mughal emperor himself. As in the above-cited examples, his name would normally appear together with the word Padshah (a Persian word literally meaning “master king” [Old Persian pād meaning “master” and shāh meaning “king”]). As is the case for the blade at the V&A, however, our example is almost certainly of courtly provenance and made with Aurangzeb’s approval – perhaps as a gift to someone of political or personal importance to him, or as part of a ceremonial gesture.

In 2015, Christie’s auction house sold a sword belonging to Aurangzeb, famously named ‘Blood-thirsty’.[4] And another blade belonging to him, known as ‘Diamond’, was also sold recently at Christie’s on 19th June 2019.[5]


[1] https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/24328

[2] David Alexander, Islamic Arms and Armor in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2015, p. 184.

[3] http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O158364/sword-of-aurangzeb-sword-and-sheath-unknown/

[4] Christie’s, Lot 120 (“BLOOD-THIRSTY’, A PERSONAL SWORD OF THE EMPEROR AURANGZEB”), Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds (Sake 10490), London, 23rd April 2015.

[5] Christies, Lot 382 (“’DIAMOND’, A PERSONAL SWORD OF THE EMPEROR AURANGZEB WITH GOLD-DAMASCENED TULWAR HILT”), Maharajas & Mughal Magnificence (Sale 17464), New York, 19th June 2019.