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SIKH SPEAR

Place of Origin: INDIA

Date: 18th Century

Overall: 2240mm (88 inches)

Reference: 323

Status: Reserved

Full Description:

This well-preserved and historical weapon is known as a karpa barsha (translated as “Cobra Spear”). The base of the imposing steel spearhead is bifurcated into two flaring points, the main section of the blade formed with a pronounced medial ridge which runs along the greater part of the blade’s length as it tapers to a slender reinforced point. The blade is inserted into an unusual hemisphere of wood which is cut over its surface with various hollows. It is very rare for such weapons to be accompanied by their original wooden scabbards – our example’s is extant and fitted with brass encasings at its base and point which are cut and chased to depict outflowing acanthus leaves and intersecting lotus flowers atop a banded geometric pattern. The spear’s tubular brass socket is adorned with three bands, each containing a row of spherical protrusions.

The shaft is formed of bamboo which has been painted at its top and base with bands of leaves, chevrons and other symbols. The vast majority of its length, however, is painted with a floral motif comprising alternating vertical rows of white and red flowerheads within a scrolling framework of gold stylised vine tendrils on a dark-green ground.

A wooden spear with painted hunting scenes is preserved in the Royal Armouries, Leeds,[1] and a 2014 paper published by Thom Richardson and Natasha Bennett provides compelling attribution for the spear to Sardar Jowala Singh as part of a group of arms whose owners included Maharaja Sher Singh and Maharjah Ranjit Singh.[2]

A karpa barsha of this type is also kept in the gurdwara (Sikh temple) in Sri Kesgarh Sahib, one of five seats of the Sikh religion in India, in the city of Anandpur Sahib, Punjab. It is thought to have belonged to Bhai Uday Singh, who used it to mount the head of Raja Kesri Chand whom he dispatched at the Battle of Lohgarh in 1710 A.D.


[1] https://collections.royalarmouries.org/object/rac-object-37298.html

[2] Natasha Bennett & Thom Richardson, “The East India Company gift to the Tower of London in 1853” in Thom Richardson (ed.), East Meets West: Diplomatic Gifts of Arms and Armour between Europe and Asia, 2014, p. 128.