Silver Kandyan Knife
Place of Origin: Ceylon (Sri Lanka)
Date: 18th Century
*Blade length is the edged portion only.
Ceylonese knives have always been available in quite good quantities on the art and antiques market, and if we read Deraniyagala (1942) then we learn they have generally all been inaccurately grouped as Piha-Kaetta, when this term only applies to the heavy versions with chopper like blades.
Although Deraniyagala is a little general with his classifications, the example shown here could be classified as an ‘Ul Pihiya’ a type reserved for high ranking individuals and as a Royal knife. Regardless of technical terms it has wonderful form and quite different to those more commonly seen.
The primary material used is silver, usually we find grips of ivory, horn, coral and other organic materials. This makes it surprisingly heavy for a small knife. The grip scales are solid silver as is the applied ricasso. A further application of thinner repoussé sheet silver is applied to the central portion of the blade including the spine. On the central area and spine we see floral patterns, with the last third of the blade inlaid with silver vines.
The hilt shape further separates this knife from most others, the dog-leg shape, unlike the term, is quite beautiful, other hilts will have a gentle taper, but this example has a bend and abrupt straightening of the pommel giving the knife quite a wonderful aesthetic.
The distinctive Ceylonese curling scrollwork you see all over this knife is termed liya-pata and liya-vela, and in this instance is especially intricate and brings the object to life.
See Hales (2013) no.131, p.63 for an example with the same shaped hilt.