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13. Circa 1800 Sind Tulwar with kirk narduban wootz blade

( ID: ic1262 )

Overall length: 104.2 cm

Blade length: 84 cm

Weight: 3.5 lbs

Price on request

An exceptionally large and royal quality tulwar that can be identified to the Sindh region during the reign of the House of Talpur. The quality of the blade, likely of Shirazi origin (Elgood 2017), the silver fittings, and exceptional quality sheet silver overlaid hilt indicate a royal origin. Tulwars, with slender elongated hilts, often overlaid with gold koftgari decoration of fine floral design with canted pommels, mounted with exceptional wootz blades, and scabbards with fittings with space for small side-knives (Askari 1999; Wallace Collection 2008; Elgood 2017) are all indicative of the swords of the Sindh region.

The finest of the Sindhi tulwars often have inscriptions along the forte to indicate ownership to one of the rulers of the Talpurs of Sindh (see examples in the Wallace Collection, Acc. Nr. OA1762 and one published in 1988 in the exhibition titled Splendeur des Armes Orientales (Ricketts and Missillier 1988, Cat. Nr. 227)). These examples display near identical forms of the handles and scabbard fittings but of considerably lower quality in terms of design than the example on offer. The House of the Talpurs were widely noted as highly regarded collectors of arms and focused on exceptionally beautiful, watered steel blades. The Talpurs, a clan from Baluchistan, established themselves in Sind in 1783 and divided into three ruling houses at Mirpur, Khaipur, and Hyderabad. The Mirs, or princes of the ruling family, had a fondness for horses, arms, and field sports.

The most famous, contemporaneous Western account of the Talpur collection of arms can be found in an account written by James Burns in 1831 where he notes:

“Of all the things which are calculated to engage the attention of a stranger on visiting the court of Sinde none will excite his surprise more, or is really more worthy of Observation, than the brilliant collection of jewels and armour in possession of the Ameers. The Ameers have agents in Persia, Turkey, and Palestine, for the purchase of swords and gun-barrels, and they possess a more valuable collection of these articles than is probably to be met with in any other part of the world. I have had in my hand a plain unornamented blade which bad cost them half a lac of rupees. They estimate swords by their age and the fineness of the steel, as shown by the johar and awb, or temper and watering. One, which Kurm Ali presented to me, bears the Mahommedan date 1122, (A. D, 1708,) and was valued in Sinde at two thousand rupees. The armory of their Highnesses is graced with swords which have been worn by almost every prince renowned in Asiatic story; and I have had the honor of trying the balance of weapons which bad been wielded by Shah Abbas the Great, Nadir Shah, Ahmed Shah Doranee, the present king of Persia, and many other equally illustrious personages. The blades are embellished with inscriptions in gold, which, in the case of those belonging to members of the family who are Sheahs, usually consist of short prayers to Huz rut All for aid and protection, and in that of the others, of verses from the Koran or appropriate quotations from Persian authors. The swords do not appear heavier than our common English sabres, but they are differently balanced, and I have seen one of the young princes with a single stroke cut a large sheep in two pieces; a feat which somewhat reminded me of that told of the famous Saladdin in Sir Walter Scott’s “Tales of the Crusaders.” There is a certain mode of striking with them, which requires great practice and dexterity, as one of Meer Ismail Shah’s sons broke a very valuable blade in a similar experiment a short time before I went to Hyderabad.”

Our example features a large iron grip overlaid in thick, sheet silver, which is further embellished with silver floral inlays and curious cartouches along the inside of the pommel disk. The floral form of the hilt, with trefoil quillons, is indicative of North Indian Mughal shamshirs, which likely influenced this hilt (see Elgood 2017 (Vol.1) pg. 203 and pg. 283 for a similar 17th-century hilt; and Askari 1999 for a Sindi shamshir in the collection of the present day House of Talpur with a similar trefoil floral hilt, fig, 60 and 61). The blade is of exceptional quality watered steel and displays a full and finely controlled “Mohammed’s Ladder” kirk narduban pattern along the entire length and on both sides. It also has a gold, inlaid cartouche translated as "Anwar Arsi Bahadur", where Anwar Arsi is the name of the owner and Bahadur translates to warrior. Furthermore, in the top left quadrant of the ricasso, there is a baduh, or talismanic square.

Variations of this square have served Muslims as religious mandalas, meditative devices, and occult talismans and amulets. The square’s magic sum of 15, which for the Chinese represented “human being perfected,” has been culturally transformed in the Islamic context to reflect the phrase “O man” or “O Perfect Man,” referring to the Prophet Muhammad (Swetz 2008). The original, leather covered scabbard features silver fittings of distinct design (see Philips and Missillier 1988) and has an integrally formed pocket for a watered steel kard dagger. This style of fittings can be seen on a number of tulwars in the House of Talpur collection, illustrated in Askari (1999: figs.58, 66, and 69)

Overall condition is very good with only some slight loss to the leather. The kard pocket is also slightly weakened but, nonetheless, is well attached to the scabbard.

Provenance:

Private collection, Texas

References:

Askari, N. (1999) Treasures of the Talpurs: Collections from the Court of Sindh. Mohatta Palace Museum: Karachi

Burns, J. (1831). A Narrative visit to the court of Sinde. Edinburgh

Elgood. R. (2017). Rajput Arms & Armour: The Rathores & Their Armoury At Jodhpur Fort- Volume II. Niyogi Books

Ricketts, H. and Missillier, P. (1988). Splendeur des Armes Orientales. ACTE-EXPO; Paris

Swetz. F. (2008). Legacy of the Luoshu: The 4,000 Year Search for the Meaning of the Magic Square of Order Three. A.K. Peters Ltd: Massachusetts

 
Photo #1 of 13. Circa 1800 Sind Tulwar with kirk narduban wootz blade
Photo #2 of 13. Circa 1800 Sind Tulwar with kirk narduban wootz blade
Photo #3 of 13. Circa 1800 Sind Tulwar with kirk narduban wootz blade
Photo #4 of 13. Circa 1800 Sind Tulwar with kirk narduban wootz blade