Item: ic1261

South Indian Travancore Parashu axe combination weapon


  • Period 18th century
  • Culture South India/Mysore
  • Materials Iron, gold, rubies
  • Overall length 91.5 cm
  • Blade 15.25 cm
  • Width 15.25 cm
  • Weight 5.5 lbs


Few cultures created combination weapons of such interesting design and incongruous utility as that resident on the Indian sub-continent, with south India the particular area where combination forms were most readily adopted or used. A most interesting object, this exceptionally large and heavy combination weapon, combines three iconic weapons of the sub-continent with a classic Hindu khanda style handle, including a mace or gurz, a wavy dagger- like zaghnal blade, and a single-edged axe.

Most Indian combination weapons are found combining a dagger, axe, or other cutting weapons with a firearm, as the Travancore State axes referenced below are made, and are usually made in the early 19th c. though earlier examples are known. This form entirely constructed of iron and of heavy weight features an axe, mace, and zaghnal blade and indicates an interesting combination with some special relevance to the wielder.

To more accurately attribute this geographically, the form of the axe head provides an indication of origin as the opposite facing rampant lions or leopards, based on the spotted gold koftgari, are found on a group of axes attributed to 18th c. Travancore (now modern-day central and south Kerala state) as state axes called parashu or parasu (Elgood 2005). A number of south Indian axes are further distinguished by having the terminus points of the axe heard terminate in small roundels, such as on this example, see most prominently a 16th/17th C. combination axe from the Stone collection in the Metropolitan Museum (See Acc. Nr. 36.25.2118 (illustrated in Elgood 2005)). The parashu has a distinct history in South India and especially in Travancore. One of the creation myths attributed to Kerala is that it was retrieved from the sea, by Parasurama, a warrior deity when he, an Avatar of Mahavishnu, threw his battle axe into the sea. As a result, the land of Kerala arose, and was reclaimed from the water (Nagani 1906).

Distinctly, the linked chain form decoration on the poll or shoulder of the parashu head is found on other South Indian arms, including an important 17th c. Tamil Nadu tulwar grip in private U.S. collection and Nayaka aṅkuśas of the 17th centuries (Elgood 2005: see especially the important example in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts along the rib of the spearhead and the curved aṅkuśa blade itself). The former collection of the Higgins Armory, now in the Worcester Museum, Massachusetts (See Acc. Nr 2014.468) also has a rare combination axe, with a similar crescent form axe head with bulb-like ends, and a Coorg ayda kayti blade as the main weapon. The grip of that example is mounted with a yali head terminus tulwar hilt (similar to the handle referenced above).

The axe head emanating from a lion head is in keeping with the form of sub- Continent forms where the different shaped blades emanate most often from yali or makara forms. The quality of the workmanship is of an order of magnitude greater than most other known combination weapons combining gold koftgari decoration which is visible on most of the surfaces, and the use of inlaid ruby and gold decoration for the eyes of the opposite standing feline creatures. Few iron objects of this period, especially those of staff weapon form have any gold or stone inlaid decoration, though axes are more likely than others to have that form of decoration, see Arms and Antiques Ref. Nr. IA697, for an example sold by us in 2014 of a fine 18th c. Indian tabar axe with inlaid stones.

Now with some wear and loss to the gold koftgari but retaining much of the gold on the parashu blade and also the original inlaid rubies and gold kundun settings.


Arms and Antiques. Ref. Nr. IA697.

Elgood, R. (2005) Hindu Arms and Ritual: Arms and Armour from India 1400-1865. Eburon Publishers, Delft.

Nagam, A. (1906). Travancore State Manual. Trivandurum: Travancore Government Press