Ancient Asian weapons

gauntlet sword

Traditional weapons of the Indian Warrior

India daggers and swords form a significant part of the rich heritage of Asian weaponry. Extremely popular until the demise of the Princely States under British and then India rule the swords and daggers were important parts of a courtiers dress and swordsmanship was practiced as both a skill and a prestigeous sport. Although the museums of India contain numerous examples of Indian weaponry the Hermitage in St. Petersburg and the Victoria and ALbert Museum in London contain some of the better examples. In my home town of Darlington, England there was a wonderful collection which I spent many hours studying during my youth. Our weapons collection is from the ancient capital of Tamil Nadu - Thanjavore. All of our Tamil Nadu weapons were found buried under the earthen floor of the cellar [dungeon] of the Maharaja of Thanjavore's Palace. Our source believed they are no later than 17th century. The sword was no longer used by the infantry after the 18th century, although it continued to be used by the cavalry.

We purchased our weapons from an antiquarian who also was the Chief of Police of Thanjavor, and a friend of the Maharaja's. The story behind their rust is that they were buried during a period when all arms had to be surrended to the government. Many weapons were buried by those who did not want to comply. Ours were dug-up in the 20th century and we purchased approximately half of the available collection. From the time of purchase until recieving the collection in the USA it took 4.5 years to get the necessary permissions to export these items.

The ideal method of displaying these weapons is in a fitted shadow box, either with a built-in LED light or simply allowing natural light illuminate the piece.


The sword and dagger has two basic parts: the hilt and the blade. Many Indian weapons were decorated with precious stones and embedded gold on the hilt. One of our daggers still has traces of gold but the method of hiding the weapon during the troubling times has caused almost all of the gold-leaf to flake. Genuine daggers and swords with embedded gold in good condition sell for many thousand of dollars.

The hilt, as shown in the first image below, often has a tang button sitting atop the flower with a circular, plate-like, pommel before the grip and knuckle guard. Below the grip is the square and below the square an extension onto the blade called the langer The two side extensions of the square are called the quillons [E. Jaiwant Paul, 1995, ISBN: 817436014X].

The blade comprises the tang which is totally enclosed by the hilt, the edge, backedge, and the tip. The flat surface of the sides of the blade is called the false edge and may have a blood groove running its full length.

Fighting with straight swords was essentially thrusting, and, with curved swords hacking and cutting. Whereas swordmanship generally involved a lot of wrist, elbow and arm movement the special gaunlet sword did not use the wrist and was used only by very skilled swordsmen.

Length: 23 inches.

A sword from the dungeons of Thanjavore Palace: $250.

Length: 27.5 inches.

A sword from the dungeons of Thanjavore Palace: $250.

A sword from the dungeons of Thanjavore Palace. Length: 22 inches, gaunlet: 6 inches. Sold.

Spear heads

Spear heads from Tamil Nadu: $75 each. Length of head: ~8.25 inches.

A lance head from the dungeons of Thanjavore Palace: $300. Length: 26 inches

Daggers: the katar or jamdhar.

The katar is entirely of Indian origin and is essentially a stabbing or thrusting blade. The two parallel arms arising from blade are joined by one or more cross-bars, which form the grip, and together form this forms the hilt. The straight bars are thought to have been used to stop the thrust of a sword.

Katar from the dungeons of Thanjavore Palace, with traces of gold: $100. Length: 15 inches, width of hilt: 4.5 inches.

Dagger from the dungeons of Thanjavore Palace: $150. Length: 21 inches, width of hilt: 3.25 inches

Ceremonial axes from India

These excellent pieces are thought to have been used for beheading of goats and other animals.

Length: 24 inches, blade 14.25 inches. Teak handle. $250

Length: 26.5 inches, blade 15.5 inches. Teak handle. $250

Length: 28 inches, blade 19 inches. Teak handle. $300

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