Large Khanda Wootz Damascus Sword with Fine Silver Open-Work Scabbard
late 17th century
This early khanda has an excellent wootz or damascened blade; a large, gilded, ornate hilt; and a scabbard with superbly worked silver mounts – which themselves offer excellent and relatively rare examples of late seventeenth century Indian silver work.
khanda is the oldest style of Indian swords. This example has a finely-grained damascened double-edged blade which is long, thin and flares at the end to a curved point. Ornate strengthening plates in steel run along the edges part way down both sides of the blade, and down the middle of the blade. The hilt has a broad plate guard and a wide finger guard which joins the discus-like pommel. A spike on the pommel acts as a guard for the arm and for a grip for the left hand if performing a two-handed stroke. The pommel and guards are all silvered and then plated with gold, as well as having been cast and chiselled with various petal and leafy motifs. The grip is covered in fine, plaited silver wire.
The scabbard is of thin wood covered with what would have been velvet cloth (now very worn) with a woven silver strip down the middle of each side. The chape and the locket are of cast and chased silver and are beautifully worked with pairs of humming birds amongst large stylised orchid blooms, scrolling foliage and other flowers. (It is unusual to see a
khanda scabbard with both an elaborate chape and locket – normally only a chape is present.) The silver work here is not unlike a silver scabbard, rosewater sprinkler and pandan box illustrated in Zebrowski (1997, p. 41-3); and for a scabbard with some very similar silver work which is attributed to the mid-sixteenth century, see Elgood (2004, p. 113.) Two similar although less ornate khandas and without scabbards are in the Clive Collection at Powis Castle (see Archer, 1987, p.53).
The form of the
khanda is related to that of the firangi sword also used in India from the sixteenth century. The firangi has a closed hilt and a blade exported to India by the Portuguese. (The term ‘firangi‘ derives from the word ‘franj‘ – a blanket term used to denote anything European.) Local versions of the firangi soon evolved, of which the khanda appears to relate. The khanda is the main sword of Orissa but also was used by Rajputs and Mahrattas.Khanda-like swords evolved in Southeast Asia too, most notably in the Sultanate of Aceh, which has a long history of commercial and diplomatic links with India, the Ottomans and even Europe.
This example is an early Indian example with very strong features, most particularly, the extensive silver mounts employed on the scabbard.
Archer, M. et al, Treasures from India: The Clive Collection at Powis Castle, The National Trust, 1987.
Hindu Arms and Ritual: Arms and Armour from India 1400-1865, Eburon, 2004.
A Glossary of the Construction, Decoration and Use of Arms and Armour, first published in 1934, Jack Brussel, 1961.
Gold, Silver & Bronze from Mughal India, Alexandria Press, 1997.
US art market
Inventory no.: 1278