An enigmatic type of axe, this one probably from tribal north India.
Sheathed 88 cm
Sword 83 cm
Base 7 mm
Middle 5.5 mm
5 cm from tip 2.5 mm
Base 36.5 mm
Middle 35 mm
5 cm from tip 25 mm
(from center crossguard)
Iron, steel, silver, gold, wood, velvet, brass, pitch.
Punjab. Probably Lahore.
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Swords with very gently curving blades, sharpened on the concave side, are known among collectors today mostly by their Urdu name, kirach (کرچ). In Hindi, they were called kirć (किर्च) / kirić (किरिच).
For more, see my glossary article: kirach (کرچ)
A fine example with a blade of typical profile, with a substantial blade with a very subtle downward curve. The blade is sharpened on the concave side by means of a secondary bevel which starts about 8 cm from the hilt. There is a marked narrowing of the blade's thickness at the last third of the blade, the resulting reduction of weight in the tip makes for a nice and lively balance.
The blade is remarkable in two ways. The most obvious is that the center portion of the blade is entirely chiseled as a sunken panel with scenes of (fighting) animals and horsemen standing out in raised relief.
Such scenes are more commonly associated with talwar style hunting swords, called shikārgah talwar, and rarely seen on the kirach.1
Another notable feature is that the blade is entirely of pattern welded steel in high contrast, showing a very active pattern in shades of silver and grey.
There is an abstract stamp on the right side of the blade, possibly a maker's mark.
The hilt is of robust proportions with a thick grip section with a narrow waist leading to the domed disc pommel. The quillons of its crossguard are slightly forward-oriented, hallmarks of Punjabi manufacture.
In tasteful contrast to the very outspoken blade, the hilt is only very subtly engraved with meandering floral motifs. It was then thickly silver-plated, which in turn was fire-gilt.
It comes wirth its orginal wooden scabbard, covered with red velvet. The velvet is still in very good condition. There is an ornamental gilded silver wire decor on the right side. It has a pierced brass chape.
Dating & attribution
The style of hilt is very Punjabi in style and the chiseling on the blade is very much Persian inspired. Both are strong indicators of Punjabi manufacture, most likely Lahore.
For example at Lahore, whereas under the Mughals sword blades had been chiselled with rows of animal and human figures in Persian style, under the Sikhs the same type of chiselled work was carried on, but the figures were of Hindu origin, such as Avatars of Vishnu, or the Planetary Divinities. The lesser elements of design, however, remained fixed in the Islamic tradition.2
-Philip S. Rawson, 1968.
Judging from the work and the aesthetics I believe the piece is made around the mid 19th century.
Blade in excellent condition with some signs of age. Hilt in good condition, with most of the silver plating and subsequent gilding intact. As usual with fully silver overlaid pieces, some blisters have started to occur when the underlying metal started to corrode. This is, unfortunately, unavoidable. There is minor play in the blade-hilt junction. Scabbard body in great condition, velvet in good condtion. Some damage to the scabbard endpiece, see photos. Some of the braided wire decor is lifting.
Study the photos to get a clear picture of the above issues.
A nice and rather rare example of a north Indian kirach with Persian style hunting scenes and fighting animals normally associated with shikārgah swords. Both the blade decor and the hilt design point towards Punjabi manufacture, most likely Lahore where most Punjabi arms were produced.
The deeply chiseled and pattern welded blade is very well preserved and the relatively plain fire-gilt hilt is a tasteful match.
1. See for example a piece owned by the Maharajah of Jeypore, drawings of which are published in Hendley; Memorials of the Jeypore Exhibition 1883. Volume 1. Industrial Art. Plate X.
2. Philip S. Rawson; The Indian Sword. Herbert Jenkins, London, 1968. Page 30.
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