An ayda katti sword




South India, Coorg


Late 18th or early 19th century


Forging, embossing, piercing, inlaying


Steel, gold, wood


Overall length 570 mm; blade length 430 mm

The strongly forward-curved, single-edged blade is made of plain steel and is inlaid at the forte with a gold round mark depicting the ninth letter of the Tulu alphabet. The wooden hilt is covered with sheet gold partly embossed and pierced with vegetal motifs on the base and the pommel. The grip is further bound with a twisted gold wire. In addition, the grip has a channel through which the wrist strap is passed. No scabbard.

COMMENT. Ayda katti is the traditional chopping sword of Coorgs (or Kodavas), the native people of the Kodagu (Coorg) region in Southwest India. The name means "war knife". Other variant spellings are ayudha katti, adya katti, odakatti, oidekatti. The short but heavy single-edged blade is steeply curved forward and sharply widened towards the tip making it very effective in chopping. The hilt is devoid of a guard but has a flat ovoid pommel, which makes it possible to hold the weapon firmly in the hand during chopping. The ayda katti was worn without a scabbard on the back by means of a special attachment called todunga. It was extensively used not only as a combat weapon but also as a working tool.

The ayda katti sword is one of the rarest types of Indian edged weapons. Many swords of this type were annihilated in particular in 1884 in response to outbreaks of violence near Malappuram, on the Malabar coast. According to Robert Elgood, the local British administration confiscated 17,295 weapons including swords. The Madras Museum selected a small number the best examples before the rest were dumped at sea (see Elgood, R. Firearms of the Islamic World in the Tareq Rajab Museum, Kuwait. – London & New York, 1995. – P. 185).

Many of the preserved ayda katti swords are marked with the same symbol, which is on the blade of the represented example, but its meaning is interpreted in different ways. The German missionary Georg Richter claimed that this mark was stamped on the blades of the ornamented swords that were used by the Coorg rajas to reward men distinguished for personal bravery. These swords were kept as sacred heirlooms and were worn on grand occasions only (see Richter, G. Manual of Coorg: A Gazetteer of the Natural Features of the Country, and the Social and Political Condition of Its Inhabitants. – Mangalore, 1870. – P. 119). Robert Elgood considers this mark not the raja’s stamp but rather the Tulu letter for the sacred sound Om, also known as pranava (Elgood, R. Hindu Arms and Ritual: Arms and Armour from India 1400-1865. – Delft, 2004. – P. 234). Robert Hales is of the same opinion (Hales, R. Islamic and Oriental Arms and Armour: A Lifetime’s Passion. – London, 2013. – P. 189, nos. 452 and 453).

literature: 1) Сіваченко Є. Холодна зброя Сходу з колекції Олександра Фельдмана: [фотоальбом]. – Харків, 2009. – С. 39; 2) Hales, R. Islamic and Oriental Arms and Armour: A Lifetime’s Passion. – London, 2013. – P. 189, no. 452; 3) Сиваченко Е. Сталь и Золото: Восточное оружие из собрания Feldman Family Museum = Steel and Gold: Eastern Weapons from the Feldman Family Museum Collection. – Киев, 2019. – С. 384-385, №147.