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A silver-mounted kastane sabre

Number

M30.099

Origin

Sri Lanka

Time

19th century

Technique

Forging, casting, chasing, chiseling, gem-setting

Material

Steel, silver, gold, rubies, coral

Dimensions

Overall length (without scabbard) 466 mm; blade length 323 mm; scabbard length 393 mm

The short, curved, single-edged blade is made of pattern-welded steel with a false edge. The heavy cast silver hilt is skillfully chased and partly covered with sheet gold. The typical large pommel is formed as a stylized head of a lion or simha, with an open mouth, curly mane, ruby eyes and a coral tongue. The hilt has two separate cross-guards that are interconnected by foliate scrolls. The short upper quillons are slightly curved upwards, whereas the long lower quillons are curved towards the blade. Each of them terminates in a small simha head set with ruby eyes. The front upper quillon is connected to the wide S-shaped knuckle-bow, which is decorated with a ruby-studded gold panel in the middle. The knuckle-bow terminates in a small simha head having ruby eyes and a gold branch with mango fruit in its mouth. The octagonal grip features four narrow recesses for the fingers. The hilt is decorated with various traditional Sinhalese motifs including stylized lotus-petal borders (pala peti), scrolling foliage (liya pata), flower garlands (malaya), single flower heads and pineapples. The scabbard is chased in relief with a floral scroll design (liya vela) and foliate borders on each side. The curved chape is chased with various floral motifs and a simha head set with ruby eyes. The scabbard is fitted with two pairs of small immovable rings at the top and a hemispherical bead at the end.

COMMENT. Kastane is the traditional short sabre of Sinhalese (or Sinhala) who are the indigenous people of Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon). The name has probably evolved from the Portuguese word "castão", which means "stick knob". A distinctive feature of the kastane is the heavy hilt with an elaborate guard and a large pommel stylized as the head of a mythical monster or a lion called simha. Two down-turned quillons, one short straight quillon and the S-shaped knuckle-bow generally have the similar ends. Blades can vary both in shape and size, but the short, curved, single-edged blades prevail in general. For the most part, the blades were either imported from Western Europe, or were made locally in the European style. The best castane sabres come from the Kingdom of Kandy (1469-1815), which occupied predominantly the mountainous interior areas of Ceylon, whereas numerous preserved examples from the lowland areas known as the Lower Countries are purely decorative weapons, usually with blades of mediocre quality. Following the annexation of the Kingdom of Kandy by the British Empire, these sabres were manufactured under foreign control mainly to grant to Sinhalese puppet leaders and officers who served with the Dutch and the British administrations. They were worn on solemn occasions as a part of the official dress and a rank indicator. The presented example belongs to the group of late dress sabres that are characterized by highly decorative mounts and short blade, which has more of symbolic than functional importance.

LITERATURE: 1) Сіваченко Є. Холодна зброя Сходу з колекції Олександра Фельдмана: [фотоальбом]. – Харків, 2009. – С. 42-43; 2) 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. 556-557, №234.