A salapa sabre




India (probably Rajasthan)


18th century


Forging, engraving, damascening


Steel, iron, silver, gold


Overall length 887 mm; blade length 775 mm

The curved, single-edged blade is made of two strips of watered steel and pattern-welded steel connected together by the forge welding. The blade has a stepped ricasso and a false edge. In addition, there are two fullers on the polished side of the blade. The iron hilt consists of an S-shaped transverse pommel, a bulbous grip, elongated triangular langets and flattened quillons with palmette-shaped ends like the purbiya type hilts. All parts of the hilt are decorated in gold koftgari with stylized floral borders. The remaining surface parts are covered with sheet silver engraved with floral motifs against a fluted ground. No scabbard.

COMMENT. Salapa is a special type of swords and sabres characterized by a shortened blade and a transverse pommel serving as a support for the hand. Functionally, salapa belongs to the category of edged weapons, which have the common name "zafar takiya". Such weapons were used by Indian rulers and other dignitaries as a hand rest during solemn receptions and formal meetings called durbars. The term "zafar takiyah" literally means "cushion of victory" in Arabic. There are two kinds of zafar takiyah that are known as salapa and gupti. If the salapa is a modified sword or sabre, while the gupti is a short crutch with a narrow straight blade concealed in a stem, which is also a scabbard. Both salapa and gupti were used not only as a part of formal court dress, but also as self-defense weapons. In addition, richly decorated examples were a sign of royalty.

The presented example is a rare variation of salapa with a full-sized blade, whereas most zafar takiyah style swords and sabres are fitted with relatively short blades. In fact, it differs from talwar only in that its hilt has a transverse hand rest instead of a standard disc pommel. Another one unusual feature of this sabre is that its blade is composed of watered steel on one side and pattern-welded steel on the other. Such extremely rare blades are referred to as dulai in Rajasthan.

LITERATURE: 1) Сіваченко Є. Холодна зброя Сходу з колекції Олександра Фельдмана: [фотоальбом]. – Харків, 2009. – С. 21; 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. 344-345, №129.