A motipada style talwar sabre




India, Rajasthan


Late 18th or early 19th century


Forging, casting, damascening


Steel, gold


Overall length 863 mm; blade length 750 mm

The slightly curved, single-edged blade is made of two different types of steel with a ricasso, a false edge, a reinforced tip and two long fullers on each side. The internal decorative channel contains a large number of freely moving steel balls. The channel stretches almost to the point, and numerous narrow slits are arranged along it on both sides of the blade. The delhishahi type hilt is made of watered steel and decorated in gold koftgari with stylized foliate borders. The pommel button has a through channel to attach a tassel or a wrist strap. No scabbard. 

COMMENT. Talwar is the most common type of Indian sabre, which was used by both cavalry and infantry from the 16th to the 19th centuries. It is characterized by a slightly or medium curved, single-edged blade with a ricasso and false edge. Another feature of the talwar is the one-piece metal hilt with a disc pommel, which is also known as "disc hilt" or "Indo-Muslim hilt". The talwar was most popular in North India during the Mughal period (1526-1858). In addition, it was the favorite weapon of the Rajput warriors. 

An unusual feature of this sabre is the combination of a decorative channel within the blade and a two-colour chevron pattern on its surface. The decorative channels that have narrow side slits and contain small balls are called "motipada", which means "moving pearls" in Hindi. Other variant spellings are motipuda, motipata, as well as moti davati. Such blades began to be manufactured in both India and Iran circa the 17th century. The channels were filled at first with pearls or ruby balls, while steel balls became widespread in the 19th century. In Persian literature, the balls within the blades were poetically referred to as "the tears of Allah", "the tears of the wounded", and "the tears of the afflicted". 

The chevron pattern on the blade, which various researchers call lehria (Elgood, R. Arms & Armour at the Jaipur Court: The Royal Collection. – New Delhi, 2015. – P. 147) or Ganga-Yamuni (Pant 1980, p. 96 and Tirri, A.C. Islamic Weapons: Maghrib to Moghul. – Miami, 2003. – P. 316), were received in several ways. In this case, the chevron pattern is formed by V-shaped segments of light-colored pattern-welded steel and darker plain steel that were stacked side by side and were welded together during the forging process. Hollow channels were drilled separately within each steel segment probably before the welding operations, which required great accuracy and patience. Such blades were manufactured in a limited number since the above-described technique is very complicated and labor-intensive. In addition, the heterogeneous structure and internal channel reduce the strength of the blade. The presented talwar comes from the former Anthony C. Tirri collection where there was yet another example with an almost identical blade (see Tirri, A.C. Islamic Weapons: Maghrib to Moghul. – Miami, 2003. – P. 321, fig. 242). An Indian sabre with a similar blade can be seen currently in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (inv. no. IND.LOST.1058). 

LITERATURE: 1) Сіваченко Є. Холодна зброя Сходу з колекції Олександра Фельдмана: [фотоальбом]. – Харків, 2009. – С. 22-23; 2) Hales, R. Islamic and Oriental Arms and Armour: A Lifetime’s Passion. – London, 2013. – P. 186, no. 442; 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. 292-295, №107.