Shamshir-e-Tulwar

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Origin: India (most likely Punjab)

Date: 19th century

Length: 95cm

Materials: Gold, Steel, Wood and Cotton

Provenance: From the collection of Anthony C Tirri 

 

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Description

A late 18th/early 19th century Gold overlaid Shamshir from the Tirri Collection.

This particular Tulwar hilted Shamshir, attributed to the late 18th/early 19th century is from the Anthony C. Tirri Collection. This Shamshir has been published in his book ‘Islamic Weapons – Maghrib to Moghul’ (2004) and is featured in full on page 205, Fig. 141A and the hilt is shown on page 328, Fig. 249C. His collection was formed over 35 years and represented  arms and armour that were actually utilised in battle through Asia, and his research represents this. Tirri’s collection and research has been compared to the likes of George Cameron Stone and Dr Leo S Figiel.

The hilt is of traditional form, complete with a knuckle-guard. The hilt is layered with fine gold koftgari in a floral and tendril pattern, accompanied with geometrical boarders. The gold design is consistent throughout the entirety of the hilt.The pommel features a rounded top, often used for striking . The pommel disk features a fine Surajvanshi (sun-burst) design. There are clear indications that this particular hilt is of Punjab manufacture: (1) the fat vase shape of the grip section, (2) the slightly forward angle of the quillons, (3) the knuckle guard that ends in a flower bud and (4) the floral style of gold koftgari. The blade is of a shamshir (Persian: شمشیر‎)  type, which refers to a Persian or Iranian sword with a radical curve. The name is derived from the shamshīr, which means “lion’s claw or lions tale” in the Persian language – pointing towards the curve of the blade. These types of blades are normally used for slashing unarmored opponents either on foot or mounted; while the tip could be used for thrusting. The Shamshir is accompanied with its original wooden sheath, wrapped in a crimson red fabric. The top of the sheath features a steel locket, adorned with gold koftgari that matches the elegant gold work on the hilt. The fabric at the rear over the scabbard has been torn in the centre – a natural split caused due to age. This has been professionally secured with a adhesive to maintain the historical and original features of the scabbard.

Near the forte of the blade, is an inscription in gold damascened work. The letters/numbers are a ‘code’ which are neatly placed within a gold border with a floral finish.We were able to translate the one word found at the beginning: س which translated to ‘Seer‘. In Arabic this translates to ‘wizard’ or ‘fortune teller’. So it is appropriate that the code that follows is possibly some form of Talismanic magic phrase, which would provide the owner with protection or good health. It is likely that the owner of the blade had consulted a ‘fortune teller’ or learned person to get a ‘spell’ (or verse from the Quran) to protect them in battle. The code may also be Abjad or another divination alpha-numeric system, known as ‘ilm al-huruf (“science of letters”). It operates in the same way as the Abjad letters, in that the numeric values assigned to Arabic letters are added up to provide total values for words in, or passages from, the Qur’an. The inclusion here of the reorientation of letters and numbers suggests that it infers other meanings/secret messages that only the owner of the sword would understand. These pious phrases are intended to protect its owner from harm and danger and would have been tailored to the individual that carried this sword. The sword would have also been worn with the inscription facing the owner (so on the inside, despite it being in its scabbard). Talismanic inscriptions in the Islamic world were usually placed where the owner could read, see, or touch it – it was always kept close to the body in some form since it is a means of protection’. The coded inscription on the blade could indicate that owner would have been one of high status or importance, possibly a Mughal noble. We are yet to see another blade with such a code, or anything similar (especially another Indian type sword). In most cases, the inscriptions are verses or names that one can read. This ‘code’ makes this shamshir-e-tulwar all the more interesting.

Overall, a good 18th/19th century shamshir with an excellent gold koftgari hilt. Included with your purchase of the Gold Shamshir is a copy of the Islamic Weapons – Maghrib to Moghul, which has become a collectors book, sought after by Arms and Armour collectors. It complements the sword and its origins. A rare chance to own a high quality shamshir from a prominent collectors collection.

Financing is available on request via Art Money.


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