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Indian Historical Swords

History of Sword

A sword is a bladed weapon (edged weapon) used primarily for cutting or thrusting. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epoch or the geographical region under consideration. In the most narrow sense, a sword consists of a blade with two edges, a hilt, and a crossguard. But in some cases the term may also refer to weapons without crossguard, or with only a single edge (backsword).

The basic principles of swordsmanship have remained fairly constant through the centuries, but the actual techniques vary among cultures and periods as a result of the differences in blade design and purpose. The names given to many swords in mythology, literature, and history reflect the high prestige of the weapon and the wealth of the owner.[1] As the sword has historically been a weapon of high prestige, it has become symbolic of warfare or state power.

Historically, the sword developed in the Bronze Age, evolving from the dagger; the earliest specimens date to ca. 1600 BC. The Iron Age sword remained fairly short and without a crossguard. The spatha as it developed in the Late Roman army became the predecessor of the European sword of the Middle Ages, at first adopted as the Migration period sword, and only in the High Middle Ages developed into the classical Arming sword with crossguard. In the Early Modern period, the sword developed into the rapier and eventually the smallsword, surviving into the 18th century only in the role of dueling weapon. By the 19th century, swords were reduced to the status of either ceremonial weapon or sport equipment in fencing.

Non-European weapons called "sword" include single-edged weapons such as the Middle Eastern saif, the Chinese dao and the related Japanese katana; these would more accurately be described as sabres or backswords, but their high prestige in their respective cultures favoured the use of "sword". The Chinese jian is an example of a non-European double-edged sword, like the European models derived from the double-edged Iron Age sword.

The word sword comes from the Old English sweord, cognate to Old High German swert, Old Norse sver├░, from a Proto-Indo-European root *swer- "to wound, to cut".

The Middle East and Europe Swords
Apa type swords, 17th century BCE.The sword developed from the dagger when the construction of longer blades became possible, from the late 3rd millennium BCE in the Middle East, first in arsenic copper, then in tin-bronze. The oldest sword-like weapons are found at Arslantepe, Turkey, and date to around 3300 BCE. However, it is generally considered that these are longer daggers, and not the first ancestors of swords. Sword blades longer than 60 cm (24 in) were rare and not practical until the late Bronze Age as at longer lengths the tensile strength of bronze starts to decrease radically, and consequently longer blades would bend easily. It was not until the development of stronger alloys such as steel, and improved heat treatment processes that longswords became practical for combat. They were also used as decorations.

The swords found together with the Nebra skydisk, ca. 1600 BC.The hilt, either from organic materials or bronze (the latter often highly decorated with spiral patterns, for example), at first simply allowed a firm grip and prevented the hand from slipping onto the blade when executing a thrust or the sword slipping out of the hand in a cut. Some of the early swords typically had small and slender blades intended for thrusting. Later swords were broader and were both cutting and thrusting weapons. A typical variant for European swords is the leaf-shaped blade, which was most common in North-West Europe at the end of the Bronze Age, in the British Isles and Ireland in particular. Robert Drews linked the Naue Type II Swords, which spread from Southern Europe into the Mediterranean, with the Late Bronze Age collapse.


The National Museum has a fine collection of Indian weapons ranging from the pre-historic period right up to the 19th century. Totalling more than 7000 items, these include edged weapons, projectiles, smashing weapons, armours for men and animals, ornamental, sacrificial and ritual weapons and fire-arms and war accessories.
Bows and Arrows : These were in frequent use from hoary past and have different varieties. Made of cane, bamboo, metal and also those decorated with ivory, gold and silver are exhibited here. The inscribed bow of Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last ruler of Mughal dynasty, is also on view.
Swords : The history of Indian sword goes back to very early time as examplified by several sculptures, paintings and coins. However, the earliest available swords of copper discovered from the Harappan sites date back to 2300 B.C. After the discovery of iron (c. 1000 B.C.), Indian swords show a wide and strange variety of shapes. The types, design and the artistic decorations clearly indicate the socio-economic conditions of the respective periods. During the medieval period, there was a considerable ingenuity and craftsmanship in manufacturing the arms and armour. But with the establishment of Sultanate and later the Mughal rule in India, the weapon underwent a significant change and we see some unique weapons introduced during the period. The Persian sword Shamsheer, the Arabian Zulfiqar and the Turkish Sailaba also appeared on the scene alongwith the indigenous weapons. The enamelled sword of Jaipur, the Patta of Marathas, the Khanda of Rajputs, the Dao of Assam and some sacrificial and ceremonial weapons are other attractions on show. The showcase of Historical Weapons containing the personal swords of Emperor Aurangzeb, Tipu Sultan, Nana Saheb Peshwa and Hamir Singh reminds us the past history and their deeds.
Dagger : Dagger is a weapon with short lade designed for thrusting and is used for close and hand to hand fighting. Its beginning can be traced on the flint handaxes of the stone age. The kings and royal nobles invariably kept a dagger with them for immediate self defence. These were also used in hunting, games, exchange of presents and domestic affairs. Like swords, daggers too are varied in size and shape and can be identified with separate names such as the Jamadhar, Jambia and Khanjar of Mughals, the Chura of Afghans, the Khapwa of Rajputs, the Qurauli of Sikhs and the Khukari of Nepalis. These are highly decorated with gold and silver and studded with precious stone, and jewels. Many of these have ivory, jade, crystal, and soapstone hilts and are adorned with calligraphy.
Armour : The use of armour was basically for defence purposes from the thrust of swords, spears, or the fire arms. Shields was the earliest moveable object for defence carried on the arm followed by a helmet on the head, breast and back armour, Bazuband, foot armour etc. During the medieval period, they were tastefully ornamented by the royal princes and nobles of the age. There are armours for the protection of animals also, which can be seen in the respective showcases in the gallery. The inscribed shiel of Rana Sangram Singh II and the chest plate consisting of the verses of the Bhagvata can also be seen.
Spears and Javelins : Spear had its first appearance in the late stone-age when leaf shaped small stone pieces were hafted in wooden handles. Since then, these have been continuously in use by the soldiers and others. The spears or javelins could be made of reed, bamboo, wood, metal etc. with a pointed iron or stone blade. The weapon was also used for ceremonial and ritual purpose.
Rajput, Maratha, Pahari and Sikh Weapons : The typical Maratha weapons reveal the valour and bravery of the people who sacrificed their lives for the country. Similarly, the Sikhs have played a very vital role in defending the motherland. A few of these weapons put on show are worth admiring. Besides these, Rajput, Sikh and Pahari weapons were also used by the natives.
Fire Arms : The invention of gun powder in the early 14th century A.D. opened a new chapter in the history of Indian arms. During the period, both inflamable and explosive powers were used in warfare. These were fire-weapons and not fire arms. In 1526, Babur, the founder of Mughal dynasty in India had used cannons of considerable size. These were drawn by bullocks, horses and camels. During the course of time, shoulder fire arms were developed which could be used by the individuals and so were produced matchlocks, flint-locks, and percussioncap muzzle loading guns. Such fire arms including pistols, revolvers and multi-barrelled short arms are a few noteworthy specimens of this gallery. The gun powder flasks enhance the beauty of the show cases. The Indian weapons, by and large, are inscribed, damascened, enamelled and embellished in many forms, and quite a few of them may be treated as excellent works of art.

check http://www.nationalmuseumindia.gov.in


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