Historic Sikh Arms: Akaal Takht, Amritsar

September 3, 2015 3:22 pm Published by

During my trip to Punjab earlier this year I managed to take photographs of the arms collection housed in the Akaal Takht, Amritsar. The Akaal Takht stands in the same complex as The Golden Temple and was built in the 17th century by the sixth Guru of the Sikhs; Guru Hargobind Sahib.

The impressive collection at the Akaal Takht is made up of a selection of historically important Sikh arms belonging to the Sikh Gurus and revered Sikh warrior saints from the 17th century through to the 19th century. I have shared some of the photographs that I took of the collection below, enjoy.

Tegha of Guru Hargobind Sahib. Note the quillion style, wide ricasso block and extended yelman section.

Tegha of Guru Hargobind Sahib. Note the quillion style, wide ricasso block and extended yelman section.

Arrows of Guru Gobind Singh

Guru Gobind Singh’s arrows were mounted with half an ounce of gold in order to help the wounded with medical costs and/or to help support the soldiers family after the soldiers demise.

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Khanda of Baba Deep Singh. Note the blades reinforced spine along 3/4s of the blades length.

Pistols of Baba Gurbax Singh Nihang

Pistols of Baba Gurbax Singh Nihang. I believe that the gold Koftgari design on the pistols is of recent times.

Mace of Guru Hargobind Sahib

One of my favourite items in the collection; the mace of Guru Hargobind Sahib.

Chakar and various small daggers worn in the Turbarn of Baba Deep Singh

A Chakar and various small daggers worn in the Turban of Baba Deep Singh. Note the stamps on the Chakar.

*Note – images of arms belonging to 19th century Sikh warriors have not been featured in this blog*

 

 

 

The Akali Nihang Singhs – Fatehghar Sahib Jorh Mela 2014

May 22, 2015 3:30 pm Published by

I was fortunate enough to be present at the Fatehghar Sahib Jorh Mela 2014 in Punjab, India. Whilst I was busy trying not to get hit by horses in full gallop my wife caught some great moments on camera. As promised on the Shastardhari Instagram profile (@shastardhari), here is part 1 of a selection of images from my trip to India in December 2014/January 2015.

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Jathedhar Baba Prem Singh in procession with his Budha Dal Battalion

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Jathedhar Baba Bahadur Singh in procession

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The Akali Nihang Singhs partaking in war games

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Some of the veterans spectate the war games

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Budha Dal Battalion procession

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Akali Nihang Singhs

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Comrades

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Chivalry

Over the coming weeks I will be sharing more images from the India trip including images of important Sikh arms and armour that I came across on my travels.

You can also keep up to date with Shastardhari by following the Instagram profile @shastardhari.

An Introduction to Wootz Crucible Steel

September 3, 2014 3:41 am Published by

The study and research of Wootz Crucible Steel is particularly complex and still in its early stages. Many great academics have studied the subject and shared a vast amount of information to help enthusiasts grasp an understanding of the mythical steel.  This blog post is a summary of my personal research on Wootz with the objective to provide a general overview of the topic for enthusiasts that are just beginning their research. Seasoned collectors may also find this blog post useful as a refresher guide.  Please note that this is not an in-depth academic report. To keep the blog easily digestible I have not gone into the finer details.

Traditionally called Fuladh in Persia and India, Wootz is the most sought after of all steel types amongst collectors of antique Indo-Persian weaponry. For centuries warriors from the Middle East and the Indian Sub Continent have regarded it as the supreme steel for edged weapons due to its functional superiority and aesthetic design. Thus making the study of Wootz essential in order to grasp a thorough understanding of Indo-Persian weaponry.

Legend has it that Wootz’ famed reputation began when European Crusaders first encountered the mythical steel in the Middle East during the Crusades. This resulted in western writers documenting Wootz as ‘Damascus Steel’ due to the city of Damascus being the location medieval Europeans first encountered Wootz. It is important not to confuse the city of Damascus as the place of origin as there is no concrete evidence to suggest that Wootz originated there. Some scholars refute the claim that European Crusaders created the term Damascus Steel and suggest that it more likely stems from the great works of Al-Kindi from the 9th century who used the word Damascene for swords that were forged in the city of Damascus, Damas in Arabic means water. Bashir Mohamed suggests that the term Damascene was applied to blades of the Pattern Welded Steel type. 

The production of Wootz began around 200 BC – 200 AD in war torn India. The process involved melting a mixture of carbonisation material such as wood, leaves, charcoal and iron with a low carbon content in clay crucibles. The mixture was then cast into an ingot and methodically cooled down. The ingot was then hammered out into specific shaped blades for both swords and daggers of many varying forms and types. The final stage was to polish and etch the steel to highlight the beautiful watered patterns, which were produced by the artistic like forging of the carbide crystals contained in the ingot. These Wootz items were then distributed around India and exported into the Middle East as arms & armour or as raw ingots ready to be worked on by Persian smiths. The production of high quality Wootz eventually died out by the 19th century. Some researchers believe this may have happened due to the ingot composition being altered as the result of the use of a new ore deposit. With no European blacksmith able to replicate the process to produce Wootz of the same calibre as 17th and 18th century examples, the art became lost in time.

Damascus and Watered Steel

The surface pattern on steel types such as Wootz and Pattern Welded Steel is commonly described as a ‘watered’ pattern.  From around the 15th century Persian poets have used the term ‘Ab’ for describing steel with a visible surface pattern, Ab translates into the word watered. The Arabic word Damas also translates into water. Al Kindi used the word Damascene to describe swords that were forged in the city of Damascus, it is likely that this is what caused the term Damascus to be applied to steel that displays a visible surface pattern. In summary both Ab and Damas refer to the stunning swirling pattern that resemble free flowing water found on Wootz and Pattern Welded Steel, resulting in steel of this type being labelled as ‘Watered Steel’.

The Sacred Connection

In all major schools of spiritual philosophy water represents life and in the Qur’an the celestial River Al-Kawthar is used to describe the waters of Paradise in the afterlife. In ancient Eastern culture for a warrior to die in the defence of nation or religion was the greatest endeavour one could undertake in life, the traditional name for this act is ‘Shaheedi’. Early Persian poets described ‘Shaheedi’  as drinking  from the waters of the Wootz blade, the reward for drinking this water was immortality.  Before entering the battle field warriors would gaze into the hypnotising watered patterns of their Wootz blades and dream of the immortal glory awaiting them in Paradise. From this information, one can see how sacred Wootz blades were to the ancient warrior of the East.

Summary of Terminology

Wootz/Fuladh: Traditionally the word Fuladh has been used in Persia and India to describe what we now call Wootz Crucible Steel. The word Wootz first appears in an English report based on the Indian Steel lecture given by Pearson to the Royal Academy in 1795.

Watered Steel: The term Watered Steel can be applied to any steel which shows a visible watered pattern on its surface. The term originates from the Persian word Ab and the Arabic word Damas, both words refer to the surface patterns found on Wootz and Pattern Welded Steel.

Damascus Steel: Similar to the term Watered Steel, the term Damascus Steel generally refers to all steels that show a visible watered pattern on the surface. Both Wootz and Pattern Welded Steel often get classified simply as Damascus Steel which can cause confusion in identification and incorrectly implies that the city of Damascus is the place of origin.

Each enthusiast has his or her own view on how to correctly address each steel type. To avoid associating Indian steel types with the city of Damascus, I no longer use the term Damascus Steel nor do I apply Damask or Damascene when addressing Wootz Crucible Steel or Indian Pattern Welded items. However I do believe that both Watered Steel and Damascus Steel can be applied to both Wootz and Pattern Welded steel types as long as the latter is in the title or description, e.g Wootz Damascus Steel, Pattern Welded Damascus Steel or Pattern Welded Watered Steel.

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High contrast Wootz Crucible Steel featuring a very active and busy ‘watered’ pattern of loose structure

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High contrast Wootz Crucible Steel blade of tight granular structure

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The highly sought after Wootz type known as Kirk Narduban or Laddered Wootz, identified by the vertical parallel ‘lines’ along the blade.

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Acid etched Faux Wootz from the second half of the 19th century

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Indian Pattern Welded ‘Watered’ Steel from the late 18th century re-etched at a later date

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Pattern Welded Steel blade featuring a T-Section spine from the 19th century

If you have any questions regarding this blog post please feel free to comment below or email me at info@shastardhari.com.

VaheguruJiKaKhalsaVaheguruJiKiFateh

References used: On Damascus Steel, Leo S. Figiel, M.D. The Arts of the Muslim Knight, Bashir Mohamed. Wootz Damascus Steel of Ancient Orient, Juha Pertulla.

 

 

 

FAQ Series: Basic Shastar Care

May 2, 2014 9:12 pm Published by

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Guru Sahib commanded, “Take out all of your weapons, Marvaari Sikh, cleaning your weapons will take all your filth (mail) away, then with your clean weapon, worship it.” –                  Gurpratap Suraj Prakash Granth  – Rut, Chapter 32

Question: “How do I remove the rust thats built up on my Shastar?”.

Answer: Unfortunately the answer isnt as short or as brief as the question, there are many variables to take into consideration when taking on a cleaning, conservation or restoration project and there is not a ‘one size fits all’ method. However, I will share my experiences with Shastar conservation and cleaning for the benefit of the community. Read more…

Shastardhari Wallpaper Update 2.0

May 1, 2014 8:08 pm Published by

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After getting great feedback on the ‘beta’ Shastardhari Wallpaper, which was only designed to be displayed on the Nexus 5, the wallpaper is now available for the most popular mobile devices.

Supported devices along with download links via Sendspace are below:

Read more…

Shastardhari Wallpaper – Nexus 5

April 1, 2014 11:52 am Published by

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After the death of my iPhone 4 last week (Rest In Peace), I picked up the Nexus 5 by Google and joined the dark side….the Android side. Its been a great experience so far and I’m really enjoying the features that the N5 offers, I’m actually enjoying it so much that I decided to team up with my buddy and create a custom Shastardhari wallpaper for it and share it with fellow N5 users.

If you would like the wallpaper you can simply send me an email to info@shastardhari.com with N5 in the subject and ill reply with the ‘full res’ wallpaper attached. Samsung S4, iPhone 5 and desktop versions coming soon.

Degh Tegh Fateh

 

Pesh Kabz with Provenance

March 26, 2014 7:01 pm Published by

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Provenance gives the collector a priceless insight into the history of their antique item so it is with great pleasure that Shastardhari.com is offering four daggers for sale from the collection of General Sir Frederick Campbell KCB DSO DL (1860-1943).

Read more…

SivaJi Mahratta X Afzal Khan

March 5, 2014 11:21 pm Published by

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It was thus that he murdered the general of the army of Bijapur, Afzal Khan, after inviting him to a conference, in which each should come with one attendant only. The latter dressed in a thin muslin garment, armed only with his sword, and attendant by a single armed follower, advanced in his palanquin to an open bungalow prepared for the occasion. Sivaji made his preparations to receive him.

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Shastar I.D – Veteran Akali Nihang Singh

December 9, 2013 9:35 pm Published by

The study of period photography and artwork gives history enthusiasts an insight into the world of their subject. The featured image below shows a heavily armed veteran warrior of the Akali Nihang Singh Khalsa, taken circa 1862 in Lahore, which was the capital of the Sikh Kingdom during the Raj of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, now in modern day Pakistan.

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A veteran warrior of the Akali Nihang Singh Khalsa – Lahore Circa 1862

This image gives Shastar enthusiasts, both new and experienced, an invaluable look at the kind of arms and armour that the Sikh warriors of old used to wield on the battlefield and provides a unique reference and resource to help build a collection based on the arsenal of the 17th, 18th and 19th century Sikh warrior.

The veteran Akali Nihang Singh is heavily armed with various Indian arms & armour, including a Tulwar sword, Dhal shield, Teer Kaman (bow & arrows), Pesh Kabz, Khanjar and two items which are not clear enough to decipher but could very possibly be a Ram Janga (pistol) and a Powder Flask.

To help enthusiasts who are just starting their studies into antique Indian weaponry, I have provided images and brief descriptions of the same Shastar types that are seen in the featured photograph. Due to the lack of clarity of the Shastar in the image, the examples pictured below may not be of the exact same form but they do fall into the same classification so they will serve the purpose of trying to identify the arsenal of the Akali Nihang Singh Khalsa.

The Tulwar

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A North Indian Tulwar from the court of Mahara Ranjit Singh

A Tulwar of typical North Indian form featuring a deep dish pommel and a open hilt (without knuckle guard), which is inline with the Tulwar featured in the period photograph. The sword also retains its original sword belt (gathra), which is of the same type that the veteran Akali Nihang Singh is seen wearing. This particular Tulwar was acquired by Maharaja Ranjit Singh from Shah Shuja-ul-Mulk and has been a part of the Victoria & Albert Museum since 1879.
Image credit: The V&A.

Steel Bow – Kaman

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Indian Steel Kaman

This Indian steel Kaman (Bow) looks to be more ornate than the one featured in the period photograph but still falls into the same classification of an Indian Steel Kaman.

Image credit: Islamic Weapons by Anthony Tirri.

Arrows – Teer

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Indian Quiver of Arrows

An Indian Arrow Quiver of classic type, traditionally known as Nikhang within the Akali Nihang Singh Khalsa.

Image credit: Islamic Weapons by Anthony Tirri.

Dhal Shield

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An early 19th Century North Indian Hide Dhal Shield

An Indian Hide Dhal of North Indian form. Although there is no documented ‘Sikh’ Dhal, if we study the examples that were exported to the United Kingdom from Punjab during the British Raj we will often see this type of Dhal shield catalogued.

Khanjar

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All Steel Indian Khanjar

An all steel Indian Khanjar, a favored dagger of the Akali Nihang Singh Khalsa. The Khanjar in the period photograph may have an animal head on the hilt such as a tiger, lion or horse and the hilt maybe made of Ivory, bone or some type of stone.

Pesh Kabz

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19th Century Pesh Kabz Dagger

This Pesh Kabz dagger was presented to the Prince of Wales Albert Edward during his visit to India during 1875/76. From the little we can see of the Pesh Kabz in the period photograph, the hilt type and curved blade indicates a Pesh Kabz of the same type as the one pictured above. It would be a safe bet to suggest the Pesh Kabz that the veteran Akali Nihang Singh would carry would have had a thick armour piercing tip.

Image credit: The Royal Collection.

If you have any questions or comments regarding this blog post you can comment below or email info@shastardhari.com.

Further blog posts will be made on the classification and identification of Shastar in the coming weeks and months.

Sri Akaal Ji Sahai

Diagram of a Tulwar Blade

December 2, 2013 7:57 pm Published by

Continuing on from the last blog post ‘Diagram of a Tulwar Hilt’, the diagram featured in this blog will focus on parts of the Tulwar blade and their corresponding names.

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