A soldier values his sword almost as much as his life and a Rajput’s most powerful and binding oath was by his sovereign’s throne (‘ya sil ki an’) or by his sword and shield (‘dhal talwar ki an’). Akbar’s swords had names and ranks assigned to them and these were sent by rotation each night to his bed chamber. This book traces the development of the weapons of the Indian warrior, from the earliest to modern times, and also provides illustrations of a wide variety of the arms and armour discussed.
E. Jaiwant Paul worked with Hindustan Lever and then was the Director of Brooke Bond for several years. Later he lived in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman, heading the National Mineral Water Co. Apart from collecting weapons, he has been a keen cricketer and tennis player. His lifelong interest in arms and armour springs from the fact that his father as well as his grandfather served in the Princely States, where swords and daggers were part of everyday attire. He lives in Delhi and is on the board of directors of several companies including MAA Bozell. He is married and has two daughters.
Indian architecture, sculpture, painting, jewellery and other arts are well known, but few of us are even aware of our magnificent heritage in arms and armour. Indian weapons, particularly swords and daggers, have a range and variety of shape and from which few countries can boast of. In addition, the aesthetic qualities of our arms, with their jewel-like ornamentation and embellishment have seldom been matched. Indian swordsmiths were not just craftsmen but artist in their own right. Yet, today it is a rare person who understands or appreciates a well-made weapon. Till not too long ago this was not so, for in the erstwhile Princely States swords and daggers were part of the accoutrements of courtiers attending durbars. The custom of presenting these weapons in recognition of good and faithful service added to their appeal and mystique. Swordsmanship was still alive and practiced at the local akhadas (gymnasium). But with the demise of the states the interest in and esteem for arms has waned.
One of the major reasons for the lack of awareness and appreciantion is the dearth of literature on the subject. Lord Egerton published his book on Indian arms over one hundred years ago. Apart from a few valuable books like those of G.N. Pant and P.S. Rawson, published much later, there is hardly and specialised literature on the subject. If a collection is not to be a mere hoard of items, it must be based on knowledge and information. Because of the lack of literature this knowledge is severely restricted and it is difficult not only to identify specimens of swords and other weapons with certainly, but also their age and origin. There is also confusion about names of weapons and it is not always possible to equate found in chronicles and inventories with actual surviving weapons. We have some fine collections of arms and armour at museums at Delhi, Jaipur, Alwar, Baroda, Hyderabad, Bombay, and Madras, amongst others. However, with a few honourable exceptions, even in our museums the armouries are the most neglected and dusty sections and displays are shoddy. They are not even inviting enough to retain the few visitors who have wandered that way, leave alone entice new ones.
Sadly, our great heritage in arms and armour is being lost at an astonishing rate. Till a few years ago, one could find priceless weapons in the Princely States and in the elegant homes of some jagirdars. Today there are none, thanks to unscrupulous dealers who are smuggling them out to West Asia and Europe. Not surprisingly, the finest collection of Indian weapons are not in India but abroad. Notable amongst these are the Wallace Collection and the Vitoria and Albert Museum in London and the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad.
I have written this book without claiming to be an expert or an authority on the subject. However, I have been interested in Indian weapons for a long time and have a small collection of my own. During the course of my travels I have visited most armouries in India and abroad. I have also spoken to innumerable dealers and swordsmiths in Rajasthan and elsewhere. If this book can rekindle the interest of even a few in Indian arms book can rekindle the interest if even a few in Indian arms and armour and also highlight the need to protect and preserve them, my effort would have been worthwhile.
Various organizations and individuals have helped in the writing and production of this book and I gratefully and gladly acknowledge their assistance.
I owe a debt of gratitude to ITC for their valuable contribution and support, and in particular to Jagdish Sapru for his help; the National Museum, New Delhi and the Keepers of the Arms and Armour section, A.R. Siddiqui and K.K. Sharma for their unstinted assistance.
The Wallace Collection & Victoria & Albert Museum, London, are thanked for their kind permission to reproduce several photographs.
Karan Grover of Baroda was helpful in more ways than I can count and Subroto Chattopadhyay who was of tremendous help in Dubai.
Mrs. Promodini Varma read the manuscript and offered valuable suggestions.
Thanks to Bunty Peerbhoy and MAA Bozell, Bangalore for the illustrations and in particular to Sadiqa Peerbhoy who in the first place suggested that I write this book.
Thanks are due to Mrs. Janet (Chun Chun) Ginnings of Waltham Abbey, England for her valuble help.
To Kishore Singh and P.N. Ahuja for providing photographs.
And most specially to my wife who was obliged to read and discuss almost every page.
The armourers of the Rajputs, the Gadi Lohars, whose traditional home was Chittor, are today a wandering tribe. Once they produced top quality weapons and armour for their masters. After the fall of Chittor to Akbar in 1567, they swore never to return to the citadel till it was freed. In the early 1950s, Pandit Nehru personally led them back to a free Chittor, but their nomadic habits were too deeply ingrained in them.
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