The Sword in Indian History
The sword is part of Hindu psyche and its origin can be traced to 5000 BC. The first mention of a sword is in the Mahabharata. The epic mentions the sword as a personal weapon and it was carried by all warriors. The credit for developing this must go to the genius of Hindus who developed such a fine personal weapon for defence and offence. The Indian sword is also referred to as Tulwar or Talwar and was generally about 36 inches in length with a curved blade, that had a cutting edge only on one side.
The sword is the great gift of Hindus to man and history. It is difficult to understand how the ancient craftsmen who manufactured swords got the concept of the curved sword. Now after scientific tests, we know that a curved sword compared to other swords like the English broad sword was more aerodynamic and also had a low drag coefficient. One has to marvel at the ingenuity and knowledge of Hindu craftsmen who invented the curved sword, as at that time they had no knowledge of the principles of statics and dynamics. Yet, they produced a superb weapon which was ultimately copied by the entire world. This needs to be trumpeted to the entire world as many people often refer to the Hindu as " meek and mild".
The Greeks had their first brush with the curved sword or Tulwar when Alexander invaded India. After making peace with his opponent the Hindu king, Porus Alexander reportedly took many samples of curved swords to Baghdad.The Arabs later also liked the curved sword and adopted it as their main personal weapon. Arab warriors like Saladin carried the curved sword in battle. it was extensively used against the Christians during the Crusades.
In India, the sword was developed further and modern testing of the metallurgy of the Tulwar has confirmed that it had about 1% of carbon and overall the steel used was a high quality. This clearly brings out the fact that the science of metallurgy of the Hindus was of a high order.
The Muslims who came and settled in India also adopted the curved sword as their main personal weapon. The British soldiers of the East India Company had their first brush with the curved sword in battles with Indian kings. The curved sword was examined by them and they found that it was a weapon that must be adopted by them. They incorporated the weapon ( tulwar) as part of their cavalry and gave it the name sabre. British Indian army cavalry regiments like the Skinners horse and Poona Horse were all equipped with curved swords. They also used the curved sword in their battles in Crimea against the Russians.
The curved sword with minor modifications was used all over India. from the deep South to the North. It was the main weapon of offence and defence for a soldier. Hindu armies carried the sword with a small shield tied to the left forearm and went into battle in a massed charge. This massed charge resulted in many victories and even Mohammed of Ghor was defeated by the Rajputs in the First battle of Tarain( now Thanesar).
The curved sword is one of the most important contributions of the Hindus to weaponry of the world. Only the Japanese swords developed independently. In all other places, the curved sword held sway and was the forerunner of the bayonet charge.
In India itself, many derivates of the curved sword appeared. Notable being the Khukuri and the Katar( small curved dagger).Another weapon that held sway for some time was the Khanda. It was a weapon to be used with two hands and sometimes weighed 40 kg. It was used by Baba Deep Singh in his assault on the Muslims to free the Golden temple from the forces of Ahmed Shah Abdali. This Khanda which weighs 40 kg is kept at the gurdwara at Hazur Sahib in Nanded, Maharashtra.
Many Indian kings loved swords and used jewels and gems to embellish their handles. This gave the sword a distinctive look. Many Indian swords are on display at the Imperial Museum in London. There is also an excellent display of Indian swords at the Umaid Bhawan Palace Museum at Jodhpur. I have visited this museum and the Maharajah has an awesome collection.
The sword was used in battle for the last time during World war I. It was used as a weapon for beheading enemy and captured soldiers by the Japanese during World War II. Now it is used for executions by beheading in Saudi Arabia.
The curved sword has lived its life and historically it is the greatest invention before the invention of gunpowder. All credit to the Hindus who thought and conceived of this weapon. I have never handled swords except the one that I carried when I got married the first time. In India, the trade of sword making thrives, particularly in Jammu and Western UP. Many foreigners come to India to buy the Tulwar as a memento. It's a lovely weapon to own and I have one with me.
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