Language: Sinhalese
Source: Standard literature


Patisthānaya is the Sinhalese word for a type of polearm that resembles the partisan of Europe.1 

Weapons of its general form were in use on the island of Sri Lanka well before the first colonists appear.2 These typically only have two wings without the crossbar and are called thatu hella or "winged spear".3

Those with the added crossbar are typically called patisthānaya, the word seems to have derived off the Portuguese word partidária.

Sinhalese pastisthanaya

A fine antique Sinhalese patisthānaya.
Sold by Mandarin Mansion in 2019.

Patisthānaya as emblems of rank

In the Kingdom of Kandy, ornate patisthānaya were presented by the King to high ranked officials and were carried by their retainers as an emblem of rank. This practice seems to have been in place from the 17th century already:

"The King when he advances any to be Dissauva’s, or to any other great Office regards not their ability or sufficiency to perform the same, only they must be persons of good rank, and gentile extraction: and they are all naturally discreet and very solid, and so the fitter for the Kings employment. When he first promotes them, he shews them great testimonies of his Love and Favour, (especially to those that are Christians, in whose service he imposeth greater confidence than in his own people, concluding that they will make more conscience of their ways, and be more faithful in their Office) and gives them a Sword, the hilt all carved and inlaid with Silver and Brass very handsomly, the Scabberd also covered with Silver, a Knife and Halberd; and lastly, a Town or Towns for their maintenance. The benefit of which is, that all the Profits which before the King received from those Towns, now accrues unto the Kings Officer." 4

"Lately was Richard Varnham taken into the Kings service, and held as Honourable an employment as ever any Christian had in my time, being Commander of Nine Hundred and Seventy Soldiers, and set over all the great Guns, and besides this, several Towns were under him. A place of no less Profit than Honour. The King gave him an excellent Silver Sword and Halberd, the like to which the King never gave to any White man in my time. But he had the good luck to die a natural Death. For had not that prevented, in all probability he should have followed the two English men that served him, spoken of before." 5

-Robert Knox, 1681

Kandyan chiefs

Kandyan chiefs with foreign, probably British, diplomat.
Notice the patisthānaya carried by retainers left and right.
Unknown photographer, late 19th century.


Kandyan chiefs

Kandyan chief from Gampola and his retinue.
Photographer/Publisher: Charles T. Scowen and Co. Late 19th century.


1. The term patisthānaya appears in Coomaraswamy, Ananda K., Medieaval Sinhalese Art, Pantheon Books, New York, Second Edition of the 1908 original, 1956. Page 342 and plate XLVII and P.E.P. Deraniyagala, Sinhala Weapons and Armor. Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society Volume XXXV. No. 95 Part III, 7th December 1942. (Reprint, Ken Trotman, 2009.) Page 118.
2. H. Parker, Ancient Ceylon. Luzac & Co, London, 1909. Pages 534-538.
3. P.E.P. Deraniyagala, Sinhala Weapons and Armor. Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society Volume XXXV. No. 95 Part III, 7th December 1942. (Reprint, Ken Trotman, 2009.) Page 118.
4. Robert Knox; An historical relation of the island Ceylon, in the East Indies. Printed by R. Chiswell. 1681.
5. Ibid.

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A very fine example retaining its original lacquered shaft.


Often called piha-kaetta, these knives were mainly made by the King's Workshops.


With carved horn hilt and characteristic finger guard.


Rarely seen today, a commoner's example with carved, bone hilt.


Of classic shape, with a leaf-shaped blade on a socket, connected by a cast bronze base.


A what? Yes exactly. An extremely rare piece, the only example I am aware of in published collections at…