Language: Persian / Hindi
Source: In general use
Tir (تیر) is Persian for "arrow". It was in common use in northern India, written tīr (तीर).
Another word of Sanskrit origin is bāṇ (बाण) or Hindi iṣu (इषु).
A set of Indian arrows with different types of heads.
Sold by Mandarin Mansion in 2020.
A variety of Indian arrowheads.
Sold by Mandarin Mansion in 2020.
According to A dictionary, Hindūstānī and English by Shakespear, arrow shafts were made from Saccharam Sara, a synonym of Saccharum bengalense, a type of bamboo grass.1
Another source, Handbook Of The Manufactures And Arts Of The Punjab by forest conservator Baden Henry Baden-Powell mentions Munj Grass, or Saccharum munja as an arrow shaft material.2
1. John Shakespear; A dictionary, Hindūstānī and English. London. 1817. Page 469.
2. Baden Henry Baden-Powell; Handbook Of The Manufactures And Arts Of The Punjab. Punjab Printing Company, Lahore, 1872. Page 259.
Parts of an arrow
Shaft: sārā (सारा)
Head: phal (फल) literally "fruit"
Nock: phōṅka (फोंक)
Feathers: patra ((पत्र)
Head: paikan (پیکان)
Feathers: par (Persian)
From: William Irvine; The Army of the Indian Moghuls: Its Organization and Administration. Luzac & Co. London. 1903. Page 97.
Types of arrows
Indian arrows come in an enormous variety of types, all made for different purposes. The literature mentions some sub-types.1
The Sikh Dastūr-ul-Inshā or "Rule of Epistles" mentions the following types:
Ghēra (घेर), broad-headed
Do muhānā (दो मुहाना), two pointed or barbed
Tarah-i-māh (तरह इ माह), full moon or circular head
Tarah-i-halāl (तरह इ हलाल), crescent-shaped head
Tarah-i-bādām (तरह इ बादाम), almond-shaped head
Tarah-i-toko (तरह इ ?), ?
Sih-bhālah (सि भला), trident-shaped head
Tarah-i-khornī (तरह इ खोरनी), ?
Tarah-i-ḵẖāra (तरह इ खर), thorn-shaped
Tarah-i-khāki (तरह इ खाकी), epithet of a kind of arrow
In the above entries, tarah refers to the Persian tarh (طرح): "design" or Hindi tarah (तरह), "kind, sort".
William Irvine mentions some others in 1903.2
Tukkā (तुक्का), a blunt arrow
Lais (लैस), a practice arrow (with elongated head)
Qalandara (क़लंदर), ?
Ghēra (घेर), broad headed
Na kaṭṭā (न कट्टा), headless arrow, lit. non-cutting.*
Thuth (थूथनी), heavy blunt used in Sindh. Possibly based on ṭhōṇṭ (ठोंठ), beak.
Ankri-dhār, with a bent point like a saddlemaker's needle.
The Pathans of Farrukhabad, Uttar Pradesh, were said to use:
Lais, twig, practising arrow
Ghera, broad-headed arrow
Nuktah, or perhaps na-katta, headless arrow
Thonth, Hindi for beak, bill
Ankn-dar, with a bent head, shaped like a saddle-maker’s needle
*Literally means the Persian punctuation mark.
"Arrow" in other Indian languages
Gujarati: Tir (તિર)
Kannada: Bāṇa (ಬಾಣ)
Some historical anecdotes
In his time (1780 — 1807) Captain Williamson, 87, found some very broad arrow heads in use in the west of Bengal, towards Bahar. There was one of crescent shape more than four inches across at the barbs. Though they did not penetrate easily, yet when they happened to graze a limb, they cut desperately. When discharged among bodies of troops they were found to do amazing mischief. 3
-William Irvine, 1903
... When afternoon prayers are over, he shoots five arrows into the Khak Towda*, and then goes into the Womens Apartments.
*Khak Towda is a heap of fine Mold, well sifted, and beat strongly in betwixt two Stone Walls. 'Tis five Foot high, three Foot thick, and from three to four Foot broad. The Front of it very smooth and even, beat hard with a heavy Trowel. One who is well skilled, can shoot his Arrow into it quite to the Head; whereas one that shoots ill (be he never so strong) can't put a third Part in.
The arrows for this Exercise have the Iron Part quite round, about four Fingers long, of the Size of the Reed, until near the Point, where they are somewhat thicker, from which Part they taper gradually to a sharp point. The length, from the thickest Part to the Point, is from 3/4 to 1 Inch. 4
-Unknown author, in the camp of Nader Shah at Jalalabad, 1738
Khak Towda is written خاک توده in Persian and literally means "mass of soil".
The arrow's description closely matches this type of Indian arrow:
Heavy Indian arrows.
Listed by Mandarin Mansion in 2020.
1. William Irvine; The Army of the Indian Moghuls: Its Organization and Administration. Luzac & Co. London. 1903. Page 95. And Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal, XLVII, 1878, pages 332-333.
2. William Irvine; The Army of the Indian Moghuls: Its Organization and Administration. Luzac & Co. London. 1903. Page 95.
4. From: A translation of some paragraphs of a letter wrote by a Kuzzlebath in Nadir Shah's camp, at Jillalabad, to a friend of his at Delhi, concerning Nadir Shah. Published in: James Fraser; The History Of Nadir Shah. Pages 140-143.