Tipu mania child's talwar overall
This item has been sold.
Overall length

Sheathed 71 cm

Sword 70 cm

Blade length

60.5 cm 

(to center crossguard)

Blade thickness

Base 4 mm

Middle 3.2 mm

5 cm from tip 2 mm

Blade width

Base 31.5 mm

Middle 23 mm

5 cm from tip 16 mm

Weight

455 grams

Point of balance

16 cm from hilt

Materials

Iron, wootz steel, silver, resin, wood, velvet, silver, brass

Origin

Blade; Rajasthan

Hilt and mountings; South India

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Introduction

In the late 18th century Tipu Sultan ruled over the Kingdom of Mysore which spanned most of the Deccan plateau. A brilliant military strategist, he had been his father's right hand in military campaigns since age 17. Nicknamed "the tiger of Mysore" he revolutionized the use of rockets on the battlefield. He was strongly opposed to the British and was eventually killed in Srirangapatna in 1799 during the Fourth Mysore War.

Tipu Sultan was demonized in British media, and his death was widely celebrated. Right after the battle "Tipu mania" broke out where everyone was looking to buy some of the spoils of the battle to take home or present to some dignitaries. Many questionable items with Tipu Sultan attributions, including spurious inscriptions, are now in museum and private collections. Tipu mania never really stopped; items related to him still fetch high prices on auctions.

The following child's talwar bears an inscription alluding to it having belonged to one of Tipu Sultan's sons. Let's investigate.

 

This example

An interesting child's sized talwar. Here shown next to a standard sized talwar.

Child talwar

 

Blade

It has the slender blade with long backedge that was popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. See for example two such talwar I've sold previously:

Two sirohi swords

Two sirōhī swords I previously sold.
Their high-quality hilts indicate the prestige that these swords enjoyed.
Top is a late 17th to early 18th century Delhi style hilt with true inlay.
Bottom an 18th century Marwari style hilt with fine overlay in silver and gold.
The latter talwar belonged to Mohta Bakhtawar Singh, chief Dewan of Bikaner in the mid 18th century.

 

The wootz blade has a lap weld in the center, also common on this type of talwar. Such welds were considered auspicious. On this example it is more than a simple weld, with a star-like form on one side:

Star weld

 

Hilt

The blade is mounted in an iron hilt with slightly forward inclined quillons. It is covered with silver overlay consisting of a mesh of lozenges with stars in each lozenge. Quillons and pommel are decorated with lines.

Hilt

 

Scabbard

The sword comes with its original, snugly fitting scabbard. The red velvet covering was all but gone so I had it replaced with antique velvet of similar color. The wooden halves inside are still the originals.

The most interesting part about this little saber are the scabbard mounts which are of good quality and of a rather unusual style, with swirling silver wide soldered onto the smooth mounts, some of the curl's finials holding tiny brass dots. The motifs are very southern Indian in nature but of a type I hadn't seen before.

The scabbard marking carries the inscription:

Belonged to son of Tipo

 

"Belonged to son of Tippu
1799"

 

Analysis

Could there be any credibility to this inscription? I think most likely not. The Tipu Sultan was a proud and wealthy ruler, known for his sense of fashion and always being dressed meticulously.1 This little talwar, even though it has parts that are quite well made, doesn't seem to live up to the standards he set for himself and his family.

That said, its probably late 18th century and most likely southern, with a northern blade.

The hilt decor is reminiscent of patterns that were popular in southern India, and used, among others, on Bidri wares and textiles of the period.

Patterns

Upper left: Ghulam Muhammad Sultan Sahib (1795-1872 in Russapagla, Calcutta) 14th son of Tipu Sultan.
Lower left: A Deccan container, Horniman museum accession number 345.
Right: Hyder Ali, father of Tipu Sultan.

 

The style of the inscription is period correct and executed with great skill.1 Examined under high magnification, it is clear that it has been with this piece for a long time, and most of the scratches occurred after the engraving was done.

Tipu marking

 

 

Notes
1. There is a dagger in the Furusiyya Art Foundation Collection with a similar style engraving on the silver scabbard mount. That piece does have all the looks of an actual Tipu Sultan piece, with a tiger head pommel and the typical style of tiger strips on the hilt that other Tipu Sultan items also have. See David Alexander; Arts of the Muslim Knight. Skira, Milano, 2008. Page 233.

 

Conclusion

A very interesting child's talwar dating from the late 18th century. It features a northern blade, probably from Rajasthan. The hilt and scabbard mounts show a southern aesthetic in their designs.

I believe the inscription is probably "of the period" or not much later, and possibly added to the piece to present or sell it as if it were part of the spoils of the Tipu Sultan's final battle. It may have been sourced in the vicinity of the battle to add credibility.

The inscription aside, it is an interesting and rarely encountered ensemble. 

Tipu mania child's talwar with inscription belonged to Tipu Sultans son
Tipu mania child's talwar with inscription belonged to Tipu Sultans son
Tipu mania child's talwar with inscription belonged to Tipu Sultans son
Tipu mania child's talwar with inscription belonged to Tipu Sultans son
Tipu mania child's talwar with inscription belonged to Tipu Sultans son
Tipu mania child's talwar with inscription belonged to Tipu Sultans son
Tipu mania child's talwar with inscription belonged to Tipu Sultans son
Tipu mania child's talwar with inscription belonged to Tipu Sultans son
Tipu mania child's talwar with inscription belonged to Tipu Sultans son
Tipu mania child's talwar with inscription belonged to Tipu Sultans son
Tipu mania child's talwar with inscription belonged to Tipu Sultans son
Tipu mania child's talwar with inscription belonged to Tipu Sultans son
Tipu mania child's talwar with inscription belonged to Tipu Sultans son
Tipu mania child's talwar with inscription belonged to Tipu Sultans son
Tipu mania child's talwar with inscription belonged to Tipu Sultans son
Tipu mania child's talwar with inscription belonged to Tipu Sultans son
Tipu mania child's talwar with inscription belonged to Tipu Sultans son
Tipu mania child's talwar with inscription belonged to Tipu Sultans son
Tipu mania child's talwar with inscription belonged to Tipu Sultans son

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