Place of Origin: Rajasthan, India
Date: 18th to 19th Century
Perhaps the most eye-catching aspect of this tulwar is the complex, curved singled-edged blade. Made with alternating, pre-shaped billets of watered steel and mild steel, it has been arranged to display a chevron pattern from forte to foible. Beautiful and rare, this pattern is understandably coveted by collectors. And the sword’s benefits don’t stop there, for its wide, sweeping blade boasts another exceptional feature: Tears of Allah. The ‘tears’ are small ball bearings, captured inside 17 rectangular slots near the blade’s spine. It is generally accepted that this is a decorative feature, showing off the exemplary skills of the Rajput swordsmiths, but engineers argue that the balls, moved along the channels by momentum, could have shifted more weight to the tip during a cut and made the sword bite more deeply.
The tulwar’s characteristic steel hilt is widely accepted to be of Rajput shape. However, recently, it has been more precisely classified as being of the ‘Jodhpur type’ by the new work of Robert Elgood: Rajput Arms & Armour: The Rathores & their Armoury at Jodhpur Fort. The angular hourglass-shaped grip is a clue to help the sword’s classification. The hilt is heavily decorated with gold-damascened foliage with very little loss of this precious material despite the item’s age.
For similar swords, see Robert Hales’ Islamic and Oriental Arms and Armour, p.163, fig.399; and Butterfield & Butterfield’s The Dr. Leo S. Figiel Collection of Mogul Arms, lots 2025 and 2029–2031.
Provenance: Private American Collection
(1) Elgood, Rajput Arms & Armour: The Rathores & their Armoury at Jodhpur Fort, p.468-471.