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Large Valai-Tadi

Place of Origin: South India

Date: 17th or 18th Century

Reference: 081

Status: Sold

Full Description:

A South Indian throwing weapon made of iron, known as a Valai-Tadi, a Tamil word translating to ‘curved stick’, other regional names used are Birundungi, Katariya, or Valari.  Men trained in the use of the weapon would hold it by the lighter end, whirl it a few times over their shoulders, and then hurl it with great force against the object aimed at. It is said that there were experts in the art of throwing the valai-tadi, who could at one stroke despatch small game, and even man.

Crescent shaped, one end heavier than the other, a bell shaped pommel provides a simple handle.  Some simple leaf chased decoration and a reinforced striking end.  This example being bigger and heavier than most suggesting it was probably used for larger animals, or even warfare; it has been suggested that these instruments played a considerable part in the Polygar wars.  The Polygar Wars, or Palaiyakkarar Wars, were wars fought between the Polygars (Palaiyakkarars) of the former Tirunelveli Kingdom in Tamil Nadu, India, and the British East India Company forces between 1799 and 1805.  This is suggested by the Dewān of Pudukkōttai (a small town in Tamil Nadu) who writes to Thurston in 1909, and forms part of Thurston’s study of Tribes and Casts in South India.  Finding a British perspective account of this would support this claim.  The Dewān goes on to say that those preserving the use of these weapons would hunt hares, jungle fowl etc, but now these objects are kept in the puja (prayer) room of the families of Kallan and Maravan families, and would be bought out cleaned and worshiped on Ayudha day (when weapons and implements of industry were worshiped).  He goes on to describe how at a Kallan marriage, the couple will visit the home of the bridegroom and boomerangs are exchanged before a feast is held.  He quotes a saying: “Send the valai tadi, and bring the bride”.

Elgood (2004) illustrates a similar example from the National Museum, Liverpool (No.6.6.28D), fig.19.7, p.191.