Salapa (Zafar Takiya)
Place of Origin: Deccan, India
A beautiful Indian sword known as a Salapa, or Zafar Takiya (literally throne of victory). Circa eighteenth century from the Deccan.
The sculpted parrot is a very unusual subject matter for a sword, it is likely inspired by zoomorphic vessels of Sultanate and Mughal India, who were in turn inspired by comparable objects from the Middle East centuries earlier. Hanging lamps of similar form are also still placed in Indian shrines and used in worship of idols and deities.
The restrained clean lines and lack of curled plumes on the bird may lead us to consider North India as a possible provenance, but the style and shape of the quillons is a specific style found on objects from South India, specifically sword quillons and dagger pommels.
The hilt is large, and beautifully modelled from thick and heavy bronze. The bird looking backwards, with full breast, shaped wings, and the tail curling downward to connect to a curved knuckle-guard which terminates in a small birds-head. The langets stretching towards the tip of the blade are of unusual ‘feathered’ form. The bronze has a beautiful deep patina.
The ‘Khyber-knife’ blade of a form used widely in Afghanistan, as the name suggests, and is of high quality. Forged from mechanical Damascus, or pattern welded steel, with a tight ‘birds-eye’ pattern of subtle contrast. The spine with a strong T-section, suggests that the owner of this sword was not only concerned with dramatic aesthetics, but functionality too. The previous owner commission the manufacture of a scabbard to conserve the blade. It is made with careful thought and skill, it has a timber body, covered in black leather, with a large ‘Khyber knife’ inspired chape decorated with floral patterns in traditional Indian and Mughal motifs, complete with a chased suspension loop.
The parrot styling of the hilt can be compared to a bronze lamp in the British Museum (Museum no.1953,0713.16), dated 18-19th century from the Deccan, also see Zebrowski,1997 for a discussion on zoomorphic Indian lamps, p.95-109.