Bhawani: The Sword of Shivaji

An article in the Times of India from a few years ago, talks of Chhatrapati Shivaji’s Bhawani Sword  having originated in Toledo, Spain. This claim was supported (as a possibility) by none other than Babasaheb Purandare.

“Yes, it can be true because there has been documentary evidence to show that swords had been imported from Spain because of the quality of steel and the mastery of its workers in designing swords and knives,” confirms historian Babasaheb Purandare. According to Purandare, Shivaji possessed three swords which were named Bhawani, Jagdamba and Tulja. Via Desperately Seeking Shivaji’s Sword

Ninad Bedekar, however, casts doubts due the inscriptions on the sword.

What is the class (type) of the Bhawani sword?

According to S. N. Sen, the Bhawani sword is a Genoese blade and the firangi, a Toledo Blade. There is more information about the Bhawani sword being a Genoa blade.

Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 16.46.56If you look at some of the old paintings of Shivaji, it seems that the sword on his right arm was a Patta or a Dandpatta, which has an integrated gauntlet. However, if we go by the description of the Bhawani in the text above, by Nick Evangelista, it could not have been a Patta. The existence of a spike, means that there could not have been a gauntlet.

AN01043315 001 l

Portrait of Shivaji; painting mounted onto an album folio. Inscribed. Album contains 26 paintings of Indian princes. Ink, opaque watercolour and gold on paper. Album bound in red leather and stamped on both covers with a central medallion, spine decorated with gold leaf. Interior cover marbled. Courtesy British Museum

There are many such images of Shivaji, that often depict a Dandpatta in the right hand and another sword in the left; which looks more like the firangi (which a straight blade).

There seem to be no specific references to a Toledo Sword or a Genoa sword — they always refer to them a the Toledo Blade or the Genoese Blade. Which makes sense because, according to this page in the Higgins Collection:

As European traders came to India in the 1500s and 1600s, they brought swords from the blademaking centers in Spain, Italy, and Germany. The blades of these swords were much admired in India, and some were fitted into Indian-made hilts. English swords were less respected: one Indian admiral of the 1600s remarked that English blades were “only fit to cut butter.”

So, while the blade itself was imported from either Spain or Italy, the class of the sword is an entirely different matter, because the sword was crafted locally. A distinction needs to be made between the blade and the sword, I suppose.

A sabre or Farang; slightly curved seventeenth century European steel blade stamped on each side with an Arabic inscription and chased on the right side with a crescent moon face; Indian iron basket hilt grip covered with purple and silver gilt cloth; flat circular pommel and curved spike. Green velvet covered wooden scabbard with chased gold mount and chape. Courtesy: Royal Collection Trust

A sabre or Farang; slightly curved seventeenth century European steel blade stamped on each side with an Arabic inscription and chased on the right side with a crescent moon face; Indian iron basket hilt grip covered with purple and silver gilt cloth; flat circular pommel and curved spike. Green velvet covered wooden scabbard with chased gold mount and chape. Courtesy: Royal Collection Trust

As regards the Jagdamba sword, it is commonly assumed (and accepted, I guess) that the Jagdamba was gifted to Edward VII, the Prince of Wales, during his visit to India. It’s a badly cropped image, so there is no way to clearly state that this is a straight blade or a curved one. The Trust makes no mention of the name of the sword. Also, on the page, there are images of two swords.

A look across various old illustrations of Shivaji, indicate the possibility of the Bhawani sword being a straight blade, and not a scimitar. Also, because I believe it is a gauntlet sword, there’s a good chance that it was a broadsword (double-edged).

Yet, in contemporary illustrations, it is shown as a talwar or a scimitar (curved blade). Are these representations of the Bhawani sword or the Jagdamba sword?

I’ll keep updating this page as I find new information. If you have anything to contribute, please suggest, using comments below.

 

Notes:

  1. TNN. (2002, July 2). Desperately Seeking Shivaji’s Sword – The Times of India. Retrieved November 30, 2014, from http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/pune-times/Desperately-Seeking-Shivajis-Sword/articleshow/14790290.cms
  2. Sen, S. (1920). Siva Chhatrapati being a translation of Sabhasad Bakhar with extracts from Chitnis and Sivadigvijaya, with notes. (Vol. 1, p. 19). Calcutta: Univ. of Calcutta.
  3. Evangelista, N. (1995). The Encyclopedia of the Sword (p. 55). Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.
  4. Pata (sword). (2014, November 29). Retrieved November 30, 2014, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pata_(sword)
  5. British Museum – Portraits of Indian Princes. (n.d.). Retrieved November 30, 2014, from http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?assetId=135116&objectId=265601&partId=1
  6. Firangi (sword). (2014, November 27). Retrieved November 30, 2014, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firangi_(sword)
  7. Pata (gauntlet sword). (n.d.). Retrieved November 30, 2014, from http://www.higgins-collection.org/artifacts/1550
  8. Sabre. (n.d.). Retrieved November 30, 2014, from http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/38023/sabre
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5 thoughts on “Bhawani: The Sword of Shivaji

  1. Prithviraj Deshmukh says:

    This article can be considered true but only till some extend. Everyone knows that Shivaji Maharaj was an innovative king and never struck to the old beliefs and notions traditionally followed at that time. He invested hugely on artillery and cavillary. So it is very much possible that he might have harnessed the foreign traders to invent some new varieties of arsenal’s to cause achieales heel to the marching foot of the Muslim rulers in North. But the point where I would like to contradict you is your doubt over the bhawani sword and the dand patta.
    Maratha’s were the fierce fighters and specially skilled in the martial art known as ” Mardani khela” now a days. It consisted of various aspects and forms of guerilla warfare like elements of surprise, disguise, taking the leverage of geographic and climatic conditions, speed and many more they even had the endless list of stealthy arsenals our of which most famous are
    DHOP( 4 ft uncurled sword),wagh nakh, katyar,danda patta. Interestingly there was a special reason for the sword to measure up-to 4 feet. At that time sword used by the Mughals ( muslim rulers) used to measure upto 3 feet moreover it was a curved one so it used to be even less that 3 feet in terms to height so to counter that a straight 4 feet long so that even if u are surrounded by the enemies from all the eight sides they can’t get closer to you even by an inch due to the 4 feet long sharp blade( excluding the grip) is guarding u. So what I feel that Spaniards might have materialised the metal but I guess we have enough proofs to deny that the bhawani sword was a complete foreign creation keeping the above facts in the mind. It’s just my research I might be wrong so please feel free to contradict and correct me .

  2. Sachin Khot says:

    Please try to understand if we need to import metal things from outside Bharat then why Bhartiya Karagir made Mehrauli Pillar which is there in Delhi? What is a need of import metal from outside Bharat and make things in Bharat? Mehrauli pillar is 1600 years old – made of one piece (without Joint) – 6000 Kg – 13 ft high and important thing is that it is not yet affected by rust and Bhartiya scientist confirmed that it will not affect by rust next billions of years…. Please understand about Bhartiya people history as we are not even eligible to comment on their abilities… If you want to know something about history please do contact Me. Sachin 7798881785 – Pune – Maharashtra – Bharat……… I am proud to be Bhartiya….

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