THE SINHALA SWORD

 

A Prince holding a Royal Sword?.Tivanka Pilmige 12 Cent AD

THE SINHALA SWORD.

From the Book- Ancient Swords, Dagger and Knives in Sri Lankan Museums-PHDP De Silva & S Wickremasinghe.available  at Colombo Museum Bookshop.

A Polonnaruva Period Sword- Double edged slightly tapering angular point. 85 cm length-Blade length of 73 cms, with guard.

There are references to Two types of Sinhala swords, the first is Culavamsa chapter 72 verse 101-104 the other is 14 cent AD,palm leaf treatise Dambadeniya Asana.

Swords; kadu– The Sinhala name for Swords is in pages no 187,305, 990 of Pujavaliya oe as  asi as in page 174 as described by MB Ariyapala in Society of Medieval Ceylon.

The ‘Dambadeniya Asana ” also refers to a large variety of swords; ran kadu, golden swords ; ridi kadu, silver-swords ,  mini  kadu,gem-set swords ; sat ruvan kadu, swords of the seven kinds of precious material ; apara kadu ?;  gurjara kadu probably swords from Gujarat ; pandi  kadu,-swords from Pandya ; vadiga kadu, swords from the Vadiga country; jina kadu, swords-from China ? Malaya kadu swords from Malaya ; madura kadu, swords from Madura ; telingu kadu, swords from the Telugu country ; javaka kadu swords from Java; vanga kadu, swords from Vanga(Bengal) , ayodhya kadu, swords from Ayodhya;  dat  kadu sword, with saw-like edges-  if the reading is dat, it may be a variety of swords to be held with both hands ? ; dara kadu, Skt. dhara, sharp edge, blade (especially of sword,knife, etc.) (Monier Willians – English Sanskrit Dictionary) ; Skt. dara, sharp edges, hence sharp edged swords or swords with sharp blades, cp’ sharp-edged (tiksana -dharam) discus (Chakravarti, The Art of War ,in Anciennt India,p. 171), may be swords with more than one or edge;  Sirival kadu? Dilena kadu, shining  swords  ; lelena kudu– flashing swords;  Visi or viisi hella, throwing swords’ cp.’ visi hella” throwing spear  (Deraniyagala  page 114);  Dhavala  kadu – white  or dazzling sword’s ;  vak kadu -bent or curved swords ; dik kadu –long swords ; Iuhundu kadu – short swords.

The Sinhala sword is mentioned in Mahavansa

There are references to Two types of Sinhala swords, the first is Culavamsa chapter 72 verse 101-104 the other is 14 cent AD, palm leaf treatise Dambadeniya Asana. The first incident is  related to Parakrmabahu I [ 1153-1186].

The bearer he sent himself against the hostile army and in order to hold high festival for the meeting with Lakkhi( the goddess of victory), i.e the foe, and  to cleaver maiden herald, his sword Liane( the Sword or the blade is compared with Liane)  , to the field of battle, he wishing to begin the feast war, called to the bearer of his hand weapons;

         “Give the Sinhala Sword!”

 Now this man out of ignorance brought as the Sinhala sword,  the weapon called Jambudipa

( Indian) blade; he spake:

 “ That is not the Sinhala blade. Leave this  that could put on end to all the line of hostile kings Kings in Jampbudipa and bring me quickly the Sinhala Blade….”.

Was there a sinhala sword ?, What was it like??? the closest painting of a sword during the period of Parakramabahu I is shown above.

The answer may be in the Instruction to Craftsmen who made these swords, the early book perhaps of the of the late Pollonnaruwa period, is an old Ola Leaf Manuscript ,available in many temple libraries.

Vaijantatantra

A few verses or strophes that is related to making of Swords and the three type of Swords that were is use during this period are .

” Over and above the six formula verification, a further method is prescribed to the maker of these weapons, apparently as double check, as it were, to ensure the auspicious nature of these weapons. Thus, it is said that the verified length of weapon is again multiplied by 13 and the result is divided by eight. The number which is left over after the division is said to indicate the following results; if it is 1, death will ensue; if 2, great victory; if 3, danger to life; if 4, happiness; if 5 or 6, increase of prosperity; if 7 , fear; and if 8, again, the result will be death. Meticulous care should be taken to ensure good luck and to avoid evil consequences, in the use of these weapons (st. 97 – 102). A view of life in which magic, superstition and astrology played a dominant role appears to have been a telling obsession.

Swords, in the above list of five weapons are of three kinds, – the Vira-khadga, the Sarva-khadga and the Mangala-khadga. These should be smeared with blood, cow’s milk and ghee respectively, and the designs which appear reflected on them forebode specific results, good or bad as the case may be,for the king ho owns them (st. 97 – 100). An Elephant design, or a Horse, Lion, Peacock, Swan ( hamsa), Parasol, Discus, Conch, Swastika, Srivatsa, Kalpa-tree, Pot, Banner or a Vardhamana presage abundant prosperity, whereas if the image of a jackal, donkey, camel, crane, crow, owl, wolf or serpent is reflected on the sword, great calamity would overcome the owner. Further prognostications follow in the last two stanzas of this section (St 101 – 102).

 

Chapter 3

St 87. The experts know the superior sword to measure fifty angula (digits of the User or the Chief craftsmen),Half that number is the size of the inferior one. The middle number of these two (i. e. 37 ½ digits) is the size of the middling sword. The middle width should be 3 digits for the superior sword, two digits for the inferior one. and the number in between( i. e. 2 1/2 digits) for the middling sword. when the sword blade is measured in yava (barley grain) , an odd number should be taken.

  1. A wise owner should smear the Vira-khadga [ I presume this is the sword of Vira or Battle]with blood itself, the sarvs-khsdga and the mangala Khadgha ( Ceremonial ?), he should smear with cows milk and ghee, respectively.
  2. When the swords are smeared as aforementioned, the one which becomes endowed with auspicious designs of an angula or more in extent is considered to be an excellent sword fit for the king.
  3. Full prosperity will ensue to that owner on whose weapon there will appear the auspicious images of the following: an elephant, a horse, a lion, a peacock, a swan, a parasol, a discuss, a conch, a svastika, a Srivatsa,a kalpa tree, a pot, a banner and a vardhamana (necklace inlaid with the seven gems).
  4. If the inauspicious images of the following are reflected on the sword (or other weapon) of whomsoever it may be, such a king will be deprived of his prosperity and his kingdom: a jackal, a donkey, a camel, a crane,a crow, an owl, a wolf & a serpent.

101 . When a weapon squeaks without reason, it forebodes (the owner’s) death;when it turns of its own accord, his defeat is ensured; when it glistens brightly on being ejected from its sheath his victory will ensue.

  1. One should not take it out (from its sheath), without reason nor ever disclose its price. One should not look at his face (when it is reflected) on its blade, nor disclose the place of its origin. He should respect and honour it (with flowers, incense etc). A negligent king should never touch its blade.

Description of the auspicious and inauspicious features of swords.

  1. Each one of these 32 weapons has three kinds. Thus there are 96 weapons in all, as laid down everywhere in the science.
  2. The longest of these does not exceed seven cubits. The smallest of them all should not be less than half a vitasti (span).
  3. A cubit, a span or half a span, (these are the three measuring units of weapons); the angula(relating to them) is that of the yajamana. A weapon which is made according to these measurements should have an odd number (of cubit s or angula). The sadvarga [ seven formulas] is ascertained as stated earlier.
  4. , Of the sword or other weapon, the handle of which has been riveted with iron spikes, the section from its top limit up to its (blade’s) tip should be reckoned in angula (digits).
  5. If the sword’s needle does not reach up to the topmost point and the rivetting of the sword’s nail is located above the mid part, the length of that weapon is reckoned from the extent of the blade (excluding the handle).
  6. The length of weapons such as the sword… is divided by eight each time. It is inauspicious if the remainder is always an even number. It is auspicious, if it happens to be an odd number.
  7. The bow, the sword, the mace, the spear and the javelin of a powerful King, of a hundred thousand weapons, these five are his most excellent ones.

Chapter 8

Str 7. The largest { lit best} sword measures fifty digits[ angulas] from the tip of the blade up to hilt. The smallest[ most inferior] one would measure twenty five digits. and the medium size one would measure the odd number of digits between these two[ 37 1/2 digits].

8. The blade of the sword is two digits wide. It thickness at base, middle and the top should be three, two and one Yaya [ barley corn ] respectively.

9. The top most part of hilt resemble the form of a lotus petal; its mid section is variegated and ornate, and its base too beautiful with various artistic creations. One should avoid figures( of lions etc).

10. ” Skanda, the size of the Ceremonial sword, the application of six formulas and forms etc, its auspicious or other wise, all these have already been described,

Thus the Ceremonial Sword( Mangala Khadga) ”

 

CHAPTER 14

A Ceremonial  Sword was one of the 16 auspicious objects of Gods ,of the four orders of society , namely the the Royalty[ the Kastriyas], the priesthood, the commonality[ the Vaisya] and the serfs[ Sundras]. The number of auspicious event varied the kings and priest had 16, the Vaisas or the agriculturist and merchants had 14 and the serf’s had 12 events. The kings had 16 auspicious objects, the specifications of the ceremonial Sword is described is described in chapter  14 verse 36 to 38 in the Vijyantantra ola leaf manuscript , instruction to the  royal craftsmen. The description is

STR 36.It shall be 25, 27 or 31 Angula or digits in length. Its width will be 2 or 1 ½ digits

37. The thickness of handle is half a Digit, the handle ‘s base is 5 or 6 digits long, the spatial extent of the  middle of handle will be 3 digits.

38. The top[ curvature] is four digits in length it is curved like an elephants eye. The handle is made as stated.All Swords are made as described here., thus the Saurigh sword

 

SHARPENING OF SWORDS

According to the Saddharmalamkaraya  the Swords were  sharpened with the file  piri- ga.

 

Sword

Perhaps the Sword was made to fit the user.

The Dambedini Asana mentions twenty six types of sword . Those are found and identified are

Ceremonial Swords into six  Types -Ran Kadu[Gold], Ridi Kadu[ Silver], Mini Kadu[ Jewelled], Sath ruvan kadu[Seven Fold  Jewelled sword] and Ara Kadu.

A Ceremonial Sword- Basic design. Total length of 81 cms.

The hilt Sinhala Kastana swords

Many type of hilts are available, most take the shape of Sinhala Lion and  or the Serapendia.

The hilt is in the shape of Serapendia[ Coomaraswasy  Medieval Sinhala Art pg 83], the beast is called Gurulu-pakshaya. The head differ from that of a lion at the point of the snout, which in Serapendia curls up wards, but in a lion ends  in a small s-shaped scroll.

The head of the Lion or the Serapendia is bordered with  different types of Pala -peti or borders or moulding added.They may contain borders for the eye, the chin, the neck etc. The hair knot over the head is decorated.

 

Lion Vs Seranpedia

THE SERAPENDIA HILT

Hilt of a Sword

Hilt of a Sword having a Mythical Serapendia head-Knuckle Guard broken

 

  1. Grip, Is octagonal and elaborately engraved.
  2. the Pommel, is a typical Lions/ Serapendia head  with a decorated conical head made up of entwined  Liyapata,
  3. Guard S shaped with its outer is elaborate ornamented with floral work ending with Serapendiya or lion  Heads, on an circular guards (quillons) consisting of two Finger rings which are decorated and ending with similar heads.

The blade is  curved at the Tip and single edged and a fuller runs along the blade almost to the point of the curve

Lion Kastana Sword

Sinhala lion headed Hilt

The lion used on the hilt is a mythical ancestor and the totem animal of the Sinhalese.

Sinhala Swords Types

OTHER FOREIGN SWORD USED IN SRI LANKA

Swords of Mercenary Soldiers who served the Sinhalese Kings

Ten types of the Invaders swords from Gujarat, Pandi, Wadisa[South Indian], Jina[ Chinese],Malaya[ Malabar], Madura ,Telingu, Javaka, Vanga  and  Ayodha.

Madrasi/Malabar Swords

Talwar Swords- A single edged narrow curving backwards blade of 60 cm,with a Saucer shaped Pommel with knuckle guard.Ratnapura Museum

Kora-Nepali Execution Sword

The Sinhala Fighting Swords.

Those of types from 16 to 26 are the different type of fighting swords used by the Sinhalese.The hilt is of Sinhala swords had the parts allowing for the handling and control of the blade; these consist of the Pommel, the Grip, the Knuckle guard or Cross guards In addition to improving the swords balance and grip, the pommel can also be used as a blunt instrument at close range, and its weight affects the center of percussion

16.Datha Kadu– Two handed swords.

Hilt of a Double Handed Sword from Sigiriya Period- PHDH De Silva & S Wickremasinghe.

17. Muna Kadu-swords ending with acute point.

18. Dara kadu– with sharp cutting edge.

19.Sirival Kadu-May be the short Sword. Parakramabahu I had a battalion armed with these short Swords[ Culawmsa].

Siriya Sword- Colombo Museum

20.Dilena Kadu-Glistening swords

21.Lelana kadu-Fluttering kadu.

22.Visi kadu-Throwing swords.

23. Dawala kadu-White words.

24. Dik kadu Long swords.

A valuable Comment by   a reader  ‘About the sinhala swords’ .Some yes because we had 32 types of swords .And among them there was a one variant called dik kadu (long sword ).I think it depends on the traditions .as we know Romans also used short sword in face to face combat against north European Germanic and English tribes which used long swords .Using long sword is a difficult job in close quarter combat .it needs a huge strength and more space’.

A reader has written about  King Mahasen’s 6 foot long sword that appeared in the famous TV show Attapatama. It is said to be at the Mahasen Dewala in Minneriya. About the pros and cons about swords of the world  ,please click http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sword

This old sword seems to be over 3 feet long.

 

25.Vak kadu-with Curved blades.

Two fighting swords Kandyan Period.

Top Lion hilt bottom Seraparndia hilt

26. Luhundu kadu- Short swords.

Pujavaliya mentions of a

a.Dara Asi or a sharp edged weapon.

b.Dvidhara  a double edged weapon.

There was a de-ath Kadu  which was a two handed weapon.

SANSCRIT BOOK VIJAYANTATANTRA- A handbook for Sinhalese Artisan and Craftman

Vijeyanta gives details under the following headings.

1 Categories of weapons and subdivisions.

  • 2. Metals for manufacture of weapons.Lion on sword and real one

3. The Royal Sword.

4.a- The Tempering of swords,

4.b.  Auspicious days and those non suitable days of the weeks and constellation etc.

5.Auspicious and inauspicious figures and designs for Sword and other weapons.

6.Parts of Sword.

a. Gediya– Pommel

Few example of Hilts of Sinhala Sword Anuradhapura, Poonnaruva and Kandayan Periods

b. Mita– Hilt.

c. Ath Vesma– Knuckle Guard.

Kandyan period sword

SERAPENDIA HILT

d.Vari – sakuva– Quilion.

e.Alluva– Side plate.

f. Kadu-patha or Isa– Blade.

g.Peeli– Fullers.   ” The blade may have grooves known as fullers for lightening the blade while allowing it to retain its strength and stiffness, similar to the effect produced by a steel I-beam used in construction”- .wikipedia.org/wiki/Sword#Blade

h. Agissa– Edge of sword.

i. Thuda– point.

7. Gana or Nakath.

8.The dimension of Royal Sword , a Mediocre sword and an Inferior sword.

A Dutch Sword- A slightly curved backwards, single edged weapon is 84 cm long with a blade length of 69 cms.

9. Science of Fencing.

Sword Diemensions

Battle Sword length 66 cms

 

10 Rewards bestowed on Champion Swords-man.

  HISTORICAL SWORDS

There are many Swords of Kings and famous Commanders in Museums and in private collection/ A few of them. Many families in Sri Lanka have their family swords. I have two Astana Swords, which are very short , an honorary Sword. On the hand guard there is the Five famous weapons. The same five that is found on the Battle flag of the last King of Kandy and on talisman worn by all Sinhala Children..

A SWORD USED IN THE BATTLE OF GANNOWRUWA[1638 AD], NOW AT DODANVELA DEVALE.

Sword used at gannoruwa Battle 1638 AD  Length 62.02 cm

Sword used at Gannoruwa Battle 1638 AD- King Rajasinghe II
Length 62.02 cm

.Sword of King Kirthi Sri Jaja Simha[ 1747-1782 AD].

THE ROYAL SWORD OF KING SRI WICKRAMARAJASINGHE[1798-1815 AD] ,THE LAST KING OF SRI LANKA

 Sword of  King Rajasinghe.

THE SWORD OF WICKREMASINGHE MUADALI- THE SENAPATHI OF KING RAJASINGHE OF SITAWAKE[1581-1593 AD]

 Sword of  Ahelapola Adigar.

Ahalepola Adigars Sword- Single edged faintly curved blade length 69.5 cms a total length of 81.3 cms.

 

Two Handed Sword- off Army Calender 2015. Is there any evidence in this regard, have you seen the one at the Devale??

King Datusena [461-477 AD] Two handed Sword

King Datusena [461-477 AD] Two handed Sword

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15 thoughts on “THE SINHALA SWORD

  1. Thanks for this amazing article .I got bit laugh when U had a part of my earlier comment in this article .I am having one question .as far as I know Romans had short swords when they were building the roman empire (by that time they were in offensive mood and trained to fight in formations )during the downfall of the roman empire Romans had long swords (by that time they were in defensive mood )does it mean we were in offensive mood in all over our history ?were we trained to fight in formations ?(I can give you one ex ,we were one of the unique nations which did not use heavy body armor as we thought it was a sign of fear to the enemy ) My privet opinion is most probably but I was not able to find any reliable article about it .any idea about it ?

    • Thanks, this data needs be added. There was a left and right hand swords carried, one for close in fighting.

    • We fought in formations, which was similar to what recommended in ancient Military text available and studied by our kings, the Elephant, Horse, the Chariot and the foot soldier was arranged into small battle groups, the basic one was around a War Elephant, who was protected by 5 Cavalry each was calavalry was supported by 5 Foot soldiers. This was the standard but varied according to the Terrain and Time and type of battle. The Sword was used when the 6two armies closed in, under the cover of clouds of Arrows. They also had the knife and Knuckle duster etc for close in fighting in the other hand or carried a long and short swords etc.The sword and all weapon were tailor made for each soldier according to a ratio depending on the size of each soldiers span.

  2. This is bit out of topic .I have heard there was a cannon made which could fire 2 cannon balls at once ,made by two brothers (one was called bunjo naide as far as I remember ) and it was made for the warrior king Rajasingha the first . it would be great if you can give as details about guns made by us .

    • Interesting, our forefathers were very inventive,something I learnt from my men during the battles with LTTE, they come out with some ingeneous solutions. Please let me know the sourse.Ta

      • Make me happy to read that some made use of what I shared with others.Thanks.

      • I read about it long back in Divaina irida sangrahaya (as far as I remember ).There was a long historical letter about it and according to the letter King Rajasingha I ,Gave him huge nindagama (I am sure you know the meaning of it )If we dig a bit in history we would be able to know about it.Unfortunately I do not remember the date of the paper but if we make request from national archive or Upali newspapers some times we would be able to know some thing about it .

    • You may be right, as Manaperuma Mudali was occupying the Orutota Fort in Gampaha WP., and the king Rajasinghe I died in 1593?, and King Dharamapala sent his army along with the Portuguese army to Sitawaka. They indended to attack the Orutota Fort.Manaperuma was ready for them by entreching 900 Gingle or small sinhala Cannons in three lines with orders to open up on his signal. He is reported to have fired two cannon shot which was the signal, the Portuguese and the Sinhala army of Kotte was decimated.Perhaps he used one of these double barrel cannons.

  3. According to your last comment you are military officer .I would like to add a bit to it and I agree with you indeed because just think what was the reason mighty Portuguese,dutch and British could not defeat us until we betray in 1815 ?I think answer is in your comment .All 3 of them were able to defeat huge India but why they could not defeat this tiny country .answer is very simple we know how to adopt to the situation without thinking twice .Even today we are far more open and liberal than many other nations .
    I would like to know what is your idea about current situation of us .(I mean importing 99% of our weapons from abroad )

  4. Every srilankens must know about king Mahasena’s 6ft long sword.have you ever heard about that

    • No but Shall be glad to share with others , 6 ft long, difficult to handle,leave aside carry, unless you are a seven footer, once some body get in close may be difficult.There is the diemnsion of the sword is according to the horoscope and this was laid down on our Puskola Poth. Sri lankan had left hand and right hand swords, one was short perhaps for use at close quarters . Perhaps Mahasen used it on horse back or was ceremonial one. Please inform with details etc. I have Mahasen coins with Lion and an Ivory seals with Lion and sealing perhaps off the same Seal with Lion – sirimuna39@gmail.com

  5. Definetly King Mahasen have used it with his war horse, English Kinghts were used wepons long more than this for horse battls. that perticular sword now protect in Mahasena dewalaya at Minneriya.once it published in Atapattama program.but i cannot remember the time period.

  6. Very long weapons are used by mounted soldiers on horses and elephants. taking this fact into account Mr. Prassanna Weerakkody (one of the great artist of our time. You will find him on FB and his personnel website), has painted a mounted soldier with a very long sword.

    • Perhaps King Mahesen used a double handed sword, I have yet to come across a find with a long hilt which can accommodate the both sets of fingers. I saw a drawing of it on the 2015 Army calender , I am inserting to photo.I think they were usedon foot if the two fisted hold in required.

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