The India Tulwar or Curved Sword a Weapon of War
The Indian sword has a history of 4000 years and was the main weapon for combat. The Indian sword was distinct from the European sword and was more lethal and aerodynamic.
- Comparison with European Sword.
- The Curved Sword in India
- Arrival of the Moslems and the English
- Last Word
The tulwar or the curved sword is a weapon that has been in use in India for almost 4000 years. The earliest mention of this weapon is in the Mahabharata where it was used as a weapon of war. It was also used in combat by kings as well as soldiers. It was basically a weapon of the cavalry as horse men surged forward with their swords glistening in the sun light. the Indian tulwar was also a favorite among generals and kings for single combat like in the west.
Comparison with European Sword.
The Indian sword in contrast to European swords was lighter and had a curved shape like a crescent .The broad sword of the Europeans was heavier and not so maneuverable .In contrast the Indian sword was greatly maneuverable and lighter and thus had a more lethal effect. The Indian sword because of its peculiar shape was also more aerodynamic and if one goes by modern scientific parlance had a better drag co-efficient.
The Curved Sword in India
The tulwar in India was made in vast numbers and local smiths were adept in manufacturing the weapon. Its blade was on the longer side of the sword and because of its curved shape the weapon was more aerodynamic. It thus swished through the air with the least resistance. A complement to the sword was the shield which was carried tied to the left forearm while the warrior handled the sword with his right hand. the Indian shield was also lighter than its western counterpart, hence the sword in India was not a weapon of the infantry.
The tulwar also had a curved scabbard and a short hilt. It was not uncommon for generals and kings in the subcontinent to have their own distinctive swords with ornamental hilts. Some had them studded with diamonds and precious gems.
Arrival of the Moslems and the English
The advent of the Moslems saw them adapt the sword for their use as well. Though Muslims had their own version of the curved sword, they found the Indian sword better. But Moslem cavalry relied more on archery and archers and the sword became a weapon of close combat.
The British who came to India were suitably impressed by the Tulwar. They adapted it for their cavalry as the sabre.Thus the blade of the British Pattern 1796 light cavalry saber is thought to be adapted from the Indian tulwar. British horsemen moved forward with these curved swords and used them with telling effect. The charge of the light brigade of the British army in the Crimea war was with sabres. It has been immortalized with the words of Tennyson’s poem ‘it was not to reason why, but to do and die’. The weapon they carried was a version of the Indian Tulwar.
Most rulers of the sub continent either Hindu or Moslem patronized the tulwar. It was a weapon used by both the infantry and the cavalry. It was also much in demand by kings and generals for combat and duels. But with the advent of the musket the tulwar slowly went out of fashion. The tulwar is still made in India by old weapon manufacturer’s .But its use is mostly on ceremonial occasions and religious processions. But when we look back to the checkered military history of the sub-continent the tulwar will occupy an important place as a weapon of war.
Swords of the British Army: The Regulation Patterns 1788-1914 (Revised Edition)
by Brian Robson.
The Book of the Sword by Sir Richard F. Burton.
The Indian Sword. by PS Rawson ( 2 volumes)