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1200€

Kayamkulam vaal

Kerala, 18th century



Blade length
77 cm, total length 89 cm

Blade thickness
6 mm near the ricasso abruptly narrowing to 3 mm

Materials
iron, silver

Origin
South India, Kerala 'Malabar coast'

Dating
18th century

Provenance
UK art market


Here we have another example of a rare Indian sword type from the South West coast of India referred to as a 'Kayamkulam Vaal'. 'Vaal' meaning 'sword'. It was used by the rulers and soldiers of Nair aristocracy (mostly in Travancore), in the Kayamkulam princely state of India. The iron cast hilt is of symmetrical design with flared langets, and pointed quillions. A dome shaped pommel cap with twisted iron lanyard ring. The body features decorations of silver inlay geometric chasing motifs. The grip section with a stylised caduceus (snake) motif. The Nairs worshipped snakes and the Sarpa kavu or Naga Banna is a Hindu ritual performed by the sects like the Bunts and Nairs. Flexible and slightly curved 77cm triple fullered blade, probably of European (probably German) origin with rounded tip.
The blade is inscribed near the tip with early inventory numbers 'CI 23 50'. Strangely I have yet to see a blade in good condition on this type of weapon. The sword is in good condition with wear to both hilt, decorations and blade. Overall nice patina. No scabbard. Sold some of them in the past. See our history section.

Below, an engraving (1847) of Uthram Thirunal Marthanda Varma seated on his throne with his hand resting on a Kayamkulam vaal.

REFERENCES
- A similar sword is kept at The National Museum, Edinburgh, Scotland – bought to the Paris Exhibition of 1855 by the East Indian Company. The sword is illustrated on the rear sleeve of Hindu Arms & Ritual by Robert Elgood.

- Keep Military Museum, Dorchester, Accession number 1998.43. 'The brass hilt features a disc-pommel and curved knuckle-guard. The languet is inscribed with the letters 'C I' and the number '3692'.


- A few swords on display in the Mattancherry Palace, Kochi, Kerala


- A few swords on the display in the Arakkal Museum, Kannur 

- One example with straight blade on display in the Government Museum Bangalore


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