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Rare Sikh Maharajah’s Sword recreated in 3d

SMI 9: Khanda (with pistol)
Date: before 1879
Original Location: Patiala, Punjab.
Present location: Nottingham Museum Service
Museum No: NCM 1879-105

This sword referred to as a Khanda is characterised by a basket hilt and a  double-edged blade. Whilst traditionally associated with the Sikhs the Khanda has its origins in Orissa and was adopted by the Rajput’s in Northern India. The percussion khanda/pistol is accompanied with a scabbard. The Scabbard is covered in purple velvet, with gold open work mounts. Originally with an Elephant and bird sculpted on handle with a bullet compartment within the hilt. The blade is made of wootz steel. The back edge of the blade has a rare feature where the blade has cut channels to house small silver or steel balls. This feature is typically known as the ‘Tears of the Wounded” as the balls would roll back and forth in the channels, thereby making a ‘whooshing’ noise as the blade was being swung. This feature is entirely decorative and has no practical purpose. See the sword here

Khanda/pistol. Copyright of the Nottingham Museums Service

Additional information

1n 1877 the Prince of Wales: Albert Edward (later King Edward VII) as President of the Royal Commission, communicated to the Secretary of State for India the proposed arrangements for the forthcoming Exhibition at
Paris, at the same time offering to lend the valuable collection of presents, then lodged at the Bethnal Green Museum, which had been made to him by the Princes and Chiefs of India.

The sword was procured from the Paris Universal Exposition of 1878 after advice from the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum) who helped considerably with the founding of the Castle Museum & Art Gallery in Nottingham.

Over 12,00 objects were exhibited in the Grand Yestibule of the Palace of the Champ de Mars. Paris Universal Exposition of 1878.

Numerous objects were sent to the Paris exhibition as part of the ‘commercial collections’ and were to be sold. These came from many Maharajahs including those of Punjab comprising  Patiala, Jind, Nabha and Kashmir as well as from the School of Art in Lahore (Mayo School of Industrial Art)* which was headed by John Lockwood Kipling ( 1837-1911), father of the author Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936). This particular object came from the princely state of Patiala where the Maharajah at the time was Rajinder Singh (1872-1900) who was also the possibly the first Indian to own a car in 1892 – a French Deboin Bouton as well as the first man in India to own an aircraft. Although the object could have belonged to his father Maharaja Mahendra Singh (1852-1876).

Maharaja of Patiala, Rajinder Singh ,GCSI 1898. Courtesy of the British Library

Many of these types of Khanda/pistols were ceremonially and as a result, were not intended for use in battle however this object also came with an accompanying powder flask (NCM 1879-105).

*Now known as the National College of Arts.

Digitisation of the Khanda/pistol

Commenting on the sword, Head of the Sikh Museum Initiative, Gurinder Singh Mann, said: “It has been a great opportunity to interpret the rich collection of Sikh artefacts in the possession of Nottingham City Museum. This exquisite sword with a pistol, shows the great workmanship of the Punjab, something which was noted by UK Museums in the 19th Century. The 3d version will allow people to easily access the object within the confines of their own homes and handle and manipulate it virtually.”

Ann Inscker, Head of World Collections from Nottingham City Museums & Galleries stated, “We are delighted to contribute a virtual object, from our World Cultures Collections, to the Sikh Museum Initiative. Using this 3D technology will help researchers and interested individuals interact with the object in ways not possible within a traditional static display.”

The public will also get the opportunity to see the Khanda/pistol at first hand, when it goes on display as part of the revamped Nottingham Castle Museum & Art Gallery in 2021

Taran3d using a 3d scanner to digitise one of the objects in the Nottingham Museum collections.

The project is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund , we would like to thank the Nottingham Museum service and Tony Paul.

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