Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1760 Maratha pindari
Subject: पिण्डारी pindari light cavalry raider
Culture: Maratha
Setting: Maratha confederacy, India late 17-early 19thc
Evolution1674 Maratha silladar > 1760 Maratha pindari

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Richardson/Bennett 2015 p66
"By the end of the 18th century, the Mahrattas held sway over most of central India.  The Mahratta cavalry tended to be less heavily armoured than the Mughal armies, which allowed them greater mobility in the hilly terrain of the Deccan.  The preferred arms for cavalry and infantry were a sword and shield and either a spear or a matchlock; the bow was also still carried by many."

* Paul 2005 p61
"The Pindaris, pure looters and plunderers, formed a regular appendage to the Maratha armies.  They were all mounted men and relieved the regular cavalry of many tasks like reconnoitering, creating diversions and the pursuit and plunder of a defeated enemy."

* Lewis 1991 p190
"Pindar, Pindarry [18C. Etym. obscure but poss. fr. place-name Pandhar.  (H. PindārīPindārā; Mar. Pendhārī.)]  One of a band of mounted marauders and plunderers in Central India (1720-1820)."  [references omitted]

* Stone 1934 p501-502
"PINDARRY.  Irregular troops of India who are believed to have originally come from Pandhar.  They formed a part of the Mahratta army in the 17th and 18th centuries.  After the final defeat of the Mahrattas by the English the bands of outlaws who ravaged the country were composed so largely of Pindaries that the name was given to the whole.  They were finally completely crushed by the Marquis of Hastings in 1817."  [reference omitted]

* Edgerton 1968 p114
"The Pindárís were swarms of freebooters following the Mahratta armies, and... subsequently began to wage war on their own account.  They were a motley force.  In every thousand, about four hundred were tolerably well armed and mounted; of that number about every fifteenth man carried a matchlock, but their favourite weapon was the Mahratta spear from 12 to 18 feet long.  The remaining 600 were armed with every sort of weapon.  Up to 1812 they overran the country in marauding expeditions."

* Millar/Dennis 2006 p21-22 (describing Maratha cavalry at Assaye, 1803)
"The final class was the pindarries; these were from various ethnic and religious backgrounds, with many being Muslims from the north.  Their leader, Amir Khan was a Pathan soldier of fortune.  Pindarries were an irregular light horse formation who paid a fee or provided their retainers with a percentage, normally one-sixth of any booty taken for the right to plunder.  They were used in the military role of screening the movement of troops, reconnaissance, raiding, and cutting supply lines.  They were not good against formations of steady infantry or cavalry, but were perfectly capable of cutting up unwary troops.  The pindarries were armed with a wide assortment and combination of weapons, including swords, lances, muskets and pistols, and bows and arrows."

* Busquet/Morandi 2003 p190
"PINDARI: The armies of bandits who laid waste to northern and central India in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century."

* Raeside tr. 1984 p viii
"The Hindu kingdom of the Marathas was founded by the great Shivaji in the mid-17th century and at his death in 1680 had become a major power in Western India.  Afterwards it dwindled somewhat, partly through lack of unity among Shivaji's successors and partly because of the unceasing hostility of Aurangzeb.  Its fortunes revived under the brahman chief-minister or Peshwa Balaji Vishvanath, and at his death in 1720 the office became hereditary with the Peshwa as de facto ruler of the Maratha kingdom from his capital at Poona while the descendants of Shivaji retired to Satara and contented themselves with the increasingly nominal allegiance of their minister.  Under Balaji, his son Bajirao (1720-1740) and his grandson Balaji Bajirao (1740-1761) the Marathas inexorably extended their rule north, east and south under the authorisation of a series of treaties exacted from the enfeebled Emperors of Delhi.  Their advances followed a regular pattern: first a series of armed raids by a horde of horsemen that set out after the monsoon, pillaging the defenceless and collecting tribute from those with forts strong enough to stand a short attack; later the seizure of fortresses and the establishment of garrisons from which to raid still deeper into enemy, that is non-Maratha, territory in the following years, together with the settled control and regular cropping of revenues from the lands that lay around these forts.  In this way by 1750 they had come to control most of Malwa, the fertile plateau which lies on the road to Delhi north of the Narmada, as well as key towns in Bundelkhand to the east.  Some of the Maratha generals, the commanders of the early raiding parties, had thus graduated to the position of semi-independent chieftains -- the Holkars in Indore, the Shinde based on Ujjain and the Pawars at Dhar -- while in Bundelkhand Govindpant Bundele goverened [sic] on behalf of the Peshwa.  Not only did the Marathas now occupy land which touched on the great Ganges-Jumna flood-plains, so close that they could make raids on Delhi as in 1737, but they had a small cavalry force actually stationed at Delhi under the command of Antaji Mankeshvar and nominally in the service of the Emperor."

* Provan 2021 p28-30
"The pindarris.  'The employment of trained robbers to harass an enemy was a time-honoured tradition among the ancient Hindu princes.  They would attach themselves to armies and states, paying a fee to be allowed a licence to plunder.  Thought to be typical of the Maratha way of war they were individual groups that had developed this system of living by themselves.  Highly useful, highly undisciplined and dangerous to civilians no matter who they paid taxes or tribute to were the pindarris.  Their leaders worked for a percentage of loot.  According to laws contained in the fragments of the ancient law codes of the Brihaspati:
When anything has been brought from a hostile country by freebooters, with the permission of their lord they shall give a sixth part to the king and share (the remainder) in due proportion.  Four shares shall be awarded to their chief, he who is (specially) valiant shall receive three shares, one (particularly) able shall take two and the remaining associates shall share alike.
This is a common model to be found throughout such passages in other books of statecraft such as the Sukraniti, 'If thieves steal something from other's kingdom by the King's order they should first give one sixth to the king and then divide the rest among themselves.  There were no uniforms for these men, but they were typically laden with a wide assortment of personal weapons.  Kautilya's Arthashatra [SIC], ever concerned with 'wild tribes' once mentions an element that fits well with the idea of pindarris: 'brave thieves and wild tribes who make no distinction between friend and foe'.  Indeed, the pindarris were of no one caste or faith, they were a polyglot of professional marauders.
    "Under the Peshwas the Maratha army was a place for mercenaries to make a name, and not just those of the Marathi tongue.  As an illustration we only need observe how un-Marathi the army was by the end of the century.  By the 1790s the Marathas were no longer loyally serving a brilliant king, they were a feudal society owing military service to the Peshwa.  By the time of Bajirao I Peshwa, foreign mercenaries pervaded.  Arabs, Rohillas, Pathans and pindarris now outnumbered Marathas.  For every sowar an army had, there would be ten pindarris by the end of the 1780s."

* Gott 2011 p220
"The Pindaris were members of free-booting armies that operated in the central part of India, where the British now [1817] claimed the right to control and tax.  Imperial chroniclers describe them variously as 'robbers', 'pests', 'ruffians', and 'marauders'."


* Paul 2005 p60
"Their dress consisted of tight breeches, a quilted coat, a sash round the waist which was used to gird on the sword, and a turban which was fastened by passing a fold of it under the chin. The bhagwa jhanda or swallow tailed, deep-orange flag became their symbol."


* Richardson/Bennett 2015 p24
"[A] form of sword associated more with central India than with the north, but also most commonly fitted with an imported blade is the gauntlet sword or pata. This, like the punch dagger or katar, has a transverse grip, in this case held inside a steel gauntlet protecting the outside of the hand and forearm."

* Rawson 1968 p45-46
"A special form of the long straight sword, known as the Pata was developed by the Marathas.  This is a weapon with a flexible, double-edged blade and a Gauntlet hilt.  The blade was always a European -- generally Italian or Spanish -- flat rapier blade.  In the Victoria and Albert Museum's collection is one bearing the signature of Andrea Ferrara, the famous sixteenth-century Venetian smith.  The blade of the Pata is attached to the hilt by a pair of seatings which run down the faces of the blade for a few inches, and to which it is riveted.  The hilt is in the form of a combined fist and vambrace forged of a single piece of steel; across the interior of the fist is a transverse grip, and at the top of the vambrace is a metal loop through which the forearm is thrust.  The interior, into which the back of the hand must fit snugly, is padded.  The blade is thus virtually an extension of the forearm.  The Pata, though difficult to use, and generally the property of expert swordsmen only, is the most effective of all the Indian swords.  For since it is wielded directly by the strong muscles of the fore and upper arm, and not through the wrist, it can be used to deliver a blow in any direction at any angle, and the effect of fatigue is much reduced.  It was a sword much used for exhibitions of skill and it is hard to understand why it was not more widely adopted than in fact it was.  [CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION: Maybe because it was "difficult to use," or because it was not "the most effective of all the Indian swords"?]  It has been supposed that the prototype of the Pata was the long South Indian dagger with a transverse grip and shell guard known as the Bara Jamdadu, but no instance of such a weapon with an attested date earlier than the earliest Patas is known.  A miniature from the Royal Library in Paris shows Sivaji on the march, wearing a Pata.  If the representation can be taken as authentic, it is open to speculation as to whether Bhavani was a Pata.  In recent times the Pata is reported to have been used by a variety of the military classes in India, including Sikhs, Rajput military monks, and Deccani Muslims."

* Richardson/Bennett  2015 p66
"The pata, or gauntlet sword, is often considered to be a predominantly Mahratta weapon, suited for use on horseback due to its length.  A high level of expertise was required to wield the pata effectively because the wrist was locked in place by the gauntlet, but contemporary accounts describe how Mahratta warriors demonstrated great skill whilst fencing with them."

* Stone 1934 p484-485
"PATA.  The Indian gauntlet sword, which is an evolution from the katar.  The katar has side bars that protect the sides of the hand.  First a plate was added to protect the back, next the side bars and hand guard were connected by bars, and later by plates making a short gauntlet, then a single plate as used to protect both, next this was given the shape of a short gauntlet which was finally extended to the elbow.
    "The pata has a long, straight blade, almost always double-edged, and frequently of European make.  The gauntlet covers the arm almost to the elbow, and has an iron strap hinged to the upper end that goes around the arm.  The grip is at right angles to the blade as with the katar.  The gauntlets are generally embossed, inlaid or otherwise decorated.  It was a favorite weapon of the Mahrattas, but was also used by most of the Indian nations.  It has been said that it was not used by the Mohammedans but this is not the case. [...]
    "The gauntlet sword deprives a man of the use of his wrist and would be a very awkward weapon for fencing, and it was only used by cavalry; it therefore seems probable that it was used as a lance, for which purpose its great length would make it available.  [CONTRA Coe et al. 1993 p191]  This seems quite probably when we consider the Mahratta method of fighting.  This was to make a charge and, if successful, start looting; if driven back, to run away."

​* Coe/Connolly/Harding/Harris/Larocca/Richardson/North/Spring/Wilkinson 1993 p191 (Frederick Wilkinson, "India and Southeast Asia" p186-203)
"One type of straight-bladed sword was the pata, with a long blade often of European origin.  It is not uncommon to find patas with blades bearing the names or marks of European makers of the seventeenth or eighteenth century, although this does not necessarily mean that such weapons were made then.  Mr Bramley, in his informative talk to the dragoons at Meerut, describes this weapon as the saif, which is yet another example of his surprising terminology, for today the saif usually refers to a North African sword.
    "The unusual feature of the pata is its hilt, which is a rigid half-gauntlet with a long cuff which is usually decorated and on some richer examples inlaid and embellished with gold and silver.  The blade is attached to the hilt by decorative arms which extend forward on both sides of the blade from the 'knuckle' of the gauntlet.  The hand was slipped into the gauntlet to grip a cross bar inside, while the cuff of the gauntlet was held close to the lower part of the forearm by a linked chain or bar.  The inside of the gauntlet was padded.  The extended grip provided by the forearm would have permitted a very powerful sweeping blow, but would surely have restricted any thrusts.  Some miniatures show mounted warriors armed with the pata, which is rather surprising considering its limited thrusting capacity.  [CONTRA Stone 1934 p484-485]   The pata was apparently popular with the warlike Marathas who so strongly challenged the Moghul empire in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but it also saw service with other races and Bramley says that when some warriors used one on each hand they looked 'much like a windmill'."

* Fryer 1969 p88
"Pata  An Indian gauntlet sword.  The usual form has a straight blade, often of European origin, and a steel or brass gauntlet hilt derived from that katar which covers the hand and forearm.  It could only be used as a thrusting weapon, probably by horsemen."

* Tarassuk/Blair 1979 p361
"pata  A special form of the long, straight sword used exclusively in India and developed by the Mahrattas. It has a flat, usually double-edged blade and a gauntlet hilt. The blade is often European, generally Italian or Spanish. The hilt of the pata is attached to the blade by a pair of riveted plaques that run down the faces of the blade for a few inches. The hilt is in the form of a combined grip and gauntlet; it is usually in chased and gilded with floral and animal motifs, mainly lions, tigers, and deer. Across the interior of the Gauntlet is a transverse grip, and at the top of the gauntlet is a metal loop to fasten the forearm. The interior of this gauntlet hilt is padded. The pata, which evolved from the katar, would be difficult to use without training but was a very effective weapon for an experienced swordsman."


* Rawson 1968 p47
"Once standardized, it seems that Maratha swords were subject to no further development.  Throughout the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth their forms remained the same.  It must, however, be stressed that, like all the other latter-day Indian armies, the Maratha soldiery were a motley crowd, and many kinds of sword besides the standard forms must have been in use among them.  It thus occasionally happens that other forms of sword are described in catalogue entries as 'Maratha'.
    "There is no indication that the Marathas entertained an aesthetic of the sword, though no doubt they rated good workmanship highly, and must have been skilled swordsmen.  Their fondness for the adaptable broadsword indicates that they were swordsmen of a character that did not allow any preconceptions as to a science of swordsmanship to interfere with expediency.  They seem also to have been content with the forms of European blades as they received them, and the actual forms of the mountings have had no more than immediately practical invention expended on them.  It is true that the hilts of some of the better swords are adorned with koftgari work in typical eighteenth-century taste, and are occasionally chiselled in relief with simple patterns, but the motive for the adornment cannot be said to be more than compliance with a convention of ornamental display.  

* Withers 2010 p95
"[The firangi] was a typical sword of the Hindu southern and central Indian Maharatta Empire (1674-1818).  The firangi had a narrow, straight blade, commonly made from imported European blades (the word 'firangi' literally means 'foreigner') and sometimes decorated with kofgari-worked inlaid gold or silver.  When it was fitted with a home-made blade, it was called a sukhela, and in the Deccan (comprising the south Indian plateau), a dhup.
​    "Like the khanda, the firangi blade is also reinforced along the blade edge, combined with a disc-shaped pommel terminating in a long spike used for a two-handed blow.  Kofgari or inlaid gold ornamentation frequently decorated the hilt.  The large,basket-type hilt is also padded and embroidered with silk or coloured velvet.  In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Maharattas of the Western Deccan relied heavily on imported European trade goods and especially sword blades.  The Maharattas' preference was for German and Italian blades, since they regarded English blades as very inferior."


* Cooper 2005 p33
"Pindari horsemen reported with their mounts and weaponry, usually consisting of a tulwar (sword), lance and a small shield."

* Millar/Dennis 2006 p20 caption
The tulwar or sword, carried by Maratha horsemen was razor sharp and capable of decapitating a man, as happened to some of the picquets and 74th Foot at Assaye."

* Provan 2021 p32
"In terms of swords the talwar (the most prevalent cavalry sword in India), the shamshar [SIC] and scimitar were justly feared for their cutting power .Shakespeare recalled that:
[A]s the Asiatic uses it with a drawing cut, no one who has not seen wounds infliced by when used in this manner can have an idea of the execution performed.  I have seen limbs lopped off, and gashes given, by a light sabre and a light arm in a way which might have been deemed impossible even for a giant.  But this is owing to the keen edge of the sabre, which, as it touches the body or limb is drawn towards the striker."

* Stone 1934 p608
"TEGHA. An Indian sabre with a broad, curved blade and a hilt like that of a talwar. It was used by both Mahrattas and Rajputs." [reference omitted]

* Rawson 1968 p29
"[A] form of sword which seems from the documentation of surviving instances to be a Northern Hindu origin is the form of Tegha with a very broad and heavy blade, deeply curved backward, and mounted in a Hindu Basket hilt.  There is no evidence for a history of this form, though a sword with a blade of very similar shape appears in the second century  A.D. at Udayagiri in Orissa.  This fact, together with the absence of any modern form of sword which could have suggested the blade form in question, indicates that the type is probably of considerable antiquity." 


* Stone 1934 p344
"European blades of the 16th and 17th centuries were often used, especially by the Mahrattas.  Katars with native blades are often thickened at the point to strengthen them for use against mail.  When European blades are used they are always riveted to projections from the hilt."

* Coe/Connolly/Harding/Harris/Larocca/Richardson/North/Spring/Wilkinson p196 (Frederick Wilkinson, "India and Southeast Asia" p186-203)
"One weapon which appears to be unique to India is the katar or punch dagger which, in some respects, resembles the pata for it is gripped in the same fashion, the blade becoming an extension of the arm.  The hilt consists of two bars or flattened arms which spring from the base of the blade and join with two parallel bars which are gripped by the hand.  The katar of northern India has a blade which is wide at the hilt and tapers fairly quickly to the point. In most cases the blade thickens at the point, giving the extra strength needed to punch through the metal rings of an enemy's coat of mail. [CONTRA Arts of the Muslim knight 2008 p143]  Some katars have wide blades engraved with a variety of themes, and some have a central rib, but many are quite plain. ...  A variant form is the scissors katar, which has an outer hollow blade which divides down the centre; this is opened by squeezing together the two central holding bars to expose a third inner blade.  The katar could well be the descendant of the maustika mentioned in the arsenal list of Abdul Fazl."

* Richardson/Bennett 2015 p29
"The katar, with its transverse grips, was unique to India, and was to be found across most of the sub-continent.  It was fitted with a variety of blades, ranging from narrow wavy blades preferred in the south to short, straight and broad blades in the north, multiple blades, as well as novelties such as the 'scissors' katar, in which squeezing the grips together causes an outer set of blades to open like scissors, and even multiple daggers in which one or even two little katar were housed inside the outer dagger."

* Fryer 1969 p86
"Katar  An Indian dagger designed for thrusting.  It consists of tapered blade (the tip often reinforced for piercing chain mail) with a hilt formed of two parallel bars connected by two or more crossbars.  Occasionally a knuckle guard is fitted. Blades are found with 'scissors' action, serrated edges or are even forked."


* Withers/Capwell 2010 p89
"An 18th-century variation of the chilanum is the khanjarli.  This dagger may be recognized by its wide, mushroom-like pommel, which supplants the chilanum's T-bar but performs very much the same function: to brace the hand against slippage  while dealing overarm blows.  Khanjarli pommels and grips are usually made of bone or ivory, two pieces sandwiching the tang and riveted in place.  The khanjarli is thought to be Maratha in origin, and is usually associated with Vizianagaram in Orissa, a region famous for its elephants and ivory work.  This has led to the suggestion that the distinctive ivory-handled khanjarlis come mainly from this part of India.  The Marathas conquered Orissa in the 18th century, and undoubtedly the khanjarli design spread outside of its area of origin in subsequent campaigns."

* Coe/Connolly/Harding/Harris/Larocca/Richardson/North/Spring/Wilkinson 1993 p196 (Frederick Wilkinson, "India and Southeast Asia" p186-203)
"[T]he khanjarli ... has a fairly substantial double-curved blade and a hilt with a large, almost semi-circular pommel."

* Tarassuk/Blair 1979 p296
"khanjarli  An Indian dagger not unlike a khanjar, with a recurved blade, usually fullered, about 12.5-25 cm. (5-10 in.) long. The hilt is frequently exquisitely worked in ivory and topped by a large, fan-shaped pommel, with or without a knuckle guard. The sheath is generally covered with velvet and furnished with silver mounts."

* Stone 1934 p352
"KHANJARLI.  Egerton gives this name to a Hindu dagger with a strongly double-curved blade and a large lunette pommel.  It is from Vizianagram.  He also calls a precisely similar knife a khanjar."  [reference omitted]

* Elgood 2004 p251
"Khanjarli (Marāṭhi, from the Arabic 'khanjar')  Dagger with a large (usually ivory) lunette pommel, knuckleguard and double-curved, double-edged blade, generally attributed to Oṛissa. ...  The form appears to be an eighteenth-century development of the chilanum, probably spread by Marāṭha conquests which included Oṛissa where a number of small Marāṭha states were established.  Oṛissa was famous for its elephants and ivory work and many of the ivory pommel khanjarlis are likely to come from some established metal-working centre in this general region, Arcot being a strong contender."

* Fryer 1969 p86
"Khanjarli  An Indian dagger with ribbed, double-curved blade.  The hilt had a large flat crescent-shaped pommel usually of ivory."


* Stone 1934 p423
"MADU, MARU, SINGAUTA.  An Indian parrying and thrusting weapon consisting of a pair of black buck horns fastened together with their points in opposite directions.  Usually the horns overlap, but sometimes they are fastened to the opposite ends of a short handle.  In either case the hand is protected by a small circular shield of leather or iron.  The horns usually have steel points on the ends.  It was used by the Bhils and other wild tribes and was a favorite with Hindu religious beggars.  It was also used by swordsmen for guarding, being held in the left hand."

* Fryer 1969 p87
"Madu  An Indian combination thrusting and parrying weapon.  It consists of a small circular shield with a pair of steel-tipped buck horns attached to the back and pointing out in opposite directions."

* Pant/Sharma 2001 p67 caption (describing a maru-dhaldar, Maharashtra 18th century)
"This offensive-cum-defensive weapon is also called bhid chir (literally 'to penetrate a crowd') so named because it suited the Maratha mode of hit and run warfare."

* Elgood 2004 p


* Untracht 1997 p