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

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

* 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."

* 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."


* 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."


* 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."


* 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."


* 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."


* Untracht 1997 p