Subject: sawār cavalry
Setting: Mysore sultanate, south India late 18thc
Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)
* Schmidt 1995 p62
"Until the second half of the eighteenth century, Mysore was an independent Hindu kingdom. In 1761, Haidar Ali, a Muslim mercenary in the service of the dalwai or chief minister of Mysore, usurped the throne, and became ruler. Haidar Ali sought to extend the territorial limits of his new kingdom, but his designs threatened the Marathas, the nizam of Hyderabad, and the territorial expansion of the British."
* Rawson 1968 p48
"Since the fall of the empire of Vijayanagara, of which it had formed part, the kingdom of Mysore had remained a moderately prosperous Hindu state, but in the 1750s Hyder Ali, the ambitious general of the Raja, began to take a prominent part in the military affairs of Southern India. Under him and his son, Tippoo Sultan, a modernized army was built up which was only dissipated by the capture by the British of Tippoo's capital Seringapatam, and the killing of Tippoo himself in 1799. Both Hyder and Tippoo were Muslims, and in the militarized state which they virtually ruled they established a Persized [sic] culture. Persian was the language of the administration and of military command, and Persian habits of dress were adopted at court." * Pitt Rivers Museum online > Helmet (1884.32.4)
"The Kingdom of Mysore was ruled over by the Wodeyar/Wadiyar Dynasty between 1399 and 1947. However, a period of weak control in the late 18th century saw the rise to power of a particularly ambitious general, Hyder Ali. Hyder Ali was the beloved general and confidante of Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar II so when the title passed to the Maharaja's young son after his death, Hyder Ali seized greater power and became essentially the de facto ruler. He never formally took the throne and when his son Tipu Sultan succeeded him in 1782, the pretence continued that this form of rule was legitimate. The charade finally ended in 1796 when the puppet-king Khasa Chamaraja Wodeyar VIII died and Tipu Sultan declared himself ruler of Mysore.
"Both Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan were brilliant military tacticians and strategists who wooed Napoleonic France, which had imperialistic ambitions on the subcontinent in competition with the British at this time. The British, fearing Bonaparte would establish a power-base in India as they had narrowly prevented him from doing in North Africa, resolved to overthrow Tipu Sultan and restore the Wodeyar dynasty...along with a British advisory Commissioner, of course.
"There followed a number of conflicts in the region of Sriringapatnam throughout April and early May. Tipu Sultan held the walled city and commanded a Mysorean force of 30,000 men, while Major-General Sir David Baird commanded a force of 52,000. Only 8% of this 'British' army was in fact European: Asaf Jah II, the Nizam of (formerly Mogul) Hyderabad had entered into alliance with the British through fear of Tipu Sultan's growing power in Western India, and brought more than 26,000 men to join the British. Another 22,000 of the British troops comprised 22,000 Sikh and Hindu Sepoys. So although this battle is often described as a 'great British victory', this is something of a misnomer!"
* Dalrymple 2019 p243
"The anxieties of the [East India Company] directors were shown to be fully justified when, in August 1767, Haidar Ali declared war on the Company and descended the ghats east of Bangalore with a huge force of around 50,000 men. Of these troops, 23,000 were cavalry, but 28,000 -- some twenty batallions -- were trained units of highly disciplined sepoy infantry."
* Stone 1934 p152
"BUKMAR. A musquetoon with a bell mouth, tiger pattern, India."
* Elgood 1995 p
* Rawson 1968 p48-49
"Hyder and Tippoo seem not to have relied much on the import of foreign sword blades, though some were in use with their armies. It was not the least part of their military achievement that they were able to set up arms factories which were capable of meeting the demands of their considerable forces. To cope with demand the craftsmen were obliged to develop mass-production methods, in which they were probably assisted by artisans sent by the French. The quality, particularly the aesthetic quality, of swords of this period, is not high. They are of clumsy and variable proportions, as the craftsmen seem to have entertained no conception of expression, nor any clear proportional scheme. The form invariably followed was the Talwar, and it was mounted in a version of the Indo-Muslim hilt. Often the pommel of this hilt was rolled forward in imitation of Persian pommels. Pure Persian hilt forms are sometimes met with, applied to both new and old blades, and the Hindu Basket hilt was also used. The armament of the Mysori armies was, like that of contemporary armies in other parts of India, very mixed, and included old swords, old blades remounted, imported swords, and captured weapons, many of the last being of Maratha origin.
"Whilst no new and characteristic forms of sword were developed under Hyder and Tippoo, the ornamental work applied to parts of swords is sometimes individual. The gold used in koftgari work is usually of rather a pale colour, and the patterns followed are usually very close daipers. Sometimes, on swords of Tippoo and his officers, koftgari or enamel are applied in the pattern of the famous tiger-stripes, which look like a row of flattened diagonal S's with tapered tips, or are made up of inscriptions in Persian. The pommels of the same swords are also of the forward-rolled Persian type developed, not as was usual into a lion-head, but into a tiger-head: for the tiger was Tippoo's adopted emblem. The blades of the better Mysori swords are sometimes made of watered wootz, though no attempt seems to have been made to produce patterns in the forging."
* 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) [CONTRA Arts of the Muslim knight 2008 p143] 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."