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Steven C.





Joined: 31 Aug 2007

Posts: 4

PostPosted: Fri 31 Aug, 2007 12:34 pm    Post subject: Ancient Indian Weapons (B.C.)         Reply with quote

Hey guys, for a story I'm working on (I'm a film school student, but I'm simply working on a story for basically any form of media I can put it in) I need to know about ancient (not medieval like Tulwars or katars) weapons of India.

Without revealing too much one of the characters in my story is an Indian warrior (very similar to a ninja or sulsa type assassin, one of the ideas my story uses is the rather convincing theory that Chinese/Japanese martial arts originated in ancient India, which would include ninjutsu, which was brought to Japan by Chinese, so eventually its very likely that it goes back to India from China).

Anyways the era I need information on is anything from around 1200 B.C. to around time of Alexander the Great's invasions. I need example of Indian weapons from this time, especially swords and melee weaponry).

Alot of weapons I was thinking of using, I can't find out if they were around during that period though.. examples are:

Urumi - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urumi

Khukuri , Chakram, bagh-nakh, katar.

Please help! Internet is not helping at all!
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
Industry Professional



Location: Netherlands
Joined: 11 Mar 2005

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 740

PostPosted: Fri 31 Aug, 2007 11:50 pm    Post subject: Re: ANCIENT Indian Weapons (B.C.)         Reply with quote

Steven C. wrote:
Hey guys, for a story I'm working on (I'm a film school student, but I'm simply working on a story for basically any form of media I can put it in) I need to know about ancient (not medieval like Tulwars or katars) weapons of India.

Without revealing too much one of the characters in my story is an Indian warrior (very similar to a ninja or sulsa type assassin, one of the ideas my story uses is the rather convincing theory that Chinese/Japanese martial arts originated in ancient India, which would include ninjutsu, which was brought to Japan by Chinese, so eventually its very likely that it goes back to India from China).

Anyways the era I need information on is anything from around 1200 B.C. to around time of Alexander the Great's invasions. I need example of Indian weapons from this time, especially swords and melee weaponry).

Alot of weapons I was thinking of using, I can't find out if they were around during that period though.. examples are:

Urumi - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urumi

Khukuri , Chakram, bagh-nakh, katar.

Please help! Internet is not helping at all!


I don't have much on India, but here's some bronze weaponary from the 2nd millenium BC:





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Hisham Gaballa





Joined: 27 Jan 2005
Reading list: 7 books

Posts: 508

PostPosted: Sat 01 Sep, 2007 2:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Three books worth getting, if you are really interested, would be P. S. Rawson's "The Indian sword", which discussed Indian swords from antiquity to the present, H. R. Robinson's "Oriental Armour", which does briefly touch on Ancient Indian armour and Robert Elgood's "Hindu Arms and Ritual", which briefly touches on early Indian arms and armour.

Because I do have all 3 of these books myself, although it has been a long time since I've read them, I'll try and summarise what I can remember.

Early Indian armies (i.e. before the 13th century) tended to be made up mainly of infantry. The most common weapons were spears and bows. Prior to the 13th century the Indians used wooden self bows or bamboo bows which were approximately 4-5 feet long.

According to Rawson the oldest styles of Northern Indian swords (known from Temple carvings of the 1st century BC etc) were shortish swords 2 to 3 feet long. There appear to have been 2 main types, one had a straight blade with parallel sides and sharp points, similar to Roman Imperial Gladii and spathas only broader, the other had a leaf-shaped blade and was somewhat similar to the Greek xiphos, only wider. Rawson considered these to be ancestors of the later khanda, which first appears around the 6th-7th century AD.

In South India the two types above were also in use by the 2nd or 1st century BC, in addition to 3rd type which had a long straight, slender, continously tapering blade. The earliest evidence for South Indian swords is a hoard of iron swords found in in Adichalanur near Madras, which have been dated to the 2nd or 1st century BC.

Around the 6th century AD another type of sword appeared which bore a striking resemblence to the Ancient Greek Kopis, Rawson speculated that this type of sword was the ancester of the Sosun Pata. Elgood suggests that this type of sword was introduced to India either by Alexander the Great or by Greek Mercenaries serving in India in the 3rd-1st centuries BC.

As for armour, according to Robinson, when Alexander invaded India the only armour used by the Indians were large shields. The earliest representaions of armour come from the Gandhara sculptures of the 1st-3rd centuries AD, which show warriors wearing what appear to be cuirasses maded of some form of quilted fabric, with Graeco-Roman style pteruges at the shoulders and hanging from the waist and turbans on their heads. Most Hindu warriors were still wearing quilted armours in the 15th century. Padded and quilted armours, such as the peti continued to be worn until the early 19th century.
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John Cooksey




Location: NW Ark
Joined: 15 Nov 2003

Posts: 291

PostPosted: Sat 01 Sep, 2007 9:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I am going to chime in here, with what little I have to offer.

First, it is probably a bit of a stretch to say that one can trace ninjutsu back to Indian martial arts. One can trace the spirit/mind-set of many Asian martial arts back to an Indian prototype, but the actual forms are very "regionalized". If you want to understand a genuinely Indian (and ancient) martial art----look to yoga. Yoga was originally a warrior art, intended to build strength and flexibility of the body and the mind for martial activities.

Second, a lot of the period you are mentioning belongs to the Indian Bronze Age, which isn't super well-known. As previous posters have pointed, the available evidence indicates some fairly generic weapons forms, such as straight or leaf-bladed swords (or daggers) of moderate length, the bow and arrow, and the spear. Around the Hellenistic era, you would see the intrusion of weapons and armor from the Greek world (like the kopis) and characteristic steppe weapons from the waves of Saka migration and contact that were swirling around Central Asia, such as the shorter horse bow and akinakes style dagger/short sword (at least in North India). Possibly weighted/tipped whips and lassos as well.
And of course the cudgel or mace, and various forms of axes (especially small ones).

At least by the Alexandrian/Early Hellenistic Era, the Indians were using elephants in war, and one "special weapon" that might be used is the elephant goad. Not really a weapon per se, but could inflict a hard blow, and might just be a weapon of opportunity for your assassin-type character.
In the earlier, 1200 BC era, and after, don't forget chariots!!!

I didn't surrender, but they took my horse and made him surrender.
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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
Joined: 29 Nov 2006
Reading list: 7 books

Posts: 2,689

PostPosted: Fri 07 Sep, 2007 6:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Maybe it'd be a good idea to look at the Arthasastra for an idea of Indian military practices in late antiquity? Although the book describes an ideal state rather than the actual conditions in the field, I have no doubt that it's still going to be useful in some way. Here's the 1915 translation:

http://www.mssu.edu/projectsouthasia/history/.../index.htm
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