The tulwar or the curved sword is a weapon that is known to a lot of people. But in India there was a sword also called the Khanda which was not curved but was straight. The Khanda is peculiar to the sub continent and was not used anywhere else. Thus, in that respect it is unique. The Khanda is not as ancient as the Tulwar or curved sword but its use started with the Gupta age from about 550 to 350 BC.
Khanda-Construction and Shape
The Khanda, though straight like the European swords, was comparatively lighter. It was also shorter in length. But a lot many warriors got the Khanda made to their individual specifications and sometimes the Khanda was really heavy. It was double edged and thus differed from the Tulwar which had an edge only on one side. However one significant point of difference with the other swords was that the Khanda had a blunt tip and hence its use was sometimes limited.
Thus the Khanda was primarily used for hacking and cutting and could not be used for stabbing. The Khanda had a straight scabbard and it was used in vast quantities by the Rajputs, Sikhs and Maratha soldiers.
Uses of the Khanda
The Khanda was used with telling effect in battle with the Moslems.It was lethal when used against Moslem soldiers who wore leather under their chain armor.It was handled with both hands and used to swipe the enemy’s armor. Baba Deep Singh the Sikh warrior in his march on theGolden Temple also carried a Khanda. The Rajput warrior Prithiviraj also used a specially manufactured Khanda.
The Khanda however was not a weapon of the mass of soldiers as it was heavy and had to have a two handed grip. Thus it remained a weapon of the Kings and Generals or leaders in battle. The Rajputs in particular have a special place for the Khanda which is part of the festivities during Dussehra. The weapon is venerated as a weapon used by the God Shiva.
The khanda went out of fashion as the curved sword held sway. Again with the advent of the Musket the Khanda as a weapon of war completely vanished. However the Khanda or straight swords do find use during religious festivals and dances. Thus these swords are part of the Classical dance form of Kathakali and also related martial art of Kalaraypat.