Firangi (sword)

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Firangi
Peshwa Baji Rao I riding horse.jpg
Maratha Peshwa Bajirao, wielding a firangi sword.
Type Sword
Place of origin India
Service history
Used by The Mughals, Rajputs, Marathas, Sikhs and others
Production history
Produced c. 1500 to present
Specifications
Blade length 89 to 96 cm (35 to 38 in)

Blade type Double-edged or single-edged, straight bladed, pointed tip.

The firangi (/fəˈrɪŋɡ/; derived from the Arabic term (al- faranji) for a Western European [a "Frank"]),[1] (Marathi:फिरंगाना) was an Indian sword type which used blades manufactured in Western Europe and imported by the Portuguese, or made locally in imitation of European blades.[2]

Physical characteristics[edit]

Typical firangi sword

The firangi sword characteristically had a long, 89 to 96 centimetres (35 to 38 in), straight blade of either broadsword (two edged) or, more commonly backsword (single edged) form. The blade often incorporated one, two, or three fullers (grooves) and had a spear-tip shaped point. The sword could be used to both cut and thrust. Examples with narrow rapier blades have survived, though in small numbers. The hilt was of the type sometimes called the "Indian basket-hilt" and was identical to that of another Indian straight-bladed sword the khanda. The hilt afforded a substantial amount of protection for the hand and had a prominent spike projecting from the pommel which could be grasped, resulting in a two-handed capability for the sword.[2] Like other contemporary Indian swords the hilt of the firangi was usually of iron and the tang of the blade was attached to the hilt using a very strong resin, additionally, the hilt to blade connection was reinforced by projections from the hilt onto either face of the forte of the blade which were riveted together though a hole passing through the blade. The finest examples of this type of sword can have extensive gold "koftigari" decoration to both hilt and blade.

Use[edit]

Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan standing, carrying a lily and a firangi sword as a symbol of martial power.

Because of its length the firangi is usually regarded as primarily a cavalry weapon. Illustrations suggest a 16th-century date for the development of the sword, though early examples appear to have had simpler cross-guard hilts, similar to those of the talwar. The sword has been especially associated with the Marathas, who were famed for their cavalry. However, the firangi was widely used by the Mughals and those peoples who came under their rule, including Sikhs and Rajputs. Images of Mughal potentates holding firangis, or accompanied by retainers carrying their masters' firangis, suggest that the sword became a symbol of martial virtue and power.[3] Photographs of Indian officers of Hodson's Horse (an irregular cavalry unit raised by the British) show that the firangi was still in active use at the time of the Indian Mutiny in 1857-58.[4]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Because the Frankish kingdom (Francia, the name origin of "France") dominated Western Europe for centuries, terms derived from "Frank" were used by many in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and beyond as a synonym for Roman Christians (e.g., al-Faranj in Arabic, farangi in Persian and Urdu, Frenk in Turkish, Feringhi in Hindi, and Frangos in Greek). See also Thai ฝรั่ง Farang.ฝรั่ง fa rang, thai-language.com, 2008
  2. ^ a b Stone and LaRocca, p. 229
  3. ^ Evangelista and Gaugler, p. 247
  4. ^ David, ill. 29, showing British and Indian Officers of Hodson's Horse March 1858. One Indian officer is armed with a firangi.

References[edit]

  • David, S. (2002) The Indian Mutiny 1857 Viking. ISBN 0-670-91137-2
  • Evangelista, N. and Gaugler, W.M. (1995) The encyclopedia of the sword. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-313-27896-2
  • Stone, G.C. and LaRocca, D.J. (1999) A glossary of the construction, decoration and use of arms and armor in all countries and in all times. Courier Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-40726-8