An ornamental pata with a 41" (104 cm) blade
|Place of origin||Indian subcontinent|
|Length||10–44 inches (25–112 cm)|
|Blade type||Double-edged, |
|Hilt type||Gauntlet type|
The pata or patta (Marathi:दांडपट्टा, Hindi: पट) is a sword, originating from the Indian subcontinent, with a gauntlet integrated as a handguard. Often referred to in its native Marathi as a dandpatta, it is commonly called a gauntlet-sword in English.
The pata has a long straight blade ranging in length from 10 to 44 inches. The blades were sometimes locally made and other times recycled from older European swords imported through colonial trade. In the case of European blades, broadswords were most common, though rapier blades were occasionally employed.
The characteristic feature of the pata is its hilt which takes the form of a half-gauntlet, the inside of which is usually padded. The hilt is attached to the blade by decorative arms that extend forward on both sides of the blade.
The Mughals developed a variation with matchlock pistols adjoining the handle. The hilt also has a long cuff which is usually decorated and in older examples inlaid and embellished with gold and silver. The swordsman holds the weapon by gripping a crossbar inside the gauntlet. The cuff is held close to the forearm by another bar or chain.
Created during the Mughal period, the pata's use in warfare appears to be mostly restricted to the 17th and 18th century when the Maratha empire came into prominence. It was considered to be a highly effective weapon for infantrymen against heavily armoured cavalry. The Maratha emperor Maharaja Shivaji and his general Baji Prabhu Deshpande were reputedly trained in the use of the pata. When Mughal Afzal Khan's bodyguard Sayyed Banda attacked Shivaji with swords in the Battle of Pratapgad, Shivaji's bodyguard Jiva Mahala fatally struck him down, cutting off one of Sayyed Banda's hands with a pata.
The pata is most commonly paired with either a shield or another pata, though it can also be used with a javelin, axe, or belt. The restrictive handle (which British colonists point out was uncomfortably small for most European hands) was particularly suited to the stiff-wristed style of South Asian swordsmanship. Despite its shape, the pata is used primarily for cutting rather than thrusting. The extended grip provided by the forearm permitted powerful slashes but restricted any thrusts. This can be seen in mardani khel today and in colonial descriptions which describe spinning techniques with dual pata "much like a windmill".
Miniature paintings show that the pata was also wielded by mounted cavalry, which has led some modern collectors to erroneously conclude that the weapon was used for thrusting from horseback. However, the restriction on wrist movement would have made it difficult to dislodge the pata from an opponent's body, and doing so while mounted would most likely cause the swordsmen to fall off their horses. Rather, it is more probable that the pata was used in cut-and-run tactics, characteristic of the Maratha army. Cutting technique was practiced by slicing fruit on the ground like lemons or limes without touching the ground. This was and still is a common method of demonstration, often using a flexible blade to facilitate the trick. It is said that Maratha warriors would use the pata when encircled before they fell, so as to maximize the casualties on the opposition. It was to be effective when two soldiers fought together as pairs.
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- Media related to Pata swords at Wikimedia Commons