Kurochkin A. (2015). Ob ispol’zovanii indijskih terminov dlja identifikacii vidov oruzhija [On the Use of Indian Terms for Identification of Weapon Types]. Istoricheskoe oruzhievedenie [Weapons History Journal], № 1, pp. 57 — 69.

Kurochkin A.


The European nomenclature describing Indian edged weapons was already developed in the 19th century and since then has not undergone any change or thinking over or critical analysis. By the way the nomenclature includes Indian terms perceived by European scholars as authentic names of different weapon types. More to the point these definitions were often referred to any type of edged weapon regardless their meaning while a final variant presented by the Europeans as a regional name depended usually on the geographical place the word was heard.

Most words used in India to determine edged weapons are generic terms based on the verbs “to kill”, “to cut”, “to slash”, “to hurt”, “to split”, etc.

In the article the author rejects a number of accepted views. For example “bichua” – a term for a dagger – was stated to mean “a sting of scorpion” while actually the word is derived from the verb “to sting” which different generic terms for a dagger, a scorpion and even a nettle are traced to. More to the point the term “bichua” did not define a definite type of a dagger as it is widely accepted. These new data easily explain a lot of “discrepancies” as they were considered when different European scholars used this term to describe various types of daggers instead of the only one as the classifiers wanted.

The word “pata” which is the name of a sword with a gauntlet was also wrongly corresponded with the term “a leaf” while in India the word “pata” was used to determine any long strait object which can be a cudgel, a wooden training sword (possibly possessing a gauntlet) or a rapier.

The author also shows the term “katar” (or “kutar”) which in the accepted European classification  marks mostly the push dagger with a cross grip was better used by the native speakers to refer to the straight double edged dagger which Lord Egerton in his “Description” calls “jamdhar katari” and derived from Nepal. These daggers are explained in the article to have come to Nepal in the late 18th century during the suppression of sannyasy and fakirs’ revolt in Bihar and Bengal and on their exodus to Nepal.

The name of the dagger “bank” which is usually corresponded with the Maratha knives with crescent shape blades was in practice used to define any curved dagger and not only among the Maratha.

Thus on the basis of written sources the author shows it is the generic terms but not the individual names defining separate types of weapons that were used in India to determine the weapons. The conventionality of present classification based on the usage of authentic Indian names regardless their meaning is also stressed.

Keywords: Indian weapons, daggers, swords, nomenclature, “bichua”, “pata”, “katar”.