In the West, the most widely known Indian sword is undoubtedly the tulwar: the iconic and deadly weapon used throughout the Subcontinent since the Middle Ages. But this name, tulwar, is often applied to blades that, for centuries, have also gone by other names. With the hope of clearing up confusion, I have written this article and made illustrations of each of the most common blade-shapes found on the swords of the Subcontinent. It is not an exhaustive list but I plan to add to it in future and, as with all of my articles, if you perceive an error then please do leave a comment below. I expect that this will be a controversial topic. You will note that the famous firangi does not appear in this list and that is because the term means foreign or Frankish and therefore can be applied to any sword with an imported blade.
Finally, none of the following swords are defined by their hilt types but I have included hilts within the images simply for the sake of completion.
Sometimes spelled goliya, this is a very curved blade which mimics the sweeping geography of the Persian shamshir. The name comes from the Punjabi for ‘round’. It is single-edged.
The tulwar generally possesses a blade with a medium curve, however, it should be remembered that the term is derived from Sanskrit and simply means sword, and so it could be applied to any entry in this list. Also spelled talwar.
A wide-bladed, single-edged sword originally made for cutting through cloth armour. It was later associated with executions (possibly apocryphally). Some sources opine that the tegha (or tega) is any blade that widens towards the tip.
The sirohi is slightly curved, slim of width, and closely linked to the town of the same name in Rajasthan that was famous for its sword blades.
The Sukhela or Dhup
Essentially the same, dhup is the Deccani name for this straight, single-edged type while sukhela is the term used in the rest of the South. Confusingly, sukhela (in a variety of spellings) can also refer to a kind of pattern-welded steel.
This blade is not completely straight but curves forwards a small amount towards the tip. It is single-edged and usually has a down-swept tip. It is often confused with the katti below.
More forward-curving still is the single-edged katti. It shares a name with the robust ayda katti and, just to make things harder, the term katti also seems to be a general term for sword in the South.
The Sosun Pattah
This type’s name means ‘lily leaf’ in Urdu. There are two types: the Rajput form has a Hindu basket hilt; while the Islamic the Indo-Muslim hilt. The form possibly dates back to Akbar’s time and there is some evidence in art: see the Ain I Akbari.
The traditional sword of Hindu India (although it was still used by the Mughals in the north), it can often be discovered married to a Hindu basket hilt. The blade can be double or single-edged. Tip-shapes vary but the most commonly found are spatulate. Occasionally, this blade form can be found slightly curved.
Similar to the khanda but with a longer, slimmer blade. Single and double-edged varieties are common. Again, tip-geometry varies but most are spatulated.
Thanks to Ji Kaur and Amritpal Singh of Katar Arms.