Kill Discs on Indian Blades
Weaponry collectors are familiar with the spurious tales that sometimes come with antique swords—every blade-nick is from an enemy’s stroke, every notch on a handle is a kill tally—and it becomes easy to dismiss such things as naïve playfulness. The inset discs found on some Indo-Persian blades are not so easily dismissed, however.
Fairly rare to find, these discs of metal, usually only a handful of millimetres across, are set into holes that have been drilled all the way through a blade. The choice of metal used in their manufacture seems important and I have found instances of copper, wootz steel, brass and gold being used. Occasionally, the hole does not pierce the blade fully. So far, I have uncovered two terms for these marks: jang fateh and mohar; the word jang can be translated as battle; and fateh as victory while mohar refers to the word for a coin. I suspect that they are known by other terms amongst the many regions and dialects of the Subcontinent.
Modern oral sources describe these marks in various ways, with some stating that they denote the number of victories the sword has enjoyed in battle, with the value of the metal used relating to the rank or social status of the sword’s wielder at the time; while others believe that they show the number of kills the blade has made with the type of metal acting in place of more traditional numerals. Of course, these discs could be far less mathematical in nature and far more auspicious instead: meant as sacred augmentations to a sword, spiritually imbuing it with further martial qualities.
On the blade illustrated above and to the right can be seen several of these marks: two filled with copper, one empty and one filled with wootz steel. (For more information on wootz steel please read my article.)
These markings are often associated with the dots that can commonly be found worked into a blade as an artistic depiction of quality or as mystical symbolism to aid the wielder in battle. These are frequently accompanied by ‘sickle’ or ‘eyelash’ marks that are said to have evolved from those found on imported European blades. In spite of this connection, I feel that these are a different phenomenon to the jung fateh discs described above. More research is needed to be sure.
It must be remembered that these weapons come from a time when there was no standardisation of arms and personalisation of one’s weaponry was limited only by one’s imagination and resources. After a fight or battle, everyone would have reflected on their victory and survival in their own way and regional and religious influences must have imparted a strong gravitational pull in these matters.
Whatever the origin and meaning behind them, jung fateh remain the subject of much conjecture and I suspect this is a situation that is set to continue. What is certain is that they add a touch more intrigue to a subject already filled with enigmas.
As with all of my articles, if you have any information to add on this subject please feel free to leave a comment below or to message me directly.
My thanks go to Harleen Kaur, Charanvir Singh, Peter Dekker, Gurkirat Singh, Amritpal Singh for their help with this article.