History in Weapons

Lethal weapons

Girish Jadav displays his expansive collection of ancient weaponry from the Maratha period to Rishi Majumder

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Source: Mumbai Mirror

Rishi Majumder

Girish Jadhav, a 58-year-old senior manager with a multinational company, strikes a pose from the Hanmanti school of sword fighting (an ancient school followed by the Maratha army), holding an 11th century punch dagger. He jumps and twirls, forming a perfect semi-arc to demonstrate an ideal thrust, which the weapon was designed for.

He does this deftly, in little space, because the small room he lives in at Pune is crowded with three beds besides his own, occupied by three other lodgers he shares it with. He keeps a handful of weapons here in the corner of a shared cupboard.

His one room-kitchen residence in Kurla, Mumbai, where his wife and children stay, contains 700-odd antique weapons, from the 11th century onwards, belonging to the period in between the rise and the fall of the Maratha empire.

The collection comprises different kinds of punch daggers, swords, sword handles, shields, spears, war axes, arrows, tiger claws, head gear, battle armour, kukris and some pistols. His weapons collection has seen 180 exhibitions throughout the country and won him many awards and medals from historians and government bodies. On his desk in Pune lie some sample weapons he has shortlisted to be sent to London, for a possible exhibition. Next to these lie notes for a book he’s working on, to be titled The History Of Weaponry.

And next to those lie information to be sent to Nitin Desai (the man behind many a Bollywood historical) for a serial he’s producing on Shivaji, along with Jadav’s many weapons, which will serve as models for duplicate weapons to be made for the serial.

Jadhav’s first antique weapon, “obviously, the Maratha punch dagger”, was bought at age 30 in Pune’s Old Bazaar. “I knew exactly where to find it, because I had scoured the market for it, for many years,” he remembers. “I had dreamt of buying it since childhood, but had to wait till I had earned enough money.” Eventually 40 weapons followed.

“This was when friends and colleagues started talking about what I had, at business meetings even,” he says. “And I became a ‘collector’.” A friend got some school children to see his collection. “One of them told his history teacher, who asked me for an exhibition in his school,” he relates. “And the idea of holding exhibitions for the public hit me.”

His marketing job enabled him to travel to towns like Surat, Balsar, Bilaspur, Jodhpur, Udaipur and Bijapur which were valuable sources for weapons from the Maratha period. “My last marketing call would be at 5pm, after which I would ask people around me where to find antiques in the city,” he says.

“I was particularly interested in places where wars were fought during this period.” While it took him many an excursion to a Surat Warehouse to procure a Pre-British muzzle loading gun-powder pistol, a 400-year-old Turkish Yataghan sword whose jade hilt was embedded with diamonds, rubies and gold (worth many lakhs of rupees) was gifted to him by Madhukar More.

One such well wisher was famed Maratha historian Babasaheb Purandhare, who contributed to his cause with his own knowledge on the era.

“Discussions with him opened a new world to me,” Jadhav recounts. “I saw the link between weapons, history, places and the character of people and politics in today’s India.” His final step in this direction was learning to swordfight as the Marathas did then.

“I went to Kolhapur to ask people, ‘Who knows Hanmanti?'” he says. “When some youngsters who knew the art started demonstrating, I filmed it to learn the moves.” Endless attempts in this direction led to finding Katkade Guruji, who taught him the art properly.

Jadhav was not privileged enough to pursue the low-paying career of a professional historian. Yet his historical and cultural roots clutched at him too much to let him remain a 9 to 5 executive. “I didn’t buy a colour TV, long after everyone else in my salary bracket had, because I needed to purchase tiger claws,” he says as he begins to tear up.

“I saw my children having to sneak into other’s living room windows to catch their favourite serial. Yet they never once asked me to forsake my passion.” Ironically the same roots that prompt such passion, prompted a mob in Mazagaon to scream “Jaanta Raja” while burning a hut housing Muslim women and children.

“No person who loves a subject can misuse it,” says Jadhav uncompromisingly. “An understanding of history will show you how people are connected, not how to divide them by caste, class, religion… or even region.”

I walked out with my head down and it had nothing to do with had nothing to do with
– Amit Khosla, Mumbai Mirror

Sourced from : Story cellar blog

Cold Steel

An exhibition of classic arms at Vile Parle detailed not just the 22 parts of a sword, but also tales of its owners and the battles they fought

Pallavi Singh
Mumbai, December 18, 2005

LAST week, at a playground at Vile Parle, people lined up in long queues. From 90-year-olds to children, they tottered across the venue, huddled in groups, listening, debating, pointing, laughing.
On display was a remarkable range of combat weapons, many over 300 years old, used by the Marathas, the Mughals, the Europeans and the British, and the stories of their pasts.
Exhibitor Girish Jadhav (56) fixed the focus right away: ‘‘Don’t write about me. Write about these weapons I’ve spent my entire life collecting. Each of them has a story you must listen to.’’
So the stories began, starting with the tiny but lethal ‘tiger claws’, a set of which saved Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji from Afzal Khan, a general of the Sultans of Bijapur, in 1659.
Considered the most celebrated act of Shivaji’s life, the crafty Maratha king foiled Khan’s treacherous designs by ‘‘ripping apart his bowels with the steel claws’’ hidden inside his loose-fitting clothes. ‘‘His triumph over Afzal Khan is often said to mark the birth of Maratha power,’’ said Jadhav.
The guerilla warfare in which Shivaji specialised, involved other weapons too—the patta (gauntlet sword), bows and arrows, the bear dagger and the lion paw.
‘‘These were not just weapons; from them were born methods of attack,’’ explained Jadhav, deftly working one of the tiger claws in a mock-fight. ‘‘Shivaji had a knack for steel wars. He made clever use of his weapons in the tough Sahyadri ranges.’’
And those weapons of the wild haven’t come easily to this die-hard collector. When he’s not managing his construction firm in Pune, he’s busy scouring chor bazaars across Mumbai for the hidden treasures of warfare.
‘‘You won’t get them the first time you try; you have keep haunting these places; you have to have a real passion for this,’’ he said.
He spoke of one of his numerous visits to a warehouse in Surat, where he stumbled upon a 400-year-old muzzle-loading pistol. His collection of more than 500 weapons—from battle axes and shields to enemy traps and punch daggers—has come from 20 years of stomping through places like Mysore, Bijapur, Golconda, Pune, Udaipur and Jodhpur.
Honour came in the form of a silver Shivaji medal with a rajamudra (king’s seal), presented to him by eminent historian Babasaheb Purandare in 1999 at Raigadh on the 325th anniversary celebrations of Shivaji’s coronation.
The rarest of arms come from royal families—who don’t part with them easy. ‘‘These families prefer destroying their weapons once a year rather than selling them to a collector”.
By now, he’s done this for so long, he’s become a walking library on the subject: ‘‘Did you know there are more than 65 kinds of swords in the world, and four different metals used to make them? Or that the plain-looking sword technically has 22 parts and most of them owe their curves to the Persian tradition. Or that the hilt can tell where the sword came from.’’
For serious collectors, the five kinds of arms—European, English, Persian, Indian and Far-Eastern—are ‘‘schools of thought.’’
‘‘These weapons were not just tools to win a battle, they were the source of larger war strategy,’’ he said.
And he resists attempts to put a monetary value to his collection. ‘‘Please don’t put a price on something I’ve spent my life savings collecting,’’ he said.
We come up to a large photograph of Shivaji’s sword, Bhavani, which now rests in London’s Buckingham Palace museum. ‘‘I got a picture from a foreign magazine and got it enlarged for exhibition. People must see what treasure we lost to the English’’.


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