Military Wiki
File:Talwar Hindú SXVII.jpg
18th-century talwar, with typical disc-hilt and knucklebow.
Type Sword
Place of origin India
Production history
Produced Early types from ca. 1300, the classic form from ca. 1500 to present.
Blade type Single-edged, curved bladed, pointed tip.
Hilt type Unique Indian "Disc Hilt"
Scabbard/sheath Leather or cloth covered wood & the same with metal mounts, all metal and leather covered metal.

The talwar ( Hindi: तलवार; Urdu, Pashto, Sindhi: تلوار; Bengali:তলোয়ার; Punjabi: ਤਲਵਾਰ) is a type of curved sword or sabre from South Asia, and is found in the modern countries of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The word is also spelled talwaar and tulwar.


The talwar originated alongside other curved swords such as the Arab saif, the Persian shamshir, the Turkish kilij and the Afghan pulwar, all such swords being originally derived from earlier curved swords developed in Turkic Central Asia.[1] The use of talwar became more widespread under the Mughals, who were of Turko-Mongol origins.

The blade profile of the British Pattern 1796 light cavalry sabre is similar to some examples of the talwar, particularly in the widening of the blade near the tip and the increasing curvature of the distal half of the blade, and expert opinion has suggested that the talwar may have contributed to the design of the British sabre.[2]


Talwar with a wootz blade and silver koftigari decoration to hilt and blade forte. Note the widening of the blade near the tip.

Though strongly influenced by Middle Eastern swords, the typical talwar has a wider blade than the shamshir, and lacks the expanded yelman (false-edge) of the kilij. Late examples often had European-made blades, set into distinctive Indian-made hilts. The hilt of the typical talwar is termed a "disc hilt" from the prominent disc-shaped flange surrounding the pommel.[3] The pommel often has a short spike projecting from its centre, sometimes pierced for a cord to secure the sword to the wrist. The hilt incorporates a simple cross-guard which frequently has a slender knucklebow attached.[4] The hilt is usually entirely of iron, though brass and silver hilts are found, and is connected to the tang of the blade by a very powerful adhesive resin. More ornate examples of the talwar often show silver or gilt decoration in a form called koftigari.


The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan on horseback, wearing a talwar, in the upper left War elephants are depicted bearing flags with a representation of the talwar.

The talwar was used by both cavalry and infantry. The grip of the talwar is cramped and the prominent disc of the pommel presses into the wrist if attempts are made to use it to cut like a conventional sabre. These features of the talwar hilt result in the hand having a very secure and rather inflexible hold on the weapon, enforcing the use of variations on the very effective "draw cut". The fact that the talwar does not have the kind of radical curve of the shamshir indicates that it could be used for thrusting as well as cutting purposes. Unlike some similar blades which have a very radical curve at the lower half of the blade - which make them very good slashing weapons but limit their use as a thrusting or cutting blades - the talwar can be used effectively for all three purposes either by mounted warrior or by foot soldier. The blades of some examples of the Talwar widen towards the tip. This increases the momentum of the distal portion of the blade when used to cut; when a blow was struck by a skilled warrior, limbs could be amputated and persons decapitated.[5] The spike attached to the pommel could be used for striking the opponent in extreme close quarter circumstances when it was not always possible to use the blade. The talwar is held with fore finger wrapping around the lower cross guard.

In culture

The weapon is still used for talwar zani or matam e talwar, (Arabic: tatbir) Shiite Muslim self-flagellation, on 10th of Muharram, marking the martydom of Imam Hussain. Today, the word talwar has a literal meaning of "sword" or "dagger" in the majority of languages spoken in the Indian subcontinent.

See also


  1. Nicolle, p. 175
  2. Robson, p.23
  3. Evangelista and Gaugler, p. 575
  4. Evangelista and Gaugler, p. 575
  5. Nolan, Louis. Cavalry: its History and Tactics (Bosworth 1853, Pallas Armata facsimile reprint 1995)


  • Syed Zafar Haider, Islamic arms and armour of Muslim India, 1991
  • Evangelista, N. and Gaugler, W.M. (1995) The encyclopedia of the sword. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-313-27896-2
  • Nicolle, D. (2007) Crusader Warfare: Muslims, Mongols and the struggle against the Crusades. Hambledon Continuum. ISBN 1-84725-146-3, ISBN 978-1-84725-146-6
  • Robson, B. (1975) Swords of the British Army, Arms and Armour Press.

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