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Zinc Items- The history of Rajputs has been one of great courage and bravery in wars against invaders. Courage is intrinsic to their identity and to this day, no Rajput wedding is complete without a majestic display of elaborate weaponry. Nothing beats the grandeur of a Rajput, all dressed up in the royal finery, carrying a shield and a sword, richly embellished with gold and silver.

Even though today, traditional weapons of warfare have become obsolete, they still hold an important place in the community of Rajputs. Weaponry is also consecrated during the festival of Dussehra. At such occasions, one can see swords and shields, coat of arms, armours and knives, in their full glory.

The sheer strength and power of a Damascus steel sword, its dark grey colour and majestic form are beautifully completed by intricate floral motifs drawn with glistening precious metals on its sheath and richly embossed hilt.

Ornamentation on armament was integral to Mughal and Rajput cultures. Traditionally, the Siklikar community has been practicing this craft in Udaipur, Rajasthan.

The base metal, usually Damascus steel, is first scratched all over its surface with a knife (known as chirni) in a very close cross-hatched pattern. These fine scratches help in holding the inlay metal securely. With just a few guidelines marked on the surface, craftsmen start laying thin silver wires for making outlines of the patterns. Pressing the wires with a pointed tool called “salai” fixes them in the etched grooves. After the outlines, the main motifs are made and then filled with closely placed gold or silver wires.

Deft fingers place the fine wires of silver and gold with such precision and fluency; it is difficult for a layman to even draw with such skill on paper. Motifs so exact, it is as if made by a block and repeated to get a web of identical patterns.

Once the motifs are filled, the outlining silver wires are removed and melted for reuse. The article is then heated and rubbed with hakik stone (agate) for a polished finish.

Earlier, kings would commission the embellishment of ritual weaponry to craftsmen who would let their imagination take a flight to create something the king had never seen before. The only brief was to make something so amazing that the king would be impressed. Craftsmen would then take inspirations from scenes of royal processions and hunting excursions and translate them on to the weapons used in those occasions.

Motifs can cover a wide variety of subjects, from flora and fauna, to gods and goddesses, to scenes from the lives of kings. A strong Mughal influence is also seen in the designs. Designs with both gold and silver wires are known as “Ganga – Jamuna” and the ones made with gold-silver alloys are called “Hara Sona”.

Craftsmen are now giving new directions to this art, by ornamenting objects of utility, such as vessels, mirror frames  and even jewelry. But souvenir weapons like knives and daggers remain most popular, reinforcing the status of this magnificent craft in regal finery.

While some crafts belong to the commoner, inseparable from their daily lives, there are some that are brought out only at the most grand, festive occasions. Koftgiri is one such magnificent craft that is truly majestic and royal.

History-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. The talwar typically does not have as radical a curve as the shamshir and only a very small minority have the expanded, stepped, yelman typical of the kilij. The use of talwar became more widespread under the Mughals, who were of Turko-Mongol origins.

Characteristics-Talwar with a wootz blade and silver koftigari decoration to hilt and blade forte.The talwar was produced in many varieties, with different types of blades. Some blades are very unusual, from those with double-pointed tips (zulfikar) to those with massive blades (sometimes called tegha - often deemed to be executioner's swords but on little evidence). However, all such blades are curved, and the vast majority of talwars have blades more typical of a generalised sabre.

Many examples of the talwar exhibit an increased curvature in the distal half of the blade, compared to the curvature nearer the hilt. Also relatively common is a widening of the blade near the tip (without the step to the back of the blade characteristic of the yelman of the kilij). The blade profile of the British Pattern 1796 light cavalry sabre is similar to some examples of the talwar, and expert opinion has suggested that the talwar may have contributed to the design of the British sabre.

Though strongly influenced by Middle Eastern swords, the typical talwar has a wider blade than the shamshir. 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 surroundingthe pommel. 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. 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.

Use-Thetalwar 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. 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. 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 can be held with the fore finger wrapped around the lower quillon of the cross guard.