Sword and sheath (kastane) with a dragon-headed pommel

Sword and sheath (kastane) with a dragon-headed pommel

Steel, chased and embossed gold sheath
Travancore, Kerala, India
19th century
Museum nos. 2573:1,2(IS)

The kastane is the national sword of Sri Lanka. It typically has a short curved single-edged blade, double-edged at the point. The hilt comprises a knuckle-guard and down-turned quillons, each terminating in a dragon's head. The swords were intended to serve as badges of rank; the quality of ornamentation depending on the status of the wearer.

The establishment of European trading contacts with South Asia by the late 16th and early 17th century led to these swords becoming fashionable dress accessories among European gentlemen. A kastane can be seen in an equestrian portrait of Colonel Alexander Popham at Littlecote House in the care of the Royal Armouries Collection.