Weapons - Khanda Sword

The Khanda is an ancient sword that dates back to the medieval Indian period prior to the Islamic invasions of Punjab. Although it is a straight bladed sword, unlike European straight swords it was not used only for thrusting, but also as a hacking weapon designed for cutting and slashing while doing maximum damage due to the sheer force of it’s blade swing.

Most Khandas of the 17th and 18th century have a thin flat broad straight steel blade approximately 90cm in length. Although the Khanda is a double edged blade it is reinforced with narrow fretted strips of steel reinforcement running down most of the length of the reverse edge and several inches down the front edge from the root. This design enabled the blade not only to be light and elastic, but also provides it with additional stiffness to withstand impact without bending out of shape and not chip or shatter easily.

The hilt of the khanda evolved over time to a basket hilt to protect the hand with a wide finger guard, may have been influenced by European swords. Both the basket and finger guard feature thick padding to reduce the shock of blows. One of the most distinctive features of the hilt is the long tip that protrudes from the top of the pommel which could be gripped by the left hand while making a powerful and deadly two handed stroke.

With the advent of cavalry in Sikh and Mughal warfare the Khanda was eventually replaced as the primary sword by the Tulwar which was better suited for mounted warfare. The Khanda still remained in use and has been highly honoured by Sikhs throughout their history. It is said to have been a weapon of last resort. When a warrior in battle lost his horse and was surrounded by the enemy, he would pull out the Khanda and fight to the end while swinging the blade with both hands and taking down as many of the enemy as he could. Perhaps this explains why the painting of Baba Deep Singh on the walls of Gurdwara Baba Atal shows him with two Khanda swords, having achieved martyrdom while fighting insurmountable odds in the battle of Amritsar in 1757 against the forces of Ahmad Shah Durrani.