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BURMESE EXECUTIONER'S DHA


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Helen - from the Pitt-Rivers Museum, showed (under Firearms - titled 'Swordsticks' on May 7th.) a link to a few items in the Museum. One of them was a superb example of A Burmese Dha - with carved ivory grip. She was able to show a museum exhibit when I posted the Indo-Persian dagger - and the comparison was excellent for learning about patterns and styles. I am posting a few details of a Dha that I have and hopefully, Helen will show us the Pitt-Rivers more elaborate one ?

This style of sword - with no guard - is generic for this part of S.E.Asia - incl. Burma (I won't refer to it as Manaamar - they are a vicious and dictatorial country with their present Govt..) Thailand,Cambodia,Laos and Vietnam, also use this style. The sword is usually carried upright in the small of the back - with the handle projecting upwards over the head. When needed they only have to reach-up and bring the sword straight over and down. Very effective. The Thais are not a warlike people, but when working in the paddy fields there are always snakes - and this is quick.

The Burmese are much more warlike and have fought the Thais for the past 800 years. They burnt the former capital Ayuddhya, in the 17th. C. and that was how Bangkok - it's old name ' Krungthep' City of Angels - came to be built.

The Dha that I am showing is an executioner's - and is much bigger then the usual type. This one is 47 inches , overall

(117cm) and the blade is 31 inches (77cm). The blade has been acid etched with a background and a series of small figures.

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Very much so - and I wouldn't put it past the present Burmese 'regime' to still be carrying out the occasional 'cleansing' !

I don't think this one was ever used - I keep offering money to our locals, but they won't stand still !!!

The lady who brought it in , said that her mother was married to a British official who was stationed there , just after the war finished - - so, 1946. She was actually married in Burma and it is a tradition for high ranking people to be given swords on their marriage - not sure what that signifies !!! Anyway, the happy couple were given 6 Dha's in total and she offered them to me. I bought this one and two smaller ones - which have now gone.

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A very beautiful weapon. I read once, that as well as embellishing their weapons with beautiful jewels, the elite historical Burmese soldiers from Ava used to have bits of gold, silver and precious stones in their arms, presumably embedded under the skin in boyhood!

We have around a dozen or so Burmese dhas at the Pitt Rivers Museum, although only two on display. They vary from the dull and functional to the ornate and ceremonial. I will post a few examples here, starting the lovely ivory-handled one Mervyn mentioned...

Collected by Henry Baden-Powell (half-brother of Lord B-P of Scout fame), sometime in late C19th while serving in the Indian Civil Service. Elephant ivory handle, carved with Hindu figures (Rama etc) and wooden scabbard encased in silver. Max length of blade is 84 cm, 89 with sheath.

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Dha, Burma. Palm wood cylindrical handle wrapped in plaited cane, wooden scabbard banded with plaited cane, red cotton cord sling and tassel.

Collected by John Henry Hutton sometime between 1909 and 1933.

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Mervyn,

Found a weapon similar looking to yours with koftgari figures and inscriptions (although shorter) on the 'Dha Research Index' (click on link). There it says that this type of dha is sometimes used ritually in "nat" (spirit) festivals, such as the Festival of the Spirits in Taungbyon, Burma and is therefore called a 'temple dha' by some.

Helen

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Oh dear they are getting more and more boring, sorry!

Burmese dha, collected before 1911 by Richard Carnac Temple (ex-Gurkha, port-commissioner of Rangoon, etc). Plain wooden hilt with copper alloy butt and ferrule. No scabbard. length = 91 cm.

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I'm noticing the variations in the shape of the point, from the quite acute, one-edged point of Mervyn's example, through to the more 'squared-off' point on the ivory and palm wood ones (looks similar to me to the tips of Napoleonic British issue cavalry sabres which took their lead from oriental examples), finally to the more triangular and symmetrical 'broadsword' type-shape of one of the last plain ones I posted. Would be good if other members could offer their views on the reasons for this variation - just local style or functional?

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Thankyou, Helen - they were all interesting - even the plain ones. The ivory handled example is very special - I would suspect ,either for a very senior person or, perhaps for temple rituals. The one you found is an almost replica of the one I posted - except it is very much smaller. Perhaps it was all part of the ritual dance - as you say, we must hope a member will come forward with more info.?

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