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Battle axe

Battle axe

  • Place of origin:

    Kolhapur (made)

  • Date:

    probably 19th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Steel on a wooden shaft

  • Credit Line:

    Transferred from the India Museum in 1879

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

As better defensive armour was adopted, so more effective weapons were developed to counter it. The crowbill was a variety of saddle or poll axe intended primarily for use as a close quarter weapon from horseback. As such it was one variety of saddle axes widely adopted by cavalry fighting in the Indo-Persian tradition.
The crowbill has a thickened, armour piercing blade. Unlike a conventional saddle axe, the crowbill has no hammer head opposite the blade. The elephant motif has a practical as well as symbolic function. The figure counterbalances the blade as well as symbolises strength. There may also be an allusion to the elephant-headed Hindu deity Ganesh as 'Remover of obstacles'.
The curved blade could be used either in sweeping, hooking attacks overarm or with an underarm polo-like swinging motion at approximately head height. The devastating results of such attacks at speed from horseback against opponents on foot can only be imagined.

Physical description

Battle axe or crowbill zaghnal or hoolurge The forged steel head is composed of a curved ribbed steel blade thickened at the point attached by a chiselled, square section collar to a plain wooden haft with a turned spherical pommel or knop. The blade is counterbalanced on the other side of the collar with a small steel elephant figure with a raised trunk.

Place of Origin

Kolhapur (made)


probably 19th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Steel on a wooden shaft

Object history note

As originally arranged and displayed in Exhibition Road Indian Museum galleries until 1955, with some additions while in storage, case F.710

Descriptive line

Battle axe Zaghnal steel on a wooden shaft, Kolhapur, probably 19th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Lord Egerton of Tatton, Indian and Oriental Armour, London, 1896, p. 115, Cat. No. 471, Pl.x

Production Note

Transferred from the India Museum to South Kensington Museum in 1879

Subjects depicted



Arms & Armour; India Museum


South & South East Asia Collection

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