Moplah Malabar Coast

IP28 Moplah

Code IP28

This is a Moplah sword original to the Moplah (Mappila) people, Muslims, of the Malabar coast of India circa mid to late 1800's.  Although very similar in appearance, the moplah is relatively light in comparison to similar weapons, such as the Ayda Kattiin nearby regions.

Unlike the ayda katti, the moplah blade is double-edged. The blade in this example is mostly generally along the top side with a very slightly flair, and concave on the other. The blade widens before curving towards the broad tip.

The forte of the blade is decorated with brass inlay in geometric motif. The bolster, also of brass, features three protruding rings for a secure grip. The tang of the blade is riveted to the hilt. The remainder of the hilt is dark wood or horn, with a zoomorphic bird-shaped pommel. The hilt itself is composed of four pieces of carved dark wood or horn, further carved into the desired shape. There is a brass ring at the pommel that possibly served as a convenient method for securing the weapon to a belt. 

Both sides of the sword are identical in decoration.

The overall length is 20 ¾ inches. The blade is 11 ¾ inches long, 1 ⅞ inches wide at the forte and 2 ⅝ inches at its broadest. The hilt is 9 inches overall with the brass bolster measuring 4 inches.

The Moplah people (Mapillai), are Muslims of Arabic and Hindu descent from the Malabar district of South India. The community originated from early Arab contact through trading. Historically, the Moplah had a reputation for piracy and smuggling, and in some cases, gang robbery. In other quieter districts, the devout Muslim Moplah and Hindu Nair people were deadly enemies, equally violent and fond of the knife. Deadly feuds were common. Burton (Burton 1851 p163-164) noted that "whenever a Nair is killed by a Moplah, or vice versa, the relations will steep a cloth in the dead man's blood, and vow never to lose sight of it till they have taken revenge upon the murderer.” The Moplah prepared themselves for battle with drugs, including opium, and this allowed them to endure wounds that would otherwise disable a man. They never asked for nor gave quarter and fully expected to become martyrs when they set out to kill as many infidels as they could. 

Like the ayda katti of the Kodovas (Coorg, Kodagu), many Moplah weapons were confiscated and dropped into the sea in 1854 and again in 1884 by the British. This makes weapons from the Malabar region extremely rare to find today.

Moplah violence continued well into the 20th Century, directed at the “infidel” government and its local representatives such as policemen, and Hindu landlords. In their rebellion against the British, they resorted to guerilla warfare that reminded the British of Sinn Fein tactics in Ireland. Experts in jungle warfare, such as the Gurkhas from Nepal and the Chins from Assam, were ultimately called in to fight the Moplah.


Forensic Fashion: Moplah/Mappilla