A Fine Gold Katar
Origin: India (Rajasthan)
Date: Late 18th century/early 19th century
Materials: Steel, Wootz and Gold
A very good example of a fighting Katar with gold koftgari work and inscription.
The Katar is a push dagger, famous in the Indian region. Katars have thrusting blades with a H-shaped grip. The handgrip is utilised to hold the katar while the H-shape handlebars are used to protect the wrist. Daggers of this type, called Katars, were designed to be held by the cross bars in a clenched fist (Met Museum, Accession number 36.25.973a, b). These Katars are in fact one of the most popular types of daggers in India and gained Royal acceptation in the 18th/19th century. Katars were also used for ceremonial purposes, worship and of course, battle; with our example falling into the later category. As Katars are made for the blade to be in line with the arm, it was primarily used as a thrusting weapon. Katars with double-edged blades could also be used to slashing. Unique to the Indian subcontinent, ceremonial katars were also used in worship. Upper-class Rajputs and Mughals would even hunt tiger with katars. For a hunter to kill a tiger with such a short-range weapon was considered the surest sign of bravery and martial skill.
A fine Rajput inspired katar from the late 18th century/early 19th century. The blade is large and strong, of large proportions, with sunken panels, leading to a large, thick, armour piercing point. The portion of steel inside the panels maybe wootz. At the base of the blade is a stylized flower, chiseled into the blade and anointed with gold koftgari. The hilt with slightly swollen handlebars, typical of Katars from Bundi. The entire handle bars are decorated with a thick application of gold in the form of scrolls and leafy motifs. Embedded within the handlebars is the mythological Yali and hunting dog, adding to the aesthetic of the Katar. The craftsmanship is very fine, much better than usually found on Katars. The proportions of the Katar are large, from the handlebars to the blade; proving it is a fighting example. Aesthetically the Katar is extremely appealing - and has a very strong presence.
The blade is marked with a gold inscription on the inside of the hilt. It is partially lost in some places, due to age and natural wear. But it seems to present the following :
[…..]Shree Punjab Singh Ji Raja Nrasimna*
The first word is missing due to the age of the katar. The name indicates that it belonged to a respected and high status individual as the name starts with ‘Shree’, a term used in Indian culture for respect; and ends with ‘Raja’ meaning King. ‘Nrasimna’ could be the state or area of which the individual was King. Or it could be read as ‘Narasimha’, which may be a reference to the fierce avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu, one who incarnates in the form of part lion and part human to destroy evil and end religious persecution and calamity on Earth, thereby restoring Dharma. Often the term Narasingha is used. Narasimha is a significant iconic symbol of creative resistance, hope against odds, victory over persecution, and destruction of evil. He is the destructor of not only external evil, but also one's own inner evil of "body, speech, and mind". This is a way of invocation, as a means of asking for protection and for paying reverence to Deities and their power. It was very common for arms and armour to have such invocations.
Overall this is a superb Katar of large proportions and fine build. The gold koftgari still 85% intact. The inscription provides real depth and history to the Katar, which is difficult to find on the current market. A very impressive piece with a strong character; of fine craftsmanship.
*Further research is required on the inscription. The reading of the inscription is what our team were able to decipher.