Heavy Rajput Katar
Origin: North India (Rajasthan)
Date: early 19th century
Materials: Gold, Steel, Wootz, Wood, brass and Velvet
A fine and heavy Indian katar with substantial armor piercing blade and gold koftgari.
The Katar is one of India’s oldest weapons, characterised by its H shape grip and triangular blade. The Katar was predominantly used as a thrusting dagger due to its design – similar to the boxing method – the user would punch with the dagger in the hand with the aim of piercing chain mail and the opponent. Due to the build of the Katar, with its H shaped grip, the Katar also provided a great defence as the handle bars protected the wrist from getting cut. Katars could also be paired with other weapons, such as a Kard or Pesh Kabz and utilised for slashing; as many of them hard sharp edges. From becoming a predominantly functional weapon, during the Mughal reign of India (from the 1500s onwards), we see many Katars find ceremonial use and began to be decorated in gold and silver. These were often used as gifts or for worship. The Katar has been part of the formal dress of Indian and Mughal royalty for centuries.
This is a fine katar of substantial weight and size. Our Katar is much larger and heavier than most of its kind and so it must have been made for a Rajput who possessed not just high social status but also great stature. The blade has a thicker than average armour piercing point. A acute point and a thick bulge (referred to as a swollen armour piercing tip) near the tip where it reaches a thickness of almost twice the forte. This gives the Katar real armour piercing capabilities and indicates to us that it was one of function and practicality - not one worn just for ornate purposes. The blade features serveral deep grooves (sunken panels) with higher ridges separating each of them. These groves are known as "blood grooves" and lighten a blade while keeping it rigid. At the centre of the sunken panels is a clear wootz pattern with tight swirls, whereas the rest of the blade has a mirror finish. In India, shiny chrome-like finishes were rarely seen as mirrors were terribly expensive. Most would have steel or Wootz. Therefore a mirror-finished blade provided something very different and unique.
The handle consists of three bars, their ends protruding from the sides of the two long, thick steel sidebars. The Katar is decorated with Gold Koftgari along the handle bars. This koftgari is very unique and sets it apart from the rest of the katars. The gold koftgari is done in four different types of designs. Each design differing from each other to be unique but still blend in complete harmony to provide a regal look and clearly established aesthetic. The Katar gold koftgari has flowers, geometric patterns and tendrils. This koftgari is 95% in tact. The V-shape knuckle bar is overlaid with a line of Devanagari script which seems to include a name and date. The words ‘Raja’ (meaning King) and ‘Sri’ (title of respect) are seen. Along with what seems to read 'Ratan Singh Ji Narasingha'. Therefore reading along the lines of Sri Raja Ratan Singh Ji Narasingha'. Along with ‘sam’ which would read samvat; meaning ‘year. Followed by the numbers ‘180’ - potentially pointing towards the date of the early 1800s.
The new wooden scabbard is covered with red leather and fitted with a brass chape beautifully pierced and cut with typical Indian decorative motifs to replicate the period scabbards.
Similar examples are published in Nordlunde, Jens: A Passion for Indian Arms; a Private Collection - catalog numbers 55, 65, 134, 157. For similar handles, see catalog numbers 112 (dated 1803-1804), 46. Number 112 bears an inscription attributing it to Bakthwar Singh, the second ruler of Ulwar. Katars with inscriptions are far more scarce than tulwars with inscriptions. A katar with in an inscription and date (like our example) is largely an indicator that it belonged to someone of importance.
A similar gilded example can be seen in Indian art in Marlborough House. A catalogue of the Collection of Indian Arms and Objects of Art presented by the Princes and Nobles of India. Illustrated and printed by W. Griggs. Photo and Chromo-Lithographer to Her Majesty the Queen. Reprint. Ken Trotman, 2008.
Catalog numbers 20 and 21 In Arms and armour at Sandringham. The Indian Collection presented by the Princes, Chiefs and Nobles of India in 1875-1786; also weapons and war relics from other cultures. London: W. Griggs & Sons, Ltd, Hanover Street, Peckham, 1910. This examples feature a similar construction to ours but lack the gold koftgari.
Overall, this is a very substantial Katar of exceptional quality. It is very impressive and the four unique gold koftgari design sets this Katar apart from the other examples. The thick armor piercing blade with deeply sunken panels is also very aesthetically appealing and provides great function. A clear courtier example.