Indian battle Dhal (shield)
Origin: India (Rajasthan)
Date: 18th century
Size: 24 inch diameter
Materials: Hide, Laquer, steel and Brass
A circular dhal of black-lacquered hide, with a large 24 inch diameter.
The dhal is a type of shield found in the Indian subcontinent. They are geometrically round and vary in diameter from about eight inches to twenty-four inches. The large sizes were ideal for battle and very practical. Most shields are circular while others are strongly convex or curved for extra reinforcement and to cause a lance head or arrow to glance off or slip from the curved surface. Dhal shields were either made from metal or hide; hide being more popular. Leather shields were made from a great variety of animals found in the Indian subcontinent. The hide shields were made from either water buffalo, deer, elephant, or rhinoceros. These materials were lightweight yet very strong when dried and lacquered. The rhinoceros shields were the most prized variant among leather shields.
Our example is of the large size, with a diameter of 24 inch, making this a great example of what a practical battle Dhal would look like in 18th/19th century India. This type of dhal would often also be worn on the back as armour. This example is of the typical circular shape, with a slightly everted rim. The stretched rhino hide is lacquered to provide protection, along with a flush and consistent finish. There are signs of age and use that are expected, given the age of the Dhal. Mounted to the centre are four brass bosses decorated and stylised to represent floral/tendrils motifs. The bosses provide a significant advantage for deflecting blows when using a punching motion and could also be used for striking. The brass flour decorated domed brass bosses have rosette style spiked centres (one loose - slight movement - but fully intact).
The leather cushion padding has been recently re-fitted.
A comparable shield (with strikingly similar bosses) is kept in the Royal Collection (RCIN 38547). That shield was presented to King Edward VII, when the Prince of Wales, during his tour of India in 1875-76 by Mansinhji II, Raj Sahib of Dhrangadra.
CONCLUSIONA very large and substantial hide dhal of large proportions and practical function.