Large Gold Koftgari Dhal
Origin: India (North India)
Date: 18/19th century
Size: 25 inch diameter
Materials: Hide, gold, cotton and steel
A circular hide dhal installed with gold koftgari bosses. Featuring a large 25 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 25inch, making this a great example of what a ceremonial, yet practical, Dhal would look like. This type of dhal would often also be worn on the back as armour. Of a circular shape, the stretched rhino hide, is flush and provides a consistent finish. The hide was originally tanned to achieve such a colour. The base of the dhal is even, with no dents. There is a very small amount of flaking to the lacquer in some parts, but this is insignificant given the sheer size of the shield.
Mounted to the centre with four finely gold-inlaid bosses with pierced borders of prancing geese and geometrical and floral motifs. The gold is extremely intricate and in perfect condition - providing aesthetic appeal. The reverse of the Dhal has its original red cushion intact. Two of the bosses exhibit some minor movement but they are fully secured. You can see at the top of the dhal that there were originally two holes which have later been filled. These two holes were usually used to mount the dhal on a wall.
See Islamic Weapons, Maghrib to Moghul, by Anthony C. Tirri page 357 for some similar/comparable examples. Also see Hales, Robert published 2013, Islamic & Oriental Arms & Armour, pages 289.