Vijayanagara Hooded Katar
Origin: South India - Vijayanagara
Date: 17th century
Materials: Iron, steel, wood, leather
A BREIF INTRODUCTION TO THE VIJAYANAGARA EMPIRE
An extremely rare examples of a Vijayanagara Hooded Katar from South India, late 16th - early 17th century. The Vijayanagara Empire originated in the South of India through small Hindu Kingdoms as a resistance to the Muslim invasions from the North. These types of Hooded Katars are seen in the statues at Seshagiri Rayar Mandapam and were the staple of the Empire. As the Vijayanagara Empire slowly declined in the 17th century, this style of Katar declined and Katars without the hood became prominent.
This Vijaynagara Katar exhibits the classical and traditional design, staying true to its roots. The blade is long, strongly tapering, with multiple grooves and fullers. As noticeable in the images, the blade is very slightly tilted, by design, to allow for downwards thrusting. There are no signs of damages which would have caused this slight tilt, as the blade is also very sturdy and tight - no loose movement. So it was most likely to have been done by design. Also if you notice the examples provided by Elgood, some of the katars do feature this type of blade. The grooves are deep and precisely cut and hold a consistent spacing and design, which adds to its aesthetic appeal. The blade is longer than the usual hooded Katars, which points towards this being an original blade, rather than a cut down european blade that is found on most other hooded katars on the market. The shield (hood) is a thick solid steel with a clean finish, engraved with floral designs and a yali. The Yali is a mythical creature seen in many South Indian temples, often sculpted onto the pillars. It may be portrayed as part lion, part elephant and part horse, and in similar shapes. Also, it has been sometimes described as a leogryph (part lion and part griffin), with some bird-like features. This mythological creature was added to the hooded Katars as a means of spiritual protection in the battlefield.
The handle bars are wide and larger than the typical Katar to match the aesthetic and size of the Vijaynagara Katar. The width of the handle bars provide an excellent protective layer for the user, but also creates an imposing presence when held due to the sheer size of the Katar. The grips features balls which give the user a good grip. Accompanying this Katar is a newly made wooden scabbard, wrapped in genuine brown leather with a metal chape. The scabbard snuggly fits this Katar and has thick leather stitching.
Overall, a very rare and nice example of the Vijayanagara Hooded Katar late 16th - early 17th century. Well made, sturdy in construction with no loose parts, elegant detailing and well preserved.
For more information and comparable examples of this type of Katar and other Arms and Amour, see Elgood, Hindu arms and Ritual, Eburon Publishers, Delft. There is a comparable Vijaynagara hooded katar in the Metropolitan Museum in New York, accession number 36.25.905