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A jade-hilted khanjar dagger

Number

3559

Origin

North India

Time

Late 17th or early 18th century

Technique

Forging, damascening, inlaying, gem-setting

Material

Steel, gold, jade, diamonds, rubies, emeralds

Dimensions

Overall length 369 mm; blade length 240 mm

The slightly double-curved, double-edged blade is made of watered steel. The forte of the blade on each side is decorated with a gold koftgari floral cartouche in the form of a lobed arch topped by a palmette. The hilt of pistol-grip form is carved from one solid piece of pale grey jade and decorated with vegetal motifs inlaid with gold and set with gems in the kundan technique. Total 96 diamonds, 55 rubies, and 43 emeralds. No scabbard.

COMMENT. Indian khanjars are characterized by a pistol-grip hilt and a double-edged, usually double-curved blade. There were various hilt forms, but the simplest and most common was a hilt with a strongly curved, rounded pommel and a symmetrical base formed as a pair of scroll-shaped quillons resembling mustache. The khanjar was extremely popular in Mughal India, where they are apt to be more elaborately decorated than any other type of dagger. The hilts were made of jade, ivory, rock crystal, agate and were frequently studded with precious and semi-precious stones. The scabbards were also richly decorated to match the hilts. Mughal emperors often presented to courtiers expensive daggers as a part of the dress of honour called hilat.

The presented example belongs to the group of ornate dress khanjars that were used as a luxury accessory and a high status symbol in Mughal India. The jade hilts of pistol-grip form become especially popular during the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb (r. 1658-1707). Some researchers consider that this form is a Mughal invention (Archer, M., Powell, C., Skelton, R. Treasures from India: The Clive Collection at Powis Castle. – New York & London, 1987. – P. 42), while others argue that it was originated in Deccan (Notable Acquisitions, 1982-1983 / Selected by P. De Montebello. – New York, 1983. – P. 12; Welch, S.C. India: Art and Culture, 1300-1900. – New York, 1985. – P. 271, no. 177). The popularity of pistol-grip form is attested by the multiple Mughal examples created in various materials but jade remained the most preferred. This beautiful and extremely durable hardstone acquires an even more luxurious appearance when it is inlaid with gold and gems in kundan.

LITERATURE: Сиваченко Е. Сталь и Золото: Восточное оружие из собрания Feldman Family Museum = Steel and Gold: Eastern Weapons from the Feldman Family Museum Collection. – Киев, 2019. – С. 448-449, №178.