A katar dagger with an unusual scabbard




South India


Late 16th or early 17th century


Forging, repoussé, chasing, inlaying, gilding


Steel, brass, silver


Overall length (without scabbard) 588 mm; blade length 420 mm; scabbard length 458 mm

The straight, double-edged steel blade has two pairs of gilt narrow fullers on each side. The hilt is formed by two broad side bars, two baluster-shaped transverse grip bars and a double-curved broad triangular guard terminating in a monster’s head. Both side bars terminate in small double knobs, while each grip bar has a spherical central knop. Almost all parts of the hilt are inlaid with brass floral and geometrical motifs. Additionally, the guard is decorated in repoussé with a symmetrical floral design and toothed ribs. The scabbard made from a rostrum of knifetooth sawfish (Anoxypristis cuspidata). The silver-gilt scabbard mounts chased with scrolling foliage.

COMMENT. Katar is a traditional Indian push dagger with a transverse grip between two parallel side bars serving as a hand-guard. The alternative name for this dagger is jamdhar (from Jama / Yama, the name of the Hindu god of death; Sanskrit dhārā, "sharp-edged"). The katar blades vary in shape and length depending on the specific purpose of the weapon. The "classical" katar has a relatively short, broad, straight, double-edged blade with one, two or more fullers on each side. It was fre-quently forged with a reinforced tip to pierce mail armour. The curved, undulated, serrated, as well as double and triple blades were much less common. There were also unusual multi-bladed and scissor katars. In South India, imported European blades were occasionally used. Apparently, the katar was originated in South India, since its earliest forms were associated with the Vijayanagara Empire (1336-1646). The presented example was formerly in the Jacques Desenfans collection. It belongs to the group of so-called hooded katars that have become very popular in the Vijayanagara Empire since about the middle of the 16th century. The main feature of these daggers is a shield guard to protect the back of the hand. The scabbard of the presented example is especially interesting as the sawfish rostrums were very rarely used in this capacity in India. Another hooded katar with a similar scabbard is located in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (inv. no. 36.25.950, see Elgood, R. Hindu Arms and Ritual: Arms and Armour from India 1400-1865. – Delft, 2004. – P. 149, fig. 15.10).

LITERATURE: 1) Bonhams: The Jacques Desenfans Collection. European, Islamic, Indian and South East Asian Works of Art and Arms & Armour. Thursday 10 April 2008, London: [Auction Catalogue]. – London, 2008. – Lot 275; 2) Сіваченко Є. Холодна зброя Сходу з колекції Олександра Фельдмана: [фотоальбом]. – Харків, 2009. – С. 30-31; 3) 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. 404-405, №157.