Place of Origin: Deccan
Date: 17th Century
An elegant, high quality seventeenth century dagger or chilanum from the Deccan plateau, south-west India.
The sculptural iron hilt is decorated with koftgari gold flowers and bunches of grapes on scrolling vines. It has sweeping pommel arms and a curving knuckle guard terminating in a drooping lotus bud shrouded by a leaf. The oval hand guard has two bands of delicately pierced decoration and lotus bud finials at either end.
The re-curving blade in excellent condition is cut with eight finely worked fullers. The blade displays the ‘watered steel’ surface pattern which indicates that this blade is forged from wootz damascus steel.
I have previously likened the re-curved blade on such daggers to a Hindu goddess in her tribangha pose, but Elgood writes that the shape probably derived from an animal horn knife, being double-curved and double-edged. He further states the direct antecedent is the Mughal khapwah, a dagger listed in the A’in-i-Akbari and in the Jahangirnama. Mentioned frequently as a jewelled Mughal presentation weapon, the decoration on this example points to Mughal influence with the use of bunches of grapes with floral sprays.
Frederick Wilkinson, Swords and Daggers, 1967, plate 177.
Elgood, Hindu Arms and Ritual, 2004, p.242, 250.