India. Steel, gold, rubies.
Private collection, France
The indigenous Indian katar was adopted by the Mughal conquerors and worn ubiquitously, as is evident from the many miniature paintings illustrating these weapons. Those decorated with hunting scenes were probably intended for wear at the hunt, a popular pastime among the Mughal nobility. Our dagger is closely associated with one from the Stone bequest to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (no. 36.25.913), which also features ruby eyes, another in the Victoria & Albert Museum (no. IS.56.1985) chiselled with elephants’ heads, and a dagger with a twisted steel hilt in the same museum (no. IS./86.1981). David Alexander concedes that we do not know where in India these daggers were made, but a group of later katar with similar figural decoration in the fuller, including Royal Armouries nos XXVID.62, 85 and 103 all have associations with Lahore, suggesting that they and their earlier counterparts may have been made in the Panjab.
The blade is straight and double edged, with a pronounced reinforced armour piercing point. There is a wide central fuller chiselled with combats between a water buffalo and a lion at either side, in watered crucible steel with details in gold koftgari and set with rubies for eyes. The steel of the edge is bright, and this is probably a blade originally produced of wootz and plain steel. The hilt is of the characteristic H-shape, entirely plain with chiselled facets.
Size: Length 38.5 cm / 15.25 in; Blade 25.5 cm / 10 in