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Katar (punch-dagger) with elephant motif
Steel; gold
Centimetres: 1.5 (depth), 33.0 (length), 8.5 (width)
1700-1800 AD
Modern; Mughal; 18th century AD
Area of Origin: Unknown site; India; South Asia
909.64.24
ROM2004_1040_4
 

Description: This beautifully decorated katar (punch) dagger would have been an emblem of wealth and power for a member of the Mughal nobility. Weapons like these were finely decorated, in this case with gold. The strong damascene steel is decorated using the koftghari technique whereby tiny incisions are made in steel into which gold is hammered. The result is fine gold decoration applied by pressure alone. This katar has gold floral designs on the handle and a golden elephant’s head near the blade. Elephants were symbols of nobility and were common in courtly life. The triangular blade is attached to a hilt composed with two straight uprights to protect the hand and wrist, with crossbars between. Katars were designed to pierce armour, while also providing protection to the hand and wrist. However, they were often worn in the sashes of nobility, for whom they were more decorative than useful. The men of the court wore ornate weapons as jewellery.

Lighter in weight and with a less thick blade than most, this katar was likely designed to be impressive at court. Its basic form is unique to India and was especially popular in Mughal and Rajput courts. Because of an Arabic inscription on the side of the cross bars, we can assign this piece to the Mughal courts. Katars were often given as gifts of allegiance and appreciation to visitors at the court.

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