Bundi katar
Overall length

44 cm

Blade length

22 cm

Blade thickness

Base 3.3 mm

Reinforced tip 7 mm

Blade width

Wide 67 mm

Reinforced section 34.5

Weight

432 grams

Point of balance

2 cm into hilt

Origin

Bundi, Rajasthan, India

Materials

Wootz steel, iron, gold, silver, wood, velvet, cotton

Dating

Circa 1850-1875

Price €5500, -

Interested?
Anything similar for sale?

Contact me

Introduction

The city of Bundi, just south of Jaipur and east of Jodhpur in Rajasthan, is very strongly associated with the katar. The weapon features on their coins, postal stamps and coat of arms. Artwork and photographs show their dignitaries almost invariably with their katar by their side. 

Here is a photo deicting a meeting between leaders of Bikaner (left) and Bundi (right). Notice that there are some talwar on the Bikaner side, but every single man on the Bundi side wears his katar:

Bikaner and Bundi meeting

Meeting of Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner with Maharaja Raghuveer Singh of Bundi, with staff.
1890s Gelatin silver print, mounted, blindstamp of S.R.D Friend & Co. of Bikaner.

 

Various fine katar found in collections today date from during the reign of Maharao Raja Ram Singh (1821-1889). See comparable examples, below.

Ram Singh of Bundi

Maharao Raja Ram Singh of Bundi with his katar.

 

This example

A rather nice example of a katar in the typical royal Bundi style. In this case, we can probably pinpoint it to a specific maker, which is very rare in Indian arms.

Bundi katar

The triangular blade starts very thin and wide, and narrows to a thickened tip. In the center of the blade are sunken panels divided by ridges, their surfaces lightly etched as to reveal a subtle wootz pattern. The edges are burnished bright, as per the Rajput aesthetic.

Bundi katar blade

Fine-grained wootz in the recesses, burnished bright edge.

At the base of the blade is a chiseled scene of a lion or tiger catching its prey, a scene inspired by similar work on Persian arms from which northern Indian makers took inspiration.

The hilt is of classic form for Bundi work, with narrow sidebars and two bulging handlebars that are connected with pierced floral work. The hilt is entirely covered with fairly thick gold sheet, and the sidebars are engraved on both sides with floral motifs. The handlebars and floral work between them were further embellished with chiseling prior to the application of gold.

It comes in its original wooden scabbard, covered with bright green silk velvet and further embellished with gold braid thread. It has several pockets for extra items at the front. The scabbard endpiece is made of solid silver with remains of fire gilding.

 

Condition

In pretty good, original condition throughout. Some minor losses to the gold, and some losses to the scabbard velvet. There is small repair to the tip of the scabbard. See pictures. The blade finish is entirely period-correct and seems original.

 

Comparable examples

As stated above, the katar belongs to a small group of similar pieces that were made under the patronage of Maharao Raja Ram Singh of Bundi. A very good example, signed and in impeccable condition, is held in the Royal Collection Trust, accession number RCIN 11408:

Royal Collection Bundi katar

This katar was presented by Maharao Raja Ram Singh himself to Edward VII, when Prince of Wales, during his tour of India in 1875-76. Notice the strikingly similar hilt to our example.

The blade is marked:

कटारी बूंदी की
kataaree boondee kee

मकैनिक खेमौ
makainik Khēmau

१८९२
1892

Translated:

"Katar from Bundi

Made by Khēmau 

1892"

(The year 1892 samvat translates to around 1835 in the Gregorian calendar.)

 

Comparison works by Khema

This katar (left) compared to the katar signed Khēmau from the Royal Collection (right)
Notice idential work done on the hilt.

 

Another is in the Metropolitan Museum, accession number 36.25.912:

Bundi katar in the Met

This example bears an inscription in Harauti, written in Devanagari script:

"Bundijaram, Lord of Bundi, will protect with this dagger,
[for], when it pierces, is like the tongue of death."

The other side has a Vikram Samvat date of 1909, which converts to 1852 A.D. 

 

The Jeypore Exposition, 1883

Katar with similar hilts are published in a catalog accompanying the 1883 Jeypore exposition:

Bundi katars

 

First katar:

"Steel dagger, Katár. 18½ in. long. On each side of the blade a hunting scene in relief is represented. The designs are spirited, and the metal is highly polished. There are two handle bars united by pierced work. The guards and bars are embossed with flowers in gold. Made by Khema, armourer at Búndi, in 1872".

The second katar:

"Steel dagger, Katár. Blade long, with three high ridges and numerous lateral ones. Gilt guards and double bars united by open work, the whole decorated with a floral pattern. On one side is an inscription in gold to the effect that the dagger was the property of Mahárájá Rám Singh, of Búndi. Made by Khema, armourer."

The last katar:

"An old dagger, Katár, said to have been made about 1590, in the reign of Mahárájá Bhoj, of Búndi. Blade flat and curved, watered with a strong central and two lateral ribs; plain double handle bars."1

Notes
1. Thomas Holbein Hendley; Memorials of the Jeypore Exhibition, Vol. 1: Industrial art. W. Griggs & Son Ltd. London. Plate XXI.

 

Conclusion

A nice example of a katar with various features that make it attributable to Bundi, and most notably to a number of katar that are closely associated with the court of Maharao Ram Singh of Bundi.

Three similar katar are known that were signed as being made by Khēmau, royal armorer of Bundi who was active as an armorer at Bundi from at least 1836 to 1872.

Bundi royal katar by Khemau
Bundi royal katar by Khemau
Bundi royal katar by Khemau
Bundi royal katar by Khemau
Bundi royal katar by Khemau
Bundi royal katar by Khemau
Bundi royal katar by Khemau
Bundi royal katar by Khemau
Bundi royal katar by Khemau
Bundi royal katar by Khemau
Bundi royal katar by Khemau

Do you have anything for sale?

I might be interested in buying it.

Contact me

Extremely large example with nearly full-length Western blade.

€2750,-

A very good Vijayanagara katar of the 16th century with much of its gold and silver overlay remaining. …

€7500,-

With wide flaring side bars that offer added protection.

€1750,-

With a fine wootz blade with a pronounced center ridge.

€3800,-

Of a style often associated with Tanjore, the seat of the Vijayanagara empire.

€1650,-

With gold koftgari decorated hilt.

€3500,-