An interesting South Indian style katar with an imported European blade.
Base 3.3 mm
Reinforced tip 7 mm
Wide 67 mm
Reinforced section 34.5
2 cm into hilt
Bundi, Rajasthan, India
Wootz steel, iron, gold, silver, wood, velvet, cotton
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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:
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.
Maharao Raja Ram Singh of Bundi with his katar.
A rather nice example of a katar in a style that is closely associated to Bundi.
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.
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 eagerly took inspiration.
The hilt is of classic form for Bundi work, with narrow side bars and two bulging handle bars that are connected with pierced floral work. The hilt is entirely covered with fairly thick sheets of gold, the side bars engraved on both sides with floral motifs. The handle bars 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.
In pretty good, original condition throughout. Some minor losses to the gold, and some losses to the scabbard velvet. See pictures. The blade finish seems original.
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:
Royal Collection Trust, accession number RCIN 11408:
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
"Katar from Bundi
Made by Khēmau
(The year 1892 samvat translates to around 1835 in the Gregorian calendar.)
Metropolitan Museum, accession number 36.25.912:
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
A rather similar katar is published in a catalog accompanying the 1883 Jeypore exposition:
The description on the 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
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.
This kater (left) compared to the katar signed Khēmau from the Royal Collection (right)
Notice idential work done on the hilt.
The work on the hilt closely resembles work done by Khēmau who was active as an armorer at Bundi from at least 1836 to 1872.
1. Thomas Holbein Hendley; Memorials of the Jeypore Exhibition, Vol. 1: Industrial art. W. Griggs & Son Ltd. London. Plate XXI.
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A rare example with pattern welded blade, retaining its original scabbard.
With markings suggesting it was a wedding gift, presented in 1832.
With elaborately pierced and chiseled hilt.
With beautifully shaped blade and fine, elaborately chiseled hilt.
Late 19th century with a good, well-made blade.