Gold and silver hooded katar
Overall length

57 cm

Blade length

42 cm

Blade thickness

Base 5.5 mm

Tip 8 mm

Blade width

Base 64 mm

Tip 19 mm

Weight

795 grams

Point of balance

5 cm

(from base of hilt)

Origin

Vijayanagara Empire

South India

Dating

Circa 1550-1600

Materials

Iron, wootz steel, silver, gold

Provenance

British antique art market

A Canadian private collector

Price €7500, -

Interested?
Anything similar for sale?

Contact me

Introduction

The Vijayanagara Empire originated in south India from attempts of several smaller Hindu kingdoms to resist the Muslim invasion from the north. Founded in 1336, its capital was the city of Vijayanagara, which at its height was after Beijing, the second-largest city in the world with an estimated population of half a million people. 

It was overrun by the Deccan Sultanates in 1565, the start of a gradual decline of the empire that led to its fall in 1646. Many Vijayanagara arms in Western collections today were found in the Tanjore armory, the contents of which were sold by the British in the 1860s.1

One of the most characteristic weapons of the Vijayanagara is a kind of hooded push dagger, katara. Vijayanagara stone statues at Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam show such hooded katar in use in pairs or combined with shields.

 

Srirangam statue with double hooded katar

A stone statue at the Vijayanagara period Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam.
This is the Sesharayar Mandapam on the east side of the fourth enclosure.
Photo courtesy of Richard Mortel from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Wikimedia Commons.

 

These characteristic shields would soon disappear from katar as their role changed from a primary melee weapon to an everyday carry dagger and backup weapon. Making them without shields is a concession on hand protection, but at the same time, it made them much easier to wear as part of one's attire and enabled a quicker draw.

Notes to introduction
1. See Elgood, Hindu arms and Ritual, Eburon Publishers, Delft.

 

This example

A very good example of a Vijayanagara katar. Often the blades are broad triangular and with many ribs, such as this one. This has one of the best blades that can be found on such katar, made of fine-grained southern Indian wootz steel and with very precise and well-defined ridges. It is also in very good state of preservation.

 

Vijayanagara katar blade

 

The hilt is made of iron, with the characteristic sail-like shield on top. There are grooves in the top of the shield that match the ribs on the blade. I really like these subtle sensibilities in Southern Indian work. 

Details of a Vijayanagara katar

At the end of the shield is a little upturned monster head, probably the mythical beast, yali. Apart from being decorative it prevents the opponent's blade from sliding off the shield into the arm.

Hilt of Vijayanagara katar

 

Unusual for one of these, it was lavishly decorated with gold and silver. This was sometimes done in later times but in this case, it is all original and of the period. While rare, when done on South Indian arms, it is often very nicely done and has its own swirl compared to northern work, as is seen here. Another indication that it was original to the piece is that it was done over flat surfaces, while when plain these always have subtle chiseled decoration there. A nice detail is the brass rivets that hold the blade, which here form the centers of the flowers.

Silver overlay on Vijayanagara katar

 

Condition/restoration

In remarkable condition for its age, but it didn't survive unscathed. Wear on the gold and silver, and some small cracks in some of the blade ribs. See photos to get a good sense of the shape it is in. One of the handlebars was lost, so Gotscha Lagidse made a new one that is a near-perfect match to the remaining one.

Vijayanagara katar

The left handlebar is the new replacement.

 

Conclusion

A fine example of one of my favourite South Indian weapons, the hooded katar. It combines a very good wootz blade with fine ribs with a well made hilt with much gold and silver overlay remaining, in a typical earlier Southern style.

It comes with a fairly recent, but suitable scabbard covered with red brocade.

Gold and silver overlaid Vijayanagara katar
Gold and silver overlaid Vijayanagara katar
Gold and silver overlaid Vijayanagara katar
Gold and silver overlaid Vijayanagara katar
Gold and silver overlaid Vijayanagara katar
Gold and silver overlaid Vijayanagara katar
Gold and silver overlaid Vijayanagara katar
Gold and silver overlaid Vijayanagara katar
Gold and silver overlaid Vijayanagara katar
Gold and silver overlaid Vijayanagara katar
Gold and silver overlaid Vijayanagara katar
Gold and silver overlaid Vijayanagara katar
Gold and silver overlaid Vijayanagara katar
Gold and silver overlaid Vijayanagara katar
Gold and silver overlaid Vijayanagara katar
Gold and silver overlaid Vijayanagara katar
Gold and silver overlaid Vijayanagara katar
Gold and silver overlaid Vijayanagara katar
Gold and silver overlaid Vijayanagara katar

Do you have anything for sale?

I might be interested in buying it.

Contact me

An early fighting piece with strong reinforcing langet and broad, cobra shaped tip.

€7200,-

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

€1650,-

Extremely large example with nearly full-length Western blade.

€2750,-

A large example in excellent state of preservation.

€16000,-

With wide flaring side bars that offer added protection.

€1750,-

The hilt with remains of silver plating.

€3800,-