Somewhat worn but once very high-quality, with great sculptural qualities and remains of silver "true…
(to shoulders of hilt)
Base 3.5 mm
Middle 3 mm
Tip 4 mm (at thickening)
Base 57 mm
Middle 42 mm
Tip 15 mm (at thickening)
At blade / hilt junction
Just under "shoulders"
Iron, steel, silver
17th to early 18th century
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A very nice katar with strong Deccan features. It has a large, triangular blade of a shape often seen on hooded katar from the Vijayanagara empire. The blade has a subtle center ridge dividing two hollow ground midsections. The blade is forge folded with a flame-like pattern welding to be seen through the original patina. On one side of the blade are typical "eyelash marks" inspired by the same feature found on imported European blades that were popular in Indian in the 16th and 17th centuries.
The hilt is of a somewhat unusual shape. The shape of the handlebars and outward curving ends of the sidebars remind of vaguely of later garsoee katar, type of katar primarily associated with Kutch.1
At the same time, the flaring profile of the sidebars, the fact that the blade is held by rivets instead of forged to the hilt, and the concave base for the blade and the sharp bend in the "shoulders" that lead to the sidebars are all decisively southern features.
The best of this piece is the decoration, which consists of a repetitive pattern of stylized flowers. The technique used is true inlay into the steel hilt, instead of the much more common -and cheaper- overlay. It involved chiseling out deep channels for the silver to be secured into. The method is much more durable than overlap, but also much more labor-intensive and it requires the use of a lot more precious metal.
Another element that stands out is that true inlay decorative work often consists of a design done in relatively fine lines. In this case, the maker did the negative space in true inlay, making it necessary for him to chisel out larger panels and fill them with thick silver. The final result is quite stunning.
The decor in true inlay continues on the langets that hold the blade, depicting stylized peacocks, and on all inside surfaces of the hilt.
Indian weapons can be hard to attribute to a certain time and region, especially when they are so unusual.
The blade design and basic hilt construction point towards the Deccan or even further south. The use of true inlay was most common in the 17th and 18th centuries and all but abandoned in favor of overlay by the 19th century. The blade is reminiscent of Vijayanagara katar blades of the 16th century.
All considering, with my current knowledge I would err towards the central Deccan plateau, possibly Bijapur. As for dating, I would say roughly 1625-1750.
A large and impressive katar that combines several interesting design features into one. Its decoration consists entirely of the prized true inlay. While hard to pin down, it dates most likely from the 17th to early decades of the 18th century.
1. Lord Egerton of Tatton: Indian and Oriental Arms and Armour. Dover Publications; Revised edition, 2002. Page 138, number 727.
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