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Old 6th December 2019, 01:48 PM   #1
ALEX
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Default When it comes to Indian arms - Indian Zoomorphic Daggers

Inspired by Jens' RECENT POST I am presenting a topic on so called zoomorphic daggers - Indian daggers with animal-headed hilts. I am talking about all-metal daggers with animal pommels (mostly lion and ram heads) with silver or gold coftgari and curved blades of 'tiger eye' faux damasc pattern. There are plenty of modern 'Mughal revival' daggers, some look like fantasy like the short swords with fat handles inlaid in bone that look nothing like anything original. The modern zoomorphic daggers are mostly of the same design and form, varying in size and style of coftgari. Most likely inspired by the original Mughal zoomorphic daggers of 17th Century Mughal India, and notably the depiction of lion that signified the status of power and symbol of royalty. There are many original Mughal examples with carved ivory and stone (jade) animal handles but I have not seen many all-steel Mughal zoomorphic handles. Here is one of such original Mughal all-steel daggers with lion-headed hilt, gold coftgari and wootz blade. It'd be interesting to see other real Mughal era all-steel zoomorphic daggers.

Also, to make things interesting: below is Mughal gold-coftgaried chape. The coftgari looks similar to the dagger handle, but has 3 distinct elements in its design. Can anyone name them?
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Old 6th December 2019, 04:32 PM   #2
Jens Nordlunde
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Alex,
Thank you for starting this interesting subject:-)
Unfortunately I cant show you any daggers with a stell hilt and a lions head, as I only have one with a jade hilt and a lions head, but I do have a sword with a lions head, possible Mysore 18th century.


Now to your question about the chape. One of the three things could be the 'flaming pearls'. I have them on a katar from Deccan Sultanate 17th century, but they are rarely seen on Indian weapons, and not later than the 17th century - as far as I know, and when they are inlaid and not koftgari.One of the other questions could be that the flowers on the hilt and the chape are quite different.
I will look forward to if anyone can guess your other two questions - if I did guess correctly that is.
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Old 6th December 2019, 04:38 PM   #3
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Default EXCELLENT TOPIC!!!

This is an excellent topic Alex, and a perfectly well placed and dynamic response to Jens' 'call to arms' on the study of Indian weaponry.

I know that while I have been fascinated by these arms for an extremely long time, but have always been confused by the figures of the makara, yali, and lion, and proper identification of these .
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Old 6th December 2019, 05:09 PM   #4
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[QUOTE=ALEX] Indian daggers with animal-headed hilts. I am talking about all-metal daggers with animal pommels (mostly lion and ram heads) Mughal all-steel daggers with lion-headed hilt, gold coftgari and wootz blade. It'd be interesting to see other real Mughal era all-steel zoomorphic daggers.
/QUOTE]

What about horses?

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Old 7th December 2019, 01:39 PM   #5
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Thanks Jens, Jim,
Jens, you're close with one element, but not exactly. I'll post the answer if noone guesses right. I think these minor details and the messages the makers and patrons of these times were trying to convey were more meaningful than we think and their eyes were trained to recognize and understand these details on a different level. Thus, it is important for any art connoisseur to be able to recognize them to get closer to their intended meaning.

Kubur, by all means, the horses, how could I forget I recall seeing only one Mughal all-steel horse head in one of the books, but think it was all-silver; and many ivory and jade ones of course, but never in any museums or collections I saw all-metal one.
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Old 7th December 2019, 03:52 PM   #6
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Alex, I am looking forward to the conclusion of your questions:-), and I find the thread very interesting.
Now that the thread has been expanded. I do have a Khanjar with a nilgai head on top of the hilt. The reins on the nilgais head are likely made later, to make it look like a horse.
You are right, many of the 'signs' shown on the weapons were easy for them to 'read', but not for us as we lack their background for understanding the signs. I have some katars from South India, on one you can clearly see two peacocks at the top of the blade, but on another you will have to know what it is before you can see them. On Chilamums you sometimes see an elephant, but at other times you only see two holes - representing the elephant.
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Old 7th December 2019, 03:53 PM   #7
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Not completely steel, but zoomorphic
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Old 7th December 2019, 05:09 PM   #8
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my rams head twins (Well, twin grips anyway. One is not quite as curved.)

Long Daggers, or Short swords? the blades have had the active rust removed by me after reciept and after these vendor pics were taken. very plain bronze hand grips with cross-guards and nice rams head pommels. Unmarked blades held in by thermal setting laha resin cutlers cement*. Sharp & no ricassos. Scabbards need TLC.

*- Laha is plant resin mixed with a bit of bee's wax, brick dust and water buffalo dung, it smells when it is warmed. Badly. (One blade was loose so I warmed the grip and reset it. Luckily it was summer and all the windows were open and there was a good breeze. Nice & tight again.)
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Old 11th February 2020, 03:04 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jens Nordlunde
Alex, I am looking forward to the conclusion of your questions:-)....


Jens, here is the answer: there are two poppy plants swaying on long, slender stems emphasizing the chape's vertical form. Among them, there are bristling buds, floating clouds and 2 plumb butterflies... this chape has a representation of miniature garden... I am sure now you can see it all
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Old 11th February 2020, 08:01 PM   #10
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Mine is probably later than Mughal. My guess is from around 1900.
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Old 11th February 2020, 09:04 PM   #11
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Beautiful item!
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Old 11th February 2020, 09:42 PM   #12
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Thank you Alex.
Is it inlaid or koftgari?
My gues is inlay, and i do love the 'flaming pearls':-).
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Old 11th February 2020, 10:13 PM   #13
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Jens, On that Khanjar with a nilgai head....can you show a larger photo of the weld junction between the body of the blade and the tip?

I have several 1900's all metal daggers with ram heads and modern stone carved handles with many animals...not really worth showing you lot.

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Old 12th February 2020, 07:13 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Furrer
Jens, On that Khanjar with a nilgai head....can you show a larger photo of the weld junction between the body of the blade and the tip?

I have several 1900's all metal daggers with ram heads and modern stone carved handles with many animals...not really worth showing you lot.

Ric


I do not think there is any weld between the body of the blade and the tip. The discoloration at the tip is because of differential heat treatment.

I have several wootz blades and a fair share of them have this kind of discolorations.
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Old 12th February 2020, 09:32 AM   #15
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Richard, do you mean this part?
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Old 12th February 2020, 10:06 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jens Nordlunde
Richard, do you mean this part?


Thank you Jens!

Now I believe there might be a welding area, right at junction between the fuller and the reinforced tip.

Very interesting. Very possible that a harder variety of wootz has been used for the tip.
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Old 12th February 2020, 10:44 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jens Nordlunde
Thank you Alex.
Is it inlaid or koftgari?
My gues is inlay, and i do love the 'flaming pearls':-).


Jens, it appears to be coftgari, but you're right - it is exceptionally fine gold inlay work from 17th Century.
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Old 12th February 2020, 01:04 PM   #18
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Alex, I thought it would be inlay, bu from the picture it is difficult to see. I agree with your dating as well.
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