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Indian 19thC Hooded Katar

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19thC Indian Hooded Katar 2
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Triangular, double-edged 14¾ inch blade (21 inches overall) with multiple fullers and thickened spear point. Katar steel hilt with riveted piece extending over the blade, of foliate form. Two grip bars of baluster-like form are mounted to straight side bars perpendicular to the blade. The side bars have broad leaflike ends and acorn finials cast or chiselled foliate patterns. Characteristic S-shaped ‘hood’ to cover the user’s hand, which is decorated with chiselled foliate patterns.

The katar is a distinctly Indian form of dagger dating from at least 1500. It was almost always carried by Hindus, (only rarely by Muslims), worn tucked into the waist band (kamarband). Its main purpose in combat was as a thrusting weapon, with a fullered lower section leading to an unfullered, thickened tip which was capable of piercing chain mail.

The typical katar has a straight, triangular blade but a huge degree of variation in blade length and form exists. The level of ornamentation applied to them varies from purely utilitarian examples in plain steel for lower-ranking men, to elaborately jewelled, chiselled and damascened examples intended to display the wealth and taste of Indian princes. Some even incorporate mechanisms such as splitting blades or small firearms built into the hilt.

This variation is due to the many different roles the katar played in society beyond simply a weapon, being at different times and places an object of religion, a mark of personal honour, an item of fashion, a badge of rank, and even a hunting weapon – most commonly as a reserve weapon, but Rajput princes were known to hunt dangerous game with nothing but their katars to prove their mettle.

This is an example of a ‘hooded’ katar, fitted with a guard which is curved to deflect blows and has a forward-curving quillon to stop a blade sliding down the guard to hit the user’s forearm. The hooded katar is a variation which appears to have developed in the Vijayanagara Empire which existed in southern India between 1336 and 1646. This is a quite utilitarian example, having quite simple decoration but retaining the complex blade profile found on a katar intended for fighting – from 3mm thick at the end of the riveted strengthening piece, the blade thickens to about 6mm thick at the end of the fullers – a slender yet thickened point being considered essential for a blade to penetrate chainmail and other armour without breaking. The deep fuller removes weight from the lower portion of the blade while retaining strength with a central ‘rib’.

Despite the apparent advantage of the guard, hooded katars did not catch on in the long term – Indian martial arts tended to focus on speed and agility so perhaps a lighter weapon was preferred, and a flat katar would have been easier to carry than one with a bulky guard.

Some scattered light pitting to the blade, light patination in the fullers and areas of the hilt. The grip piece nearest the blade can rotate in place, the other is fixed.


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