North Indian (Sikh) Pesh Kabz


Origin: North India (Lahore)

Dating: 19th century

Length: 40cm

Materials: Ivory, Wootz, Wood, Velvet, Silver and Brass


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A fine quality Indian Pesh Kabz with well defined Wootz and Watered characteristics, along with a possible Sikh inventory marking. 


The peshkabz or peshkabz (Persian: پیش قبض‎, Hindi: पेश क़ब्ज़) is a type of Indo-Persian knife designed to penetrate mail armour and other types of armor. The word means “fore-grip” in the Persian language; it was borrowed into the Hindustani language. The Pesh Kabz became a popular weapon of choice in Mughal India. Most pesh-kabz use a hollow-ground, tempered steel single-edged full tang, recurved blade with a thick spine bearing a “T” cross-section for strength and rigidity. In most examples, ivory is fixed to the full-tang grip, which features a hooked butt. The earliest forms of this knife featured a recurved blade, suggestive of its Persian origin. In all variants the blade is invariably broad at the hilt, but tapers progressively and radically to a needle-like, triangular tip. Upon striking a coat of mail, this reinforced tip spreads the chain link apart, enabling the rest of the blade to penetrate the armour. The pesh kabz is typically used as a thrusting (armour piercing) weapon also held upside down in hand with the thumb on the bottom of the handle.


The large hilt features a thick two-piece ivory grip section, where the grip strap, bolsters and ferules are covered in silver. The ivory is smooth with no faults, cracks or damages. The ivory slabs show a good colour and age patination.

The Pesh kabz has a beautiful and slender blade, with contrasting wootz steel, which contains playful swirls and various, shaded of light and dark grey. The swirls are very vivid and purposefully made.

The fine Pesh Kabz is accompanied by its crimson red silk velvet covered sheath with two chapes. The silk velvet was a very sought after material for covering a scabbard since it was labour intensive in pre-industrial India. Along the spine is a single gold trim. Thus making this scabbard of high quality and fitting for such a quality Pesh Kabz. The top chape is showcasing finely watered steel and pierced around the top with a procession of birds. Attached to the fine watered chape is an intact lanyard indicating the previous owners have kept the Pesh Kabz in good condition. The bottom chape is of typical design, long, pierced and with a round finial – but added at a later date. The gilding on the second chape is worn but provides a naturally preserved historical presence to it. The scabbard follows conventional fitting design whereby almost half the hilt is covered when the Pesh Kabz is in the scabbard. There is a hairline (very small – not significant) hole on the side of the scabbard.

The engraving on the ricasso is not clearly identifiable, but it is certainly intriguing. It is not a date, nor it is an inventory number marking as it looks to be very specific. It is possible, that the engraving represents the Sikh phrase Ik Onkar (), a phrase denoting the One Supreme Reality in Sikhism. This phrase has a strong connection with the corpus of religious writings considered the pillar of Sikh belief. Indeed, the Ik Onkar is used as the incipit of the Mul Mantar, the opening verse of the Guru Granth Sahib, the first composition of Guru Nanak. This explanation seems much more likely than the Hindi date, and it would then indicate that the dagger was once a dear possession of a Sikh believer.

Similar examples of ivory-hilted pesh kabz and khyber daggers can be found in most international museums’ collections. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has a particularly rich collection, please see accession numbers 36.25.708a, b; 64.303.1; 36.25.814a, b; and 36.25.1043a, b.


Overall, this is a quality example of a Pesh Kabz with fine features and complete with its original scabbard.

Financing is available on request via Art Money.

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