|An extremely rare Bundi Katar made for Raja Ram Singh of Bundi.
The Katar is a push dagger, famous in the Indian region. Katars have thrusting blades with a H-shaped grip. The handgrip is utilised to hold the katar while the H-shape handlebars are used to protect the wrist. Daggers of this type, called Katars, were designed to be held by the cross bars in a clenched fist (Met Museum, Accession number 36.25.973a, b). These Katars are in fact one of the most popular types of daggers in India and gained Royal acceptation in the 18th/19th century. Katars were also used for ceremonial purposes, worship and of course, battle; with our example falling into the later category. As Katars are made for the blade to be in line with the arm, it was primarily used as a thrusting weapon. Katars with double-edged blades could also be used to slashing. Unique to the Indian subcontinent, ceremonial katars were also used in worship. Upper-class Rajputs and Mughals would even hunt tiger with katars. For a hunter to kill a tiger with such a short-range weapon was considered the surest sign of bravery and martial skill.
This Bundi Katar is heavy and robust. The blade features a complex ribbed design with a thick armour piercing point. The blade features patina and some rust due to its age. The blade features three pronounced ribs which are further divided with sunken panels to divide the blade into further sections. This gives the blade a great aesthetic appeal but also categorises it with the Katars from Bundi made under the patronage of Raja Ram Singh of Bundi. The base of the blade is engraved with the head of an elephant and ritually covered with gold koftgari. The base of the blade on one side is ornately covered with gold koftgari in the form or flowers while the other side bears the unique inscription reading: “Bundijaram, Lord of Bundi, will protect with this dagger, [for], when it pierces, is like the tongue of death.” The inscription is slightly covered with rust due to age but the Met Museum holds an identical katar with the same inscription. The hilt is in the style of classic Bundi work and covered with gold koftgari in the form of flowers and tendrils. The two bulging handle bars that are connected with pierced floral work. The hilt is identical to an example held in the Royal Collection Trust which was made by Khemau – “Khēmau (खेमौ) was an armorer at Bundi. He made katar for among others the Maharao Raj Ram Singh of Bundi himself. Pieces attributed to him have dates ranging from 1835 to 1872, suggesting a career of at least 37 years”. Given the identical features, it is probably likely that our Katar was made by the famous smith Khemau and without question for Raja Ram Singh of Bundi.
The Katar is accompanied by a later scabbard covered in green velvet, with a gold thread down the centre. Though this is not the original scabbard, it has kept true to the design and colour found on some katars from Bundi. It is out assumption that the scabbard was made in the 20th century to make up for the original lost or damaged one.
The Met Museum features a Katar with the same style Blade and inscription. Their example is also in localized Sanskrit, which states, “Bundijaram, Lord of Bundi, will protect with this dagger, [for], when it pierces, is like the tongue of death.” The other side has a Vikram Samvat date of 1909, which converts to 1852 A.D. Given the stylistic similarities and inscription, our example can also be dated to 1852. (see: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/31504)
The Royal Armouries again has a Katar with an identical blade to our example. The stylistic features of the blade and engravings are identical. The example kept at the Royal Armouries has a different inscription reading “ ‘The dagger of Rajah Ram Sing of Bundi, the Rajah of rajahs: 1907.’ (A.D. 1850)”. Given the similarities to our example, it is clear these Katars were intended to be made for the same owner, Raja Ram Singh of Bundi or gifted by the Raja himself to the like of Kings and other Royals.(see: https://collections.royalarmouries.org/object/rac-object-1592.html)
As stated above, this type of Katar was very unique and made under the patronage of Raja Ram Singh of Bundi. There were only a handful of these made (it is said that there were only 10-15 produced of this kind) and gifted to the likes of Edward VII, Prince of Wales, during his tour of India in 1875-76. Currently these types of Katars are either in Museums or held in private collections. The one presented to Edward VII has a unique hilt which holds a similar form and gold koftgari work to our example. Notice the handle bars and gold is near identical in form and design. (See: https://www.rct.uk/collection/search#/3/collection/11408/punch-dagger-and-scabbard)
An identical example was published in 1. Thomas Holbein Hendley; Memorials of the Jeypore Exhibition, Vol. 1: Industrial art. W. Griggs & Son Ltd. London. Plate XXI. Hendley describes it as the following “Steel dagger, Katár. Blade long, with three high ridges and numerous lateral ones. Gilt guards and double bars united by open work, the whole decorated with a floral pattern. On one side is an inscription in gold to the effect that the dagger was the property of Mahárájá Rám Singh, of Búndi. Made by Khema, armourer.”
A very rare Katar dagger from Bundi, made under the patronage of Raja Ram Singh of Bundi.