Shiva Bundi Katar
Place of Origin: Rajasthan, India
Date: Circa 1850 A.D.
It is customary for many cultures across the world, and especially Indian cultures, to start a new task or project with a supplication to a god, goddess or divine power, so it is fitting that I crack a metaphorical coconut and open this catalogue with a 19th Century Katar dagger from Bundi, India, depicting the Hindu God- Lord Shiva.
The wootz damascus, or watered steel blade, has a large central chiseled depiction of Lord Shiva, almost identical on each side, he stands in a playful yogic stance with a small dog licking his leg in reverence. His long curling hair adorned with flowers, and his third eye open - capable of imploding the cosmos, or paradoxically spreading light and wisdom into the world.
With his four hands he carries four objects; a Trident or Trisula- the three prongs representing his three aspects as creator, protector and destroyer, the long shaft representing the axis of the universe. A spinning wheel or Chakra- the symbol of life and death, considered to be a weapon. A double edged sword or Khanda, the symbol of wisdom, the battle against ignorance and the force of destruction. Lastly, an object which looks to be a shield, Dhal, but more likely to be a mirror, Darpana, representing the aspect of Shiva that is not manifest. Shiva in his androgynous aspect carries a mirror in one of his left hands (the female side) as a symbol of wisdom, and at the same time of the emptiness of all worldly matters.
The chiseling is exquisite, and is a typical Mewari depiction. It has close similarities with Mewari painting in the early to mid-19th century, and to the Kangra-Pahari school of painting of the same period. A great parallel visual reference can be seen in a painting in the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., depicting Shiva and Parvati (accession number F2001.11), and can be searched for and viewed on the Freer and Sackler website http://www.asia.si.edu/
The hilt is covered in sheet gold (partly worn), and decorated with stippled flowers. The overall layout and construction is in the Bundi style, and Nordlunde (2009) discusses this particular style of katar as belonging to the larger of two groups that were made in Bundi around 1850 A.D. A further hallmark of so-called Bundi katars is the floral arrangement we see between the grip bars.
A similar dagger was in the collection of the late Dr. Leo Figiel, published in the Butterfield and Butterfield sale catalogue of his collection in 1998 (sale number 6824A, lot no.2117).