Early South Indian Dagger
Place of Origin: Tamil Nadu
Date: 16th Century
An important and early South Indian dagger of a specific type virtually unknown to most. Elgood 2004, provides some invaluable research, including photographs of stone statues at Srirangam, wearing very similar shaped daggers on their waists, the carvings dated late 16th Century. Elgood (2004), p.169-170.
This presumed unexampled dagger is constructed from a single piece of iron, with only the large quillon buds at the base of the hilt being applied. It has an attractive sculptural quality, much like the Srirangam statues that show comparable daggers with remarkably similar features.
Previous researchers and authors have failed to give a traditional name to this small group of daggers, with only Elgood accurately calling it a Bulbous-hilted Dagger; not a wrong I can right without more research, but we can note the similarities it shares with both the Khanjarli and Chillanum. We can also infer that these were a more exclusive dagger, due to the fact that they are found in less numbers that the other daggers mentioned.
The shape is quite feminine, with a profile like a goddess in her ‘tribhanga’ or triply flexed pose.
In contrast the proportions and weight masculine, this could be construed as a metaphor of Ardhanarishvara, the composite androgynous form of Shiva and his consort Parvati.
The hilt would have been covered in silver gilt, but now only traces remain. The resulting lack of surface decoration, the patinated surface, and the overall form results in this object having huge visual drama, with physical and visual striking presence.