Place of Origin: DECCAN, INDIA
Date: 17th Century
This double-edged dagger (or ‘chillanum’) is made from a single piece of steel and has been delicately cut to produce a hilt of sculptural quality and blade of unusual construction.
The hilt is of waisted form, a bulbous top finial – repeated at the centre of the grip – moving through a conical structure into the winged pommel. The grip then bifurcates, terminating in lotus bud finials, and the main edges of the hand guard are neatly shaped into curved beaded lines.
The recurved blade commences with a forte which has been cut to present the form of a lotus in bloom. The top of the flower continues into a central ridge flanked by fullers and additional ridges at either side, all of which converge into a single line leading the blade to its reinforced point. Perhaps most interesting, however, are the blade’s serrated edges – a distinctive feature in Indian edged weapons which Elgood well explains as follows: “In the early Indian texts the word used for a sword with a serrated edge is ‘yavaka’ or ‘having an edge like barley’. The Rajput name for a sword with a curved blade with a serrated edge is ‘asapala’, named after the tree with serrated leaves. Weapons having blades with serrated edges are not very common and are found on a smaller number of seventeenth-century Deccani weapons.”
Two chillanum similar to our own (inventory numbers MJM46.2870 and MJM46.2879) are preserved in the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum and published by Elgood. Another dagger preserved in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Acc. No. 36.25.897), although it has two blades, similarly exhibits the unusual serrated edges shown on our example.
 Robert Elgood, Arms & Armour at the Jaipur court: The Royal Collection, Niyogi Books, 2015, p. 48.