Place of Origin: DECCAN, INDIA
Date: 17th - 18th Century
Overall Open: 200mm (8")
Overall Closed: 160mm (6.25")
A rare and unusual tool which is well explained by Brownrigg’s book on the subject: “These cutters resemble the katar in the shape of the blade. When closed it is merely a two-bladed betel cutter. Opened up it becomes a serviceable weapon which is said to be used by women to protect themselves.” The practice of betel-chewing is a historical cultural phenomenon which has been endemic throughout the Indian Subcontinent, South East Asia and large parts of the Western Pacific. ‘Paan’, in Hindi, is a chew or ‘quid’ parcel of a betel leaf containing areca nut, which is sliced using a betel-cutter, and a lime paste. It is chewed for its stimulant and psychoactive effects. The cutters are sometimes referred to as ‘betel nut cutters’ which is a misnomer since there is no such thing as a ‘betel nut’.
The arms of this example are charmingly formed as parrots and secured with steel bolts which – along with the brass star-shaped washers – are intended to give the appearance of dazzling eyes, whilst the undulating back-edges are perhaps so formed in order to resemble the parrots’ ruffled plumage. Clasps that keep the blade secure when the tool is closed are cut into the forms of horseheads, and the katar-style blade has ridged edges so that it fits easily into the equally ridged front-edges of the parrot-arms.
A similar example, the arms formed as the upper and lower sections of a stallion, was exhibited by Runjeet Singh (Ref. 080) in Arms & Armour From the East 2016, p.70, cat.no.29. Further comparanda are catalogued and photographed in the book cited above and below.
 Henry Brownrigg, Betel Cutters: from the Samuel Eilenberg Collection, Thames & Hudson, London, 1991, p. 61.