Place of Origin: KERALA, SOUTH-WESTERN INDIA
Date: 18th - 19th Century
Overall: 1440mm (56 ¾ inches)
This pata is particularly eye-catching for its impressive wooden gauntlet which is carved into the appearance of a formidable tiger’s head.
Black leaf-shaped stripes curved at either end are painted on an orange ground throughout the main section of the gauntlet, a central ridge continuing over the tiger’s head where the face has been carved and painted to depict a thick curved brow and large oval eyes. When viewed from certain angles, the pierced loops fixed into the sides of the tiger – occupied by bud-shaped iron tokens – may seem to resemble the animal’s ears. But they must serve some other purpose of appearance, since the ears appear just behind them, raised and painted under the ends of the brow. Still extant is the internal wooden bar that the wielder would have held to keep the weapon secure while in use, the bottom-most surface of the gauntlet flat and hollowed out though the rest of its section is curved. Much of the original fabric lining also survives. The long and slender blade – forged to mimic the shape of European swords – is of flattened diamond section, a shallow central ridge running to the spear-point tip.
Tipu Sultan’s frequent use of the tiger in his personal iconography may have played a role in its manifestation here as the gauntlet of our pata. Parts of Kerala were captured by Hyder Ali and made part of the Kingdom of Mysore (until the Treaty of Seringapatam in 1792 when Malabar ceded to the control of the East India Company), and so the broader proliferation of the tiger as depicted in arts of this period may well have spread to the region and become popular with craftsmen. Tipu Sultan’s own fascination with and reverence for the animal is well documented in objects such as a gold tiger’s head from the Royal Collection Trust (RCIN 67212): “Although the tiger was an ancient symbol of kingship in India, Tipu made it his own; he declared that it was ‘better to live a single day as a tiger than a thousand years as a sheep.’”
A similar wooden pata in the form of a tiger is published in the book by Ravinder Reddy: Arms & Armour of India, Nepal & Sri Lanka: Types, Decoration and Symbolism, 2018, p. 331.