Place of Origin: Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu
Date: 17th Century
Length: 650mm (25.5 inches)
This large and heavy South Indian chopper was probably used for sacrificing medium-sized animals to please the goddess Kali.
The single-edged curved blade is of russet iron and shows a deep patina. The base of the blade is chiselled with the face of a ferocious yali (a South Indian mythological beast). The gaping mouth is full of sharp teeth, a longer curved tooth hanging menacingly over the lower jaw as, above, the nose extends into a curling trunk and the eyes and eyelashes project from the profile of the blade.
The long wooden handle has a rosette-shaped iron pommel cap which secures the tang of the blade within and ensures the strong functionality of this tool. A turned central bulbous knop aids grip, while a brass or copper bolster cap, a later replacement, provides strength at the point where the blade is connected to the hilt.
This object can be compared to a smaller example in the Metropolitan Museum (acc.no. 36.25.1279)1 which has similar features—particularly in the face of the beast. These similarities are enough to surmise that this piece came from the same location and perhaps even the same workshop or maker.