Place of Origin: Vijayangara (South India)
Date: Second Half of the 16th Century
Sometimes attributed to a larger group of iron katars from the Tanjore Armoury, this hooded katar is a fine example of its type. Unusually, the sculpted hand guard is highlighted by gold koftgari that has been arranged in densely-packed floral patterns, and the reinforcing blade straps are covered in silver sheet. This ornamentation was added at the time of manufacture (many of these hooded katars received such enhancements only later, in the 19th century). The blade has sharp, narrow fullering and is locally-made and this helps us to date the weapon because Elgood (1) points out that these blades were being replaced by those from cut-down European swords by the closing decades of the 16th century.
The hooded guard is beautifully modelled and takes influence from the Islamic architecture being adopted by the Hindu court of the royal centre in Hampi, in the mid-16th century. This is particularly evident in the six cusped arches at the base of the guard and in the similar motifs at the top of the side bars. The hand guard sweeps up in elegant fashion, concluding with a gold-highlighted finial in the form of a ferocious yali head. This southern Indian mythological creature would have provided a spiritually protective function. The hand-grip is of typical form, with two parallel bars, each with large central spheres.
For a similar example see the Metropolitan Museum, New York, no.36.25.904.
Provenance: European private collection.
(1) Elgood, Hindu Arms and Ritual, 2004, p.145-148.