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KHAPWAH

Place of Origin: Decan or Mughal Dominions & Nepal

Date: 16th (dagger) and 19th century (scabbard)

Overall: 340mm (13.5 inches)

Blade: 230mm (8 inches)

Reference: 436

Status: Available

Full Description:

An all-steel dagger referred to as a khapwah in the A’in-i-Akbari, a 16th-century document recording Mughal administration under Emperor Akbar (1542-1605). This type of dagger is most commonly referred to by western students of Indian arms and armour as a chillanum and is likely to have been made in the Deccan, or a Mughal workshop. They are commonly seen in Mughal miniature paintings suspended from the waistbands of courtly men.

The hilt is formed with a substantial diamond-shaped cross-section which splits into an elegant, winged pommel with slightly upturned tips. A bulbous top-finial sits between the arms of the pommel. The lower section of the hilt then gracefully bifurcates just before the curved blade, which exhibits a central ridge and heavy swollen tip.

The dagger’s scabbard comes from the Himalayan regions – probably Tibet or Nepal. The silverwork has likely been done by a Nepali craftsman, with two fine panels depicting a snow leopard in silver repoussé over either side. The frame of the scabbard is chased with typical Buddhist iconography, such as the flaming jewels that appear near the throat.

The knife and hilt both are heavily patinated and show patches of gold, or a gold-coloured metal. It is highly likely that the hilt and scabbard were completely gilded, but the blade may have only had patches of braise.

Interestingly Lord Egerton of Tatton who wrote the pioneering work, A description of Indian and Oriental Armour (1880), depicts a similar dagger and attributes its origins to Nepal[1]. That is now widely thought not to be the case, but with the discovery of this dagger, there now exists further evidence that such daggers were at least found in Nepal, even if they were not made there.

Provenance

European art market

 

[1] Lord Egerton of Tatton, 1880, plate IX, no.339.

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