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Katthi (dagger)

Place of Origin: Tanjore (India)

Date: 17-18th Century

Overall: 320mm

Blade: 220mm

Reference: 534

Status: Reserved

Full Description:

The hilt of this magnificent South Indian katthi1 (the Tamil word for dagger) is modelled as a yali, a benevolent demon, popular in South India on arms, armour, and buildings for protective reasons. The hilt is made from heavily gilded copper-alloy and the head of the beast forms the large pommel, which has a sculpted crest with bulging eyes. The ferocious mouth gapes beneath a long, curling nose and the moulded wings act as a grip as well as having an aesthetic purpose. The feathered and scaled body is carefully chased on an attractive bed of flowers. A knuckle guard, with a chevron design, curls gracefully up from the base of the hilt to the mouth of the creature and terminates in a lotus bud finial. Two further lotus bud finials sit on either side of an oval shaped lower guard, which is made of gilt copper-alloy and attached to the blade strap in the form of a double yali crest. The blade has a recurved form and a pair of long deep fullers on each face.

An important correlative sword sits in the private collection of the Raja of Tanjore and is published by Elgood2 in his important work on South Indian arms and armour. It is dated by him as seventeenth or eighteenth century. Elgood also published details of a dagger that can be used as another analogous example, with a silver hilt3, also from the collection of the Raja of Tanjore and dated as being from the second half of the seventeenth century.

Provenance

The Roy Elvis (1944-2022) collection

Literature

Roy Elvis, The Hindu Warrior, 2020, pp.248, fig.no.202, cat.no.D106.

References

1Katthi is the word for dagger in the South Indian languages of Kannada, Tamil and Malayalam, and chaku a more colloquial term used in Karnatka. (from personal correspondence with Nidhin Olikara).

2Robert Elgood, Hindu Arms and Ritual – Arms and Armour from India 1400-1865, 2004, pp.99, fig.8.64.

3IBID, pp.175, fig.no.16.26.

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