Of robust size and high quality, this venerable Southern Indian katar is perhaps as old as the 1600s. Its blade is held in place by twin elephants, sacred animals, and entirely made of wootz and shows all the beautiful patterns and swirls you’d expect from that mysterious steel.
The hilt has been hand-carved extensively, not just to show floral elements but also zig-zag patterns and hundreds of holes and stars—perforations reminiscent of jali screens.
Despite its centuries of wear this is still a sturdy, historical and aesthetically pleasing piece. It is accompanied by a modern sheath.
Colonel James Skinner CB, 1st Regiment of Local Horse, c.1836
Oil on canvas by an unknown artist, a copy of the portrait by William Melville, c.1836 (in the vestry of St James’s Church, Delhi).
The Anglo-Indian soldier James Skinner (1778-1841) was the son of a Scottish officer in the East India Company’s service and a Rajput lady. Formerly an officer in the Maratha Army, Skinner raised two cavalry units for the British, later known as 1st and 2nd Skinner’s Horse. Nicknamed ‘The Yellow Boys’ for their flamboyant saffron-coloured uniforms, they were famous for their horsemanship and skill at arms.
Skinner was well rewarded, enabling him to acquire a town house in Delhi and a large estate at Hansi, Haryana. He maintained a close interest in Indian culture and was an important patron of the arts, commissioning a number of paintings recording his life and exploits.
Skinner lived in princely style and liked to be addressed by his Moghul title, ‘Nasir-ud-Daula, Colonel James Skinner Bahadur Ghalib Jang – Most Exalted, Victorious in War’. Although he was brought up as a Christian, his household included a number of Hindu and Muslim wives and mistresses. He built a church in Delhi, but also a mosque and a Hindu temple.
Such a cross-cultural lifestyle had few admirers among the following generations of soldiers and politicians in India. Towards the end of his life, although promoted to colonel and created a CB by the British, Skinner was conscious that his mixed race status had denied him the highest rewards for his military skills and leadership.
Out 10 September in the USA. Based on the quality of his past work, this is a must-read book for me.
From the bestselling author of Return of a King, the story of how the East India Company took over large swaths of Asia, and the devastating results of the corporation running a country.
In August 1765, the East India Company defeated the young Mughal emperor and set up, in his place, a government run by English traders who collected taxes through means of a private army.
The creation of this new government marked the moment that the East India Company ceased to be a conventional company and became something much more unusual: an international corporation transformed into an aggressive colonial power. Over the course of the next 47 years, the company’s reach grew until almost all of India south of Delhi was effectively ruled from a boardroom in the city of London.
The Anarchy tells one of history’s most remarkable stories: how the Mughal Empire-which dominated world trade and manufacturing and possessed almost unlimited resources-fell apart and was replaced by a multinational corporation based thousands of miles overseas, and answerable to shareholders, most of whom had never even seen India and no idea about the country whose wealth was providing their dividends. Using previously untapped sources, Dalrymple tells the story of the East India Company as it has never been told before and provides a portrait of the devastating results from the abuse of corporate power.
Indian Jade and Silver Hilt Khanjar, 17th or 18th Century
With slightly curved double-edged blade of finely watered wootz steel with a double-filler over each side forming a narrow medial ridge to the reinforced point, hilt comprising silver quillon-block with pointed langets and downcurved quillons each with stylised makara-head terminal, and faceted grip of light greyish green jade rising up to a beaked rounded pommel, in its wooden scabbard covered in fishskin (minor damage) with silver locket and chape embossed and chased with a repeated design of foliage. 17.2 cm blade.
Indian Tulwar with Complex Hilt, 18th or 19th Century
The single-edged watered steel blade of curved form, impressed mark near forte, the steel hilt with button quillons, open triangular outer-guard pierced with two gold-damascened ducks at the base and rising to a stylised duck’s head finial, curved tapering knuckle-guard with duck head finial, compressed spherical pommel with bud-shaped finial on a petalled mount, decorated in gold overlay with floral sprays and bands containing flower heads, undulating vines and chevron designs. 95 cm long.
The hilt is of steel with short quillons (tholies), the front one supporting a a knuckle guard (paraj), and a large saucer-shaped pommel (katori). The surface is decorated in gold koftgari with sprays of flowers and foliage and bands of chevron pattern in thick gold outlined in plain steel against a gold ground. The blade is single edged and curved, of watered steel, narrow at the hilt and widening slightly to the point. It has two narrow grooves (mang) close to the rounded spine, a short ricasso, and a bevelled edge. The scabbard is of wood covered with crimson velvet, with a chape and throat of gilt copper. The baldrick is of crimson silk webbing with greem borders and scrolling foliage decoration in gold thread, with a buckle of gilt copper.
Dimensions: length: 87.8 cm (34.5 in), blade length: 75.2 cm (29.6 in) Weight: 1.16 kg (2 lb 9 oz)