The basket hilt is elaborately overlaid with silver in floral designs.
32 cm / 25 inch
20 cm / 20.5 inch
middle 3 mm
near tip 3.5 mm
forte 36 mm
middle 27 mm
near tip 16 mm
The Deccan, India.
Iron, steel, silver.
16th - 17th century
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With their very sculptural hilts, chilanum are works of art on their own. But despite this ornate appearance, the design is practical and they tend to fit the hand very well and the all-steel construction makes them strong and durable.
Judging from miniature drawings, their height of popularity was in the 16th and 17th centuries.
A sizeable number of chilanum were captured by the armies of Maharaja Anup Singh of Bīkaner (ruled 1669-1698) at the battle of Ādoni in 1689, which subsequently wound up in the Bīkaner armory. Many remain on display at Junāgarh fort in Bīkaner today.1,2
A steel chilanum worn by Babur. 3
Notes to introduction
1. For Deccan chilanum captured at Ādoni, now at Junāgarh fort in Bīkaner, see:
Elgood, Robert: Hindu arms and Ritual, Eburon Publishers, Delft. Pages 178.
2. On the exploits of Anup Singh and the battle of Ādoni, see:
Goetz, Herman: Art and Architecture of the Bikaner State, Bruno Cassirer, Oxford, 1950. Pages 46-47.
Alexander, David: Islamic Arms and Armor in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Yale University Press, New Haven and London. Page 46.
3. From Bāburnāma (memoirs of Babur). Circa 1589-1590. The Digital Walters. Folio 20b.
A chilanum dagger of particularly a graceful form. The blade of lenticular cross-section with very mild swelling near the tip. The guard oval and hollow on the blade side, with a bud-shaped finial on either side. On top of it a gable-roof like structure that forms the basis of the grip stem. The stem features a knob in the middle and an elegantly splayed pommel, again with bud-shaped finials. At the very top is a knob that sits on four leaves, a rarer feature. The handle further has a knucklebow of pronounced S-shape with a bud finial at the end.
Upon close inspection, we can see that this dagger once had spectacular decoration in the form of true inlay silver. Some of the channels are still there, and here and there even some silver remains.
A very elegant and representable example of the Deccan chilanum. It lost most of its once lavish decoration but fortunately retains the sculptural qualities of a much better than average chilanum.
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