Slender chilanum dagger
This item has been sold.
Overall length

37.5 cm

Blade length

24.8 cm

Blade thickness

Base 6 mm

Middle 4 mm

5 cm from tip 3 mm

Blade width

Base 24.5 cm

Middle 16 mm

5 cm from tip 9 mm


197 grams




South India


16th - 17th century


Runjeet Singh


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One of the most graceful of daggers of old, coined the chilanum by Lord Egerton in his landmark work, Indian and Oriental Arms and Armour of 1896. His proofreader already added a question mark to the term in the book, which seems to mean peeling or to peel in Hindi.1 The circa 1590 Ain-I-Akbari illustrates a similar-looking item and provides the term khapwah.2

1. Lord Egerton of Tatton: Indian and Oriental Arms and Armour. Dover Publications; Revised edition, 2002.
2. The Ain-i-Akbari (Persian: آئینِ اکبری‎) or "Administration of Akbar" is the last of the three-volume Akbarnama or "Book of Akbar". Written by court historian Abu'l Fazl (1551-1602), it describes the Mughal empire as it was around 1590. The original manuscript is housed in the Hazarduari Palace, India.


This example

The dagger has an all-steel construction, the pieces being forged and probably welded together. The slender blade has multiple deep grooves, and the work is still very crisp.

The hilt with a thickening in the center, from which both ends split. Two stylized elephants appear at the base.

In very good condition, these are rarely seen with this level of preservation.


Comparables in art

The house of Bijapur

Detail from the painting "The House of Bijapur", circa 1680.
Metropolitan Museum accession number 1982.213.


The person depicted is meant to depict an early Bijapur ruler, so the choice of dagger may refer to an earlier period than the painting's supposed date. All later rulers to the right of the painting wear a katar, suggesting that was a more recent fashion.

A hint towards this earlier date can be found in the 1570 A.D. manuscript Nujum al-'ulum, or "Stars of the Sciences," also from Bijapur.1

This example has an added knuckle guard but, otherwise very similar hilt shape.