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  • Place of origin:

    Mughal Empire (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1580-1600 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watered steel and gold

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    South Asia, Room 41, case 22

The form of this dagger, with its twisted grip and short quillons on the hilt, can be found in Mughal painting dating to about 1600. The blade is of watered steel – a high-furnaced metal with a surface finish resembling watered silk. It has a thick, armour-piercing point and is very finely chiselled on both sides with small scenes at the forte – the part of the hilt immediately beneath the blade. On one side, a figure mounted on an elephant spears an attacking tiger; on the other, an elephant and horse, both with riders, are shown fighting. Beneath the tiger are drilled numerals typical of those found on weapons dispersed from the royal armoury of Bikaner, Rajasthan. The dagger was originally overlaid with gold over much of the hilt and on the chiselled decoration of the blade, though much of this has worn away. The weapon is a rare survivor of what must have been a vast production of steel arms and armour for Akbar’s court, and for the Rajput kingdoms that capitulated to him. Abu’l Fazl, the historian of Akbar's reign, mentions several specialist arms and armour centres in his survey of the provinces of the empire.

Physical description

The watered steel blade is finely chiselled at the forte on both sides with scenes depicted in miniature: on one side, a figure mounted on an elephant spears an attacking tiger; on the other, an elephant and horse, both with riders, are shown fighting. The quillons and finial have traces of gold, formerly overlaid on a cross-hatched ground.

Place of Origin

Mughal Empire (made)


ca. 1580-1600 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Watered steel and gold

Marks and inscriptions

Drilled numerals beneath the tiger are an old armoury inventory mark


Length: 31 cm blade length 20.2.cm., Width: 9.8 cm

Object history note

Acquired on the London market in 1981. The drilled numerals are typical of weapons from the Bikaner armoury.

Calza, Gian Carlo (ed.) Akbar: the great emperor of India. Rome : Fondazione, Roma Museo, 2012. ISBN 978-88-572-1525-9 (hard cover edition); ISBN 978-88-572-1793-2 (soft cover edition). p.259 , cat. no.IV.18.

Descriptive line

Dagger khanjar watered steel, Mughal, ca. 1580-1600.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

p. 86, cat. no. 70
Swallow, D., Stronge, S., Crill, R., Koezuka, T., editor and translator, "The Art of the Indian Courts. Miniature Painting and Decorative Arts", Victoria & Albert Museum and NHK Kinki Media Plan, 1993.
Stronge, Susan, p.131, cat.421
Skelton, Robert, et al, The Indian Heritage. Court life and Arts under Mughal Rule London: The Victoria and Albert Museum, 1982
p.74, no.51
Guy, John and Swallow, Deborah (eds.) Arts of India: 1550-1900. Text by Rosemary Crill, John Guy, Veronica Murphy, Susan Stronge and Deborah Swallow. London : Victoria and Albert Museum, 1990, reprinted 1999. 240 p. : ill. ISBN: 1851770224.
p. 185, pl. 147
Stronge, S. Made for Mughal Emperors. Royal Treasures from Hindustan. London and New York, 2010

Subjects depicted

Horse; Elephant; Tiger (animal)


Arms & Armour; Metalwork


South & South East Asia Collection

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