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Stan S. 12th April 2012 07:42 PM

Jamdhar katari - a theory
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This theory of mine if true, may be common knowledge, and if so, please forgive me as I am not aware of it. It is also entirely possible that I am dead wrong but I think this is an interesting thought, so here it goes:

Yesterday, I was playing with my new jamdhar katari dagger and its name got me thinking... At a glance, it does not resemble a katar (nothing really does, besides pata) but "katar" is present in its name... Why? I remember reading somewhere that katar means a tooth or a fang in some native dialect. If so, why dont we have more edged weapons from India with "katar" in their name? Then I looked closely at the distinct shape of the grip and it dawned on me: It looks remarkably like a single grip bar on a katar! Jamdhar's oversized pommel and crossguard resemble the steel straps of the katar hilt and function much in the same way by locking the wrist in place. So I pulled out one of my katars and compared the two. Surprisingly, at both being 3 inches wide, even the size of the grip is virtually the same!

So, would it be safe to draw a conclusion that jamdhar katari and a katar share a similar grip? Aside from a differently oriented blade, they appear designed to be held in a similar way. Does this make these two weapons related somehow? And does it indicate any similarities in their use?

Stan S. 12th April 2012 07:43 PM

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Some more

Stan S. 12th April 2012 07:45 PM

Also, while we are at it, I would be very gratefull if someone could help me desypher the writing on the blade. It may be pictures of some kind. They are present on both sides and are also faintly repeated on the front of the scabbard.

spiral 12th April 2012 10:50 PM

I only hope that one day I can be as insightful as you.... ;)

I think youve without doubt taken the history of these weapons one step further than anyone else.....


Emanuel 13th April 2012 07:50 AM

Hi Stan,

I'll throw a wrinkle at you :) . I don't recall the source - it might have been in Pant, or in the old catalog about Akbar's weapons, I'm sure it's in one of the older threads here - but it seems that the naming connection is actually the other way around. What we known as "katar" is actually called "jamadhar" and the "katar" bit was erroneously attributed to the wrong knife type. Both knives were in the same drawing palte.

A quick search reveals that "katar" is a derivative of "kutarni" which means knife in Hindi. I think someone mentioned this in the old threads.

So "jamdhar katari" would be a knife of jamdhar type, not a jamdhar of katar type. Either way, "katari" refers to the blade, not the specific handle type.

Note than "jamadar" was a military rank. While it was a minor rank in modern times, I recall reading it was closer to the rank of captain in pre-colonial times.

Just some more thoughts...


Emanuel 13th April 2012 08:32 AM

While searching for synonyms for "knife" I also found "chhuri" origin of the word "choora". "ch-huri" and "kutarni" both have feminine ending, while "choora" would have been masculine. This brings back to mind the debate over chooras and karuds. Since both words literally mean "knife" it wouldn't matter what we call them to their original owners/makers.


Stan S. 13th April 2012 03:57 PM

So is the similarity between hilts purely coincidental?

chregu 13th April 2012 08:37 PM

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hello together
I find your thinking well!
in my records, "Hermann Historica," it says in Jamdhar Katari: the weapon of tribal Kafirs (Arabic for infidel).
Indo-folk on the southern slopes of the Hindu Kush, to the east of Kashmir .............
is that correct?
If so, you would have to find out what language does this folk, and then compare what knife in this language means. Perhaps it simply means knife?
here are my piece
greeting Chregu

Jim McDougall 13th April 2012 09:23 PM

Very astutely observed Stan, and admire your well thought out approach to learning and understanding more on these weapons. Personally I had not thought of or noticed the parallel bar comparison in the jamadhar katara vs. the katar, one vertically situated, the other transverse.

This is an excellent theory, and by no means is the history of these weapons common knowledge, actually among the more esoteric of the ethnographic fields. It is of course hard to say how much influential bearing these two dagger types have upon each other, and the terminology conundrum is much as always the case with these classifications, extremely complicated.

Emanuel has well noted that these jamadhar katara were discussed on a number of occasions through the years, and it while they appear named as such in Stone, it was indeed Pant who set forth clarification on them. He notes that it was Egerton (1884) who transposed the katar term to the jamadhar, and the error was perpetuated by writers who followed. The compound name was probably an attempt to resolve the matter. It is important to note that this particular type of dagger with broad, parallel pommel guard and crossguard is as Chregu has specified, known to have been used by the Kafirs of the region formerly Kafiristan (from Kipling, "Man Who Would Be King").

These Kafir tribes were animists who were largely dispersed when their homeland was invaded by Afghan Abdur Rahman Khan, and he changed the lands name to Nuristan. Those who dispersed went into regions in the Hindu Kush and Chitral and are known primarily as Kalash, their ancestral tribal group.

There are few references to this tribal group, but there are some which depict thier animist symbols and devices. Im unclear on the language they speak, certainly dialects present in Chitral regions and likely Urdu, Hindi and possibly Lohar.

Again, Stan very well placed thoughts, and the kind of thinking that the serious study of ethnographic arms desperately needs more of !!!
Thank you so much for sharing your observations.

All the very best,

DaveA 14th April 2012 04:03 AM

My Jamdhar Katari
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Very interesting thread! For comparison, here is the Jamdhar Katari in my collection.

Rick 14th April 2012 04:14 AM

I'm not seeing the connection between the two . :shrug:

Stan S. 14th April 2012 05:08 AM

Maybe there is no connection after all... But consider this:

1. Older jamdhar katari were often cast in one piece just like a northern version of a katar

2. "Newer" versions, lets say from the 19th century onward, seem to be composite pieces where a tang-less blade is secured to the hilt with rivets - much like a katar with a sword tip blade

3. Thin metal grip of jamdhar katari features structures similar to the ones found on the grips of many katars. Their main function in all cases is without a doubt to prevent the hand from slipping from a thin grip, but it's peculiar that it is found on both jamdhars and katars

4. A long slender pommel and crossguard on jamdhar katari is designed to lock the wrist. The same feature is almost always present in katars in the form of the side bars

5. Based on teh above, if you can visualize taking a katar and reversing the blade where it is positioned as it would be on a typical dagger, you get jamdhar katari. This also seems to work in reverse. The shape of the blade is somewhat different (except on the old versions of jamdhar katari that feature a straight triangular blade) but otherwise they are similar

Once again, this is just a thought. There may be no connection what so ever, or maybe parituclar styles of these two knives are dictated by simple aesthetics of the people that used them. And being that these people intermingled in the same region, it could be that both forms developed independantly but following some common principle unknown to us.

Emanuel 14th April 2012 06:18 AM

Here is the old thread I spoke of, Jens' Jamdhar/katar why do we call it a katar?. I recall that the A’in-i-Akbari is actually available online somewhere and I had downloaded a copy, I will look for it.

In regards to the characteristic handle bar, I seem to recall certain old south Indian rapiers and swords with identical handles (see Elgood's Hindu Arms and Ritual: Arms and Armour from India 1400-1865, don't have it with me so can't say which pages).


Marcus 28th July 2016 04:33 PM

Text book example
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I think this piece is the very one illustrated in Anthony Tirri's, Islamic Weapons, Maghrib to Mogul. I bought it from Oriental Arms.

Jens Nordlunde 28th July 2016 09:41 PM

I once researched the origin of the katar, and took it back to 10th century of Orissa. Search for How Old is the Katar?
I dont think it has anythimg to do with the knife in question I am sorry to say.

Marcus 28th July 2016 10:25 PM

photo in Tirri
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Indeed this is a textbook example!

Figure 216A, page 296

mariusgmioc 28th July 2016 11:09 PM

In my opinion there is absolutely no similarity at all.
Completely different hilts, completely different gripping styles and completely different blade orientation.
Well, they are about as similar as Pata sword is to a Khanda...
But that's just my opinion of course. :shrug:

PS: My opinion and Jens'.

ariel 29th July 2016 12:06 AM

I have to agree with Jens.

Nothing in common, except for the use of words with a Sanskrit root " kut, kat" relating to cutting, slashing, slicing etc. Omani Kattara, a long-bladed weapon, having nothing in common technically with either of the daggers discussed here, is sharing the same root with them. A Roma word kat means scissors: and Gypsies stem from India.

I think we are not talking about anything structural, engineering etc: I think it is just philology.

Jim McDougall 29th July 2016 06:37 PM

Jens is similarity (obviously), mostly the only connection is via the usual 'name game' that so predisposes so many collectors.

Miguel 29th July 2016 07:18 PM

I am like Rick cannot see the connection.

Jim McDougall 29th July 2016 07:40 PM

We seem to have a consensus retrying an old case, this one over four years old......this time. Original research on these was about 13 years ago.

Jens Nordlunde 29th July 2016 09:32 PM

Hi Stan,
It was a try, and not a bad one.
What you have shown is important, you try to think in different ways, and that is very important, for someone who is interested in researching.
I dont know how many books you have, but like Nidhin (one of the members of this forum) said, "if you buy two pounds of weapons, you should buy four pounds of books" - and he is right, of course.

Making questions like the one you have, shows that you are on the right way - you have found the light - so to say.

Happy researches in the future.


Ibrahiim al Balooshi 30th July 2016 01:39 AM

I refer readers to an excellent description of this weapon at Atkinsons swords on and by the author above at # 10.

I extract from his fine summary the following; Quote"There is much debate about the origin of the name and in fact which name is “correct” (jamadhar, jandad, jamdhar, jumdud). The spelling jamdhar seems to indicate Hindi origin yet “Jamdar” may also be a Persian word with the suggested etymology of janb-dar, that is, 'flank render.' An alternative theory is that "jamdhar" is an evolution of the words "Yama" (Lord of death to Hindus) and "Daushtra" (tooth, in Sanskrit). This became "Yama+Dadh", Jamdhad, and now "Jamdhar". In support of this derivation, the word "katar" was originally termed "jamdhar" and loosely translated as "tooth of death." The term "katar" is now applied generally to transverse grip "push" daggers".Unquote.

Jens Nordlunde 30th July 2016 02:01 PM

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Here you can read an abstract from the article How Old is the Katar?

In India, Art and Culture 1300-1900 Stuart Cary Welsh on page 271 writes thet the katar probably originated in southers India. Unfortunately he does not explain how he came to that conclusion.
But as you can see ffor the abstract mentioned above I agree with him. The katar in question is no 205 on the drawing. A photo of the statue holding the katar is shown inthis book. Donaldson, Thomas E.:Hindu Temple Art of Orissa, vol. III. E.J.Brill, Leiden 1987.

Miguel 30th July 2016 08:06 PM

Originally Posted by Jens Nordlunde
Here you can read an abstract from the article How Old is the Katar?

In India, Art and Culture 1300-1900 Stuart Cary Welsh on page 271 writes thet the katar probably originated in southers India. Unfortunately he does not explain how he came to that conclusion.
But as you can see ffor the abstract mentioned above I agree with him. The katar in question is no 205 on the drawing. A photo of the statue holding the katar is shown inthis book. Donaldson, Thomas E.:Hindu Temple Art of Orissa, vol. III. E.J.Brill, Leiden 1987.

Hello Jens, I seem to remember a fairly recent thread where Katars with one bar were shown, possibly the same image together with old carvings, were discussed and I still do not understand how you can effectively hold a Katar with no side arms and only one round grip bar to stab someone, surely it could not be gripped firmly enough for this. I suppose it could be used as a club by striking with the flat of the blade but this is obviously not its purpose so how was a strong enough grip realised? I would love to know.

Jens Nordlunde 30th July 2016 08:33 PM

Hi Miguel,
Yes you are right, and I cant really tell you, to me it also seems to be impossible, I have tried to guess as well, and the only thing I have, so far, been able to come up with is, that maybe it was not a weapon from the start, but developed into a weapon over time.
Should I guess, I would say that a lot of the weapons were not meant as being weapons, but over time developed into weapons. I think some of the very early weapons were in a developing state, in the first century or so of their 'lives'. I may be very wrong, but that is the best I can say at the moment, but I am researching it, as it interests me a lot.
So end of story - I cant answer your very interesting question.

ariel 30th July 2016 09:49 PM

It is also conceivable that the drawing was not accurate: the bar might have been not straight and smooth, but more complex or deeply checkered. Old engravings often distorted reality.

Jens Nordlunde 31st July 2016 10:16 AM

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Ariel, you could have been right, but if you look at the statue I think the drawing is correct.
Hindu Temple Art of Orissa vol. III. by Thomas E. Donaldson. E.J.Brill Leiden, 1987. Illustration no 3206.

Jens Nordlunde 31st July 2016 01:21 PM

Suddenly I was not certain if the drawing and the picture comes from the same place, so I double checked it.
Mitra in his book writes that the drawing is from the Gauri temple in Bhuwanesvara Orissa.
Donaldson, on the other hand, writes that the picture is from the sout side of the jagamohana - which as far as I know is a temple structure, and not a name of a temple.
So either the drawing has been made from the statue shown, or from another statue, which would mean that there must be at least two statues showing the same katar.
The Kedar Gauri temple was started by king Yayati Kesari III of the Kesari dynasty, and completed by his son Lalatendu Kesari in the 10th century.
Donaldson, however, dates the statue to last half of the 11th century, and as he does not mention from which temple the statue is, it may be possible that it is two different statues.

ariel 31st July 2016 01:45 PM

I see.

But again, the bar is hidden in the fist, and the only thing needed to prevent rotation of the hand during stabbing is to make it not perfectly round but somewhat flattened.

I am not arguing about the veracity of the examples ( both statue and engraving); just trying to think how to assure that the grip might be made secure.

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