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Old 11th February 2007, 03:01 PM   #1
Jens Nordlunde
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Default A south Indian katar

Here is a south Indian katar, most likely from Tanjore. Notice that the fishes have eyes on both the inside and the outside of the side guards. In the middle of each of the two cross bars, a steel ball is rolling. Under the hilt you can see two fish and two peacocks. A few of the seven little wheels in between the two cross bars can still turn, I guess the rest are rusted.
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Old 11th February 2007, 04:23 PM   #2
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This katar is one of the nicest pieces of chiseling in a katar to date that I have seen. If you get bored with it email me. Great piece
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Old 11th February 2007, 11:09 PM   #3
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Truly a most beautiful katar, and as noted, almost certainly from Tanjore.
Elgood ("Hindu Arms and Ritual", p.162, fig. 15.39) notes 17th c. examples with the twin humped bars separated by connecting pins with small wheels, and suggests they are from the 'Tanjore school'. The flared sidebars which enclose panels of beautifully chiselled iconography are also characteristic.
The beaded bordering around these seem distinctive and unusual as not seen in most examples shown in references. This beading seems to reflect that feature often appearing in Indian art in depictions of figures wearing strings of pearls in miniatures etc.

The pair of fish is theologically auspicious in India of course, but the theme in the motif in the sidebars seems possibly to associate to the Pandyan Dynasty in early Tamil Nadu, whose royal emblem was the fish. Elgood (op.cit.p.134) notes that "...fish are frequently chiselled as subordinate decoration on the earlier Tanjore arms".
The fish, and notably, the peacock, are often featured in Tamil poetry.

The blade with triangular striated form seems to correspond to early form associated with Vijayanagara from about 16th c. and later supplanted by the influx of European blades.

I am curious about what these wheels in the grip represent, and it does seem significant that they do number seven, an important number symbolically. I think you once mentioned prayer wheels and I wonder if that might have any association. It does not seem that they would have any practical purpose (though it is curious they are mindful of the little scrolling wheel on my mouse here as I write this !.

Any thoughts or other examples of these wheels in the grips of katars?

Best regards,
Jim
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Old 13th February 2007, 12:46 PM   #4
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Hi Jens,
Your Katar is a beautiful piece .... Is it worth trying to soak the Katar in an oil bath for a few hours.....to 'free' the rusted wheels.
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Old 13th February 2007, 03:01 PM   #5
Jens Nordlunde
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Thank you Katana,

When I examine the wheels closely, some of the wheels will never turn, as they seem to be almost welded together with the cross bars, but I will try with some WD40 and see what happens. On the left picture you can see that it is the two wheels to the right, which can turn. Before I got it, someone had treated the blade with acid, probably due to heavy rust; fortunately the hilt was spared, as it took me endless hours before I had removed the dull grey colour, left from the acid, on the blade.

Jens
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Old 4th July 2011, 04:52 AM   #6
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A wonderful piece, a feast for the eyes, really!
How did you remove the dull gray etch color from the blade?
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Old 4th July 2011, 01:06 PM   #7
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Dmitry,
You take some fine to very fine grinding paper, a little oil. This together with many hours should do the job .
Jens
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Old 4th July 2011, 02:11 PM   #8
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I'm not usually into South Indian katars, but this one I like.
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Old 4th July 2011, 02:14 PM   #9
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Another great memory ! I guess this is another illustration of how important cleaning and restoration tips are here. In rereading this thread it reminds me that while I thought we were trying to learn about the history of the weapon, we were simply learning more on how to clean it.
Absolutely fascinating.
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Old 4th July 2011, 03:28 PM   #10
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Jim I guess for me there is a difference between cleaning and leaving some patina, between bringing a piece back to life and over cleaning it within an inch of it's life. How much cleaning is the issue.
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Old 4th July 2011, 05:05 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Battara
Jim I guess for me there is a difference between cleaning and leaving some patina, between bringing a piece back to life and over cleaning it within an inch of it's life. How much cleaning is the issue.


100% with you on that Jose!!! Well said. I think that is presently being well discussed on the thread about restorations. What I am wondering is why this thread ended without a single word about the decoration and motif or history of this weapon beyond my usual ramblings. Naturally I'm glad to see extra attention given to preserving the weapon itself, my main issue is that its very history should be afforded equal attention.
Thank you for answering me, and well made point.

All the best,
Jim
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Old 4th July 2011, 11:42 PM   #12
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Default Fish

Jens, The fish are beautifully carved. The fact their eyes are on the same side of their heads is normal for flat/ bottom fish such as Halibut. Does it have meaning to the Hindu/ Indian cultures? This by far, the best quality chiseling on a katar.

Steve
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Old 5th July 2011, 03:32 AM   #13
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Archer, I know that the fish was one of Vishnu's early incarnations on earth.
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Old 5th July 2011, 02:20 PM   #14
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Jens

Can you please post a pic of the entire piece.

Thanks

Lew
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Old 5th July 2011, 02:34 PM   #15
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Steve, Jose and Lew, thanks for the additional input guys! Thats what I'm talkin' about I'd really like to learn more from this emphatically beautiful piece, so I'm really glad it came up again. Good observations on the fish as a motif, and as noted by Jose, one of the incarnations of Vishnu. I think we will find more on this in Robert Elgood's "Hindu Arms and Ritual", so looking forward to what turns up there.
Jens, may we please have an encore on more detail on this beauty!!!

All the best,
Jim
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Old 5th July 2011, 02:59 PM   #16
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All right, here is the whole katar.
You should be aware of, that one fish can have one or more meanings, two fishes can have another meaning and a hole lot of fishes can have yet another meaning. Jim once told me the the Maharaja of Oudh had a fish as his royal symbol, but you also see a fish of the top of a standard, or on the standard itself.
Archer - I understand what you are saying, but these fishes are at the outside of the side guards seen from the upside, and on the inside seen from the bottom - that is what makes me wonder. But maybe I am wrong.
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Old 5th July 2011, 05:22 PM   #17
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Jens

That's just a lovely piece the blade reminds me of the ones you often see on those hooded style katars.

Congrats
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Old 5th July 2011, 06:13 PM   #18
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Lew, you must mean one of these.
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Old 5th July 2011, 06:52 PM   #19
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You read my mind.
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Old 5th July 2011, 07:31 PM   #20
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Arrow

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Steve, Jose and Lew, thanks for the additional input guys! Thats what I'm talkin' about I'd really like to learn more from this emphatically beautiful piece, so I'm really glad it came up again. Good observations on the fish as a motif, and as noted by Jose, one of the incarnations of Vishnu. I think we will find more on this in Robert Elgood's "Hindu Arms and Ritual", so looking forward to what turns up there.
Jens, may we please have an encore on more detail on this beauty!!!

All the best,
Jim


About those fish; I don't believe they are members of the flatfish group ; the gills are wrongly depicted as are the eyes . I believe it is an overhead view that is depicted .
I wish I could add more to the discussion .

This katar is wonderous Jens .
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Old 5th July 2011, 09:00 PM   #21
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Default Sandwiched

Jens,

The hooded Katar you present, it seems to show the blade and decoration at the hilt junction as integral where many are hooded examples are blades sandwiched between decorative panels and riveted like the Katar you have shown at the start of the thread. Do you have the hooded piece in hand to offer any insight as to the securing of the blade to the hilt? I think Elgood only offered one of this type where the rest were riveted types as are my two.

With regards to the fish, I think they are entirely stylistic representations only, despite the 'gill arrangement only' being like the flathead. There is likely reference or suggestions within publications of early Indian art about the forms of these fish or Vishnu now sitting somewhere in the annals of time....
It is interesting to see the fish symbol grow each step of the way through the taper of the side bar and the presence of the beading throughout shows fantastic quality of workmanship.

With regards to the Katar initially posted, would you be kind enough to share an image or two of the designs on the inside of the hilt where the blade joins. The mound appears to have some wonderful iconography.

Gav

Last edited by freebooter : 5th July 2011 at 09:20 PM. Reason: a few extra words
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Old 6th July 2011, 02:34 AM   #22
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Default Fish

I hate to swim against the current, but, flatfish start out as normal vertically swimming fish. As they mature and evolve one eye migrates around their heads
until they are both on the same side. Their colors evolve also much like military planes darker on top lighter on the bottom. To me, I see the smaller fish
as vertical. If the fish represent Vishnu perhaps these help to show his evolution. Steve
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Old 8th July 2011, 07:49 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by archer
I hate to swim against the current, but, flatfish start out as normal vertically swimming fish. As they mature and evolve one eye migrates around their heads
until they are both on the same side. Their colors evolve also much like military planes darker on top lighter on the bottom. To me, I see the smaller fish
as vertical. If the fish represent Vishnu perhaps these help to show his evolution. Steve


No the case with all fish, whilst this is not a fishing forum, attached is a flat fish that stays flat....and there are plenty on the bite at the moment.

Gav
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Old 10th July 2011, 06:02 AM   #24
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Actually it would seem the type of fish may be red herrings . I am not sure whether the type of fish are pertinant as often the motif in material culture and of course weapons becomes stylized in representative allegory. As Jens has mentioned, beyond the Hindu representations of fish which I mentioned in what I wrote back in 2007 (Pandya) and the Matsya incarnation of Vishnu, the fish was indeed a dynastic symbol of the nawabs of Awadh (Oudh). In the attached illustration of the silver rupee of Awadh (c.1814-15)there is a stylized fish, which does not however, resemble the examples seen on this katar. Still, in the sense of stylization, the actual image chosen by the artisan is of course his choice and based on personal interpretation.

It remains interesting to note the various applications of the fish in symbolism, and thier auspicious meaning in different contexts. While the elements of this katar reflect characteristics of Tanjore katars, Elgood does note that Hindu designs in these katars did influence examples in Golconda/Hyderabad, and from there to Lucknow. Lucknow was the capital of Oudh, so although admittedly tenuous , it is tempting to consider the possibility of this katar being from these Mughal regions. The representation of architectural designs in Indian weapons is a topic worthy of considerably more discussion, and in the attached illustration of the winter diwan (assembly) of a Mughal nawab some interesting similarities to the hilts of some katars and the arches surrounding in the room are seen.

Just more observations to discuss further.

All best regards,
Jim
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Old 10th July 2011, 10:53 AM   #25
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There is a vital similarity between the fish Jim has just shown us and the original fish (beautiful fish, BTW), and that is that both seem to mix side and top views in a perhaps proto-cubist manner (the European "modern" artists openly derived much of their ideation from foreign cultures). We see the tail as if from the side, looking relatively like a whale tail, compared to the side fins, shown as from above (top and bottom fins on a fish are not usually symmetrical like this), and likewise the barbels (catfish whiskers) on Jim's fish. This makes it harder to analyze whether putting both eyes on one side is bit of realism or of artistic convention. I haven't seen it done on art depicting land animals from India, I don't think. We would probably need more fish art from the region.
It's hard to see all the detail on my little screen, but at least one of Jens' larger fish clearly shows a mouth that runs sideways, kind of between the eyes (until I noticed this, I too thought these may be overhead views). Type of fish may be quite important; to seafaring and fishing peoples the differences between types of fish are as clear and vital as the differences between land animals. River fish or ocean fish? That might make a difference. Or for all I know they might just be fish.
Lovely fish.
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Old 12th December 2016, 03:58 PM   #26
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Gav, looking at some old posts on South Indian katars I saw that I had never shown you the back of the katars, although you asked for a picture - sorry. Here it is.
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Old 12th December 2016, 05:10 PM   #27
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Jens, please add me to the long list of people envying you!

Regarding the cleaning of the blade, the dull grey patination one gets after de-rusting (I get it quite often after using the Renaissance Metal De-Corroder) comes off nicely by wiping the blade with cotton swabs and Renaissance Pre-Lim fine polishing paste.

PS: Thank you for sharing your stunning collection with us!
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