The chilanum (or chilanam is a graceful type of dagger that originated in southern India. With their very sculptural hilts they are works of art on their own. Despite their ornate appearance the design is practical and they tend to fit the hand very well. They also tend to be very strong and durable. 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
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.
Overall length: 32 cm / 25 inch
Blade length: 20 cm / 20.5 inch
Blade thickness: middle 3 mm, near tip 3.5 mm
Blade width: forte 36 mm, middle 27 mm, near tip 16 mm
Weight without scabbard: 330 grams
Origin: The Deccan, India
Materials: Iron, steel, silver.
Dating: 17th century
Provenance: European antique market
A charming chilanum dagger with classic, sculptural all-steel hilt. The blade of lenticular cross-section with very mild swelling near the tip. The guard oval and hollow on the blade side. Rising from the guard a structure resembling a gable roof, with bud-shaped protrusions on either end. The stem-shaped handle has a knob in the middle and an elegant splayed pommel, again with bud-shaped finials. So far all hallmarks of the Deccan variety of the chilanum dagger. At the very top is a knob that sits on four leaves, a rarer feature.
The handle further has a gracious knucklebow of pronounced S-shape with a bud finial at the end. Handle and langets show remains of silver inlays in floral and geometric motifs, see photos. The whole is only very lightly cleaned, retaining the original grey to black patina.
Arguably one of the most beautiful forms of daggers, chilanum are functional works of art. Here we have a very elegant and representable example of the Deccan chilanum. Many are overly cleaned, this one remains in original, untouched condition.