A fine bichwa dagger with gold decor | Peter Dekker's Mandarin Mansion: Antique Arms & Armor

A fine bichwa dagger with gold decor

A bichwa dagger with fine gold decorated handle

Introduction

Commonly called bichwa, but also bicchwa or bichhwa literally means "scorpion". The name most likely refers to the shape of the blade that resembles the sting of a scorpion. The bichwa consists of a loop handle that is designed to fit tightly around the palm of the hand, enabling the wielder to use the hand without having to drop the dagger, for example when engaging in wrestling.

Egerton quotes a source stating it was said to have been worn by common people in Mysore and Hyderabad, concealed within the sleeve within a sheath.1 Elgood states the shape of the dagger is meant to replicate the form of one of Vishnu's weapons, the noose. I don't necessarily agree with this assessment, as it is foremost a highly functional and ergonomic design once you know how to hold it. Elgood also mentions an ivory statuette of a seventeenth-century Madurai ruler with an ornate bichwa that seems to indicate they were accepted in the highest circles, and not only for commoners.2

Notes to introduction
1. Lord Egerton of Tatton: Indian and Oriental Arms and Armour. Dover Publications; Revised edition, 2002. Page 116.
2. Robert Elgood; Hindu arms and Ritual, Eburon Academic Publishers, Delft, 2004. Page 237. The statuette is located in the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India, Mumbai, accession number 66.4.


This example

Overall length: 31.4 cm / 12.4 inch
Blade length: 21.7 cm / 8.5 inch
Blade thickness: middle 3 mm, thickening near tip 6 mm
Blade width: forte 28.5 mm, middle 22 mm, thickening near tip 18.5 mm
Weight without scabbard: 142 grams

Origin: India
Materials: Iron, steel, gold.
Dating: 18th century

Provenance: From a European private collector

Description

A very fine bichwa dagger with dramatic curving blade of forge folded mechanical "damascus" steel, visible on the etched center panel while its edge bevels are polished bright. The quality blade is in excellent condition with crisp ridges, unharmed edges and even an intact tip.

The blade is riveted to an iron looped handle with a shield for the knuckles, designed to fit perfectly over the knuckles of the right hand, with the tip pointing downwards. The shield is of fine workmanship with well articulated center ridge. The entire iron handle is covered with very fine gold wire applied cold on a crosshatched background in the form of geometric designs and flowers. Almost all the gold remains, something that is rarely seen. On top of the handle is a mushroom-shaped finial with ribbed top.

While bichwa are primarily associated with southern India, the blade treatment with etched panel and burnished edges as well as the designs in gold on the handle are more akin to northern Indian aesthetics of the time. One rarely finds a dagger of this type, let alone in such a quality and condition.


Conclusion

A very good Indian bichwa dagger, lavishly decorated with fine gold wire, in excellent condition throughout.

€ 2600,-



Interested? Questions?
Contact peter@mandarinmansion.com

Proper grip for this type of bichwa:
Correct gripping of an Indian bichwa daggerCorrect gripping of an Indian bichwa dagger
Correct gripping of an Indian bichwa daggerCorrect gripping of an Indian bichwa dagger



Photo gallery:
A bichwa dagger with fine gold decorated handle

A bichwa dagger with fine gold decorated handle

A bichwa dagger with fine gold decorated handle

A bichwa dagger with fine gold decorated handle

A bichwa dagger with fine gold decorated handle

A bichwa dagger with fine gold decorated handle

A bichwa dagger with fine gold decorated handle

A bichwa dagger with fine gold decorated handle

A bichwa dagger with fine gold decorated handle

A bichwa dagger with fine gold decorated handle

A bichwa dagger with fine gold decorated handle

A bichwa dagger with fine gold decorated handle

A bichwa dagger with fine gold decorated handle

A bichwa dagger with fine gold decorated handle

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