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19th C. Indian Khanjar with ruby kundun eyes خنجر

( ID: id800 )

This piece, extending 13 inches in length, is an exemplary 19th century Indian khanjar or janbiya dagger of intrigue. The handle is carved likely from alabaster or perhaps some type of marble, with kundun gold and ruby inlaid eyes.  The blade ostensibly features a damascus pattern with fine carving, echoing a Middle Eastern style.  Research suggests that this dagger originates from the west coast of India underscoring the influence of monsoon trade routes.

Monsoon trade routes extended from the Red Sea to Japan as well as featured local routes reaching modern day Indonesia.  The commercial trade along these route brought not only goods and services but spread religious faiths like Islam and Hinduism.  The Indian Ocean features monsoon weather patterns that facilitated transportation.  For example, an indi-vidual seeking to enter Africa or Indonesia would go south on the winter monsoon and re-turn north with the summer monsoon.

Up through the seventeenth century, the Mughal emperors had relied on a complex network of local princes to administer their lands. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, these princes were forced to switch allegiance to the British East India Company, which was rapidly replacing the Mughals as the main power in northern India.  

By pledging their support to the British, the royal were able to maintain their position in society. The Mughals managed to remain in power in much the same fashion until 1858, when rule of India passed from the East India Company to the queen of England. After the government of India was taken over by the British monarchy, these princely states were restructured into three ranks according to size and power, and were accorded different levels of jurisdiction over their populations.

-  Sardar, Marika. "The Art of the Mughals after 1600". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art His-tory. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000

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