This splendid example of a traditional Bhutanese dagger or kongdi maja is among the finest we have seen. Unusually, it has a thin, ‘stiletto’ blade.
The grip of the hilt comprises faceted parcel-gilded panels of pierced scrollwork. The pommel comprises more pierced scrollwork inset with turquoise cabochons on one side, and a pierced, honeycomb trellis on the other.
The superb scabbard comprises a fine, open-work parcel-gilt silver panels on the front and sides decorated with Himalayan dragons and Buddhistic symbols amid densely entwined foliate work. The panels are studded with small turquoise cabochons.
The back of the scabbard is covered within pierced silver borders with a gilded copper sheet that is engraved with scrolling foliate motifs.
A dagger of this quality would almost certainly have been made for a member of the Bhutanese nobility.
A related Bhutanese dagger is in the Wallace Collection, London (inventory no. 1684). The catalogue detailing the Wallace Collection’s oriental arms and armour collection describes the Collection’s example as a ‘short dirk’ attributed to the mid-sixteenth century. This dating might seem ambitious, although it should be noted that the Wallace Collection was formed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries during which time the Collection’s Bhutanese dagger joined the collection. It almost certainly was already quite old by the time it joined the collection, judging by its patina and condition.
The example here is an excellent example of a Bhutanese dagger being of the highest quality. It is rare to come across such a dagger of this quality and complexity.
Laking, G.F., Oriental Arms and Armour: Wallace Collection Catalogues, 1964.
LaRocca, D.J., Warriors of the Himalayas: Rediscovering the Arms and Armor of Tibet, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2006.
Myers, D., and S. Bean (eds), From the Land of the Thunder Dragon: Textile Arts of Bhutan, Serindia, 1994.