3142

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Nepalese Ram Dao Sacrifice Knife

Kathmandu Valley, Nepal
19th century

length: 49.5cm

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Provenance

private collection

This elaborate sword – a ram dao – from the Kathmandu Valley, is for sacrificing animals. It is for severing their necks or to entirely decapitate their heads as part of ceremonies designed to appease the Hindu goddess Kali. (Human sacrifices to Kali were abandoned in Nepal in the 18th century.)

It is a fine example of a ram dao sword. The blade, in steel, is finely engraved with floral and geometric bands and inlaid with brass on both sides with an ‘eye’ and eyebrow. A bird, perhaps a peacock or a hamsa (sacred swan) is depicted on both sides. The trisula is a symbol of Kali, the goddess of destruction.

The handle is of wood with brass mounts. The handle is capped with an attractive brass finial.

Such blades were made and used by the Newar people, the indigenous people of the Kathmandu Valley, although today, they account for less than 6% of Nepal’s total population. Around 80% are Hindu, and most of the remainder are Buddhists.

Overall, this is a very fine example. It has great presence and is highly decorative. It is has obvious age, is complete, and is free of repairs.

References

Elgood, R., Hindu Arms and Ritual: Arms and Armour from India 1400-1865, Eburon, 2004.

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