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Inscribed, Chiselled Steel Punch Dagger or Katar with European Blade

Sri Lanka or South India
16th-17th century

length: 63.1cm, width: 9cm, weight: 617g



from the collection of Sir Christopher Ondaatje, UK.

This long, 17th century punch or push dagger (katar) has a handle or grip that has been fashioned from a single piece of chiselled steel. The blade is a cut-down sword blade, probably of European origin, that has been inserted into the grip and riveted in place. According to Stone (1961 , p. 344), ‘European blades of the 16th and 17th centuries were often used, especially by the Mahrattas.’

Inscriptions are visible on both sides of the blade near the hilt. The engraving is now faint but possibly is most probably in Sinhalese.

The steel blade is double-edged, and with multiple fullers.

The side bars of the grip are decorated with raised and punched edging.

The two cross bars are of baluster form. There is one small column support between them; the other is defficient.

The katar has an overall fine patina and very clear age.

Traditionally, katars were used as a weapon to pierce through chain mail. They were worn by men in their waist bands.

This katar is from the collection of Sir Christopher Ondaatje. Ondaatje is of Sinhalese and Dutch ancestry and was born in Sri Lanka (or Ceylon as it was known) in 1933. A businessman, writer and Olympian, he is the older brother of author Michael Ondaatje, author of The English Patient, among many works.


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

Hales, R., Islamic and Oriental Arms and Armour: A Lifetime’s Passion, Robert Hale CI Ltd, 2013.

Stone, G.C., A Glossary of the Construction, Decoration and Use of Arms and Armor in all Countries and in all Times, first published in 1934, Jack Brussel, 1961.

Weereratne, N., Visions of an Island: Rare works from Sri Lanka in the Christopher Ondaatje Collection, Harper Collins, 1999.

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