Believed to bestow victory on its owner, jade as a medium was favoured by the Mughal emperors as seen in the variety of cups, dishes, boxes, as well as hilts of daggers and swords of this period.
Emperor Jahangir was a great lover of nature, and the jade fashioned during his period is richly ornamented with representations of flora and fauna. He describes various animals and birds in his memoirs, Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri. Among these were varieties of goats and sheep. At one place, he notes a kind of sheep called Rang, which caught his attention because of the ram’s curved horns, such as the one depicted in this hilt. The head of the ram provided a suitable decoration for the hilts of small arms such as the dagger, as the apt shape provided an excellent grip. Such hilts are called meshamukhi (ram’s head).
The craftsman of this hilt is perfectly at ease with his medium and has been able to depict all the important features of the animal including the small beard, round eyes, upturned ears, and beautifully textured and curved horns, balancing the rhythm of the curved blade. The blade is of watered steel, and richly ornamented with gold damascening on its ricasso.
It may be noted that the hilts of daggers and swords were made separately and attached later to blades according to the user’s choice.
Sir Ratan Tata Art Collection.
Arms and Armour
Steel blade with gold damascene and jade hilt
Late 17th Century CE
Length 35.5 cm