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Parrot Head Hilt

Mughal: 18th Century CE
Jade, semi-precious stones and gold
Size: (Ht.) 12.8 cm

Arms belonging to the emperors and person of high status in the court are usually found to have been worked out with decorative details and were not usually made to the used in combat. While attending a court, king and the courtiers of high status used to carry such decorated arms as credentials. The presentation of bejeweled and ornately decorated swords and daggers and some such weapons to the distinguished persons in recognition to their service to the royalty was considered as an epoch making events especially during the grand Mughals. This tradition was maintained for countries that prompted the traditional craftsmen of India to manufacture beautiful swords and daggers with aesthetically pleasing designs, engravings and inlaying along with their more fascinating hilts. These examples testify the skill, expertise and professional acumen for our craftsmen of medieval India. There is hardly any miniature painting in India painted between 16th and 19th Century and showing a court scene where courtiers are not endowed with Shamshir, Khanjar (dagger) and other different arms. Arms have been embellished with geometrical and arabesque designs showing interlaced foliate scrolls. These floral designs included representations of the lily, lotus and rose. Figures of birds were also used for such embellishment, particularly indigenous ones such as the peacock and the parrot. The hilts of swords and daggers wares fashioned from all manner of materials, such as gold, silver, copper, crystal, jade, ivory, horn and cut steel. They were all lavish decorated and were shaped like the head of a parrot, horse, lion, elephant, goat, ram, camel and many other animals. This light green color jade hilt is beautifully carved into a shape of a parrot’s head complete with beak and eyes. It is studded with red, white and green semi-precious stones (some of them are missing). The wings of the parrot are highlighted with the inlaid gold wires. It can be assigned to an imperial artist-craftsman. The curved shape, called a pistol grip, originated in the Deccan and first appeared in Mughal paintings probably during the reign of Shah Jahan. After Aurangzeb had established a vogue for them, pistol-grip hilts became common at the Mughal court during the late seventeenth and the eighteenth century; some of them archaistically repeat the original parrot design.

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