An important Dagger (Khanjar) with the blade inscribed to the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (reg. 1628-1657) Akbarabad (Agra), dated AH 1039/ AD 1629-30(2)
Lot 271
An important Dagger (Khanjar) with the blade inscribed to the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (reg. 1628-1657) Akbarabad (Agra), dated AH 1039/ AD 1629-30(2)
Sold for £1,700,000 (US$ 2,821,272) inc. premium
Lot Details
An important Dagger (Khanjar) with the blade inscribed to the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (reg. 1628-1657)
Akbarabad (Agra), dated AH 1039/ AD 1629-30
with curving, watered steel and tapering blade, swollen at the tip, double-edged with a central ridge, gold koftgari decoration on either side below the forte consisting of a cartouche bearing two long narrow rectangular panels, each flanked by four-lobed cartouches, all containing fine inscriptions in nasta'liq, the contours with small flowerheads, two borders with continuous undulating floral motifs, the pointed cartouche terminating with a flowerhead surmounted by a miniature trefoil from which rises a parasol, the blade with watered steel extension at the forte, the brown and white sardonyx hilt, its grip waisted and faceted, the leather-covered scabbard embossed with vertical floral bands, the borders of the silver mounts cut and pierced with a multi-lobed and trefoil design, the chape with bud finial
blade 20.5 cm. long; 40.8 cm. long including scabbard(2)


  • Estimate on Request

    Acquired in London, 1962.

    L’Art Iranien dans les Collections Belges, Musée du Cinquantenaire, Brussels, 10th November until 19th December 1971.
    Exposition de L’Art ancien de L’Iran et son Rayonnement a Braine L’Alleud, Maison Communale, 31st August to 16th September 1973.

    Shah Jahan (1592-1666)

    This extraordinary dagger seems to be the second known personal dagger of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (reg. 1628-57). Relatively few personal objects of Shah Jahan have survived. With its high quality and complete inscription, the present lot is an important addition to this small corpus and is the earliest dated piece.

    Shah Jahan was born Prince Khurram Shihab al-Din Muhammad in 1592 in Lahore, the third and favourite son of the Mughal emperor Jahangir, and was later titled Shah Jahan or King of the World in 1627. His reign was called the Golden Age of the Mughals and the empire experienced its greatest period of prosperity and stability. Under his rule, Mughal artistic and architectural achievements reached their zenith. He was a patron of the fine arts and continued to foster the Mughal tradition of painting, and was also a prolific builder with a highly refined aesthetic. Great monuments from his reign include the Taj Mahal and the Pearl Mosque at Agra, the Divan-e 'Am, the Divan-e Khas, the Jami’ and Moti mosques and the Palace in Delhi, and the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore. He also created the fabled Peacock Throne, or Takht-e Tawus, to celebrate his rule.

    Weaponry in the Mughal Period

    By Shah Jahan’s time weapons were no longer only for warfare: they had become great works of art in their own right, being decorated with enamels, precious metals and stones. Mughal princes, nobles and high officials were honoured regularly by the emperor with daggers, knives and swords, which were worn as symbols of a wearer’s status, as seen in the illustrated Padshah-nama in the Windsor Library. The most common types being the khatar or push-dagger and khanjar with its curved blade, similar to the present lot. An etiquette of weaponry also developed concerning whether it was permitted to wear a weapon or not. For example, it was considered inappropriate for the emperor or a prince to wear a dagger while visiting or receiving individual holy men, even though we are told Shah Jahan wore a dagger when honouring his religious orthodoxy, and his sons and courtiers were also fully armed.

    The Inscription and the Dagger

    The inscriptions, in gold of two shades, consist of:

    In the long panels:

    khanjar-e shahanshah-e din-parvar-e giti setan
    shah-e ghazi thani saheb-qeran shah-e jahan
    hast manand-e mah-e naw liken az nur-e zafar
    mikonad chon tigh-e khur giti foruzi javdan

    'The dagger of the king of kings, the defender of religion and conqueror of the world. The conqueror king, the second Lord of happy conjunction, Shah Jahan, is like the new moon, but out of its shining triumphs, it makes the world shine eternally like the rays of the Sun.'

    In the four-lobed cartouches:

    ya allah/ya fattah/ya mu'in/ya nasir

    'Oh God! O the Ever-opener (of all gates)! O the Aider! O the Helper!'

    be-dar al-khalafa/akbar abad/surat-e etmam yaft/sana 2 jolus/1039

    'It was completed in the capital Akbar-Abad in the regnal year 2. 1039 (1629-30).'

    The inscription on the blade is the most detailed of all the inscriptions found on any of the known group of Shah Jahan's personal objects. It contains the Emperor's name, his title, and the place and date of the dagger's manufacture. The blade also depicts the parasol, an emblem found on blades from the imperial army and those of princes, which signified the dome of heaven, and which when carried above the head of a ruler symbolised his exalted state and his role between God and more ordinary mortals.

    Born under the most auspicious astrological circumstances – the conjunction of the two planets Jupiter and Venus – he was known throughout his life as the Second Lord of the Auspicious Conjunction, the first having been his ancestor Timur, whom Shah Jahan was keen to emulate.

    Based on the dates given, i.e. second regnal year 1039 (which covers the period between 29th August 1629 and 21st January 1630) and the fact that the blade was made in Akbarabad, it is possible to suggest the occasion for which it was made, namely of Shah Jahan's 39th birthday, which fell on 3rd Jumadi II 1039 (17th January 1630). According to Muhammad Salih, after the Emperor's weighing ceremony to commemorate this birthday, Shah Jahan and his court left Akbarabad (Agra), which was the imperial capital and they moved towards Burhanpur in the Deccan (Muhammad Salij Kanbu, Shah Jahan Nama, Lahore 1958, p. 279). They did not return to Akbarabad until 16th June 1632, the year after the death of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal.

    The refinement of script and delicacy of the floral decoration in two-toned gold are of imperial quality, and it fair to assume that the blade was made at the royal workshop or karkhanas in Akbarabad. It was a tradition in the Mughal armoury to re-use blades and to fit them to other hilts, particularly such important pieces. Two modern silver fittings had been placed at the forte of the blade and these were removed by a professional conservator, which revealed that this particular lot had been adapted in the Mughal period and a watered steel extension fitted to the top of the blade. This work shows great skill with delicate details being added that would have been unseen to the wearer. This upper section with tang was attached to the top of the Shah Jahan blade with four pins, which were tight and caused cracks in the extension and have now been replaced to prevent further damage. A natural resin was found on the tang and in the drilled receptacle within the hilt, and also on the join between the two steels. The lot is accompanied by an X Ray, CT Scan and the conservator’s full report, all recently carried out in London prior to the auction.

    The hilt is made of sardonyx, a type of agate used for its decorative, multi-layered aesthetic. Sardonyx and other types of agate were popular in the Mughal court and it was often used in the production of cameos, for instance one depicting Shah Jahan and datable to the period 1630-40, sold through these rooms (Bonhams, Islamic and Indian Art, 1st May 2003, lot 380). In the tradition of the Mughal courts, Shah Jahan was trained in the art of hard stone carving and had a great appreciation of this medium. In Jacques Desenfans' opinion, the hilt was original to the dagger and was chosen specifically because of its similarity to the Emperor’s favourite horse, a piebald.

    The scabbard is covered with embossed leather with a cloud band resembling Timurid work, while the plain silver fittings with pierced decorations are found in both Persian and Mughal arms of the period.

    Shah Jahan Objects

    The only other known personal dagger of Shah Jahan is in a private collection and has been exhibited several times. It has a jade hilt in the form of a human head, the blade inscribed sahib-qiran-e thani 2 and is attributable to the period 1620-30 (Robert Skelton et al., The Indian Heritage. Court Life and Arts under Mughal Rule, Exhibition Catalogue, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 21st April – 22nd August 1982, p. 128, no. 406).

    Other known pieces inscribed to Shah Jahan include:
    an archer’s ring dated AH 1040/ AD 1631 in the Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad (M. L. Nigam, Jade Collection in the Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad, 1989, fig. 29)
    a jade amulet dated AH 1041/ AD 1631-32 in Museum of Islamic Art, Qatar (S. Al Khemir, From Cordoba to Samarqand: Masterpieces from the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Paris, 2006, pp. 92-5)
    a white jade archer’s ring dated AH 1042/ AD 1632 in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, (Skelton et al., 1982, p. 118, no. 355)
    a sword with blade dated AH 1047/ AD 1637-8 sold at Sotheby’s (Arts of the Islamic World, 24th October 2007, lot 246)
    a jade amulet dated AH 1047/ AD 1637-38 in the Al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait (Manuel Keene with Salam Kaoukji, Treasures of the World. Jewelled Arts in the Age of the Mughals, London, 2001, p. 32, no. 2.4)
    a tulwar in the Nasser D. Khalili Collection (David Alexander, The Arts of War, The Nasser D. Khalili Collection, Vol XXI, London, 1992, no. 128)
    a nephrite jade drinking cup dated AH 1057/ AD 1647-48 in the British Museum, London, (Skelton 1982, pp. 118-19, no. 355a)
    and a white jade wine cup dated AH 1067/ AD 1657 in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (Skelton, 1982, p. 118-19, no. 356).
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