A FINE COORG GOLD-HILTED KNIFE (AYDA KATTI), THE POMMEL WITH AN INSCRIPTION FOR LING RAJENDER WADEER, RAJA OF COORG, DATED FOR 1808/10
with broad hatchet-shaped blade formed with a sharp curved inner edge, struck on one face with a gold-lined mark, the letters 'oC', knurled back-edged at the top, the forte widening and filed with a stepped moulding along the back-edge, recessed ricasso with elaborate stepped and bead-filed mouldings, hilt of characteristic form encased in sheet gold, the lower portion faceted at the base, thick pear-shaped pommel engraved with the inscription 'Lingra Jender Wadeer' within a circular linear frame enclosing the Raja's cypher and the date, the grip bound with plaited gold wire retained by four slender vertical gold fillets, with an early, probably original, black silk tassel
37.0 cm; 14 1/2 in blade
The descendant family of Sir William Macnaghten
Ling Rajender Wadeer, Raja Of Coorg was known for his warmth towards the English as the following account of 1815 shows: '………on my return from the Travancore country, I passed through the territories of the Raja of Coorg from whom I met with a very hospital reception. He is extremely fond of the English; assists them in every way in passing through his country and will not suffer them to pay for anything. He has built an elegant house at his capital, and furnished it entirely in European style for their accommodation…..He dresses frequently in the English style; and instead of indulging in luxury and dissipation, as Eastern princes are apt to do, he has made it his study to excel in all sorts of manly exercises. He is extremely fond of hunting…..rides elegantly and is perfect master of the use of the spear…..I have repeatedly seen him on horseback…..spear an orange thrown up in the air. I passed some days with him…..employed chiefly in the truly Royal sport of tyger and elephant hunting. On taking leave him he presented me among other things with a knife made at Coorg, and of remarkably well tempered steel….. being ornamented with gold…..is for men of the highest caste…..the Raja has brought the manufacture of swords and guns to great perfection…..he showed me a double-barrelled Joe Manton and an imitation of it made at Coorg…..they were so perfectly similar in every respect that I really could not tell them [apart].See Scots Magazine 1815 p. 207-8. Some years later Basil Hall recounted his somewhat impish sense of humour: '…..[the next day]…..on a signal given by the rajah a folding door was thrown open on one side of the court, and in stalked two immense royal tigers, held by several men on each side, by long but slight ropes attached to collars round the animals necks. These beasts…..allowed themselves to be led close to us. I confess I did not much like this degree of propinquity, and eyed the slender cordage with some professional anxiety…..the rajah and his son seemed quite unconcerned…..[he then] directed the men to let go the ropes and fall back…..we sat…..with…..nothing on earth to prevent their munching us all up…..' See Hall 1845
Sir William Hay Macnaghten, baronet (1793-1841) joined the Madras army as a cavalry cadet at which time he filled his hours learning Persian and Hindi, followed by Tamil, Telugu, Kanarese, and Marathi. He learned the art of diplomacy and gained a place in the Bengal civil service, his diligence and cleverness easily marked him out as one of the most distinguished students at the college of Fort William where he won every linguistic prize and medal on the college's books. His two monumental works, Principles and Precedents of Mohummudan Law (1825) and Principles and Precedents of Hindu Law (2 vols., 1828-9) were both significant and used as handbooks by generations of British-Indian judges. In 1831 Macnaghten's became secretary to the governor-general Lord William Bentinck and later Lord Auckland. The crisis on the north-western frontier was now looming and Macnaghten argued that the British should befriend Afghanistan to counter balance the Sikhs, believing that Ranjit Singh the erstwhile ally and aged ruler of the Punjab, could not live for much longer. Unfortunately his plans failed, the British position became untenable. Muhammad Akbar Khan claimed the British, particularly Macnaghten, were not to be trusted and summoned him to an exposed plain outside Kabul. Almost certainly aware that his fate was now sealed, Macnaghten attended the interview accompanied only by three officer's. On arrival they were seized and carried into the city to their deaths. Akbar Khan himself shot Macnaghten with a pistol given to him by the envoy the day before, whereupon angry city residents hacked his body to pieces and paraded his head and limbs in triumph. Days later, the entire garrison met a similar fate: retreating to Jalalabad, some 4000 soldiers and numerous camp followers were wiped out by freezing weather and snipers. Abridged from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, accessed online September 2018.
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