With its rich heritage of royals and home to brave warriors, our country’s connection to its indigenous weaponry craft is undeniable. The legacy of crafting weapons by deft and skilled artisans for the erstwhile kings and their trusted chiefs for wars has been a flourishing profession in India. In the next few paragraphs you shall be introduced to the spectacular weapon art from the valorous Rajputs of Udaipur.
Koftgiri is a popular cultural craft of Rajasthan, which can be traced back to the Mughal era, who were adept in koftgiri. Later on the Sikligar community restored it and brought it to Chittorgarh. Later on it was passed on to the karigars of Udaipur, where the fifth generation is still indulged in this craft. Koftgiri is a method of adorning the arms and weapons through beating work. It has its roots in India as it was incubated by the Mughals for adding embellishment to their personal swords. It can be both an inlay and overlay art. Inlaying is the technique of beating the design or pattern into iron. Or this can also be known as designing the weapons creatively.
With the advent of Koftgiri 500-600 years ago, the Sikligar community handcrafted fine and intricate arms for Mughal and Rajput soldiers, but, with the under the huge patronage of Rajasthan rulers, the art rapidly shifted to Udaipur where it flourished afterwards.
It initiated when kings used to commission the decoration of their weapons’ handles to artisans who would creatively create unique labyrinth pattern to impress the king. The kings who gave patronage were impressed only if they came across a new design which they have never seen before. And this led to the commencement of the splendid craft of carving on weapons.
As it was labour intensive and time taking, both men and women were employed in this craft. While the men handled the laborious work of inlaying, women handled the lighter work of material making, adding the finishing touch and packaging. The craft of damascening was bought to this country by Persian craftsmen after Mughal ruler’s invasion in 16th century. This technique afterwards became the legacy craft of Sikligar Community who are still involved in the craft of making swords, weapons and knives.
The majestic motifs of this art are authentic and are Indian in its form. It constitutes of plenty of linear and curvilinear designs which are carved using Gold and Silver wire. This is the most distinguishing feature of the sword craft. The basic raw materials are sourced from karkhana at Ajmer and Bhilwara and then manually beaten into desired forms using the required tools.
The most spectacular fact about this art is that there is no involvement of machineries in this process and it is still practised in the same old form, that is, by using only hand by adept craftsmen. Originally this craft was carved on handles of knives and daggers.
But in modern times, exemplary contemporary versions of koftgiri can be witnessed exclusive cutlery, hunting knives and even decorative curios.