The Ain-i Akbari manuscript, a part of the Akbarnama volumes written by Abu’l-Fazl in 1621 documents various weapons used in the Mughal era.
Among the weapons described is the Jamdhar or straight-edged dagger.
Jamdhars have handles so that they may be held firmly in the fist at the time of attack and may have 1, 2 or 3 points.
The manuscript is a monumental work that offers historical evidence and can captivate students of history for years.
But why am I addressing this topic here?
Because this weapon has made its way into Indian textiles a few centuries ago!!?!
I have been perplexed by this question ever since I laid my eyes on this motif in Phulkari Bagh embroideries. Created in the Punjab region of undivided India, these textiles are tokens of love and symbols of protection created by the mother, aunts and grandmothers of a girl over a period of a ozen years or more and gifted to a bride at her wedding.
So why would these gentle loving sweet maternal figures embroider a motif that is so antithetic to the spirit of the textile?
I have yet to find answers. And a future trip to Punjab and long chats with old ladies is probably the most efficient way to get these.
The simplest answer would be that these are not motifs of weapons – but some other thing entirely such as wheat pods or flames or some marriage / family/ fertility related elements! Who knows!
Such an answer would put my mind at rest.
But in the meanwhile I cannot help but stare at the pictures of some of these rare textiles and note how similar they are to the Jamdhars depicted in the Ain-i Akbari.
[While I am no expert on weapons, it appears that the Khanjar [which is another term used to address these Baghs] is curved while the weapon that looks like our motif is the Jamdhar]
Until I meet with knowledgeable grandmas, the creators, who might be able to quench my curiosity – this question will remain. Much like a tiny dagger in the heart.
If any reader has any information please share it so that we nay all learn about this fantastic cultural art from the past!
Detailed images of the textiles shown above may be seen here on the wovensouls.com website.