Silambam Academy

Dagger ( Kuttuval / Kattari )..

— Introduction

Silambam Indian Martial Arts Images Graphics 1

Dagger ( Kuttuval / Kattari )

Dagger ( Kuttuval / Kattari )


The katar or katara ( Sanskrit : कट्टार kaţāra or kaţārī, Hindi : कटार kaṭāra or kaṭāri, Punjabi : kaṭǎrǎ, Marathi: Kātyāra, Malayalam : katāram, Tamil தமிழ் : கட்டாரி kaţţāri or குத்துவாள் kuttuvāḷ ) is a type of push dagger from India. A katar (devanaagarii: कटार = kataar), is a type of short punching sword that is native to the Indian Subcontinent and popular elsewhere for swift and quick attacks. The weapon is characterised by its H-shaped horizontal hand grip which results in the blade sitting above the user's knuckles. This makes it a very effective punching weapon. It is described by some people an "ancestor" of the Hidden Blade. Unique to South Asia, it is the most famous and characteristic of Indian daggers. Ceremonial katar were also used in worship.


The katar originated in Tamil Nadu where its original name was kattari before being altered to katara (romanized as "katar" by the British) in the north. The earliest forms occur in the medieval Dakhin kingdom of Vijayanagara. The Rajput resistance against the Islamic invaders and the Mughals saw an extensive use of the katar, after which the Mughals also started using the weapon. Katar dating back to this period often had a leaf- or shell-like knuckle-guard to protect the back of the hand, but this was discarded by the later half of the 17th century. The Maratha gauntlet sword or pata is thought [who?] to have been developed from the katar. As the weapon spread throughout India it became something of a status symbol, much like the Southeast Asian kris or the Japanese katana. Among the Rajputs, princes and nobles were often portrayed wearing a katar at their side. This was not only a precaution for self-defense, but it was also meant to show their wealth and position. Rajputs and upper-class Mughals would even hunt tigers with katar. For a hunter to kill a tiger with such a short-range weapon was considered the surest sign of bravery and martial skill.

From the 16th century onwards, katar were often made from broken sword-blades. Even old imported European blades were used, especially by the Maratha Empire, and were riveted to projections from the hilt. After India was colonised by the British, numerous katar were made for the European collectors' market which placed little value on functionality. Among these were the scissors katar with two or three blades that folded together, appearing to be one, until the handle bars were pressed together, when they opened out. These novelty weapons were popular among foreigners but were impractical in actual combat. For example, the blades couldn't be opened after they are thrust into an opponent's body. More importantly, if they were wielded with the blades opened, all the force of the blow would have to be absorbed by the hinge-pins at the root of the blades.

In another modern katar design, single-shot pistols are built into either side of the weapon. In the 18th century, some traditional katar were refurbished with this innovation. The pistols are meant to deal the killing blow after the katar has been thrust into the enemy. Like most combination weapons, the effectiveness of the pistol-katar is doubtful. The katar ceased to be in common use by the 19th century, though they were still forged for decorative purposes. During the 18th century and 19th century, a distinctive group of katar were produced at Bundi in Rajasthan. They were ornately crafted and their hilts were covered in gold foil. These katar were shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851 in Crystal Palace, London. Since then, the weapon has sometimes been mistakenly referred to in English as a "Bundi dagger".


Typically, katars were used in close range hand-to-hand combat, which is effective in armour piercing. The blade was often folded or corrugated for additional strength. Some knives have a mechanism responsible for making the blades split. This happens when the user pulls the hand grips together. In this variety of katar, two hand grips are used, so that the mechanism can be activated. This feature was often used to inflict a greater damage to the enemy, having the blades splitting inside of them and slashing their insides. "Hooded katars" are katars with a shield extending over the back of the user's hand. Katars ceased to be in common use in the 19th century.

The basic katar has a short, wide, triangular blade. Its peculiarity lies in the handle which is made up of two parallel bars connected by two or more cross-pieces, one of which is at the end of the side bars and is fastened to the blade. The remainder forms the handle which is at right angle to the blade. Some handles have long arms extending across the length of the user's forearm. The handle is generally of all-steel construction and is forged in one piece together with the blade.

The blade, typically measuring 1–3 feet in length, is usually cut with a number of fullers. Most katar have straight blades, but in south India they are commonly wavy. South Indian blades are often made broad at the hilt and taper in straight lines to the point, and elaborately ribbed by grooves parallel to the edges. Occasionally the blades are slightly curved, making them suited for slashing attacks. Some blades are forked into two points, which would later develop into the scissors katar.

The force of a katar thrust could be so great that many blades were thickened at the point to prevent them from bending or breaking. This also strengthened their use against mail. All katar with thickened tips are commonly described as "armour-piercing", but it's likely that only narrow and slender blades made this function possible. Such a weapon was capable of piercing textile, mail, and even plate armor. This quality was preferred for warfare, where an opponent was more likely to be armor-clad, as opposed to single combat.

The Indian nobility often wore ornamental katar as a symbol of their social status. The hilts may be covered in enamel, gems, or gold foil. Similarly, figures and scenes were chiselled onto the blade. Sheathes, generally made from watered-steel, were sometimes pierced with decorative designs. The heat and moisture of India's climate made steel an unsuitable material for a dagger sheath, so they were covered in fabric such as velvet or silk. Some katar served as a sheath to fit one or two smaller ones inside.

Type of Daggers
IMAGE : Type of Daggers

Silambam Weapon Katar 1
IMAGE : Ornamental Katara ( कटार ), Machette or Katara with a carving of
the Hindu God, Hanumana ( Hanuman ), National Museum, New Delhi - India.

Silambam Weapon Katar 2
IMAGE : Ornamental Katara ( कटार ), Machette or Katara

Silambam Weapon Katar 3
IMAGE : Ornamental Katara ( कटार ), Machette or Katara

Silambam Weapon Katar 4
IMAGE : Ornamental Katara ( कटार ), Machette or Katara

Silambam Weapon Katar 5
IMAGE : Ornamental Katara ( कटार ), Machette or Katara

Body Armor
IMAGE : AN INDIAN CARVED AND GOLD DAMASCENED STEEL SUIT OF ARMOUR, NORTH INDIA, LATE 18TH CENTURY. Comprising a helmet ( khula khud ), mail coat with four solid plates ( char-i aina ) and two armguards ( bazuband ), the helmet of typical form with very finely worked mail veil, the surface engraved with scrolling tendrils issuing iris flowerheads, a band of fine gold damascened floral meander below, the char-i aina and bazubands decorated en suite, the bazubands also with cloth mittens originally covered with red velvet with a lattice design worked in brass rivets, damages to cloth and mail coat helmet 20in ( 51cm ) high including veil.


The Katar is used for punching stabs to opponents, and is effective due to its speed and penetrating power. The sides of the H-shaped handle could also be used to block. It was designed to be able to pierce the armor used in Asia. The Rajput sometimes used two katar simultaneously, wielding them in both hands.

Silambam Weapon Katari Roadshow

The Katar had many variants, one notable one being the Jamadhar Katar, or "scissor katar", which was shown in the show. This variant had blades that would fan out, which would be used to surprise or disarm opponents. Later models of Katar would sometimes include two single-shot pistols in the hilt.

Because the katar's blade is in line with the user's arm, the basic attack is a direct thrust identical to a punch, although it could also be used for slashing. This design allows the fighter to put their whole weight into a thrust. Typical targets include the head and upper body, similar to boxing. The sides of the handle could be used for blocking but it otherwise has little defensive capability. As such, the wielder must be agile enough to dodge the opponent's attacks and strike quickly, made possible because of the weapon's light weight and small size. Indian martial arts in general make extensive use of agility and acrobatic maneuvers. As far back as the 16th century, there was at least one fighting style which focused on fighting with a pair of katar, one in each hand.

Aside from the basic straight thrust, other techniques include the reverse thrust, reverse flipped pierce, inwards side slashing, outwards side slashing, cobra coiled thrust, and tiger claw pierce performed by jumping towards the opponent.


Data Arrangement, Technical Arrangement & Graphics
Master Murugan Chillayah - Silambam Academy
Master Murugan Chillayah (2012). Founder of Silambam.ASIA & Silambam Academy (Singapore) -Qualified Silambam Instructor & Certified Yogi RYT-500.