Jamadhar Katari Kafir

Jamadhar Katari (Afghanistan)

Code:  IP18

This is a relatively rare, 19th century Jamadhar Katari  that is made only in the southern part of the Hindu Kush valleys near the border with Pakistan, an area known today as Nurestan (Nuristan, Nooristan). This dagger is broad at the base and slightly curved, the brass hilt formed with a cross-grip.  It is very similar in appearance to the Chilanum with a broad flat pommel with an equal size cross guard.  Unlike the Chilanum which is cast as one piece, the jamadhar katari’s blade is pinned to the guard and is sharp on only one side, not both sides.  The balustered grip on the hilt, downward drooping quillons and pommel reflect both Persian and Afghan palupar characteristics, which says much about the history of the weapon and those who made it.  This dagger is 12 inches long in the scabbard, 10 7/8 inches long in total with a blade that is 6 1/2 inches long and 1 inch wide. Men wear these as a status symbol much liked jambiya are worn in the mid east countries such as Yemen. The Jamadhar Katari appears far from its origin in the Hindu Kush area, including portions of India and even Nepal.

Jamadhar Katari (Afghanistan) blade detail

The jamadhar katari is attributed to the Kafir people (also known as Kalash, Nuristani, Nuri), an ethnic group located in the southern part of the Hindu Kush valleys, just across the border from Chitral, Pakistan. Today, this is a region of Afghanistan known historically as Kafiristan and today as Nurestan (Nuristan, Nooristan).

The history of the Kalash/Karfirs is most interesting. They are said to be descendants of an old Indian population that used to occupy the region and did not convert to Islam with the rest of the population. They sometimes claim to be descended from Alexander the Great who passed through the area; he only subdued the Kafirs after a great struggle. Their physical appearance is quite distinct from the Pashtun tribes in Afghanistan, for example, which may lend their claim some credence.

Until they were forcefully converted to Islam around 1895 by Emir Abdur Rahman Khan, the people of the region practiced an ancient Indo-Iranian polytheistic religion. Non-Muslim practices endure today as folk customs.  The word "Kafir" is derived from the ancient Sanskrit name of the region that included historic Kafiristan.  This may in turn relate to the Arabic word "Kufr", which means not only to disbelieve but also to blaspheme.  Its derivative "Kafir" means one who commits blasphemy.  Today, the people are known as Nuristanis to outsiders although they do not have a formal tribal structure such as the Pashtun's.  Instead, they designate themselves by the names of the local regions where they live.

There is much debate about the origin of the name and in fact which name is “correct” (jamadhar, jandad, jamdhar, jumdud). The spelling jamdhar seems to indicate Hindi origin yet “Jamdar” may also be a Persian word with the suggested etymology of janb-dar, that is, 'flank render.' An alternative theory is that "jamdhar" is an evolution of the words "Yama" (Lord of death to Hindus) and "Daushtra" (tooth, in Sanskrit). This became "Yama+Dadh", Jamdhad, and now "Jamdhar". In support of this derivation, the word "katar" was originally termed "jamdhar" and loosely translated as "tooth of death." The term "katar" is now applied generally to transverse grip "push" daggers.