Bhutan Dagger

CA13 Bhutan Dagger

Code: CA13

Here we have a beautiful example of a short sword from Bhutan, possibly a "patag".  Hilt, pommel and scabbard likely date to late 18th - early 19th century.  The well-forged blade seems newer, possibly late 19th to mid 20th century.  This type of Bhutanese sword is sometimes also found in southern and eastern Tibet (north of Bhutan) where it is referred to as a "ral gri".  This sword bears a strong resemblance to a Bhutanese sword found in the Marishal Museum, University of Aberdeen (ABDUA:56788).

The dagger or short sword is an essential part of male dress with rich symbolic significance in Tibetan Buddhism, shared in Bhutan, where it represents the ability to cut through spiritual ignorance. When not used for spiritual purposes, it has the other utilities one expects of an edged weapon.  This may be a ceremonial sword, the long versions of which are referred to as a "patag" by the Bhutanese.  Patag symbolizes authority and recognition of high honor. While the longer patags are no longer made in Bhutan, knives and short swords continue the legacy of fine metalwork.

The total length of this example is 16 inches, with a blade measuring 11 ¾ inches.

CA13 Pommel Side 1

The pommel ("gubor") is of distinctive Bhutan design with lozenge/saddle shape, with intricate pierced, embossed and engraved designs on guilded silver. The gilt remaining is only recognizable under a magnifying glass.  On one side, the carved and pierced design is honeycomb in shape and between the holes one may discern minute carvings of uncertain motif. On the reverse, a geometric design is found with embedded floral motif. 

The hilt ("khaser gubor") has a strong flair at at each end and eight shallow flutes.  The grip is completely covered in finely braided silver wire with a silver bead design in strong relief at top and bottom rims.

The style of hilt and pommel is very similar to a famous Bhutan sword called "Dungsum Thum", originally cast to fight the British soldiers camped at Asam. It is among the shortest of the famous swords of Bhutan.  Since the mid-1800's, swords in this style have been very popular with the Khampa people of Tibet who believe the swords bless their users with protective powers in warfare.

A short collar is found between the grip and blade, helping to secure the blade in the scabbard.

The laminated blade is traditional straight form with a single edge, ending in a acute, tapering point similar to that of an old Scots highland dirk.  This style is frequently found on daggers and short swords, seldom on full size blades.  The lamination is readily seen in the form of  generally straight or slightly undulating lines from hilt to tip. The slightly different colors of lines represent the two different types of metal used in the blade.  A strong fuller ("washo") is found along the top length of the blade, beginning below the ricasso and terminating just prior to the taper towards the tip.  The blade has a thickness of just under ¼ inch at the hilt, with a slight distal taper to ⅛ inch at the tip. The width is 1 ¼ inch and stright until the symmetrical narrowing in a convex manner to a sharply pointed tip. The tip is symmetrical with the point aligned with the centerline of the blade's long axis. Even near the spear-tip point, the blade is sharp only along the bottom.  The blade has been sharpened poorly on both front and back sides although this might be easily repaired.

The tang of the blade extends through the hilt and is secured at the pommel with an end cap. The blade mount at the base of the hilt is brass that is soldered or welded an oval metal cap the under the base of the hilt.

CA13 Pommel Side 2

The scabbard is traditional two pieces core of wood, carved to admit the shape of the dagger. The inner wooden scabbard is covered in three stages, the top and bottom being of nickel-silver and the center portion of black rayskin. The top portion being decorated with embossed and engraved floral designs with a strong silver bead at the throat that matches the one found on this hilt.  The bottom portion, roughly ½ the length of the scabbard, is nickel-silver decorated on one side only at the top with floral and geometric patterns.  Between the two decorated metal portions of the scabbard it is covered in unadorned black ray-skin.

On the back, plain side of the scabbard is found a a single lug for hanging the sword from a belt, usually on the left side in Bhutanese style as influenced by the Chinese.  This looks to be a later addition to the original.   The design of the scabbard suggests it was intended to worn in the traditional way, thrust through a waist sash with the hilt and decorated top and bottom sections prominently visible and thereby displaying the wealth and status of the owner.

CA13 Braided Silver Grip

For the Bhutan names of parts of a sword, see Anatomy of Patag