The Katar: A Look into the Indian Dagger

Katar Indian Push Dagger

The Katar: The Indian Punch Dagger

The katar, a unique and formidable weapon, holds a significant place in Indian martial history. Characterized by its distinctive H-shaped handle and protruding blade, the katar has been a symbol of valor and prowess in the Indian subcontinent for centuries. This article explores the history, usage, construction, and training associated with this fascinating dagger.


The katar, also known as the “punch dagger,” originates from South India, with its history tracing back to the early centuries of the Common Era. It gained prominence during the Vijayanagara Empire (1336–1646) and continued to be a favored weapon among various Indian warrior clans, including the Rajputs and Marathas. The katar was not only a tool of war but also a ceremonial symbol, often carried by royalty and nobility as a mark of their status and courage.


The katar’s distinct design features a short, wide, triangular blade. Its unique handle consists 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 a right angle to the blade. Some handles have long arms that extend across the length of the user’s forearm. The handle is typically made of all-steel construction and may be gilded or otherwise decorated.

The blade, usually measuring between 30-90 cm (12-35 in) in length, often features a number of fullers. While most katar have straight blades, those from south India are commonly wavy. South Indian blades are often broad at the hilt and taper in straight lines to the point, with elaborate ribbing created by grooves parallel to the edges. Occasionally, the blades are slightly curved. Some blades are forked into two points, and one decorative variation includes a hollow outer blade that hinges open to expose a smaller blade inside.

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. Katar with thickened tips are commonly described as ‘armour-piercing’, but it is likely that only narrow and slender blades made this function possible. Such a weapon was capable of piercing textile or mail.

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. Sheaths, 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.


The katar’s design makes it an effective weapon for both offensive and defensive maneuvers. Its primary function is thrusting, leveraging the wielder’s strength directly behind the blade. This direct line of force enhances the weapon’s penetration power, making it highly effective against armor.

In combat, the katar could be used to deliver quick, powerful jabs, exploiting the gaps in an opponent’s defense. Additionally, its broad, triangular blade could be used to parry incoming attacks, demonstrating its versatility. The dagger’s unique grip allowed for a firm and controlled hold, providing stability and precision during engagements.


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. The sides of the handle could be used for blocking, but it otherwise has little defensive capability. As far back as the 16th century, there was at least one fighting style that focused on fighting with a pair of katar, one in each hand.


The construction of a katar is a testament to the craftsmanship of Indian blacksmiths. Traditionally, the katar is made from high-quality steel, with the blade and handle often forged from a single piece of metal to ensure strength and durability. The handle features two parallel bars connected by crosspieces, forming the H-shaped grip that distinguishes the weapon. This design not only enhances the weapon’s structural integrity but also provides a secure and comfortable hold for the user.

Some katars are adorned with intricate engravings and decorations, including gold inlays and precious stones, reflecting the weapon’s status as a ceremonial object. The blade itself is typically broad and tapering to a sharp point, sometimes featuring a reinforced tip to improve its armor-piercing capabilities.


Training with a katar requires mastering both physical technique and mental discipline. Historically, warriors would train under skilled masters, learning various forms and techniques designed to maximize the weapon’s effectiveness. This training included conditioning exercises to build strength and agility, as well as drills to develop precision and control.

A significant aspect of katar training is learning how to integrate the weapon into broader combat systems. Practitioners are taught to use the katar in conjunction with other weapons and martial techniques, emphasizing fluidity and adaptability in combat. Defensive maneuvers, such as parrying and deflecting attacks, are crucial skills, ensuring that the wielder can both protect themselves and exploit openings in an opponent’s defense.

Modern Revival

In contemporary times, the katar continues to be studied and practiced, particularly within the realms of traditional Indian martial arts such as Kalaripayattu and Gatka. Enthusiasts and martial artists around the world have shown a growing interest in the katar, appreciating its historical significance and unique design.

Modern training often involves a blend of historical techniques and contemporary martial arts principles, allowing practitioners to explore the weapon’s potential fully. Additionally, the katar is frequently showcased in martial arts demonstrations and cultural exhibitions, celebrating its enduring legacy as a symbol of Indian martial prowess.


The katar is more than just a weapon; it is a cultural artifact that embodies the rich martial traditions of India. Its unique design, historical significance, and versatile application make it a fascinating subject of study for historians, martial artists, and weapon enthusiasts alike. As we continue to explore and understand the katar, we honor the legacy of the warriors who wielded it and the skilled craftsmen who created it.

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Updated: June 25, 2024 — 12:11 pm