The khanjar is said to have originated in the central Middle East among Turkic warriors and spread with the Mughal Empire to India. Such daggers were largely produced for the Mughal court in Jaipur with a particular predilection for the use of gem-inlaid white jade hilts. Such jewelled daggers were bequeathed by the Mughal Emperor to his courtiers as artistic status symbols. An example of this is visible in the seventeenth century Mughal Padshahnama (inv.no. RCIN 1005025.al), in the Royal Collection, depicting dignitaries of Shah Jahan’s court all armed with ornate weaponry.
The use of ornate floral lotus motifs upon the hilt was a design initiated under the auspices of the seventeenth century Emperor Shah Jahan and was an artistic norm by the beginning of the eighteenth century (Elgood 2015, p.38). The hilts were set with gemstones and then inlaid using the indigenous kundan technique. The particular nephrite jade used in such daggers was primarily found near the Kunlun mountains in China’s Xinjiang province and its wider Asiatic trade began with the fourteenth century Turco-Mongol Timurid dynasty, from which the Indian Mughals claimed descent. Such a coveting of jade, therefore, sought to reflect Mughal aspirations as the genealogical successors to the Mongol dynasty.