I had spied the lock at a Handicraft Fair. It was solid, heavy and had gorgeous pattern in silver all over. Best of all, it had three keys strung on a thread alongside.
“Three? Perfect for our family. Everyone gets a key.”
“Actually, you need all three keys to open that one lock”, the lady managing the stall murmured. “Would you like to try?”, she challenged.
I admit, I was taken aback. I hadn’t expected three keys to open a single lock. I grabbed it eagerly and turned it all over. There were no keyholes on the lock.
“Where do the wretched keys go?”
To cut the long story short, the lady had to eventually show me.
Keyhole One: She deftly twisted the bottom off like a corkscrew; the first keyhole was exposed. That’s where Key one was inserted.
Keyhole Two: Turning the first key exposed the second keyhole. It was on the side of the lock .
Keyhole Three: Twisting Key two in the side keyhole made the center of the lock slide upwards to reveal the final keyhole. Key three did its job and the usual U- shaped part on the top of the lock was free.
Honestly, I was awestruck. What a clever design! It was not only gorgeous to look at but clever enough to befuddle anyone.
The lady knew, she had my curiosity and now she had my attention. She took out a beautiful pen and a dagger with an elaborate pattern on the handle topped with a lion’s head.
“Something is hidden in these objects. Can you figure it out?”
Judging by its historical background (this art form came into India in the 16th century), I knew that the something had to be pointy and dangerous. Such ornate pens and daggers in the past were mostly used by kings and noblemen.
Also I was told Koftgari is the Indian name for the technique of Damascening, art of inlay work using fine silver or gold wire.
So yes, these everyday objects had intricate floral patterns and Arabic inscriptions in silver pressed into the metal. Needless to say, they were darn expensive as well.
Anyway, back to the challenge on hand.
I had to twist the pen and remove its bottom. In place of an ink cartridge, a small knife nestled within.
I guess our royalties knew how utterly treacherous signing papers and treaties could be.
As for the dagger, the fancy lion head on the handle had a catch. Release it and the head flipped opened. A deadly long, slim, sharp knife slid out. I really didn’t see that one coming.
Two for the price of one !
Interestingly, this art form of inlay work looks similar to Bidri work of Karnataka but that’s all. Koftgari is from Rajasthan. The artisans there have been skillfully making decorative but functional weapons for their warriors since long. Also let’s not forget the exquisite locks to keep the treasure chests safe.
Today these may have been pushed into ornamental category, the exquisite silver patterns ensure that, but the creativity involved in creating them is astonishing.
The locks remain my favourite. Just one problem, now one has to take care of all three keys instead of only one.
Inspired by Lens- Artists Photo Challenge #111: Everyday Objects