challenges · Heritage

Unlocking The Secrets of These Everyday Objects

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.

Rajasthan lock with silver inlay a d three keys to unlock it
Lock & Keys!

“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.

Traditional Indian locks from Rajasthan with silver inlay work of damascening
Unlock 1.0!

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.

Silver inlay traditional Indian lock from Rajasthan
Open Sesame !

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.

Pen with silver inlay work and a hidden knife nestling inside.
The pen is mightier than the knife, or not.

I guess our royals knew how utterly treacherous signing papers and treaties could be.ย 

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.

Indian dagger with silver inlay work on the handle and another knife hidden witin it.
Knives Out!

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

28 thoughts on “Unlocking The Secrets of These Everyday Objects

    1. The lock is new, the art form is ancient. Probably that’s what makes it so fascinating. For instance, this lock was handcrafted by the husband of the lady minding the stall where they were put up for sale.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Sheetal, I wish you would TAG so that you’d appear in the reader – I really LOVED your post and would like more people to see it!!! The lock reminded me very much of one my husband and I had when we stayed at a beautiful little inn in a remote region of China. I actually featured a photo of it back then as I found it so beautiful. So my question is this – did you purchase any of these little beauties and if not, did the lady mind your photographing them???

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tina, I corrected the Lens-Artists tag but I still don’t see it in the reader. Perhaps, I have to send an SOS to WP support.
      As for the post itself, thank you. I can’t stop grinning, your praise has gone straight to my head. As for your question, the lady was kind enough to not only let me photograph but also answer my questions. Trust me, I had so many. She actually wanted me to write and spread the word.
      According to her, this art form is dying. The market is small (not many people even in India know of it) and there just isn’t enough money to compensate for the effort involved in creating these beauties. The next generation of artisans are dwindling. I hope, it doesn’t come to a point when all this is really history.


      1. Oh that IS sad. Hope your post helps to spread the word. Re the tag, it must be exact, no extra words. So it must be only LENS-ARTISTS. Give it another try. Sorry itโ€™s so ridiculous about being exact


        1. I have checked the spellings, gone mental trying to fix the tag business but to no avail. Finally taken Patti’s advice- copied, pasted and posted once again. Hope it does the trick. Thank you Tina for egging me on. Another post that fits the category of ‘Stuff that makes me scream in my heart’ is brewing in my head. Help WP Support!


  2. Hi, Sheetal. These objects are incredible. I’ve read about the multiple locks and keys, but never saw one before. I love these mysterious objects and their history. The inlay work on both items is fabulous. These are really beautiful treasures. Fascinating! I hope you can repost it so more people can see it๐Ÿ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow. Ha ha! Fascinating!! …Popcorn… popcorn… “The number 42 is, in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, the “Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything”, calculated by an enormous supercomputer named Deep Thought over a period of 7.5 million years. Unfortunately, no one knows what the question is.” ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You recognized them all John.
      ‘Don’t Panic’ even though ’42’ was the grand answer that came without an explanation, because we always ‘carry a towel’. Wonderful to have come across another fan of the crazy Hitchhiker’s Galaxy.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much ๐Ÿ˜Š. I never realised that this post would connect with so many people while I was writing. You can imagine how delighted I am feeling reading your wonderful comments . Have an awesome weekend !


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s