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.Β 

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


14 thoughts on “Unlocking The Secrets of These Everyday Objects

  1. Gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous… Thank you for sharing. The French word is similar: “DamasquinΓ©”. Obviously comes from Damascus. Yo can still see this type of work in Lebanon. The craft probably came with the Moslem invasions of India, or with the Persians…
    Thanks you for sharing. πŸ™πŸ»

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are absolutely right ! The Persian craftsmen brought this art to India in the 16th century after the Mughal invasion. It was picked up by the Rajasthani karigars for making weapons for the Rajputs and the Mughals and then there was no looking back. Damascus was obvious but I didn’t know of its French equivalent. Thank you for that. Does this mean even the French have this craft tradition?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’d forgotten about the “Moghols” as we call them… Aurangzeb, Shah Jahan…
        Looked up “Karigar” and all I could find was some kind of Penjabi women’s clothes. What’s it mean?
        Now the French don’t have this craft tradition, but since Lebanon was a French protectorate between the wars, some Lebanese artefacts came to France. Also my father, though French was raised in Egypt so he knew about it and told me when we went to Lebanon a century ago… πŸ˜‰
        Take care. πŸ™πŸ»

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Karigar is an Indian term for a craftsman/ artisan. All this time I knew only of the Indian connection to this art form but now I know more. Thank you because Google was woefully brief about its Lebanese or the French connection.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Yes! Karigar is an artisan while karigari refers to his/her workmanship. Happy to pitch in. I have never been called upon to explain a Hindi term on my blog. It was a pleasure. 😊

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Very nice approach of daily life, I am now doing this every day as part of my 1 year project POETRY OF TRACKING, my last post explains it, but my website is now in German, you will find a translating tool under the post. All the best πŸ™‚ Ulli

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Ulli for your kind words. I checked your new website. Congratulations! Thank you for the translate tool advice, German language is a huge deterrent. I couldn’t find a comment button but you should know, it’s always a pleasure to see the pictures you click. A bed and sculptures that were a cross between a cactus and a paddle brush in the middle of a jungle was a surprise. Your 1 year long project too is an admirable effort. Best wishes for it and happy blogging.


      1. COVID19 forced us to discovering our own homeland, nice surprises can be found really everywhere. The comments sections closed by me due to very nasty and rude comments in growing number. No blog anymore, just a personal website
        being much more convenient for me (even if less people will read it). Take care and all the best for you, new post on my site probably after my marriage by end of October, exciting … πŸ™‚


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