In the 18th century an amazing weapon appeared in Sattar, India – the bagh nakh, also known as the leopard’s claw. It was a functional weapon worn concealed under a glove for surprise attacks. The majority of specimens had only one blade, but our specimen in question (one of two surviving examples) has a striking design of seven articulated “claws”.
The wrist plate is attached with a hinge brace to securely lock the wearer’s hand and provide support on impact. The main surface is designed to align with the wearer’s palm, and the underside has a short upturned spike to inflict damage on the opponent. The four finger plates taper and then thicken into sharp, curved claws, secured at the bottom by a thick rectangular bar that distributes the force of blows and reduces the chance of fractures.
The bagh nah was famously used by Maratha chief Shivaji Bhonsale I to kill General Afzal Khan during his siege of the Maratha fort. Shivaji wore armor under his clothes and armed himself with a bagh nakkh to attack. This weapon was not only deadly but also allowed him to kill quickly and silently, which made it a favorite among assassins.
This specimen, made for the right hand, is probably the counterpart of the left-handed “claw hand” in the Feldman Family Museum. The only other potential analogue is the last surviving example of a bagh nakha of this design, published in Lord Egerton’s research paper. The same claw that Shivaji used in the duel described above is presumably in the collection of the Victoria and Alberta Museum.
The bagh nakh is a unique weapon that has a rich history in India. It is a symbol of the country’s martial culture, and its use by Shivaji Bhonsale I only adds to its mystique. Its rarity and functionality make it a highly sought-after item for collectors and antique weapons enthusiasts alike.
It is interesting to note that the bagh nakh is not the only weapon used by Shivaji Bhonsale I. During his lifetime he was known as one of India’s most successful and fearless warlords. He was the creator of the Maratha Empire and is considered one of India’s national heroes.
It is also worth noting that the bagh nah is not the only example of concealed weapons used in India. There are many other weapons that were used for surprise attacks and assassinations.