Chakkar or bladed quoit
How often in life do the most interesting things appear in the least expected places? Found by one of our intrepid volunteers in a box marked ‘miscellaneous’ deep within the Wood Road stores was a circular steel ring of 33 cm diameter with an internal diameter of 27 mm and decoration, perhaps with gold inlay. One side has an English inscription, the other is in Punjabi. What link is there between this object and the Royal Artillery? Upon closer inspection it was noticed that the inscription mentioned Lord Roberts of Kandahar (1832-1914) one of the most successful British military commanders of his time serving for many years with the Bengal Artillery and the Bengal Horse Artillery during the 1850s. He was awarded the Victoria Cross in 1858 during the Indian Mutiny.
The object is a chakkar which is an ancient Indian bladed weapon adopted by the Sikh military as part of their standard battle gear. A razor-sharp outer edge and a rounded inner edge enabled this throwing ring to be launched at high speed like a frisbee. But these were not for fun or entertainment. With a potential range of 100 metres a skilled user would expect to kill outright or cause severe injury to an enemy. Sikhs carried a number of these of varying diameter either around their necks or in their turbans. By the mid-19th century, they had become ceremonial and owned by royal rulers as a sign of their status or affluence.
Interestingly, the inscription on also refers to a khanda, a double-edged sword, being presented alongside the chakkar. The items were given to Lord Roberts to mark his retirement as Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in India at a farewell banquet in Calcutta in March 1893 by the Khalsa Diwan, a group of reformist Sikhs formed in 1886.
The inscription reads: THESE CHAKKAR AND KHANDA WERE PRESENTED BY THE KHALSA DIWAN TO THEIR PATRON HIS EXCELLENCY GENERAL THE RIGHT HON[OURA]BLE FREDERICK SLEIGH BARON ROBERTS OF KANDAHAR AND WATERFORD G.C.B. G.C.I.E. RA COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF IN INDIA LAHORE MARCH 1893.