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The Khukuri(gurkha knife), a semi-curve metal knife, is synonymouswith the valor of legendary Gurkha soldiers. Though Khukuri is national knifeof Nepal, it has not famed only within Nepal or Gurkhas but it has gainedpopularity in the world, as it is one of the most practical, convenient andpeculiar knives. Bowie knife, Stiletto, Scimitar, Roman Sword, Samurai orMachete are some o the famous knives of the world and have all played a greathistorical significance because of their cutting edge over other weapons. Butthe most famous of them is the 'Kukri'!
Kukri (alternately spelled khukuri,khukri, kukhri, cookri, kookeri) is the traditional knife of the
khukuri is the national weapon of
In the hands of an experience wielder the Khukuri is about a formidable aweapon as can be conceived. The lithe wire little men, utterly courageous,supremely cheerful, stealthy as leopards and agile as goats in the mountains,come leaping over the ground to attack, moving so quickly. When they come nearthe enemy, they suddenly crouch to the ground, drive under the bayonets andstrike upward at the men with their Khukuris, ripping them open in a singleblow. The result of such a dangerous combination of man and blade is a superband effective slaughter. The enemy tumbles in two clean pieces, even before hecan express his surprise because his is the kindest, quietest and quickestdeath.
Khukuri, however, is more than just an enemy's nightmare. From its origins as avaluable farming implement, the Khukuri evolved over the centuries into alethal fighting weapon. To most of Nepal's rural people -- who constitute morethan 90% of the kingdom's population -- the Khukuri is a best friends, amulti-purpose knife which can be used for cutting grass, chopping wood, peelingvegetables, slaughtering animals and skinning meat, not to mention warding offdangerous animals and the occasional human invader. Nepalese peopletraditionally carry the Khukuri when traveling beyond their homeland; just thesight of the brazen knife is enough to scare off most robbers. More than beingjust a revered and effective weapon, however, the Khukuri is also the peacefulall-purpose knife of the hill people of
Khukuri is also used in sacrificial ceremonies: during Dashain, within theGurkha regiments, the Khukuri is used to cut off animals' heads to makepleasure the gods and goddesses, who in return will protect Gurkhas in battle.Those Nepalese who do not participate in blood-letting slash a pumpkin instead.The Khukuri is then garlanded with flowers and blessed with or without theanimal's blood.
This 'all purpose' knife of the Gurkhas - 'Khukuri' is of a very peculiarshape. Basically, the standard blade (Service No.1 Khukuri) is very thick atthe base measuring a little more than a quarter of an inch in thickness. Fromthe back it is thinned off gradually to the edge, which has curvature of itsown, quite different to that of the back, so the blade is widest as well asthickest in the middle, and tapers at one end towards the hilt and at the otherend towards the point. The point of the Khukuri is a sharp as a needle, so thatthe weapon answers equally for cutting as well as stabbing. In consequence of thegreat thickness of the metal the blade is exceedingly heavy. A blow from such aweapon can be a terrible one, the very weight of the blade, if allowed to fallfrom a certain height, would drive half way through the arm of a person.
Kukri has never been broken in battle. Not a surprising claim,considering that the knife is made only from high grade steel often taken froma railway line or truck spring. A Khukuri handle is usually made from rosewood,buffalo horns or metals such as Aluminum, Brass in some cases Ivory and Antleralso utilize for making the handle. The common scabbard is made from leather orwood and often features various carved designed. The 'top man's" Khukuriincorporates exquisite etchings and engravings on the blade in addition to a goldor silver scabbard (Kothimora) which is inlaid with even more precious gems.
Most Khukuris feature two little knives attached at the back of the sheath heldeither in a built-in pocket or a leather purse. The small sharp knife is aKarda. Besides being used to hone the master blade, it serves for small cuttingjobs. Perhaps the most unusual task it has is at the time of a child's birth:the Karda is then used to cut the umbilical cord. Afterwards the knife is placeat the side of the cot to ward off evil spirits. The other knife is called aChakmak. It is blunt and once rubbed against a stone will produce enough sparksto start a fire. Who needs electric lighters?
The Gurkha and his Khukuri are incomplete without one another. Together they'veearned their fame, which can never to be forgotten. Finally, whatever be theroots,
The kukri is the national weapon of
ORIGN OF KUKRI:
None of us knows the fact that how the Khukuri was exactlyoriginated and where it was developed. The originated place and date have alsobeen lost in the mists of time. Even the spelling has been disputed orbutchered since someone first tried to describe this knife: khookree, kookerie,khukri, kukery, Kukoori, Koukoori, kukri. What we see is an Anglicized versionof a word first heard by English ears back in the early 18th century. Thespoken word is actually 3 syllables: kook-er-ee and has finally come down totoday’s accepted spelling of kukri or Khukri. Thus, name of this knife can bespelt and pronounced numerous ways but the most common names are Kukri or Khukuri. Click here for more in John's article….
Here are some facts, which prove that it is one of the oldestknives in the world. The blade shape descended from the classic Greek sword ofKopis, which is about 2500 years old. A cavalry sword (The Machaira, Machira)of the ancient Macedonians which was carried by the troops of Alexander theGreat when it invaded northwest India in the 4th Century BC and was copied bylocal black smiths or Kamis some knife exports have found similarities in theconstruction of some Khukuris to the crafting method of old Japanese sword.Thus the making of Khukuri is one of the oldest blade forms in the history ofworld, if not in fact the oldest.
Somesays it was originated from a form of knife first used by the Mallas who cameto power in
Another thing that adds to the magic ofthe Khukuri is the cultural and religious significance that has worked its wayinto the knife. Among the more unique features of the Khukuri is the crescentmoon-shaped notch at the base of the blade. Some say it is a fertility symbolor a lock for securing the Khukuri in its sheath. Others say it is to interruptthe flow of blood down onto the handle, which would make it wet or slipperyduring the time of attack. Perhaps the most plausible explanation is that it isa simple defensive feature of the knife, for once the blow of an opponent'sweapon is caught on the blade, the sword or dagger slips down into the notchwhere with one quick twist, the opponent is disarmed. The notch of the Khukurinear the hilt is said the trident of the Hindu god Shiva, the god of war anddestroy. It has various other meanings such as a cow tract, the sexualapparatus of Hindu gods and goddesses, the sun and moon, the symbol of
None of us knows the fact that how theKhukuri (Khukri or Kukri) was exactly originated and where it was developed.The originated place and date have also been lost in the mists of time. Hereare some facts, which proves that it is one of the oldest knives in the world.The blade shape descended from the classic Greek sword of Kopis, which is about2500 years old. The Machira, the calavry sword of the ancient Macedonians whichwas carried by the troops of Alexander the Great when it invaded northwest
There are two names for this knife that are now universallyaccepted, “Khukuri” or “Kukri”. After going through series of names sincesomeone first tried to speak, pronounce or write when it was first encounteredor discovered in the early 1600’s “Khukuri” became the strict Nepalese versionthat is very common, famous and household name in Nepalese literature. HoweverKhukuri is more known as “Kukri” in the western world and beyond which we seeis an anglicized version of the British when they first discovered the knife.
With khukuri’s origin going back to ancient times, the khukuri is not only thenational knife of Nepal but is also symbolic of the Gurkha soldier, a prizedpossession with which he has indelibly carved an identity for himself. Thekhukuri has been the weapon of choice for the Gorkhas of Nepal and the famousGorkhali Sainik of King Prithivi Narayan Shah since 16th century and used foralmost everything from a utility tool to an effective fighting knife in battleto a unique piece of decoration that has marked its amazing reputation. Thesuccessful war campaigns and swift victory of the Gorkhali Sainik against itsenemies must be credited to some extent to this unusual and practical weapon.It is also believed that the universal custom of Gurkha Army carrying thekhukuri began from Gorkhali Sanik and that was later made an important part ofmilitary issue under the British ownership. This custom still exists althoughthe size and type of khukuri have significantly changed and improvised.
The khukuri is a medium-length curved knife each Gurkha soldiercarries with him in uniform and in battle.In his grip, it is a formidablerazor-sharp weapon and a cutting tool. In fact, it is an extension of his arm.When his rifle misfires, or when his bullets have run out, a Gurkha unsheatheshis khukuri and makes his final "do-or-die" run on the enemy in afury to finish the business. This scene created the romance and the legends.What he really did, and still does
with his khukuri, is a super-clean slaughter: The enemy tumbles down in twoclean pieces- and in surprise! - because his is the kindest, quietest deathbecause it is the quickest.
At present, khukuri is recognized as the national knife of
The construction of khukuri is very basic and simple yet it has style and classof its own. In
The khukuri blades have always varied much in quality. Inferior and highquality steels both have been equally used thus needs an expert eye and skillto distinguish one from the other.
Old heavy vehicles spring (suspension) steel has always been the source of agood quality khukuri blade. Khukuris in the earlier days were much longer thanthe modern ones and significantly varied in shape and size than itscontemporary siblings; and also had steel fixtures. Army khukuris issued to theGurkhas during the World War era had stampings like name of manufacturer,inspection date, issue date and sometimes name of the military unit. Khukuriswere than longer and more curved than the current issues. Along withtraditional and village khukuris even the army knives have intensely changedover the years to adapting to the modern times and its developments.
Khukuri grips are normally made from local walnut wood called “Sattisaal” inNepalese, domestic water buffalo horn and some very fancy from brass, aluminum;and even ivory and rhino horn are used for some very special ones. Basicallytwo types of tang are
applied; one is the rat-tail tang that goes all the way through the handlenarrowing its surface area as it finishes towards the end of the handle and itsend/tail is penned over and secured. The other is the full flat tang that alsogoes through the handle but the tang can be seen on the sides of the handle andsteel rivets are fixed to secure the handle to the tang and a pommel plate orbutt cap is also fitted at the end to enhance the total fixture; this type iscalled as “Panawal Handle”. Most of ancient khukuris used to have wooden handlewith rat tail tang however, surprisingly, the tail did not come all the waythrough the handle. The handles were curved unlike the modern ones and hadsteel or iron fixtures in most cases. The exact origin or who initiated the“Panawal” handle is not known but probably started in early 1900’s when Kamiswere influenced by British Knives and they undertook the new better version. Itis also likely that the handle demanded better treatment as rat tail handlewere not strong enough to hold the long blades when put hard on job. Todaydifferent materials are used in the khukuri and are improvised to better suitthe demands of today and for better results nonetheless traditional styles havebeen retained except for a few exceptional and unique ones.
The khukuri is carried in scabbard, “Dap” in Nepalese, where normally 2 piecesof wooden frames are covered with water buffalo hide or other domesticatedanimal parts and may or may not have brass or steel protective chape dependingon the type of khukuri. Khukuri scabbard like the blade and handle has come along way with many changes and modifications along the way to keep up with theever changing time and need. Scabbards from early days did not have belt frogand people used untreated untainted raw leather hide just for the mere shake ofcarrying the Khukuri blade. Khukuri were thus stuck in the owner’s sash or“Patuka” as frogs or any sorts of holder were missing. After the formation ofBritish Gurkhas frogs were introduced by British to carry khukuri from waistbelt and later steel and brass fixtures were used to look good and also toprotect the naked tip of the scabbard. Some khukuris have decorative scabbardwith beautifully well done wooden, horn, silver, brass work and sometimesivory. Khukuri that are especially intended for display purpose, are givenextra time and effort to its scabbard by using horns, wood and other expensivedecorative materials crafting beautiful designs and carvings with traditionaland religious symbols in the scabbard. It is a customary in Gurkha Army topresent a retiring officer with a Kothimoda khukuri (silver case) to honor hisoutstanding long and loyal service to the regiment and the country. Khukuriscabbard also has two pockets at the back that carry blunt steel called“Chakmak” for sharpening the khukuri blade and also for striking sparks fromflint and a little sharp knife called “Karda” used as a small utility knife.Very old scabbards along with Karda and Chakmak also had an extra leather pouch(Khalti) attached to it used for carrying small survival kits or most of thetime small piece of flint to create a spark with the Chakmak. However, armykhukuris in world war days and most khukuris in 19th and early 20th centuriesdid have neither the Karda Chakmak nor the extra pouch. It is only after themid 20th century Karda and Chakmak were again placed back in the Gurkha knivesto maintain the khukuri tradition. Most khukuri at present have Karda Chakmakhowever Khalti is ignored.
Shapes and sizes of khukuris from ancient to modern ones have varied intenselyfrom place to place, person to person, maker to maker and so forth. Khukurimade in the Eastern village Bhojpur, very famous for khukuris, make fat thickblade where as Sirupate, the most famous khukuri in
The Khukuri (kukri) is carried in scabbard (dab in Nepali) usually made of wood covered in leather with a protective metal cap over the tip. Most handles are made of wood. The "dab" may sometimes be adorned with cloth-work or engraving and hilt made of bone ivory, horn or metal. All Khukuris (kukris) have two pockets at the back of the scabbard, which hold blunt steel called "chakmak" for sharpening the blade or for striking sparks from flint and a little knife known as "karda" used for skinning small game or as a penknife. The notch (kaura) in the blade near the hilt of most Khukuris (kukris) serves as a conduit for the blood on the blade to drip out thus prevents it from soiling the hilt, as well as a device for catching and neutralizing an enemy blade. It also represents the Hindu fertility symbol. The Khukuri(kukri) is not only the national knife but also has great religious importance and is worshipped by the Nepalese during the grand Hindu festival Dashain.
The Gurkha is worthy of notice, if only for the remarkable weapon which they use in preference to any other. It is called the "Khukuri" or "Kukri" and is of a very peculiar shape. As may be seen by reference to the drawings both the blade and hilt are curved.
The kukri blade is very thick at the back measuring a little more than a quarter of an inch in thickness. From the back it is thinned off gradually to the edge, which has curve of its own, quite different to that of the back, so the blade is widest as well as thickest in the middle, and tapers at one end towards the hilt and the other towards the point. The steel of which the blade is formed is of admirable temper, as is shown by the fact that specimens which had not been cleaned for thirty years, but have been hung upon walls among other weapons, are scarcely touched with rust, and for the greater part of their surface are burnished like mirrors.
The point of the Khukuri or Kukri is as sharp as a needle, so that the weapon answers equally for cutting or stabbing. In consequence of the great thickness of the metal, the blade is exceedingly heavy. It may be imagined that a blow from such a weapon as this must be a very terrible one. The very weight of the blade would drive it half through a mans arm if it were only allowed to fall from a little height. But the Gurkhas have a mode of striking which resembles the "drawing" cut off the broad sword, and which urges the sharp edge through flesh and bone alike.
To make a complete set every Khukuri or Kukri must come with two small knives at the back. The two smaller knives used are of very similar form, but apparently of inferior metal. These are kept in little case attached to the side of the Khukuri or Kukri sheath, just as is the case with the knives attached to a Highlander's dirk.
In the hands of an experienced wielder this Khukuri or Kukri is about as formidable a weapon as can be conceived. Like all really good weapons, Khukuri's or Kukri's efficiency depends much more upon the skill that the strength of the wielder and thus it happens that the little Gurkha a mere boy in point of stature, will cut to pieces of gigantic adversary who does not understand his mode of onset. The Gurkha generally strikes upwards with the Khukuri or Kukri, possibly in order to avoid wounding himself should his blow fail, and possibly because an upward cut is just the one that can be least guarded against.
"When we were engaged in the many wars in
Until our men learned this mode of attack they were greatly discomfited by their little opponents, who got under their weapons, cutting or slashing with knives as sharp as razors, and often escaping unhurt from the midst of bayonets. They would also dash under the bellies of the officer’s horses, rip them open with one blow of the Khukuris or Kukris, and aim another at the leg of the officer as he and his horse fell together."
--- (From “Travels in India and Nepal” by the Rev Wood, 1896)