The Khukuri, Edge of Myths and Legends

The Khukuri
Edge of Myths & Legends

Tilak Sunar

Khukuri is a superior blade, both as a combat weapon and as a tool. The unique curve of the Khukuri makes it excellence both for chopping wood and for hacking through dense jungles and forests – serving as a combination of an Axe and a Machete – and anything else requiring a good knife.

The Khukuri, a semi-curve metal knife, is synonymous with the valor of legendary Gurkha soldier. It is probably the most functional knife in existence, due to its unusual design. This formidable blade is the national weapon of Nepal, which is popular not only among Gurkhas and in Nepal but it has attained amazing reputation globally, as it is one of the most practical, convenient and outstanding blade. This razor sharp Khukuri has great historical and religious significance. You can discover thousands of myths and legends behind it. When someone tries to put together with world’s major knives and swords such as Swiss Knives, Bowie, Scimitar, Machete, Broadsword, Roman, Stiletto or Samurai sword, it would be the best among all because of their cutting edge over other weapons!

Indeed, the Khukuri (Alternatively spell: kukri, khukri, khookree) is a superior blade, both as a combat weapon and as a tool. The unique curve of the Khukuri makes it excellence both for chopping wood and for hacking through dense jungles and forests – serving as a combination of an Axe and a Machete – and anything else requiring a good knife. This makes it a particularly ideal item for the outdoorsman, hunter, hiker or explorer – or anyone who needs a rugged multi-functional blade.

Basically, the standard blade (which is called Service No.1 Khukuri) is very thick at the base 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 curvature 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 at the other end towards the point.

Bhojpur, Chainpur, Dhankuta, and Dharan of the eastern part of Nepal and Salyan, Piuthan in the west are well known centers of Khukuri manufacturers. Now 90% of the Khukuris that are available in market are made in Dharan. Choosing examples from east to west and from the 18th century onwards, we can see many styles and several types. Most Khukuri keep their name from the place where they made such as Bhojpure, Dhankute, Chainpure, Ankhola, Salyani, Piuthani in different sizes from 4'’ to 36'’ long blade (largest knife made in Nepal). There are the Bishwakarmas or Kamis (metal smith), the untouchable caste, who make the Khukuris. Khukuri making is the Khukuris. Khukuri making is one of the oldest profession of Kaami. There is another different clan called saarki who makes scabbard or Sheath (Dap). Combination of both clan’s craftsmanship, a complete Khukuri become ready.

The Khukuri has never been broken in battle. Not a surprising claim, considering that the knife is made only from high-grade carbon steel often taken from a railway line or truck spring. A Khukuri handle is usually made from rosewood, buffalo horns or metals such as Aluminium, Brass and in some cases Ivory and Antler are also used for making the handle. The common scabbard is made from leather or wood and often features various carved designed. The “top man’s” Khukuri incorporates exquisite etching and engravings on the blade in addition to a gold or silver scabbard (Kothimora), which is inlaid with even more precious gems.

Most Khukuris feature two little knives attached at the back of the sheath held either in a built-in pocket or a leather purse. The small sharp knife is a Karda. Besides being used to hone the master blade, it serves for small cutting jobs. The Karda is used to cut the umbilical cord. The other knife is called a Chakmak. It is blunt and once rubbed against a stone will produce enough sparks to start a fire.

None of us knows the fact as to how the Khukuri originated and where it was developed. The place of orgin has been lost into the times gone by. Here are some facts, which prove that it is one of the oldest knives in the world. The blade shape descended from the classic Greek sword of Kopis, which is about 2500 years old. A cavalry sword (The Machaire, Machira) of the ancient Macedonians which was carried by the troops of Alexander the Great when it invaded northwest India in the 4th Century BC and was copied by local black smiths or Kamis. Some Knife exports have found similarities in the construction of some Khukuris to the crafting method of old Japanese sword. Thus making of Khukuri is one of the oldest blade forms in the history of world, if not in fact the oldest.

Some says it was originated from a form of knife first used by the Mallas who came to power in Nepal in the 13th Century. There are some Khukuris displaying on the walls of National Museum at Chhauni in Kathmandu, which are 500 years old, or even more among them one belonged to Drabya Shah, the founder King of the kingdom of Gorkha, in 1627 AD.

Another thing that adds to the magic of the Khukuri is the cultural and religious significance that has worked its way into the knife. Among the more unique features of the Khukuri is the crescent moon-shaped notch at the base of the blade. Some say it is a fertility symbol or a lock for securing the Khukuri in its sheath. Others say it is to interrupt the flow of blood down onto the handle, which would make it wet or slippery during the time of attack. Perhaps the most plausible explanation is that it is a simple defensive feature of the knife, for once the blow of an opponent’s weapon is caught on the blade, the sword or dragger slips down into the notch where with one quick twist, the opponent is disarmed. The notch of the Khukuri near the hilt is said the trident of the Hindu god Shiva, the god of war and destroy. It has various other meanings such as cow tract, the sexual apparatus of Hindu gods and goddesses, the sun and the moon, the symbol of Nepal.

There are the Gurkhas (Royal Nepalese Army, British Gurkhas Regiments, Indian Gurkha Army are considered as real Gurkhas) who did more than anybody to bring this knife to the attention of the world. In World War I and II, it was famed as a non-exploded bomb or grenade. In times past, it was said that once a Khukuri was drawn in battle, it had to ‘taste blood’- if not, its owner had to cut himself before returning into its sheath.

The Khukuri, however, is more than just an enemy’s nightmare. From its origins as a valuable farming implement, the Khukuri evolved over the centuries into a lethal fighting weapon. To most of Nepal’s rural people who constitute more than 90% of the kingdom’s population, the Khukuri is a friend, a multi-purpose knife which can be used for cutting grass, chopping wood, peeling vegetables, slaughtering animals and skinning meat, not to mention warding off dangerous animals and the occasional human invader. Nepalese people traditionally carry the Khukuri when travelling beyond their homeland; just the sight of the brazen knife is enough to scare off most robbers. More than being just a revered and effective weapon, however, the Khukuri is also the peaceful all-purpose knife of the hill people of Nepal. It is a versatile working tool and therefore an indispensable possession of almost every households and travellers.

The Khukuri is also used in sacrificial ceremonies: during Dashain, within the Gurkha regiments and most Nepalese home, the Khukuri is used to cut off animals’ heads to please the gods and goddesses.

Mystique and magic are inherent in Khukuri. The real Khukuri looks very simple with simple wooden sheath (often cover with leather) on the other hand you will get many low quality (often made of soft metal) Khukuris. They may not work properly. They look fancy with lots engraving and scabbards inlayed with all sorts of brass, and coins decorations on the street of tourist places in Kathmandu. Finally, I personally recommend you to purchase only from genuine Khukuri stores.