Khukuri : The Pride of Nepal
Khukuri is a knife, a weapon, and an Insignia of Nepal. Gurkhas sport this for pride and defense. A Gorkha is normally not seen without a Khukri.
With the very mention name of Nepal comes to mind, images of High Mountains and Deep Valleys known for scenic beauty, Sherpas, the real heroes of mountains, and the valor of Ghurkas. Not many know about a Knife with extraordinary accounts of bravery that it evokes and are legendary even today.
During my shopping in alleys of Thamel in Kathmandu, other than shops selling Camping - trekking gear, antique items, I usually used to see colorful and glittering knives of various sizes big and small been showcased and drawing my attention. During one such visit, with my friend, though I had no intention of buying, I was, inquisitive to know what was so special about knives, and stepped into one of the shops to know more.
The shop owner welcomed us warmly and began to share the information about knives. He seemed very knowledgeable and spoke in chaste English. There are famous knives of the world such as Bowie Knife, Stiletto. the Scimitar, Gladius - Roman sword, and the Machete. He picked one of the Knives from the shelf, holding in his hand said that this knife plays an important role, in the household and as well as a weapon in battle. It is a symbol of raw power and courage during the times of battle. This is Khukuri however outdoes them all, said with pride!
A Bit of History
The origin of the knife goes back to ancient times, the Khukuri is not only the National symbol of Nepal but is also an Insignia of the Ghurka soldiers. A prized possession with which they have indelibly carved a royal insignia for themselves. A famous quote about Gurkha goes like this and means it all.
The awesome cutting edge of the iconic Khukuri was first experienced by the British in India who had a face it in the well-documented battles since 1814 while combating the Gurkha army in Western Nepal. In fact in the Indian army, British Army there is a separate battalion and regiment for Gurkhas as an honor. Thus was born the legend and the romance. The weapon is impeccable and extraordinary in the hands of the Gurkha soldier's grip, this seeming piece of curved High carbon steel ( HCS ) becomes an incredibly menacing deadly weapon with which he has proven, a few rare feats of bravery while facing the enemy in a raw deal face to face in many encounters.
Arguably the manoeuvering and handling the weapon by a Gorka is a skill which is something innate. The very fact how the Khukuri emerged, is still a mystery in the history of Nepal. Historians say that the Mallas were the ruling dynasty of Kathmandu Valley from 1201 CE –1779 CE in the Indian subcontinent. They had claimed the Kshatriya - Warrior Community status for themselves. Kodavas too in south India too claim as Warrior community. Mallas were the first to sport it and use it.
On the walls of the National Museum at Chhauni in Kathmandu, one could see Khukris dating back to 15 th Century and few used by Drabya Shah 1559–1570 who was the founder, and also the first King of Gorkha Kingdom in Nepal. However a few, claim that Khukuri was first used by Kiratis - The Sino Tibetan ethnic group who believe are indigenous aboriginals of the Himalayas who came to power in Nepal well before Lichchhavi rulers, who were the pioneers. Lichahavi is who introduced the pagoda style of architecture in the Kathmandu Valley.
Khukri and its Uniqueness
It is designed primarily with the purpose of Chopping or cutting. Kukris traditionally have 3 parts to their blade and each with different purposes: a pointed tip for stabbing, a wide midsection for chopping, and a narrow area near the handle for whittling and carving. Its shape varies from being quite straight to highly curved with angled or smooth spines. The Kamis who are said to be masters who design and produce it. Khukuri features two little knives attached at the back of the sheath held either in a built-in pocket or a leather case is a complete set. Decorated using precious stones on sheaths mainly made from wood or horn and comes in different sizes and shapes. Various decorations like national symbols of Nepal, traditional carvings are done in the sheath. Some even come with simple or plain patterns to give a pleasant look. Kukuri blades usually have a notch (karda, kauda, Gaudi, Kaura, or Cho) at the base of the blade. The notch may also represent the teats of a cow, a reminder that the kukri should not be used to kill a cow, an animal revered and worshipped by Hindus. Kukhuri as a weapon is so adaptable and has relevance in Modern-day armies of today, with standard issues in the Indian army, British army, British Royal army, Afghan, and Nepalese Army.
The small sharp knife is called Karda, which serves as a cutting knife. The other Knife is called a Chakmak, which is blunt and coarse on both sides which are used for sharpening knives in the absence of grinding stone. Chakmak can be used to ignite a spark and light fire when rubbed against a metal object too. I was just dumbfounded to see the variants and shapes.
Classifications and Usage
Khukuris are broadly classified into two types as per region, the eastern and western type. The Western Blades are generally broader known as Budhuna - A fish with a large head. The Eastern blades are usually regarded as the thinner and often referred to as Sirupate Khukuri. Despite the Classification, Khukuris are used in all regions as per requirement in Nepal.
Whatever may be the facts of how and when Khukuri came into limelight. Though being an iconic symbol and effective weapon in modern times, in armed forces. It is used in household chores and as a multipurpose tool too. It is one of the household items, for self-defense residing in the isolated hilly regions. It is a versatile multi-tool and an indispensable pride possession of almost every household. The Gurung Tribe residing in Ghadruk of Annapurna Trail, Magars who reside in Palpa, Gumi, and Parbat regions, Rai, and Limbu from the Sikkim region are ethnic groups of central and Eastern province use as a weapon even today. The Kukuris also holds religious significance in Nepal. During the Annual Dashain festival, Khukuris are decorated and worshipped.
Khukuri not only symbolizes bravery and valor but is a Nepalese Cultural symbol and exquisite piece of craftsmanship and art. It is indeed a memento for everyone to buy during a visit to Nepal. I had almost spent more than 2 hours at the Khukuri House, I was moved by the workmanship of the Kamis who produce it. When curiously asked about the price, he said it starts from 50 $ and available up to 200 $. The shopkeeper was very humble and patiently answered all the queries. My friend who was impressed, who in need of one small said that he bought for a good deal. I did not utter a single word, however, I felt that Khukuri is something priceless possession!