Khukuri: A Traditional Nepali Blade
Khukuri is a symbol of national pride
-  26 Feb 2018 | nepaltraveller.com
Khukuri is a sharp decisive blade that is both a tool and a weapon. Khukuri House is involved in the making of these fine blades.
'Kaathar Hunu Bhanda Marnu Ramro' (Better to die than to be a coward), the fearsome, world-famous Nepali Gurkha fighters would say as they carried their Khukuris and charged to the battlefield. For centuries this machete-like blade has fought many battles in the Nepali realm and beyond, and has become a symbol of Nepali heraldry. Till date, the Gurkhas still carry these blades to battle.
The Khukuri is a sharp forward curving blade known for its decisive slashing edge. Along with being used for both combat, it has also been used for purposes like hunting, cutting, slaughtering, and building.
Traces of Khukuri's origin dates back to its use as sickle for domestic purposes and hunting, and then later to hand to hand combat. The Gorkhali kings used the khukuri to fight many battles, and Nepal's unifier, the late king Prithvi Narayan Shah, was said to have used his khukuri to annex the smaller kingdoms and principalities that made up modern Nepal.
Khukuri House Handicraft Industry in Patan Industrial Estate is one of the largest industries involved in the making of the khukuri. Established in 1991, the workers of the industry make Khukuris using both primitive and modern-mechanical methods. The khukuris are then sold to showrooms in Nepal, and also exported abroad.
The industry's managing director Saroj Lama Tamang, took over after his father—who was also a Gurkha soldier—retired, and passed his company over to his sons. Initially, the khukuris were made by skilled artisans of Eastern Nepal, and his father's business only involved the retailing of these blades. Growing up, Saroj had always been fascinated by the Gurkhas and their history, and would help his father in his business after attending his college classes in the mornings. After taking over, he implemented innovative methods of self-production and online business to improve efficiency.
"There is a high demand of Khukuri especially in the USA and UK, where there is an influence of Gurkhas. In addition to the Gurkhas living abroad, even Canadians and Americans are also quite fond of these knives, and we receive a lot of orders especially during hunting seasons," explains Saroj.
He adds further, "Our artisans come from families that have been making these weapons for generations, and learn the skills as a child. Especially in regions of eastern Nepal like Khotang, Bhojpur and Dharan, there are a lot of skilled craftspersons, and we have employed them to support their artistry.
Mangalam, one of the workers involved in the forging of this blade, came to Kathmandu from the eastern hill district of Khotang. Although he has been making Khukuris here for the past four years, he used to make these blades back in his village. He explains that khukuri making is an ancestral skill that has been passed down in his family for many generations. "Most of the workers here had already learnt to make the khukuri back in their villages. The only difference is that the procedure here is more systematic," he explains.
The khukuri is kept in a leather sheath and is also accompanied by two smaller knives—karda and chakmak—known as 'Khukuri ko Saathi' or Khukuri's friends. The karda is a small utility knife or skinny knife with sharp edges, and the chakmak is a knife—blunt on both sides—used as a sharpening tool. The chakmak is said to have proved to be a useful tool for striking fires.
"The Khukuri making process involves a efficient teamwork," Saroj explains. The process first requires iron sheets to be forged and the hammered to shape. This process requires the work of at least two blacksmiths. After the forging process is complete, the work of the blacksmiths is individualised; Some are involved in making the handle, some in the making of the leather sheath, some grind the Khukuri to give it a precise shape, and some are involved in the polishing of the khukuri to give it a proper finish.
The handles of the Khukuri are generally made up of hardwood, but some Khukuris also use buffalo horn, ivory and bones. The handles usually have a metal bolster made up of either brass or steel.
Along with being a utility tool and combat weapon, the Khukuri is seen as a symbol of bravery in Nepal. Most Nepali heraldic symbols including that of Nepali army and the British and Indian Gurkha regiments have the khukuri in it.
The khukuri is also an important part of many traditional ceremonies in Nepal. Nepali bridegrooms still hold the khukuri in the patuka (cloth belt) of their Daura suruwals (traditional Nepali attire). This tradition was said to have been influenced by the Khas Kshatriya community of Nepal, to whom the khukuri is considered their pride. Back in the olden days, the bridegroom's family had to travel great distances to receive the bride at her home, and in their arduous journey, they carried a khukuri for combat. Today the khukuri is considered a symbol of bravery, and many still carry the khukuri in the belts of their daura surwal.
The khukuri is not only different because of its unique shape and sharpness, but also fascinating because of the many stories associated with it; the weapon is a symbol of Nepali pride. To get your very own khukuri, be sure to visit Khukuri House Handicraft Industry.
Khukuri House Handicraft Industry
Patan Industrial Estate, Lagankhel
Phone Number: 01-5551171
For online shopping visit: http://www.khukurihouseonline.com/
Price Range: $50—$100