The kukri or khukuri is a Nepalese knife with an inwardly curved blade, used as both a tool and as a weapon in Nepal. Traditionally it was, and in many cases still is, the basic utility knife of the Nepalese people.It holds a unique place in Nepalese culture as more than just an exquisite example of local craftsmanship, or even a symbol of national pride, valor in battle, and personal bravery; although it is all of these things and more. It is a characteristic weapon of the Nepalese Army, the Royal Gurkha Rifles of the British Army, the Assam Rifles, the Gorkha regiments of the Indian Army, and of all Gurkha regiments throughout the world, so much so that some English-speakers refer to the weapon as a "Gurkha blade" or "Gurkha knife". The khukuri often appears in Nepalese heraldry and is used in many traditional rituals such as wedding ceremonies.
The present curved khukuri design as we know it today was born as an object of native craftsmanship in the hills of Nepal, in or around the 7th century BC - about 2500 years ago. The Nepalese khukuri has the unique distinction of being the only ancient battle weapon still in use in the field today – a distinction that is absolutely unique in the entire history of edged weaponry. The khukuri first gained notoriety in the West for its ferocious effectiveness against the British troops who encountered it in the Anglo-Nepali War.The mutual respect each side gained for the other in that war forged the British-Gurkha alliance that continues to this day.This emblematic weapon continued to serve the Gurkha warriors who wielded it through World War I, and World War II. During these conflicts, the knife gained high regard among allied and enemy troops alike, for its effectiveness and utility. Because a Gurkha and his khukuri are inseparable, it was formally adopted as official military issue gear under British leadership – each Gurkha carries one as a part of his “kit,” in both parade and battle. No Gurkha would ever think of going into combat without one. In this way, the khukuri has also become a part of English history as well.
The kukri is designed primarily for chopping. The shape varies a great deal from being quite straight to highly curved with angled or smooth spines. There are substantial variations in dimensions and blade thickness depending on intended tasks as well as the region of origin and the smith that produced it. As a general guide the spines vary from 5–10 mm at the handle, and can taper to 2 mm by the point while the blade lengths can vary from 26–38 cm for general use.
A kukri designed for general purpose is commonly 40–45 cm in overall length and weighs approximately 450–1000 grams. Larger examples are impractical for everyday use and are rarely found except in collections or as ceremonial weapons. Smaller ones are of more limited utility, but very easy to carry.
Kukri blades usually have a notch (karda, kauda, kaudi, kaura, or cho) at the base of the blade. Various reasons are given for this, both practical and ceremonial: that it makes blood and sap drop off the blade rather than running onto the handle, that it delineates the end of the blade whilst sharpening, that it is a symbol representing a cow's foot, or Shiva. 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.
The handles are most often made of hardwood or water buffalo horn, but ivory, bone, wood, and metal handles have also been produced. The handle quite often has a flared butt that allows better retention in draw cuts and chopping. Most handles have metal bolsters and butt plates which are generally made of brass or steel.
The Biswakarma are the traditional inheritors of the art of kukri-making. Mr Yaddu Bahadur Bishwakarma is a self employed Khukuri maker. He acquired the art of khukuri making through his father, the craft is being passed through father to son for generations. His young son currently works as his apperentice. Mr bishwakarma makes his khurkuris from the scratch, every part of the khurkuri is hand made.
His Khukuris are often forged from spring steel, sometimes collected from recycled truck suspension units. The tang of the blade usually extends all the way through to the end of the handle (panawola or else parowala); the small portion of the tang that projects through the end of the handle is hammered flat to secure the blade. The profiling of the blade edge is performed by a two-man team; Mr Yaddu and his son, one spins a grinding wheel forwards and backwards by means of a rope wound several times around an axle while the another, the sharpener applies the blade.
His Kukri handles, usually made from hardwood or buffalo horn, are often fastened with a kind of tree sap called laha (also known as "Himalayan epoxy"). Kukri scabbards are usually made of wood or metal with an animal skin or metal or wood covering.
Mr Yaddu is capable of manufacturing homemade khukuris as per specific design regardless of size, shape and complexity of the work.
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