We’re so used to using knives as nothing but our utility kitchen or crafting knives, but they can be so much more than that. For example, take the kukri knife. It’s not your average knife. It’s a blade with a story behind it and, most of all, a blade valued on a national level. It would almost be a shame to not explore the fascinating background of the kukri knife. That being said, let’s all discover just what this infamous kukri knife is all about.
The kukri knife is a traditional Nepalese tool, easily recognizable curtsy of its distinguishing onwards-curved blade which is highly reminiscent of a machete. Nepalese people use it as a tool, though its reputation is mainly the one of a weapon. By tradition, it used to be the primary utility tool of Nepal and, to an extent, it continues to be so.
As a weapon, the kukri knife was part of several arsenals:
- In the Nepalese Army, which became known for wielding the kukri knife;
- Royal Gurkha Rifles of the British Army;
- Assam Rifles;
- Gorkha regiments of the Indian Army.
In fact, the kukri knife is an inclusion to the majority of Gurkha all over the world. This led to several English-speaking countries to doubling the kukri knife as the “Gurkha kukri knife.”
Often appearing in Nepalese heraldry, the kukri knife is often used in a variety of traditional rituals, even for something like a wedding.
The kukri knife has an impressive history behind, with many people starting to believe that its origins can actually be traced back to prehistoric times. Read ahead to discover what drives this possibility and the crucial role the kukri had for the Gurkha regiments all over the world, especially those from Nepal.
The exact origins of the kukri knife are up to debate. For a while, historians believed that the kukri knife was developed on European grounds, being brought to South Africa by Alexander the Great. Further research, however, managed to unveil a possibility that the kukri drew inspiration from the prehistoric sickle. Richard F. Burton managed to pin point other exact sources of inspiration behind the kukri, attributing the model of the tool to other weapons from different regions of the world:
- Greek kopis;
- Australian tombat;
- Egyptian khopesh;
- Illyrian sica;
- Iberian falcata.
One of the oldest kukri knives in history belonged to Drabya Shah (around 1559) and it’s currently fostered by the National Museum of Nepal from Kathmandu.
The Western world first laid eyes on a kukri knife in the aftermath of the growing tensions between East India Company and the evolving Gorkha Kingdom. These tensions eventually escalated into a proper conflict, known as the Gurkha War (1814-1816).
Perhaps another lesser known instance of rising fame is the one through literary means. Famous author Bram Stoker featured the weapon in his equally famous novel Dracula. Even though most of us are familiar with the image of Dracula meeting his demise curtsy of a stake to the heart, there was another weapon involved. During the climatic confrontation between the heroes and Dracula’s guards, Jonathan Harker puts the vampire down by slicing his throat with his kukri. This is described in Mina’s narrative.
Over the time, especially since the knife’s introduction to the western world, the appearance of the kukri knife has been in continuous evolution. Its trademark is the curved blade, though depending on the intended use of the knife, it can even be straightened. Also depending on the intended task for the knife, blade dimensions and thickness may also differ greatly from one case to another.
Some general sizes for typical uses are:
- 5–10 mm spines at the handle;
- 26–38 cm for the blade;
- 40–45 cm (16–18 in) overall length for a commom kukri;
- weight of 450–900 grams (1–2 lbs).
Alterations to these sizes do exist, though they’re not particularly frequent. A knife larger than that is pretty impractical, save for collection or ceremonial purposes. Smaller ones aren’t as practical, but they are easier to carry so you may stumble upon these variations.
The majority of kukri knives come equipped with two smaller ones, attached to the back of the sheath.
- The first one is a Karda and its purpose is to serve as a cutting knife, easier and safer to carry around.
- The second one is a Chakmak and it has adjacent purposes rather than one of its own. Blunt on both sides of the blade, this small knife can be used as a sharpener for the kukri when in need of polishing its edge. Moreover, because of its material and its properties, the knife can also be used to create sparks necessary to start a fire. In other words, it makes a great survival knife.
Traditionally, the kukri knife is the trademark of Gurkha troops, even going as far as to say that it’s a definite Nepalese trademark. Its crafting and design make it ideal in combat, allowing for smashing, slashing, and stabbing alike. This opens the door to numerous kukri knife fighting techniques, which the military is well-accustomed with.
The slashing and the stabbing are pretty basically covered, but the smashing might sound a little bit confusing. To perform this action, the soldiers would use the handle, and an effective outcome is favored by the sheer weight of the knife. A hit to the head with this kind of weight would result in dizziness or even loss of consciousness.
Nowadays, many Nepalese people use the kukri knife to cover a wide set of tasks. Thanks to its versatile nature, the knife can work as a farm and household tool with a number of appliances.
- It’s been used for building and crafting;
- Some even use it for chopping firewood;
- It comes in handy when hunting or skinning animals;
- Most frequently, it’s used to chop vegetables and fruits.
The kukri knife might just be one of the most versatile types of knives around. It’s a fearsome weapon on the battlefield and, simultaneously, a really handy tool around the household. We don’t know if we recommend buying one JUST for household use, but the alternative would be to use it for its military prowess. That’s even less recommended. However, it would make an excellent addition to any display or collection.