First forged in the 7th century, the kukri is a multi-purpose knife that is considered the national weapon of Nepal. Uncover the origins of this unique blade, thanks to American BladesPro.
Several historians believe the kukri took inspiration from the domestic sickle and first became known to western society around 1814-1816 when the East India Company started waring with the Gorka Kingdom.
Predominantly used by the Gurkhas, a group of Nepalese soldiers, the knife originated from the Indian subcontinent. Every Gurkha soldier receives two kukris, one for ceremonial use and the other for combat. In more recent years, members of the Brigade of Gurkhas undergo specific kukri training.
A picture showing a group of Gurkha soldiers marching together. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Some regiments of the Indian army and a branch of the British Army named the Royal Gurkha Rifles also wield the kukri.
Drabya Shah's kukris from 1559 are the oldest remaining versions of the blade and reside at the National Museum of Nepal in Kathmandu.
A group of Indo-Aryan Nepali metalsmiths named the Bishwakarma were the first people to forge the kukri. Most modern kukri blades get produced using spring steel or truck suspension units that are not in use.
Once the blade is forged, its large tang gets hammered into the knife's handle. Along with the deeply lodged tang, kukri blades have a softer spine and tempered edge to absorb impact and cut through thick materials.
A traditionally forged kukri and its sheath. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Most kukri handles are sculptured using buffalo horn or hardwood and sealed with a form of tree sap called laha. Since either horn or wood is used to produce the handle, the blades tang can get burned into it for a tight and stable fit.
Forging a kukri is traditionally a two-person task. One metalsmith will rotate a grinding wheel back and forth while the other presses the blade against the grinder.
Several kukris also come with a sheath made of animal skin, wood or metal.
Dimensions and Capabilities
On average, kukris are 40-45cm wide and 459-900g heavy. Its size and unique curvature means the knife can be used for various purposes.
Even though it has many uses, the kukri primarily serves as a weapon. Many of the blade's features are designed to damage enemies. The knife's curved blade allows the person wielding it to perform a chopping motion without rotating their wrist. Additionally, the kukri's edges slide across the target area and can sever flesh and penetrate bones too.
Including its use in combat, the kukri is utilised as a tool to cut wood, build, dig, hunt animals for food, slice food and open cans. Due to its versatile blade, the kukri can also function as a small knife, axe or small shovel.