“If a man says he is not afraid of death – he is either lying or he is a Gurkha” – Field Marshall Sam Manekshaw
History speaks of the extraordinary accounts of bravery that this knife evokes. With its origins dating back to ancient times, the Khukuri is not only the national knife of Nepal but is also symbolic of the Gurkha soldier, a prized possession with which he has indelibly carved an identity for himself. It is a medium-length curved knife each Gurkha soldier carries with him in uniform and battle. In the grips of a Gurkha Soldier, it becomes a formidable razor-sharp weapon and a cutting tool.
Khukuris have been used by Nepali (Nepalese) soldiers since the earliest days of the Gorkhali Army which conquered and united Nepal under the Shah dynasty. The Khukuri came to be known to the Western world when the East India Company came into conflict with the growing Gorkha Kingdom, culminating in the Gurkha War of 1814–1816. The Khukuri gained fame in the Gurkha War for its effectiveness. Its continued use through both World War I and World War II enhanced its reputation among both Allied troops and enemy forces. They have been the symbol of the British Army’s Brigade of Gurkhas since it began.
The Khukuri 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.
Various materials are used to form the handles of a Khukuri like hardwood or water buffalo horn, alongside bone 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. When it is combined with the right blade, Kukri becomes a versatile tool. It can function as a smaller knife by using the narrower part of the blade, closest to the handle. The heavier and wider end of the blade, towards the tip, functions as an ax or a small shovel.
For a long time, it has been integral to the culture of Nepal and its tales of valor in the hands of Gurkha Soldiers are known worldwide and still stand strong alongside the newer string of weapons.