Khukuri

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Category Weapon
Khukri-knife.jpg

The Khukuri (Devanāgarī: खुकुरी) (also sometimes spelled khukri or khukuri) is a curved Nepalese knife used as both tool and weapon. It is also a part of the regimental weaponry and heraldry of The Royal Gurkha Rifles. It is known to many people as simply the "Gurkha Blade" or "Gurkha Knife". Also widely used in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand state of India, where it is called Kaanta or Dafya (in Kumaoni).

Design

The Khukuri is basically designed for chopping and stabbing purposes as a weapon of war, but it still can be used in other household or daily tasks, such as: building or digging a furrow, to cut meat and vegetables, to cut trees etc. It functions as a cross between a knife and an axe.
Although general shape remains the same, there are huge variations in terms of dimensions and blade thickness, depending on intended tasks and regional variations.
Depending on the purpose, its design and manufacture varies. Blades are usually 3 - 10 cm wide and 30 – 38 cm long, but size varies depending on its purpose. Blades are deflected at an angle of 20° or more, with a thick spine and a single sharp cutting edge; this causes the end section of the blade to strike square on, greatly increasing chopping effectiveness.
Handles are made of hardwood or waterbuffalo horns. Knife has a flared butt that allow better retention in draw cuts and choping. Traditionnal design doesn't have any front guard.
Many Khukri display metal bolster (generally brass) covering the handle/blade junction.
A kukri can have one or more fullers, including the "aunlo bal" (finger of strength/force/energy), a relatively deep and narrow fuller visible in the modern example above, as well as one or more "chirra", which may refer either to shallow fullers in the belly of the blade or a hollow grind of the edge [1]. This groove is said to symbolize the spear of the god Shiva. There are other stories about the meaning of these decorations. Very often the knifesmith will put his own maker's mark near the handle as well.
Kukris usually have a notch or a pair of adjacent notches (the "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 the Hindu goddess Kali.
Traditionnal design use a "rat tail" tang going through the handle although full tang khukri have been introduced notably to the request of british army.
Knife comes with a leather shealth. It is common to add to the shealth one or two small knives and/or a sharpening steel.


Manufacture

Modern Kukri blades are often forged from leaf springs collected from recycled truck suspensions. The tang of the blade usually extends all the way through to the end of the handle; the small portion of the tang that projects through the end of the handle is hammered flat to secure the blade. A kukri blade has a hard, tempered edge and a softer spine. This enables it to maintain a sharp edge, yet tolerate impacts. They are also balanced so that they will rest in a vertical position if supported on a fulcrum, e.g. a finger.
Traditional kukris usually have handles made from hardwood or water buffalo horn. These handles are often fastened with a kind of tree sap called laha (also known as "Himalayan epoxy"). With a wood or horn handle, the tang may be heated and burned into the handle to ensure a tight fit, since only the section of handle which touches the blade is burned away. In more modern kukri, handles of cast aluminum or brass are press-fitted to the tang - as the hot metal cools it shrinks and hardens, locking onto the blade. Some kukris (such as the ones made by contractors for the modern Indian Army) have a very wide tang with handle slabs fastened on by two or more rivets, commonly called a full tang (chiruwa) configuration.
Traditional profiling of the blade edge is performed by a two-man team; one man spins a grind wheel forwards and backwards by means of a rope wound several times around an axle, while the sharpener applies the blade. The wheel is made by hand from fine river sand bound by laha, the same adhesive used to the affix the handle to the blade. Routine sharpening is traditionally accomplished by passing a chakmak (smaller, harder, unsharpened blade) over the edge in a manner similar to that used by Western chefs to steel their knives.
Kukri sheaths are usually made of wood with a goatskin covering. The leatherwork is usually done by a sarki. Traditionally, the scabbard also holds two smaller tools called the karda and the chakmak. The karda is a small accessory blade used for many tasks. The chakmak is unsharpened and is used to burnish the blade. It can also be used to start a fire with flint. Attached to older style scabbards there is sometimes a pouch for carrying flint or dry tinder.


Parts of a Khukuri

  1. Kukri Blade
  2. Keeper (Hira Jornu): Spade/Diamond shaped metal/brass plate used to seal the butt cap.
  3. Butt Cap (Chapri): Thick metal/brass plate used to secure the handle to the tang.
  4. Tang (Paro): Rear piece of the blade that goes through the handle
  5. Bolster (Kanjo): Thick metal/brass round shaped plate between blade and handle made to support and reinforce the fixture.
  6. Spine (Beet): Thickest blunt edge of the blade.
  7. Fuller/Groove (Khol): Straight groove or deep line that runs along part of the upper spine.
  8. Peak (Juro): Highest point of the blade.
  9. Main body (Ang): Main surface or panel of the blade.
  10. Fuller (Chirra): Curvature/Hump in the blade made to absorb impact and to reduce unnecessary weight.
  11. Tip (Toppa): Starting point of the blade.
  12. Edge (Dhaar): Sharp edge of the blade.
  13. Belly (Bhundi): Widest part/area of the blade.
  14. Bevel (Patti): Slope from the main body until the sharp edge.
  15. Cho/Notch (Kaudi): A distinctive cut (numeric 3 like shape) in the edge functioned as a blood dropper and others.
  16. Ricasso (Ghari): Blunt area between notch and bolster.
  17. Rings (Harhari): Round circles in the handle.
  18. Rivet (Khil): Steel or metal bolt to fasten or secure tang to the handle.
  19. Tang Tail (Puchchar): Last point of the kukri blade.
  20. Kukri Scabbard
  21. Frog (Faras): Belt holder especially made of thick leather (2mm to 4mm) encircling the scabbard close towards the throat.
  22. Upper Edge (Mathillo Bhaag): Spine of the scabbard where holding should be done when handling a kukri.
  23. Lace (Tuna): A leather cord used to sew or attach two ends of the frog. Especially used in army types (not available in this pic).
  24. Main Body (Sharir): The main body or surface of the scabbard. Generally made in semi oval shape.
  25. Chape (Khothi): Pointed metallic tip of the scabbard. Used to protect the naked tip of a scabbard.
  26. Loop (Golie): Round leather room/space where a belt goes through attached/fixed to the keeper with steel rivets.
  27. Throat (Mauri): Entrance towards the interior of the scabbard for the blade.
  28. Strap/Ridge (Bhunti): Thick raw leather encircling the scabbard made to create a hump to secure the frog from moving or wobbling (not available in this pic).
  29. Lower Edge (Tallo Bhag): Belly/curvature of the scabbard.

Types of Khukuri

Kukris can be broadly classified into two types: 'siropate' are used for warfare, while 'budhuni' are used for woodwork. Siropate have sleeker and thinner blades, while the budhuni have thicker wider blades shaped more like fish.


History

It is a matter of debate where the design came into Nepal from another or who promoted it first. It may be indigenous to the Indian region, but ancient Egypt, the Iberians, and the Greeks used similar designs.
One weapon of Iberian origin, the Falcata, shows some similarity with the kukri, and the Greeks used forms called the Machaira and kopis. Alexander the Great's men used weapons of this type and may have spread it into India when Alexander moved into the Punjab.
The Greek kings in Afghanistan and India in later centuries who had relation with Mediterranean culture (after the time of Julius Caesar and Roman merchants, who had a huge commercial presence in India) seem to have used tools similar to kukri, and possibly were promoters of it.
It is not documented if the Aryans had similar tool at that time.
Eurasian steppe people, the Turks used a type of forward-curving Turkish sword yataghan (mid-16th to late 19th centuries [2]) which first appeared in centuries after the Battle of Manzikert and looked similar to kukri.
Gurkha troops were issued the kukri and regularly trained in its use. The weapon was used in combat in both World War I and World War II, where it earned a deadly reputation among enemy forces. During the Second World War, the kukri was purchased and used by other British, Commonwealth, and U.S. troops training in India, including the Chindits and Merrill's Marauders.


Khukuri Makers

Traditionally Kami (caste) and Biswakarma (caste) are the masters of inherited kukri making art.


Usage

The kukri is considered a very effective weapon. Despite the physical resemblance to a boomerang, the kukri is not designed to be thrown. The blade's distinctive forward drop is intended to act as a weight on the end of the blade and make the kukri fall on the enemy faster and with more power. It has been erroneously stated that the knife is specifically weighted for the purpose of slitting the throat[citation needed]. As for attacking, the kukri is most effective as a chopping, slashing weapon - though stabbing attacks are also used. Based on the recollections of Colonel Gian Singh, (formerly 7th Indian Division), [2]
A Gurkha from the 4/8 Gurkhas had demonstrated to me in India how best to use the kukri. Firstly, you get in close to your enemy and stab him in the lower body. When the kukri goes in, the enemy always doubles up. You then swiftly withdraw your kukri and take his head off. With a sharp blade that's easy. I saw many an enemy with their heads off so it must work!
Despite usage in the military, the kukri is most commonly used as a woodcutting and general purpose tool, and is a very common agricultural and household implement in Nepal. A kukri designed for general purpose is commonly 16 to 18 inches (around 40-45 cm) in overall length and weighs one to two pounds (around 450-900 grams). Bigger examples are impractical for everyday use and are rarely found except in collections or as ceremonial instruments. Smaller ones are of more limited utility, but very easy to carry.

Although a popular urban legend states that a Gurkha "never sheaths his blade without first drawing blood", the kukri is most commonly employed as a multi-use utility tool, rather like a machete. It can be used for building, clearing, chopping firewood, digging, cutting meat and vegetables, skinning and also for opening tins.
The kukri also has a religious significance in Hindu religion and is blessed during the Dasain sacrificial festival.


Different types of Khukuri

khukuri.jpg
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