Introduction          Back to Main FAQ Page

What makes a khukuri magic?

It's a wonderful question.

First, I believe the blade form descended from the Greek kopis which is about 2,500 years old, thus making the khukuri one of the oldest blade forms in the history of the world -- if not in fact the oldest. I believe that the blade form was carried to the sub-continent by the troops of Alexander the Great and was copied by local kamis. There are khukuris hanging on the walls of Nepal's National Museum which are 500 years old or even more. So, the long history is one of the things that make the knife magic.
Another thing that adds to the magic of the khukuri is the cultural and religious significance which has worked its way into the knife. Almost everything about the knife means something. What we call a blood groove is said to be trident of the Hindu god, Shiva, the destroyer. The cho or notch has various meanings, the sun and moon, symbols of Nepal, the sexual apparatus of Hindu gods and goddesses, a cow track because the cow is sacred to the Hindus. The buttcap of the knife is said to resemble the eye of god, always watching, ever seeing. The rings around the handle mean something but the true significance has been lost in the mists of time. Even the basic curve is said to look like a crescent moon, a symbol of Nepal. So, the religious meanings that have been worked into the knife make it magic.

Then there are the Gorkhas who did more than anybody to bring this knife to the attention of the world. For years, even centuries, the blade form lay dormant in the world, being kept alive only in India and Nepal. And then the Gorkhas appeared on the world scene a couple of hundred years ago and brought with them their traditional weapon, the khukuri. Because the Gorkhas were probably the best mercenary force the world has ever seen and may ever see part of their fame became the fame of the khukuri. Having lived in Nepal, being married into a Gorkha family, and having friends who are Gorkhas past and present, when I see a real khukuri I hear bugles and tigers. I cannot view a khukuri without thinking of Gorkhas, and I cannot view a Gorkha without thinking of a khukuri. No battle blade in the history of the world has more documented kills than the khukuri. That is part of the magic.

Then there are the kamis, the untouchable caste who make the khukuris. Working under absolutely deplorable conditions and with nothing more than an open forge and a handful of tools most of which they have made themselves they produce one of the finest knives in the world. It is the experience that has been passed down for 200 or even 400 years and the native skill along with blood, sweat, tears, patience, care, and a pride in craftsmanship that makes the knife magic.

When you add all these things together you get the mystique and the magic that is inherent in all real khukuris.


What kind of khukuris do they make in Nepal today?

The following:

These are the majority of khukuris made in Nepal today. Some are flashy with lots of engraving and scabbards covered with all sorts of brass decorations (usually made by Newaris in Patan -- beautiful but non-functional). Others "appear" to be a high quality khukuri. When Cliff Stamp examined one of the latter during recent testing he did he said it looked very good. When he tested it the khukuri failed penetration test (tip bent) and lateral strength test (blade bent). Cobalt has essentially destroyed one in normal use. Looks can be deceiving.

Not a bad knife. It is made by a shop in Bhaktapur and is generally pretty decent quality although the handle is too small for most Americans.

A shop in Bhojpur had the contract for these the last I heard but with only 238 Gorkha recruits going into British Army Service this year this is not enough to keep the shop alive. So I am not sure who is making these knives today -- could be the Bhojpur shop or maybe some smaller shop. Good blade, decent handle, fair fit and poor finish.

Next to the Himalayan Imports khukuri generally the best khukuri made in Nepal today. Why? Because the customer is local and will come back and complain if the khukuri does not do what it should. Almost always fitted with the partial tang handle which will fail but excellent blade. Finish is poor -- not required for locals. Karda, chakma, scabbard, generally not included.

The highest quality khukuri being made in Nepal today. Made by master kamis only with spring steel blades, excellently zone hardened. Fit and finish excellent. As old tests and recent tests by experts and users demonstrate there are few knives in the world that measure up to this one.


Copyright (c) 1999-2001  by Howard Wallace / 2002-2003 by Himalayan Imports,  all rights reserved. maintained by Benjamin Slade.
This FAQ may not be included in commercial collections or compilations, or distributed for financial gain, without express written permission from the author.  This FAQ may be printed and distributed for personal non-commercial, non-profit usage, or as class material, as long as there is no charge, except to cover materials, and as long as this copyright notice is included.