For lack of a better term this refers to the hundreds of 1000s of kukris that were made by kamis in the most remote of villages from Nepal and down through India over the centuries.
These knives are distinguished by the hard work they saw and the many details by which one may identify their origins. Because of the mixture of sub-cultures, trade and nomadic nature of the jats or tribes some models simply cannot be classified with 100% accuracy.
A alternative opening image found in JP´s photo collection. The "standard" used is given on the left side.
Fig. 1 A & 1 B. Various styles of the Kukri; Budhume, Hanshee, Bhojpure and Sirupati.
This first knife (fig. 2) is a classic example of a complete and common knife that could easily represent all of Nepal and not just one cultural pocket. A wooden grip of local sisal with a well defined ring, 5 or 6 parallel cuts in the wood, a blade made of folded and hand hammered steel with a fuller cut along the sides near the spine and a cho (editors notes: the notch in the blade close to the handle) of basic design to represent Shiva (editors note: a
Scan of page 2 of chapter 2. See image notes in chapter 1 and in the main page about JP for more info.
Fig. 2. A Classic example of a traditional Kukri with Scabbard, smaller Karda and Chakmak, and Khisa pouch.
A very loose rule of thumb for kukri knives made before the mid 1800s was that the long thin bladed hanshees which evolved into the sirupati (seerpat) came from western Nepal while the more robust and deeper bellied budhumes (later called bhojpure) came from the east (fig. 1A & 1B) and the two met in the Kathmandu Valley, further confusing the issue (editors note: It is important to bear in mind that JP´s findings were based on his research some 20 years ago and should be taken with a grain of salt as newer research has shown several ideas to be faulty. For example the east/west has been dismissed.The Bhojpure (from a town (Bhojpur) in the mid hills of eastern Nepal) is one of several styles within the larger Budhume group (a term which is a based on a broad bellied fish spieces). The many tribes can be attributed to these weapons such as Limbus and Rais make only the deeper bladed Bhojpure, the Gurungs, Tamangs and Chhetris make the seerpat and the Newars are the artisans who are responsible for many of the finely carved wooden scabbards, intricate decoration and engraved blades. If it were only as simple as this sentence makes it sound. There are just too many variations to neatly pigeon hole the kukris that have been made in Nepal since at least the 16th century and in India before that. Maybe not in the style we are used to seeing as today's profile, but still were kukris designed with the basics of a wooden ridged grip attached to a distinctly curved blade with the edge being on the inside of that curve.
The first impression of these kukris is just how hard they have been worked, repaired and used for years for everything from chopping branches to digging ditches to despatching enemies. The differences of blade, grip and scabbard offer many clues as to where and what these kukris were used for and from whence they came.
important Hindu god), a cow's hoof or the sexual organs of a multitude of gods. Take your pick, as no one has ever come up with an agreed to answer, but if you ask a Nepalese he will tell you, "It's a kukri, so it has a cho".
The tangs of some kukris extend completely through the grip and are peened over at the butt covered with a steel pommel plate and a diamond shaped keeper called a hira jornu (editors note: diamond joined/attached/together) that is a traditional Nepalese design feature (fig. 3). The bolster is made of steel, the scabbard is of goat skin dyed black with designs tooled in while the skin was wet and stretched over the wooden frame. The strap that encircles the scabbard has 2 buttons that are attached to a small strengthened piece of leather or tendon through a cut in the leather to keep everything from shifting (fig. 4). This system kept the knife from slipping through the sash where it was kept at the front of the body (fig. 5). At the back of the scabbard there is a pair of miniature scabbards to hold the karda and the chakmak and attached to these is a pocket (goji or kalti) to hold a pouch containing tinder and maybe a small piece of flint.
Fig. 3. The Diamond shaped keeper (hira jornu).
Fig. 4. The two buttons and straps as found on traditional Kukris.
Fig. 5. The traditional way of wearing a Kukri, in the front of the body.
Attached to the pouch is a decorative detail of leather (fig. 6) to assist in its removal. Around the top of this pocket is a woven piece of dyed leather that may be just a sarki (leather worker) showing off his skill or put there for reinforcement. He has also matched that little detail on the strap with 2 very small bits of red leather that serve no purpose other than design. The pouch and the back of the scabbard also show signs of embossing and the stitch that runs the entire length on the back is well made and very secure (see further examples in Chapter H).
The karda and the chakmak are usually of very basic workmanship in both the blade and the grips and these tools were often lost and replaced many times. Many collectors will disregard these knives since they may not match, but they are still an integral part of a complete kukri. In many cases there will be two kardaswhich may have been more useful since the back of one of these could act as both a striker for flint or to hone the main blade. There also may be a small pick between these 2 by-knives.
Variations abound and these examples show the subtle and not so subtle differences (fig. 7). Later chapters have pictures with scabbards made of elaborately carved wood and some kukris that are of higher quality with etched blades, unique scabbards and grips of different materials. The subtleties abound. This category also includes a type of kukri that is easiest to describe as a trousse (fig. 8) with as many as 12 small tools and blades including the chakmak and karda.
Fig. 6. Left: The decorative detail of the leather on the back pocket (pouch). Right: Additional image of the back pocket.
Fig. 7. "Subtle" and not so subtle differences of Kukri scabbards.
The tools vary, but always seem to contain a chisel, awl, gouger, tweezers and a hook. A saw may also be found and if its handle has a pronounced curve and is elaborately carved, it is probably a 20th century knife. If there is a pair of scissors present this usually indicates the same late era. The fewer tools, the older the knife. Such tools were probably used by shamans, a man with medical skills, or even a tinker. They are also known to have been used by pipe & drum members and mess attendants. Chapter G has more examples.
Many of these 'traditional' kukris also saw military service as the Gurkhas used their own knives for use in combat. During the 1st World War this didn't seem to be the case, but later unwritten rules allowed a Gurkha soldier to use his own knife in the field (fig. 9), but also maintain a standardized model for parade and inspections. This is discussed in the chapter on Military Kukris.
Went through + 350 images from JP and found the image below, one of JP´s
favorite Kukris, as text states: a "Perfect" Kukri.
Image page of the rough draft of chapter 2.
Fig. 8. The "trousse" with as many as 12 small tools and blades including the chakmak and karda.
Fig. 9. A traditional Kukri which has seen military service. Now a days more often refered to as a battalion or regimental Kukri. The same Kukri but in a different image is shown to the right.
The use of a military frog, canvas cover both are indicators of military service. The Kukri style itself, though labeled as traditional has been found to have beenmade by and/or used by Gurkha battalions and regiments.
JP had a keen sense for graphic lay out among his many amazing skills. Until he sold off his collection due to health issues, it was the best or one of the best in the World and gives a great sense of Kukri knives over the 19th and 20th century. A man we respect and admire as a leading researcher, collector, guide and mentor on the path of Kukri-ology.
Read more about the Heritage and History of Kukri knives HERE.
Articles, posts and more from Dr. Judkins, Spiral, SirKukri, Rawson, Lord Egerton, Ron Flook and others spanning + 200 years of writting on the Kukri knife.
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