Fig. 16. Various grips as found on the Kukri knife. JP Collection.
These interesting and attractive grips represent a divinity very prevalent throughout Nepal and other parts of south Asia: the Garuda. Half man and half bird, Garuda is the favoured mount of Vishnu. Also known as Bantej, he may also serve as the Vehicles for Amoghshiddhi who represents the cosmic element of Conformation. His colour is green and his recognition symbol is the Viswa Varja or double thunderbolt found on kothimoras.
(fig. 15) The Garuda carvings are fairly elaborate and the eyes will be filled with red lac, semi-precious gems or left hollow with the shadow acting as the focus. The tongues are sometimes made of a different material than the grip itself the grips being usually of horn. Wood, caribou and even the rarer rhino can be found and, occasionally, ivory. The blades found with this grip are normally quite plain to emphasize the art above the bolster. These older kukris may have been carried by a priest or seer as indicated by something as visible as a grip of a favoured god, but in the later examples such carvings are just another visual hook to make a sale.
Also to be found are other grips carved into various animals and deities. The pommel is sculpted as an animal or revered creature such as the garuda, hanuman, kakasya, horses and as pictured here singha, the lion (fig 16). Even the grips of the accompanying kardas are smaller versions of this green-dyed ivory example.
Editors note: Many Nepalese temples, specially of Newari origin or patronship has a set of figures and/or animal statues guarding the temple. These are the Temple guardians and play a role in both Buddhism and Hinduism. The Newar´s were masters of spiritual arts and even did work for the Imperial Chinese court besides many of the Tibetan Monasteries throuhout the Himalayas. In China the temple guardians are often Dogs, in Burma the Chinte and in Nepal a creature often incorporating elements in various degrees of a lions face, a dogs body and wings of a dragon, are placed at temple entrances. At times they are called Snow Lions. These guardians are a sign of power and stare at anyone entering the temple as a challenge, as they embody the protector of the Dharma (faith) and keeps negativ energy away. They are also related to the levels of consciousness and often different figures are found.
Kukri handles have at times carved figures representing these temple guardians, lions or other creatures. It is my opinion that we more commonly see these then a garuda figure.
Two Nepalese military officers Kukris from the late 19th to early 20th century with engraved lion symbols on the blade and often a sun on the other side. JP Collection
A fantastic Kothimora Kukri with a beautiful set of Lion head figures carved
on to the Karda & Chakmak. JP collection (lastly in the Gurkha Antiques Colletion).
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