The old Royal Arsenal in Kathmandu, Nepal, mid 19th Century. Image: SirKukri.
1793 / 1811 -
"It is in felling small trees or shrubs, and lopping the branches of others for this purpose, that the dagger, or knife worn by every Nepaulian, and called Khookheri, is chiefly employed; it is also of very great use, as I repeatedly experienced, in clearing away the road when obstructed by the low hanging boughs of trees, and other similar impediments (p.118)."
"Besides matchlocks, they are generally armed with bows and arrows; and Kohras, or hatchet swords; of the two last weapons, drawings are annexed (p. 214.)"
- William J. Kirkpatrick. An Account of the Kingdom of Nepaul.
London, 1811, (reprint New Delhi, 2007).
“During the Nepal war, the sepoys unable to profit so much by their discipline, as they would have done in compact charges on the plain, found the musket and bayonet so unequal a weapon to oppose in single combat to the Goorkahs, that they endeavored clandestinely to take with them their tulwars, and latterly ten men of
each company were permitted to do so (p. 182).”
- Capt. Samuel Parlby. “On improving the mode of fixing the Bayonet & co.,"
in The British Indian Military Repository, vol. IV, Calcutta, 1826.
“The Kookree, or knife, is their favorite weapon; but the Government has sagely armed them with fuses, and has taught them to rely upon the superior advantages of the bayonet; though, like the Highlanders, their predilection for the knife (a sort of claymore) is still cherished; at close quarters it is a formidable, but not equal to a broadsword. In bivouacking, stockading, and the more harmless occupations of household matters, building, hewing, & c. the natives are very expert in the use of
this their national weapon (p. 219)."
Major E. C. Archer. Tours in Upper India and in parts of the Himalaya Mountains.
London, 1833, vol 2.
“The kookree is sharp and narrow at the point, suddenly increasing in breadth, and thus presenting a great surface of cutting edge, which is rendered still more effectual by its bent shape and short edge. The Goorkhas generally drive the kookree into the abdomen or belly of their opponents, and thus rip them up with
great dexterity and expedition.”
- W. L. M’Gregor. History of the Sikhs.
"...by the Goorkas, is a most useful weapon at all times, and at close quarters in action a most dangerous and deadly one. The khokery is shaped like a curved knife, narrow near the handle, and curving inwards, the blade varying from fourteen to sixteen inches in length, and two and half inches wide at its broadest part. The case in which it is contained is likewise furnished with various useful articles, viz.: a couple of small knifes, a pair of scissors, needle and thread, tweezers, and the requisite apparatus for striking a light, and in the use of which the Goorkhas are remarkably expert...(p. 250)."
- Capt. Thomas Smith. Narrative of a Five Years’ Residence at Nepaul (Nepal).
Gurkhas/Gorkhalis approx. 1815 as depicted by Fraser.
Kukri/Khukuri & Khora/Kora Sword as given in Kirkpatricks book (see above Quote) from 1811.
This is the first image we know of the Kukri knife.
"The chief implement of the Goorkah is the Koorkerie, a curved knife, which has proved very formidable to the rebels, and with which they encounter a foe at close quarters, or dispatch a wounded man.
...1500 Goorkahs and two guns, was met by some 5000 of the enemy with seven guns...The curved knives made quick work. Ten minutes after their charge the enemy had disappeared.
...the Goorkahs carry koorkeries, formidable couteaux de chasse (p. 13)."
- "The Goorkah Knife" in The Illustrated London News,
2 January, 1858.
“The facility with which the Gorkhas wielded the kukree—a native knife, and a most effective weapon of war in experienced hands—elicited the wonder of every beholder. Once plunged into the abdomen of an enemy, in a second he was ripped
up, just as clean and cleverly as the butcher divides an ox or a sheep (p. 86).”
- Rev. John Edward Wharton Rotton. The Chaplain’s Narrative of the Siege of Delhi.
"There is another curious form of cutting-blade in which the curve is the reverse way to the usual form. Instances of this form are seen in the Khora, and Kookree knife of the Ghoorkas. In tools we have a familiar illustration in the billhook used to lop off small branches of trees, and in some forms of pruning-knives. The Kookree knife is the best known weapon of this kind, and the stories related of its cutting power are very marvelous. If you examine it you will find that the weight is well forward, and in advance of the wrist, and in fig. 4 you will see that the effect of the inward curve is to increase the cutting power by rendering the angle more acute. It acts, in fact, in precisely the same way, but in an inverse direction, to the outward curve in the blade, fig. 2. (p. 417)."
- John Latham.“The Shape of Sword Blades” in Journal of the
Royal United Service Institution, vol VI, London, 1863.
"Their arm, as they were told in another place, was the kookre, and they rushed at the troops, raised their muskets, and cut them across their stomachs (p. 637)."
- Hon. Captain W. D. H. Baillieby in New Zealand Parliamentary Debates,
vol 6, Wellington, 1869.
"No notice of the Goorkhas would be complete without some remarks on their national weapon the kookree, their skill in wielding which makes it and them objects of no small dread to the other natives of India. So universal is the use of this peculiar knife among the Nepaulese that even the women not infrequently carry one on their journey, adapting it, and the two smaller knifes affixed to the sheath, to the most ordinary culinary operations.
The kookree then is a large curved knife, in shape no unlike an exaggerated sickle, but -with great depth and weight of blade, to which the haft, to inexperienced eyes and hands, appears utterly disproportionate, though, wielded by a Goorkha or by one accustomed to its use, this seeming defect ceases to exists, save the handles, being generally made of wood (though many adopt iron instead) are of course frequently broken, and have to be replaced. The sheath is generally covered with leather, and affixed to one side near the handle two small knives, not unlike the Highlander`s dirk, and a pocket with a sort of loose purse or slide enclosed, in which money or papers are occasionally carried, but which the Goorkha usually devotes to flint and tinder, the back of his kookree itself, or one of the small knives furnishing the steel requisite for striking a light. The national weapon of Nepaul is therefore also a domestic article, in a universal use throughout the country (p. 519)."
"...some idea may be formed from the slicing off at one stroke of the head of a good sized buffalo calf—a feat which I have seen accomplished more than once at some of the religious festivals of the Goorkhas (pp. 519-520)."
"...this formidable knife forms part of the equipment of every Goorkha soldier, each recruit bringing one with him on appearing for enlistment. The kookree is worn when in uniform on the right side in a leather frog... the height of a Goorkhas ambition is to get to sufficiently close quarters when in action to admit of bringing his favorite weapon into play, on which occasions he will not unfrequently use his rifle as a shield in his left hand to protect his head (p. 520)."
- "Rough Notes on the Goorkhas” in Colburns United Service Magazine,
vol 1, no 4; London, 1871.
“Each column was to be preceded by twenty men with tulwars, or native swords. But the sword is no match for the Gurkhas kukri and small shield, as the number of casualties in the 8th Dragoons sufficiently proves. An amusing account of one of the encounters has been preserved, which, if correct in all its details, shows that a dragoon, though a good swordsman, could gain no advantage over his antagonist until he had, by skill or luck, disarmed him of his kukri. Even then it was only by a blow of the left fist in the stomach, while the shield was raised to cover the Gurkhas head, which doubled him up, that he was able to deliver his point (note on p. 4)."
"The Gurkhas, with their shields and kukris, getting within the point of the sabre, had the advantage; and in a few minutes the dragoons had to give way, having lost four killed and fifty-eight wounded (p. 6)."
- Major Francis W. Stubbs. History of the organization, equipment, and war services
of the regiment of Bengal artillery. London, 1877.
"Kukri - Their (Nepalese, Gorkhas) national weapon is the Kukri, originally a kind of bill-hook, for cutting through small wood in the dense low jungles of the Terai and the Himalayas. The Gorkha Kukri is generally ornamented with Aryan designs and sometimes even bears the figure of a Hindu deity inlaid in gold on the blade (Egerton, p. 100)."
- Lord Egerton of Tatton. Indian and Oriental Arms and Armor.
London,1880, (reprint: New York, 2002).
19th Century Gurkha Kukri/Khukuri. Image: SirKukri / Heritage Knives.
“The Kukri, the national weapon of Nepal, is only eighteen or nineteen inches in total length, and has a blade of bright steel, incurved, heavy, and widening towards the point. It has more the qualities of a good billhook than anything else, and it was no doubt originally devised to do duty as a billhook as much as for fighting purposes; for the Gorkha had to clear his way through the thickly growing vegetation of the Terai forests [at the foot of the Himalayas]. What a handy tool it is in the grasp of its true proprietor, the Gorkha, is well known—how formidable it is as a weapon, those who have been in action with our Gorkha battalions can emphatically testify; and this can be the more clearly realized when it is told that, with his Kukri, the Gorkha can strike off the head of a bullock at one blow (p.786)."
- “Indian Arms” in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine,
London, 1886. Vol 139.
"Their national weapon, which is here figured, is made by themselves from steel which they themselves smelt out of iron ore, and which is of excellent quality. The Kookery is extremely heavy, my specimen, which is a small one, weighing twelve ounces. It is very thick and heavy at the back, and, as the edge is kept as sharp as
that of a razor, it can inflict terrible wounds.
On one occasion a native chief boldly asserted that one of his men could kill a tiger single-handed. The man was nothing loth, and, armed only with the Kookery, faced the animal boldly (p. 128)."
- Rev. J. G. Wood. Man and his Handiwork.
"The kukri, a short, curved, broad-bladed, and heavy knife, is the real national weapon of the Goorkhas, and it is worn by all from the highest to the lowest. In our regiments they are carried in a frog attached to the waist-belt. From the beginning of the handle to the end or point of the blade they average about 20 inches in length. Where wood is plentiful, they are very fond of practicing cutting with the kukri, and they will cut down with one blow a tree the size of an ordinary man's arm (p. 32)."
"A long piece of cloth, which is often a pagri, and is wrapped round the waist, and by which the kukri is carried (p. 33)."
" A white or colored waist cloth or pagri, with the invariable kukri, a pair of pajamas very loose down to just below the knee, and from thence fitting the leg down to the ankle, and a pair of the national shoes (p. 35)."
- Capt. Eden Vansittart (2/5 GR). Notes on the Goorkhas.
"In addition to their military equipment’s, they carry (as may be said of the whole nation) the ancient weapon of Nipal namely, the terrible kokre, which, parenthetically described, is a massive curved knife some twenty inches long and about five broad, manufactured from the finest-tempered steel, and whetted with an edge as sharp as that of a razor. The reader, who may not have seen the kokre used, cannot by mere description form any conception of its power in the hands of a strong man skillful in the art of wielding it.
Even we ourselves, while looking on at some Nipalese sacrificing animals to their gods, could hardly believe our eyes when we saw the head of a buffalo severed from the neck by a single stroke from this truly formidable weapon. The man who performed this amazing feat informed us, with broad grins following a convulsive " Ha, ha! " that he could as easily decapitate two human heads with one blow; and a confederate bystander explained the purport of this savage remark by observing that, in divorce cases, not the ordinary law of civilization, but the all-powerful kokre, summarily settles, and effectually avenges any injury to the matrimonial bed.
A more useful weapon it would be impossible to place in the hands of any man than the kokre is in those of the Nipalese. He uses it for all purposes, and without it he seldom stirs out abroad. It is his sword, his table-knife, his razor, and his nail-parer ; with it he clears the jungle for his cultivation, builds his log-hut, skins the animals that he slaughters in short, without the kokre he is as helpless as a child ; with it he is a formidable warrior, as well as a man of all work (p. 30-31)."
- Lt. John Tulloch Nash. Volunteering in India: Or an Authentic Narrative of the Military Services
of the Bengal During the Indian Mutiny, and Sepoy War. London, 1893.
“Every soldier carries a kukri in addition to his bayonet (p. 52).”
“The kukri, a short, curved, broad-bladed and heavy knife, is the real national weapon of the Gurkhas, and it is worn by all from the highest to the lowest. In our regiments they are carried in a frog attached to the waist belt.
From the beginning of the handle to the end or point of the blade they average about 20 inches in length.
Where wood is plentiful, they are fond of practicing cutting with the kukri, and they will cut down with one blow a tree the size of and ordinary man`s arm (p. 74).”
“...his national weapon the kukri has in Burma and other places proved itself invaluable (p. 78).”
“In this fight (Indian Mutiny) Colonel Gambar Sing had no other weapon than his kukri (p. 88).”
- Capt. Eden Vansittart (2/5 GR). Notes on Nepal.
Calcutta, 1896. (reprint New Delhi, 1992).
"Rear Adm. the Hon. Victor Alexander Montagu: “Their [the Ghoorkas’] chief weapon was the kookerie (a long-handled, curved-blade knife), which they were supposed to throw with the utmost precision a matter of fifty yards; and it was said that these knives were thrown during a charge before coming to very close quarters....They were adepts at cutting off the head of a bullock with one stroke of the kookerie; I saw this done on more than one occasion (p. 174).”
Victor Alexander Montagu. A Middy’s Recollections 1853-1860.
“For close in-and-in fighting in the hands of a man who knows how to use it, no more terrible weapon has ever been devised. They vary in size from a foot to about two feet six inches; and you can judge of the severity of its blow when you see a stout little Gurkha cutting, with one stroke, clean through the neck of a fair-sized buffalo (p. 81)."
- P.B. Bramley. “Cold Steel, and Indian Swordsmanship” in Journal of the United
Service Institution of India, 1899.
Based on the Blog post from SirKukri & Co.;
19th Century Kukri knife at Royal Armouries, Leeds, United Kingdom.
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