History of Kukri

Introduction to History of Kukri

Yelling their spine-chilling battle cry “Aayo Gorkhali” – (Here comes the Gurkhas), when the Gurkha troops charged towards the invading British soldiers at the Battle of Naalapani in the year 1814 AD, this was the first time that the majestic yet fierce “Kukri ” was introduced to the western world. However, the origin of Kukri dates way back than the Anglo-Nepalese war era of the early 19th century.

History of Kukri
History of Kukri


The origin of Kukri 

The oldest known Kukri still in existence today belonged to the first king of Gorkha – Drabya Shah. This ancient Kukri – dated around 1559 AD, is housed for public display at the National Museum of Nepal in Chhauni, Kathmandu. Though the exact origin of Kukri has not be well documented, rough traces of the origin of Kukri have been linked by the researches with the domestic sickles of the prehistoric period. Use of Knives/Swords similar in design to that of Kukri has also been mentioned in as early as the Alexander the Great’s invasion era.

Gurkha Sword

Old Spanish Sword

Early documented History of Kukri 

The words about Kukri started to spread around world and started gaining recognition as the British soldiers encountered the Nepalese troops and their fierce battle weapon throughout the Anglo-Nepalese war during the years of 1814 to 1816 AD. One of the first recorded mentioning of Kukri is found in Richard Francis Burton’s “The Book of the Sword” – first published in 1884 AD. (Click Here to view the Book http://www.burtoniana.org/books/1884-Book-of-the-Sword/burton-1884-book-of-the-sword.pdf). At the same time, one of the early evidences of Kukri’s inclusion in literature can be found in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula (Click Here to view the Book https://ia800302.us.archive.org/10/items/draculabr00stokuoft/draculabr00 stokuoft.pdf). The writers refer about Kukri multiple times within their books as seen in some of its pages below. The adjectives such as “dreaded” and “great” used to describe the Kukri in those early days clearly suggest how quickly Kukri was glorified and famed around the world.

Incorporation of Kukri in the Military Use

As the history suggests that Kukri was primarily developed to be used as a domestic tool, it is believed that the Kukri was introduced into the military use by the troops of the then Gurkha State – one of the many divided states of the Himalayas. After the Gurkha king Prithvi Narayan Shah united these divided states to form the kingdom of Nepal, Kukri went on to become the primary weapon of the Nepalese (Gurkha) soldiers. At the end of the Anglo-Nepalese war in 1816 and impressed by their bravery and war skills, the Gurkhas were invited to join the East India Company’s army where they brought their prized weapon of closed combat – Kukri along with them. Since then the use of Kukri in military spread wherever the Gurkhas went on to serve, eventually reaching in the hands of foreign regiments such as British Gurkha, Assam Rifles, Burma Military Police, Singapore Police and more.

Kukri in the Modern Days

Though unofficially, nowadays Kukri is regarded as the national weapon of Nepal. While it is an integral part of the personal weaponries issued to the Nepalese army, images of Kukri appears in most of the Nepalese emblems and insignias. Kukri is also a mandatory part of the service weapons issued to any Gurkha regiments around the world. As a result, Kukri has become somewhat a synonym with the Gurkhas.

While Kukri has also become an integral part of the daily household utilities in almost every home in Nepal, the use and demand of Kukri has widespread globally as well. The modern domestic use of Kukri can include activities such as chopping meat and vegetables, cutting firewood, hunting and skinning games, clearing garden undergrowths, etc.

Kukri is equally popular these days among the enthusiast collectors from around the world. Depending upon the choice and requirements of the collector, Kukris of all shapes, sizes, price and designs are available in the market so that their owners can proudly boast and display their prized possession. People can buy a Good Kukri in most of the souvenir shops in Kathmandu.

Though actually it is pronounced in Nepali as Khu-Ku-Ree, many different versions of English spellings is in practice such as Khukri, Kukri, Khookree, Khukuri, etc. confusing the users at occasions. However, regardless of the variations in pronunciation and spellings, the legacy of Kukri will always be associated with the fierce Gurkha soldiers and represent strength, pride and valor. And whenever one holds the elegant yet dreaded Kukri in their hand, the same spine-chilling war cry of “Aayo Gorkhali” is bound to resonate in their ears.

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