Object: Knife

Nepal: Kukri Knife
Materials: Steel, Brass, Leather, Wood

The Gurkha of Nepal is a formidable group of soldiers identified by their crescent shaped knives called Kukri knives.  Typically fighting alongside British soldiers, most recently in Iraq, these soldiers are the archetypal warrior.  During World War II it is rumored that they could sneak behind German lines to their fox holes where the Germans slept two by two and slit the throat of one of the two German soldiers.  The surviving soldier would then wake to find his partner.  This psychological warfare built up the reputation of the Gurkha mystique.

The knives are a large reason why Ghurkha’s are seen as such invincible warriors. Large curved blades approximately 12 inches long, these knives are used for slashing rather than stabbing.  The notch at the bottom of each blade is said to divert blood away from the handle.  Each blade is hand crafted, even modern military issue blades.  Many Ghurka soldiers forge their own knives, a tradition passed down from their fathers.  The Kukri is usually accompanied by two smaller knives called a karda and a chakmak, which fit into the sheath of the Kukri.  The karda is used for small jobs and is placed next to one’s cot to ward off evil spirits.  The chakmak has a blunt edge which can be rubbed against a rock to create sparks to start a fire.

[Stephanie Adams]

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Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.


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