My father having spent part of WW2 attached to 4th Indian Division, and having acquired a detachment of Gurkhas to watch his back while he was flash-spotting and sound-ranging for the artillery, the concept of the kukri is very familiar to me.
A few months ago I ordered a modern replica of what is referred to by most manufacturers as a ‘World War’ model kukri. It duly arrived from Kathmandu, via DHL, and is a perfectly competent outdoor tool. It will serve well in the garden and I don’t regret the £50 it cost me, but it is brand new and has no ‘soul’.
At around the same time I discovered that a shooting friend has a similar interest in kukris and loaned (later, donated) me a very good-looking example stamped with the name ‘K. B. Thakuri & Sons, Ghoom Darjeeling‘, which I had already encountered on the International Kukri Research & Historical Society (“IKRHS“) website.
In comparison with a counterfeit Mk.II WW1 kukri I have recently acquired (blade: 13.5″, weight 781g/28.5oz), the Thakuri kukri is both smaller and much lighter in the hand, at 11″ and 399g/14oz.
Whilst the kukri is the iconic weapon of the Gurkha soldier, it should be remembered that it started life as, and continues to be, the multi-purpose working tool of Nepal and northern India. While it may offend purists, the majority of kukris are used to chop firewood, clear undergrowth, open tins, and prepare food.
Military-issue kukris conform to one of the five standard designs (Mk.1 to Mk.5) but civilian kukris, although generally manufactured to one of a number of traditional designs, vary widely in size, shape and weight.
K.B. Thakuri & Sons were based in Ghoom, West Bengal, 7km from Darjeeling and the highest point on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. The sharp-eyed among you will have recognised that this is in India, not Nepal. However, as an ex-British hill station and garrison town for nearly 200 years, Darjeeling has a large Nepali/Gorka population, and many kukris were made and continue to be made in northern India.
The blade has two longitudinal indentations called ‘fullers’ on either face, hence it is technically ‘double-fullered’ (or dui chirra in Nepalese). This feature can be implemented well or badly, but Thakuri & Sons obviously knew their trade and the fullers are perfect. The metal is of good quality and takes a fine edge.
The blade has the traditional ‘blood notch’ (Nepalese: cho or kaudi) in front of the handle. The exact function or significance of the kaudi is not known, but the shape and the quality of its execution can vary widely. In the case of this kukri, the shape of the kaudi is unusual. Update: a second K. B. Thakuri kukri was loaned to me which sported a kaudi identical in shape to that of my own Thakuri kukri – it would be interesting to see whether this is the same for other Thakuri kukris.
The overall shape of the blade is typical of the the WW2 era, and I think this accurately reflects the age of the kukri.
The maker’s name is not particularly well struck on the blade (nor on some other Thakuri blades I have seen), and I would have been hard pressed to decipher it had I not known it in advance. The problem is that the name is often stamped on the curved surface of the fuller and doesn’t take well. (It’s not just kukri makers who can strike an impression badly – I have a 12-bore shotgun that someone at the Spanish proof house stamped 16-bore in error, then hurriedly overstamped with the correct calibre!).
Most kukris come with two small utility blades: a knife called a karda which is used for jobs too fine for the kukri, and an unsharpened blade called a chakmak which is used to strike sparks from a flint or sharpen the kukri in the manner of a butcher’s steel. Neither karda nor chakmak have survived in this case, although the leather sheath makes provision for both, and also has the small pouch (khissa) generally considered to be for holding tinder or other small items.
The handle of the kukri is nicely carved buffalo horn but which has suffered both insect attack and significant shrinkage over the years from too much sunlight. Opinion is split over whether an original item such as this should be repaired. My feeling is that a handle showing honest use and a few dents is acceptable, but the handle of this present kukri is well beyond that. I am therefore casting around for a current kukri maker to replace the handle with a direct copy of the original, and also to make me a replica sheath.
My grateful thanks to MK for the kind donation of this excellent kukri. You know who you are.
Update: I received the following comment from K. B.Thakuri’s grandson: “K B Thakuri owner of the Famous Khukuri supplier from Ghoom, Darjeeling died long time back but still the memories remains and his sons (Jeetman Thakuri / Lattu), daughter Shandya Thakuri and grand sons Binay Thakuri, Kiran Chettri, Saran Thakuri, Subash Ghimiray, Bhanu Ghimiray, Prem Chandra Ghimiray , Gupta Ghimiray, Samir Tamang, Sandip Tamang and grand daughters Pema Thakuri, Sange Thakuri, Chechchu Thakuri, Madhavi Ghimiray Lama are still alive. His second Daughter Sudha Devi Thakuri Ghimiray was died on 24 Dec 2006 in Siliguri Darjeeling. Gopal Thakuri was died on 1988, Purna Thakuri died in 1979 and Muduli Thakuri died in 1977. I wish My Grand father soul RIP.”If you have enjoyed this post, please drop me a note or subscribe to this blog using the Subscribe function on the Home Page. Thanks!