Forensic Fashion
(c)  2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1768 Nepali gurkha

Subjectgurkha infantry warrior
Culture: Nepali
Setting: Gurkha empire, Nepal 1768-1816
Evolution1605 Rajput bhumi > 1768 Nepali gurkha

Context (Event Photos, Period Sources)

* Schmidt 1995 p138
"The founder of modern Nepal was Prithvi Narayan Shah (r. 1742-75), the Rajput king of Gorkha, a state sixty-five kilometers (forty miles) west of Kathmandu.  After ascending the throne, Prithvi Narayan Shah devised plans for unifying Nepal under his rule.  He first reorganized his troops according to British military methods in use at the time, and then acquired control over the northern and southern trade routes leading into the Nepal valley.  Both the British in India and the Tibetans, who shared an interest in expanding trade between them, grew concerned by Prithvi Narayan Shah's conquests.  In 1767, the British sent troops into Nepal to reopen the trade routes, but neglected to take account of the monsoon, and the mission failed.  Meanwhile, Prithvi Narayan Shah's economic stranglehold seriously weakened Malla rule, and in 1769, when Gorkha troops entered the Malla kingdom, it quickly disintegrated.
    "Following the collapse of the Malla kingdom, Prithvi Narayan Shah moved quickly to consolidate and improve his position in Nepal, a task which still lay incomplete in 1775, when he died.  Prithvi Narayan Shah's successors shared his vision of a unified state, and within fifteen years Gorkha troops had conquered other areas in Nepal, bringing the whole country, from Sikkim to Karnali, under Gorkha rule.  Nepal's unification was complete."


* Withers 2010 p95
"Nepalese edged weapons were strongly influenced by the medieval Indian Rajputs, who brought Indian weapons styles into the region.  Alongside the legendary kukri knife (a heavily curved tool and weapon), the kora is the traditional weapon of the Gurkhas (from Nepal and northern India).  Its simple all-metal design comprises a wide and heavy blade with a massive flared tip.  The grip was tubular, incuding a thin, disc-shaped pommel and cross guard.  Decoration of koras includes chiselling and mounting of precious metals to the hilt."

* Stone 1934 p374
"KORA, CORA, KHORA.  The national sword of Nepal.  It has a very heavy, single-edged blade much incurved and widening greatly at the end, which usually terminates in two concave curves.  There is always an eye, or other Buddhistic symbol, inlaid on each side.  The scabbards are of two kinds.  The commoner is a wide sheath into which the blade can be slipped; the other is shaped to fit the blade and buttons down the back.  It is sharp on the concave side."

* Egerton 1968 p100
"The Nepalese use a larger knife, or sword 'Kora,' with an inner cutting edge, with which those who use it skillfully are enabled to cut a sheep in two at a single blow. ... Their swords and sacrificial axes are generally inscribed at the end of the blade, with Buddhist symbols the use of which seems to extend to Bengal."

* Paul 1995 p63-64
"The kora is the historical war weapon of the Gurkhas and has been in use for centuries.  The blade, although longer than that of a kukhri, is still short, measuring about 60 centimetres.  It is single edged, narrow at the root, curves sharply forward and widens abruptly to about 9 to 12 centimetres near the massive tip.  The weight is clearly at the tip and imparts great force to a swung blow.
    "The hilt is always simple with a straight grip and a circular plate of metal below it to serve as a guard and another plate of the same size above it as a pommel, above which is a domed cap enclosing the spiked tang.
    "The sheath may be of two types.  One is a broad sheath into which the tip can be fitted and the second is shaped like the blade which, therefore, has to be housed from the back of the sheath and buttoned down."
    " ...  At most, koras have gilded rims to the guard, pommel plates and lac filled lotus symbols on its blade."

* Tarassuk & Blair 1979 p299
"kora  The national sword of the Gurkhas of Nepal, probably established in the 9th or 10th century and possibly descended from the kopis. It is an extraordinarily effective weapon that has played an important part in the military successes of these proud hill people. The kora's heavy, single-edged blade is about 60 cm. (24 in.) long, strongly inward-curving, and usually terminating in two concave cuts in the very broad end. Near the lower tip is a black-filled, engraved pattern of a lotus flower enclosed in a circle -- a Buddhist symbol (like the notch in the blade of the kukri) -- with ornamentation along the back edge of each face. The steel hilt, which sometimes incorporates brass elements, consists of a grip between two discs, that is, the guard and the pommel, which is usually topped with a dome and, frequently, a decorative knob.
    "The kora scabbard is of two kinds, the more common one being a wide sheath into which the blade can be slipped. The second type is shaped with a wide end to fit the blade and fastens with buttons along the back. These leather scabbards are sometimes covered with velvet, which may be embroidered with silk or furnished with silver mounts."






* Egerton 1968 p100
"The Gorhkas claim to belong to the Kshatri or warrior class, and therefore to the ancient military division of Hinduism.  They are a warlike race, and, as already remarked, made a determined resistance to our [British] arms, but now form some of the best of our native infantry.  Their 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."

* Stone 1934 p397-399
"KUKRI, COOKRI, KOOKERI.  The national knife and principal weapon of the Gurkas of Nepal.  It has a heavy, curved, single-edged blade sharp on the concave side.  The hilt is usually straight and without a guard; occasionally it has a disk guard and pommel like  the sword (kora) from the same region.  It is carried in a leather sheath with two small knives and a leather pouch.  The small knives are shaped like the kukri, though one is often without an edge and is said to have been used for a sharpener.  Quite often one, or both, of these knives have hilts of branching staghorn.  The weight of the blade of the kukri is well towards the point and a tremendous blow can be struck with it with very little muscular exertion.  There are well authenticated instances of a Gurka having split the head of a man and cut well down into his chest with a single blow.  It is carried by the Gurkas at all times and is used as a jungle and hunting knife as well as for war.  The scabbards are often embroidered with quills or decorated with silver or gold chapes."

* Paul 1995 p62-63
"The kukhri has a short, heavy, forward angled blade which broadens towards the tip.  The length of the blade is only about 35 to 40 centimetres but it is heavier towards the point which adds to the effectiveness of the blow.
"The root of the edge of a kukhri blade has a semicircular nick about one and a half centimetre deep and a projecting tooth at the bottom.  This, supposedly, represents the female generative organ and is intended to make the blade more effective.  The hilt is straight and without a guard.  It is made of metal, horn or ivory and sometimes has carved foliate embellishments in deep relief.
    "[...]  The sheaths of kukhris shaped implements are also decorated with big chapes and lockets of gold and silver worked in [r]epousse or filligree [sic].  A smaller sheath is affixed to the back of the larger sheath in which two smaller kukhri shaped implements are housed -- a blunt sharpening steel and a small skinning knife.
    "The kukhri is not only a weapon but is also used as an implement for cutting through the thick jungles of the Terai and the Himalayan slopes.  It has therefore always retained its functional and utilitarian character.
    "It is maintained that a Gurkha never sheaths his kukhri without first drawing blood with it, and most Gurkhas still swear by this custom even today."

* Tarassuk & Blair 1979 p303-304
"kukri (or khukari) The national knife and principal weapon of the Gurkhas of Nepal. Its form, especially the forward-angled blade, shows that it is closely related to the ancient Greek swords machaira and kopis, which almost certainly accompanied Alexander the Great to India. It is not very different from the Indian sosun pattah[,] a version of the Turkish yatagan.
    "The kukri is highly regarded by all classes of Nepalese society; its quality and decoration indicate the wealth of the owner. It is carried in a belted sheath containing one or two small knives of kukri shape and, at one time, a purse holding flint and steel for making fire. The kukri is also a useful implement for cutting through dense jungle, but above all it is a formidable weapon, mostly on account of its shape. Its blade is heavy, curved, single-edged, and sharp on the concave side. The weight of the blade is toward the point, and a tremendous blow can be struck using little muscular exertion. The base of the edge of a kukri blade contains a semicircular notch, which, like the lotus blade of the kora, represents the female genital organ, intended to render the blade 'effective.'
    "The kukri hilt is usually made of dark wood or ivory; it is straight and has no guard; occasionally it has a disc pommel and a guard (like the kora) and often a ridge ring in the middle -- a survival of the earlier handle with a plaited can band and iron ring. Kukri sheaths, usually mde of velvet-covered wood, are very ornate, embroidered or furnished with embossed and pierced mounts of silver or gold. Kukri belts match the decoration of the sheaths."

* Elgood 2004 p253
"Kukrī (Hindī) Gurkha knife from Nepal with a heavy, single-edged kopis blade, widening towards the point.  'The kookree is a semicircular, long, heavy knife, always carried by the Ghoorkas; sometimes the sheath is curiously embroidered with strips from the quill of the peacock's feather: two small crooked knives are generally in the sheath.  The kookree is used for war as well as for all domestic purposes.'" [reference omitted]

* Stone 1934 p366
"The best slashing knife is the Gurka kukri, a blow of which can split a man to the waist."