Source: A 1931 dictionary
Kauro (कौड़ो) is the Nepali word for the notch at the base of the blade of a khukurī.
"The small indent in the blade of a khukri; the Adam's apple. [lit. 'a cowry shell'; v.s.v. kauṛi.]" 1
Other words in general use among collectors are cho, kaudi and kauri. The kauṛi (कौड़ि) is a shell that in Nepal was used in a gambling game. It was also used as currency, and during certain Hindu festivals, the shells were worshipped as the symbol of Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth.
A variety of notches seen on a number of antique khukurī.
Some of the earlier khukurī up to the late 18th century either do not have a kauro or have a very shallow notch, sometimes without the small protrusion at the bottom. 3 By the 19th century, the kauro becomes fully developed feature, seen on most examples. As a general rule of thumb, the notch was relatively shallow and gradually became deeper over time. By the second half of the 19th century, more ornate kauro start to appear.
An 18th century khukurī from the Qianlong collection in the Palace Museum collection, Beijing.
Notice the very shallow notch and absence of the protrusion.
A fully mature kauro with ornamental protrusion on the khukurī of Lieutenant John Frederick Lane Fisher,
commander at the Sirmoor Battalion, who fought at the Siege of Delhi in 1857.
The Gurkha Museum Trust, Winchester.
Purpose / meaning
There is a myriad of theories out there as to the purpose and/or meaning of the kauro but nobody seems to be sure. The general consensus is that it is mostly symbolic, and its original meaning now lost. Some of the many theories:
- The cowry shell; Symbol of Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth.
- Sun and moon, significant symbols in Hinduism and Buddhism. Also seen in Nepal's flag.
- A stylized lotus, symbol of the path towards enlightenment.
- The trident or trishula, as wielded by the Gods Shiva "the destroyer" and Durga, god of war.
Rawson, writing in 1968:
"The root of the edge of a Kukri blade contains a semicircular nick about three-quarters of an inch deep, generally with a tooth at the bottom, which like the lotus on the blade of the Kora, the Gurkhas say represents the female generative organ, intended presumably to render the blade "effective". 2
For a complete overview of khukurī terminology, see my article: A Nepalese khukurī glossary.
1. Sir Ralph Lilley Turner; A comparative and etymological dictionary of the Nepali language. London: K. Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1931.
2. Philip S. Rawson; The Indian Sword. Herbert Jenkins, London. 1968. Page 54. Also see note 80 on page 89.
3. See an 18th century khukurī from the collection of the Qianlong emperor in: Gugong Bowuyuan Cang Wenwu Zhenpin Quanji 56: Qing gong Wubei (故宫博物院藏文物珍品全集 56: 清宫武备) or "The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Beijing 56: Armaments and Military Provisions", Palace Museum, Beijing. Published Hong Kong 2008. Page 151.