Thought to have been presented by the Royal House of Nepal.
Base 10.5 mm
Shoulder 8.5 mm
5 cm from tip 5 mm
Narrowest 27 mm
Widest 47 mm
7.7 cm from hilt
Iron, steel, wood, leather, silver, quill
European antique art market
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A fine example of a high-quality mid-19th-century khukurī. The well-proportioned blade has gentle curves and gentle widening for a khukurī. It features a strong base with t-shaped spine and two grooves under it. The wide section of the blade has a back bevel along the spine, meeting the edge at the tip. Both flats of the blade are mildly hollow-ground and there are hints of a laminated steel construction.
The notch at the base of the blade called kauro (कौड़ो), is shaped somewhat like a barbed broadhead arrow. On the left side, another kauro is chiseled in the blade. The combination of the ornamental kauro and the crescent moon mark on the left side is also found on another khukurī I sold in 2020 and on the famous "Fisher khukurī" that belonged to Lieutenant John Frederick Lane Fisher, commander at the Sirmoor Battalion, who fought at the Siege of Delhi in 1857.1
This khukurī also features a marking on the spine that seems to read:
It seems from the rendition of the letters that whoever did is was not very familiar with the western script. It is probably a name or an attempt to write a name.
Mistri is a common surname among the Parsi, an ethnoreligious group that migrated to India from Persia between the 7th and 10th centuries to avoid prosecution by the Muslims. They adhere to Zoroastrianism, the predominent religion in Persia prior to the Muslim conquest.2
The full iron hilt fits snugly over the tang of the blade, and is peened at the pommel. It is still tight as a drum. The hilt is decorated with chiseling, forming various bands, each containing traditional decorative patterns that were overlaid with silver. The work is quite fine for this kind of work, and compares favourably to others in the same style.
Three iron hilted khukurī compared:
Left: A budhune khukurī in Mandarin Mansion stock.
Center: A fine budhune khukurī, sold in 2021.
Right: The fine khukurī that is subject of this article.
The scabbard is rather large for this particular knife and is probably associated. However, both appear to be from the same period. It is covered with fine bookbinder's quality goatskin. It retains pockets on the back for karda (utility knife), chakmak (fire striker/sharpening steel) and khisā (a small purse), but unfortunately, all are lost.
It is beautifully embroidered with fine quillwork. At the top of the right side of the scabbard are two stylized flowers with a 12 pointed sunburst motif around them. They are bordered by a meandering pattern with flowers on alternating sides, echoing the work in silver on the upper band of the hilt.
The scabbard outline is decorated with haikale buṭṭā (हैकले बुट्टा), which looks like a succession of waves or hooks. Near the tip is nother stylized flower. The flap on the back is also beautifully embroidered with stylized floral elements.
The khukurī itself is in very good condition for age. It still retains its original finish and was not recently cleaned, polished or etched. The hilt is tight and its decoration almost 100% intact.
The scabbard is in good shape overall, the decorated parts are in near-excellent condition with only minimal losses. The tip of the scabbard was broken, which I fixed using a wood filler that I painted black to blend into the whole. Originally, it would have been covered with the same leather as the scabbard. (See an intact example.)
For the connoisseur of khukurī. The blade geometry is most pleasing with attention to detail like well-defined bevels. The quality of the quillwork on the scabbard is outstanding and of a style and quality that I have not seen on khukurī dating later than the 1850s. Very little is known about this work, other than that we encounter it on antiques that seem to mostly date from between 1780 to the 1850s.
1. See "the Fisher kukri" in the Ghurka Museum in Winchester.
2. Thanks to Sonam Tobjor Atuk for pointing me into the direction of the Parsi.
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Named so after the two ridges that are formed on the bi-fullered blade.
With engraved spine and unusual all brass pommel.
A 19th-century piece with a simple blade but nicely carved hilt.
Signed: Ricky Milnes, India 44, Burma 44, Ramree 45.
With wide blade and a two-tone hilt in cattle bone and wood, capped with brass.