Khukuri - the knife in exile
9th May, 2018
conversation on real life experiences on 'kukri' with the locals of Helambu, Nepal (2012 A.D)
How khukuri is getting extinct? improtance of this knife among common Nepalese people and their day-to-day life.
Almost all had carried camera, mobile and video camera. But Dawa Lama & Saila Syanbo (whose occupation is agriculture and has spent most the time in cattle farming and roaming around the mountainous region) looked different in the crowd of modern people. The reason was the attire they had worn with Sirupate Khukuri on the waist. Putting on traditional Daura Suruwal, Bhadgaunle Topi, coat and carrying Khukuri wrapped by a piece of cloth (patuka), they were representing our ancestor.
I asked them about their age on which counting on fingers Dawa Lama (man with beard on left) replied 70 and Saila Syangbo (man in green gumboot on right) replied 64.
When I asked to Dawa (who has been carrying khukuri since he was 13 years old) “Why are you carrying Khukuri?” He replied “Being hilly people, we often have to go to cut grasses & look after the yaks. There are thorns in the jungle. So to protect our face from those thorns, we carry khukuri.” There are no ways in jungle, so Khukuri becomes a friend in making a way. To walk ahead making way is the main benefit of carrying khukuri. Stick is needed to walk in steep road. Wood piece making..., walking....How peaceful isn’t it saila?
Dawa put a counter question to me, “How would you feel if you don’t have dot pen with you?” it’s the same with us. Then Saila added, “Without khukuri, it feels like something is missing.” Moving his hand towards the scabbard of his khukuri, he continued, “It’s our friend. When we don’t carry khukuri, the whole day, our mind gets disturbed.” It seems the khukuri is very close to them. That’s why they connect the mountainous people of that region with the soldier. They urged, “Look! a person without khukuri is just like a soldier without barrel. If Khukuri is with us, we feel relaxed and safe like army with gun".
Dawa and Saila inspite of belonging to different village possess some common habit. Like to carry khukuri on the waist after having breakfast; to carry along the whole day; and to sleep facing khukuri towards the wall in faith to have a nice dream. “It’s a habit from tradition to carry khukuri.”Those who had interest in Khukuri, used to order from Sikkim and Arunachal (places of India) in early days. Some used to take out from Kathmandu. It used to be the first souvenir to bring by the people while returning from abroad. Dawa said, “Now the people who has gone abroad for employment returns with mobile, T.V and other modern gazettes.
“If someone carried a new designed khukuri, he would roam around the neighbour’s VDC chowk and e-chowk with style. People used to make a khukuri of their own design.” Remembering the old days, Dawa continued, “those who can afford used skin for sheath, rich people used silver chain and some used to add karda.” At that time khukuri was available at Rs 30 (USD 0.50) but now it costs minimum 7-8 hundred (USD 10)” said another man without khukuri, Sonam Wangdi.
According to Sonam (who had visited from Delhi to Helambu), leaving 99% only 1% carry khukuri that also the elder generation. 55 years old Sonam said, “Mobiles in literate people’s pocket, khukuri on illiterate people’s waist.” According to their sayings, the tense situation of decades ago made the khukuri distant from the people’s waist. By carrying khukuri, people used to take the vehicle to do shopping and do governmental work from Melamchi point. Security force used to snatch khukuris from the people while checking that starts from the very place. According to Dandul Lama (who informed us about the snatching of people’s khukuri by security force at Melamchi Bridge), security force had ceased dozens of khukuris of Helmo’s inhabitants.
Desire of today’s generation for khukuri has also decreased. They feel shy in carrying khukuri.“Our son and grandson tease us on going to cities carrying khukuri and Doko”. Dawa said,” today’s children requests us not to be there carrying khukuri and Doko as they feel awkward among their friends and circles. When Dawa was young, he had gone to Bhaktapur for shopping and exchanging the raw materials carrying thunche. “At that time, he used to reach Bhaktapur, Thimi and Nagdesh carrying Nigaalo ko Daalo, Aalu (potato), Gundruk (fermented leaf vegetable), and Mula ko Chaana. Newars used to exchange with chillies and other used to buy with cash. Dressing style of that time was exactly the same (dress worn by Dawa and saila) just they don’t have thunche”.
Carrying khukuri has both pros and cons. Sonam said, “It provides courage; those who carry sharp edge khukuri don’t have heart pain; removes the fear while walking in jungle at night.”Likewise, it is believed that ghost won’t attack if khukuri is with us and even cheetah won’t dare to attack. In addition, we can protect ourself from dog bite showing khukuri while going to other people’s animal shed. Not only this, it’s a tradition to carry khukuri while going to in-law’s house by son-in-law. If he didn’t, he is looked with different eye. At the same time, Khukuri has also invited crimes in society. In ferocity, people would hit even their family member. “Agriculture and cattle farming is the main occupation of our caste. While drunk, even in smallest matter, one can hit the other in a way that a person gets 2-3 inches deep wound.” he said.
(Nepali Article translated to English by Samiksha Pradhan, website manager, KHHI)
Courtesy of Kantipur Newspaper
19 May , 2012 (Jestha 06, 2069)
[Last week, plantation event of 250 years old Chhyorten was held in mountainous Helegang of Helambu. Hundreds of people gathered to take part in the very event. I, reporter of Kantipur newpaper from Kathmandu, was also there to attend it. The moments are captured of the conversation I made with a few local folks.]
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