In photos: The craft of making khukuris

Among the many emblems of Nepali culture, the khukuri is, perhaps, the most recognised one. Once used to instill fear in enemies, the curved blade has now become the symbol of courage. Although it finds limited use in modern warfare, the khukuri still remains a versatile weapon.

The khukuri has been transformed into a multifunctional tool for the Biswakarmas, the traditional craftsmen who have been making it for generations.

In small pockets around Kathmandu, one can find these craftsmen burning metal and giving it the distinct curved shape. Photojournalist Kabin Adhikari visited one such factory near Manohara, Kathmandu.


Amrit Biswakarma (32) has been crafting khukuris from sheets of metal since the age of 17. The man from Ramechhap, northeast of Kathmandu, has left his son in his village of Goshara to make khukuris in Kathmandu.


The basic element of a khukuri is the metal sheet from which the distinct curve of the knife takes shape. From his experience of making the knife, Amrit has found out that the brake plates from old vehicle are easier to work with. The manufacturing cost of making khukuris from brake plates is also low. A khukuri made can be made from old vehicle parts for just under Rs 2,000.


The demand for these knives is steady most of the time. Amrit and his friends make one-two khukuris per day. During Dashain, however, demand doubles. They then make around 3-4 khukuris every day during the festive season at Amrit’s workshop in Manohara.


Amrit takes a break from work.


Som Bahadur (54) makes the handle for the knives. A special consideration is given to the weight of the handle so as to not make the knife top-heavy. The entire manufacturing process for making a khukuri takes around 3-4 hours.


After paying Rs 5,000 as rent for workshop space, Amrit shares the remaining of the income with his three friends. On a good month, Amrit earns up to Rs 50,000.


See also

Kathmandu’s Bouddhanath rises again to full glory

Nowhere to go: Pastoral nomads of Nepali mid-hills

Why Karnali is not just Rara, it’s Nepal’s intangible heritage

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