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Thread: Kukri & shield combat?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Estancia, New Mexico

    Kukri & shield combat?

    Does anyone here know if there was ever a Nepalese tradition of employing a shield in conjunction with the kukri?

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by John Maddox Roberts View Post
    Does anyone here know if there was ever a Nepalese tradition of employing a shield in conjunction with the kukri?
    Hi John,

    In a word, yes there is a history of using Kukris and shields together. I think that the main evidence for this association comes from paintings and museum displays in Nepal. I have never been there myself so I am not going to post other people's pictures and risk stepping on their toes, but if you search around on google you can come up with a number of things that might help you.

    First, there are a multiple large mural type paintings in national museums in Nepal that show the Nepalese people resisting British invasions in the early 19th century. The resisting forces are shown using a wide variety of weapons including bows, swords, clubs and specifically kukri with small buckler-like shields (called Dah I believe.) You can also find royal portraits featuring the likeness of the various kings and prime-ministers. These figures are often shown with a sword, kukri and shield on their belt. Finally, there are a number of good arms collections in national museums in Nepal. You can find pictures of their collections on the net, and you might notice that they feature both shields and kukri's in a number of different sizes.

    From the period sources that I have seen it looks like carrying a shield went out of fashion very quickly after the British showed up and firearms technology started to improve and spread itself throughout the region.

    Hope this helps,

  3. #3
    Here is something else that may be helpful. Please note that this engraving was meant to look vintage when it was first published in 1858, so this is probably a better portrayal of what Nepalese troops looked like in the 1810s than in the 1860s (when they were carrying locally made copies of British rifles).

  4. #4
    The Gorkhas in the Indian army still train with small shields.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Estancia, New Mexico
    Benjamin and Jonathan (my, aren't we a Biblical-sounding lot?) thank you both very much. this clears up a lot for me and, while I was hoping to find evidence of kukri-shield fighting, I never dreamed it was still practiced! Thanks loads for these pics.

  6. #6
    Eye-witness evidence of the use of shields by Gorkhas in 19th-century warfare can be found in "British Sword Fighting".

  7. #7
    Is this the book you are referring to?

  8. #8
    Glad to help John , heres another one. {_same bunch different regiment.}


  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Benjamin Judkins View Post
    Is this the book you are referring to?
    Only partially, because more material was included in a sequel ("Blades In Action"). These books, though individually out of print, are now available in the 4-volumes-in-1 collections entitled "British Sword Fighting" and "Blades of the British Empire".

  10. #10
    a good question!
    i hope that you have found some more pics on the internet, google images has a avst amount of paintings n so on showing some of these shields, which are rather similar to the ones found in india.

    I agree with mr. judkins on the issue here.
    that after the anglo-nepal war 1814-16 the shield (called dhal) is seen less n less among the gurkhas and nepali warriors.

    it was used in the nepal-tibet war in ca 1855 but not to the former extent. this was also one of the last official wars nepal made, in ww1 & ww2 certainly nepal was involved but was not a war fought on its own territory.

    shooting weapons became more common but still in the hills these were expensive weapons and the forces would draw and use what was possible, kukris, koras, tulwars, shields, etc...also guns, but guns were not the most common.

    following the Rana rule, from 1846 several of the PM´s were depicted with a small shield on thier belt. the most famous of these being Maharajah Dev Shumshere, pics can be found on internet also.

    in Lord Eggertons book "Indian and Oriental Arms and Armour" plate IX is of Nepalese arms, also has a shield and plenty of old nepali weapons.

  11. #11
    Just to add - those pictures of Indian Gorkhas with kukri and shield - that isn't really combat training but a "kukri dance." Supposed combat moves done to Nepali songs for entertainment & motivational purposes. I know this because as a kid I grew up in the Indian Army Gorkhas. The top pic shows a group from 11 Gorkha Rifles, next pic is from 39 Gorkha Training Center (The combined regimental center of the 3rd and 9th Gorkha Rifles). Some vids:

    4/3 Gorkha Rifles:
    5 Gorkha Rifles (not sure which battalion):
    Last edited by S. T. Atuk; 05-26-2012 at 11:27 AM.

  12. #12
    Thanks Sta, that makes sense, Rather like a degenerated kata to music, perhaps?

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathan R. S. View Post
    Thanks Sta, that makes sense, Rather like a degenerated kata to music, perhaps?
    Something along those lines They have been doing this for a long time though, quite a bit before anybody in the Indian Gorkhas were aware of "kata" in the sense of Japanese martial arts, etc. There are Nepali dances where the dancers use kukris as props, showcasing their dexterity in handling the kukri, with a few cuts & thrusts thrown in. I think it could be a case of somebody in the Indian Army taking these lively, playful dances and tweaking them into more sober, "kata-like" dances with more "combat" moves and done to more martial songs. The dhal (shield) also makes a convenient place to showcase your regimental insignia

    There are around 40 Indian Gorkha battalions, a bunch more Assam Rifles battalions, and most (if not all) have kukri dance teams whose routines are very similar, done to the same 3-4 songs & following the same template. I remember when my dad commanded a Gorkha battalion of 1GR, he worked with the colonel of a nearby Gorkha battalion from 8GR to present a combined kukri dance team at a public event. Despite the two teams having never ever worked together, they took only 1-2 practice sessions to gel together and present a unified team for the event at very short notice.

    The British Gurkhas too have kukri dances - they usually seem to do their dances without the use of the dhal (shield) and their dances also seem to be more song & dance / lighter-hearted than the somber Indian Gorkha kukri dances ... better stop here, I think I'm digressing from the main topic ...

  14. #14
    All interesting to me! Thank you!



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