Viking's khukri passion

Viking Kunwor takes his Gorkha heritage forward crafting khukri knives


Bal Bhadra Kunwar commanded the Gorkhali defenders of Nalapani Fort as they faced a month-long siege by troops of the British East India Company in 1814.

Vastly outnumbered, the 600 Nepali soldiers, women and children inside were bombarded by British cannons. Hungry and thirsty, 70 of them finally broke out, leaving the dead and dying behind. 

For his brave defence of the fort against overwhelming enemy numbers, Bal Bhadra Kunwar is regarded as Nepal’s national hero to this day. Now, his sixth-generation descendant, Viking Kunwor (pictured, right) is making a living out of crafting the famous Gorkhali knife, the khukri, wielded in battle by his ancestor.

In a narrow alley behind Boudha tucked between restaurants is the The Heritage Knives Nepal store selling hand-crafted khukris. On display are antique curved knives, some dating back to World War I and one of them bearing the inscription of Prime Minister Chandra Shumsher Rana.

After escaping from Nalapani Fort in 1814, Bal Bhadra Kunwar fled to Lahore and commanded a Gorkhali regiment under Punjab king Ranjit Singh. He was killed in action near Peshawar during the Sikh-Afghan war in 1822.

VK Kunwor

Viking Kunwor was born to a Swedish mother and a Nepali father, and divides his time between Sweden and Nepal, drawn by his deepening fascination with Nepal's rich history in which his ancestor played such a heroic part.

In Sweden, he is involved in the hospitality industry, and to remain rooted to the country of his brave forebears, Viking set up the khukri store in Boudha in 2019. Viking has toured Garhwal and Kumaon, visiting Nalapani and other battlefields from the Anglo-Nepal War two centuries ago to find out more about Capt Bal Bhadra. 

There was not much except oral history about him, but many of Viking’s forebears ended up fighting in the British and Indian Armies, except Viking’s father. 

Because of the Gorkhali connection, Viking developed a strong passion for the craftsmanship that went into forging khukris, and the history of the iconic knife that struck fear into the hearts of enemies in historic battles around the world.

“I initially pursued my passion for history and heritage studies, but shifted gears and became a chef in Sweden,” Viking told us during a recent visit to Nepal. 

His fascination with khukris, particularly their roles in the two World Wars and the variations used by different regiments intrigued him. He found that khukris issued to soldiers and those privately purchased were different. A khukri scabbard has pouches for smaller knives for more delicate cutting as well as a sharpening utensil. 

Read also: Beginning of the end of the Gorkha Empire, Alisha Sijapati

VK Kunwoe

Examining their blades, styles and patterns, Kunwor discovered that modern knives did not match the quality of khukris made centuries ago. He wanted to find the lost process of making the perfect khukri by metalsmiths in the mountains of eastern Nepal.

“Beyond their practical use, I was captivated by the cultural significance of the metalwork,” Viking said. 

He went to Dharan, renowned for its khukri makers, and tried to blend the scientific approach from his Swedish half with the traditional workmanship of his Nepali side.

Read also: From Nalapani to Kalapani, Alisha Sijapati


He opened his shop, but nearly lost hope during the Covid lockdown. Now his khukri business is gaining traction, and Kunwor's knives are exported to Europe and the United States.

Besides khukris, he also makes kitchen knives for which there now seems to be healthy demand in Nepal itself. Kunwor has also noted a shift in people's attitudes towards heritage preservation in Nepal. 

Many Nepalis are reaching out to him to clean and seek advice on maintaining ancestral swords that have adorned their prayer rooms. He helps willingly, because it invovles cultural preservation that is an integral part of Nepal's heritage.

Read also: Letters from the Western front, Alisha Sijapati

Alisha Sijapati


Alisha Sijapati is a correspondent at Nepali Times. With over a decade of experience she specialises in cultural heritage reporting with insights into socio and geo-politics. She holds an MA in Cultural Heritage Studies from Central European University. Alisha has made significant contributions to various newsrooms in Kathmandu. Beyond her journalistic endeavors, she is deeply engaged in discussions about the theft of Nepal's stolen heritage.

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