When choosing which cultural items to offer on our shop the Patuka might seem like an odd choice. It isn’t a part of the national formal attire and hasn’t seen a resurgence amongst urban youth like the topi. However for hundreds of years it was inextricably linked to the khukuri and an understanding of this simple cotton waist sash helps to deepen an understanding of the khukuri itself.
Many historical depictions of gurkhas, nepali warriors and kings enforce the connection between the khukuri and the sash, however much like the khukuri itself it is an item that is not solely military equipment and has wide utility in daily village life. Aside from khukuri carry they also allow for the carry of a Hasiya (sickle) or hammer (Hathauda). The deep folds of the patuka allow for storage and organisation of all sorts of small objects from money to snacks while working or travelling. It serves as padding when carrying pots, sacks or children at the hip. In times of need it can be unwrapped and used as a bandage, an extra layer or as a deep sling to carry larger objects. Perhaps most notably it acts as a brace to ease and soothe back pain- easing the ability to work for long periods while standing or bent over and working in the fields. Recently this aspect has been subject to various scientific studies, with the benefits heartily verified.
We’ve put together an instructional video showing how to tie a patuka, including some variations that are seen in village use/historical depictions.
The characteristics of different patuka sections are:
-Wider flatter patuka sections have the benefit of a broader and more supportive band, with a clean, unified look. In this method the khukuri seems to be stuffed under the entire band against the body. This is achieved by folding the sheet into thirds or quarters.
-Moderate and bunched bands are the least effort and allow for the best storage utility. These bands can be flattened out, folds cleaned up and deepened depending on the intended cargo. Different loops are also readily distinguishable for organisational purposes.
-Twisted cords allow for no storage capability but allow for the most freedom of movement. It allows for the tying of knots and threading the patuka through objects to be simplified. In this style the khukuri is shown to be inserted through one or more loops rather than under the entire band. This allows the bands under the dap to spread the force and is notably more comfortable, particularly in movement over extended periods. This is also shown for the bunched loops though less frequently.
Rather than tucking the loose end at the front around and down behind as shown in the video it can be:
-tied shorter initially so no tucking needed and just hidden behind subsequent wraps
-tied longer initially and then twisted to form a cord. This cord is then tied in a basic knot (like you start your shoelaces with) that encompasses the entire patuka, with the remaining tail twisted and tucked under previous folds for security. In a twisted cord example the khukuri is shown grabbed by this knot, which in my testing gives sufficient retention for a one handed draw on both a 12″ and 15.5″ mutiny.
Some further notes on tying:
-The patuka functions best when reasonably tight.
-The Patuka is best tied first and then the khukuri inserted. Apart from making the tying process simpler this also helps to tighten the grip of the dap against the band. In examples of the knot mentioned previously additional loops can be pierced by the dap to further increase retention. The twisting of the khukuri so the handle is closer to horizontal also helps tighten the grip while also making the path for the dap to fall out more complex.
– The storage of coins, papers, ammunition, food and smaller tools is very comfortable. At the end of a day of testing I unwrapped the patuka and had all my bits and pieces fall everywhere- I’d completely forgotten about it.
– The retention of the fold can be adjusted through the shaping of the fold. This image here shows how a flat loop (blue) can be made increasingly secure for cargo. The red loop has a floor so objects cannot fall down. The Teal loop has a lid that presses against the abdomen, making manual unfolding almost a necessity.
CARRY IN TURBAN OR SIMILAR
There are multiple sways that a khukuri can be carried in a Patuka. Most commonly the dap is inserted on the non dominant side of the body just in front of the hip so that the edge is pointing forward and slightly towards your dominant side. The handle is lowered so that it is diagonal, potentially even closer to horizontal depending on the amount of curve in the blade. The off hand is used to stabilise the dap and maintain an effective draw angle- allowing for quite a natural crossdraw.
The other major variant is one where the dap is rotated further around to the front of the pelvis, with the edge pointing up towards the dominant side of the body, with the handle pointing up almost vertically on the non dominant side of the torso. This isn’t as natural a draw but it opens up space to draw a larger primary weapon from the hip and has better natural retention in this position due to help from gravity. In this position the most natural feeling draw involves rotating the blade 90 degrees towards the dominant hand and then drawing across the waist from there. An off hand draw into a hammer grip is doable here- particularly with shorter blades. It’s also possible to draw even a long blade in an ice pick grip from here if left without other options, though the blade presents limited utility until switching to a different grip. Another potential advantage of this style of carry is that it shows more of the sheath itself. While not a concern for many users, it would allow a Kothimora or decorated sheath to be best displayed and reinforce the status of the wearer.
On older sheath styles such as our Salyani there is a strap with buttons we use to help locate the frog. These originated as a means to aid in the retention of the dap within the sash. If the dap attempts to slide down through the sash then the Patuka Buttons will snag on the upper folds and keep the blade secure. In some representations one button is shown below the sash line and one above, as well as the dap being knotted within the sash or tied down with a separate cord- it’s possible that this also aids in retention during the draw though one handed draw is unlikely. Depending on the activity at hand the ability to rotate the dap around the waist can allow for greater freedom of movement. It is possible to carry different types and sizes of blades simultaneously through utilising different folds of the sash.
To tie a patuka xxxxx
With the increasing westernisation and standardisation of Nepali military gear in the late 19th century the patuka found itself replaced by leather belts, with many khukuris being fitted with frogs to facilitate the new type of carry. It’s worth noting that frogs do not inhibit the option for sash carry in the same way that an integrated belt loop would- something that may have helped the success and longevity of the style of carry as frogs became less common in civilian and military carry elsewhere in the world. The patuka remains a part of the traditional dress of many ethnic and religious groups such as the Newar, Magar and Tamang. The white version we offer here is that worn by the newars- a people strongly associated with the Kathmandu Valley. Aside from just ceremonial dress this Himalayan utility belt still sees frequent wear wrapped around the waists of people in rural areas with khukuris tucked handily inside. Perhaps they are more readily noticed by western eyes when worn by porters during treks to provide support and ease spinal pain from such great loads. While still certainly a unisex item it has in recent years become more strongly associated with women. This may be partly due to the demilitarisation of the item and severing of the ties to the traditionally masculine khukuri but also seems related to the wearing of a patuka during pregnancy- both for back support during gestation and to aid a return to normal abdominal structure afterwards.