Keris – Indonesian Tradisional Blade
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The kris or keris is an asymmetrical dagger indigenous to Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Brunei. It is known as kalis in the southern Philippines. The kris is famous for its distinctive wavy blade, but many have straight blades as well. Both a weapon and spiritual object, kris are often considered to have an essence or presence, with some blades possessing good luck and others possessing bad.
In 2005, UNESCO gave the title Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity to the kris of Indonesia. In return, UNESCO urged Indonesia to preserve their heritage.
The origin of the word kris derived from the old Javanese term ngiris which means to stab, wedge or sliver. “Kris” is the more frequently-used spelling in the West, but “keris” is more popular in the dagger’s native lands, as exemplified by the late Bambang Harsrinuksmo‘s popular book entitled Ensiklopedi Keris (Keris Encyclopedia). Two notable exceptions are the Philippines, where it is usually called kalis or kris, and Thailand where it is always spelled and pronounced as kris. Other spellings used by European colonists include “cryse”, “crise”, “criss”, “kriss” and “creese”.
Kris history is generally traced through the study of carvings and bas-relief panels found in Southeast Asia. It is widely believed by archaeologists that the earliest kris prototype can be traced to Dong Son in Vietnam circa 300 BC. From there, the design would have been brought into present-day Malaysia by Cham migrants who made their way into the Malay Peninsula twenty centuries ago. Another theory is that the kris was based on daggers from India. Frey (2003) concludes from Raffles‘ (1817) study of the Candi Sukuh that the kris recognized today came into existence around 1361 AD in the kingdom of Majapahit. There exist claims of earlier forms predating the Majapahit kris but none are verifiable. In the past, the majority of kris had straight blades but this became less frequent over time. Some of the most famous renderings of a kris appear on the Borobudur temple (825 CE) and Prambanan temple (850CE). Tome Pires, in early 16th century, describe the importance of Kris to the Javanese :
Kris were worn on a daily basis, especially when travelling because it might be needed for self-defense. Heirloom blades were handed down through successive generations and worn during special events such as weddings. Men usually wore only one kris but the famous admiral Hang Tuah is said in the Hikayat Hang Tuah to have armed himself with one short and one long kris. As women were also permitted to learn silat, they sometimes also wore kris, though of a smaller size than a man’s.
Kris were often broken in battle and required repairs. Yearly cleanings, required as part of the spirituality and mythology surrounding the weapon, often left ancient blades worn and thin. The repair materials depended on location and it is quite usual to find a weapon with fittings from several areas. For example, a kris may have a blade from Java, a hilt from Bali and a sheath from Madura.
In many parts of Indonesia, the kris was the choice weapon for execution. The executioner’s kris had a long, straight, slender blade. The condemned knelt before the executioner, who placed a wad of cotton or similar material on the subject’s shoulder or clavicle area. The blade was thrust through the padding, piercing the subclavian artery and the heart. Upon withdrawal, the cotton wiped the blade clean. Death came within seconds.
The kris usually has a curved pistol-grip hilt that aids in stabbing strikes. It allows the palm of the holding hand to add pressure to the blade while stabbing. A kris only offers minimal protection for the hand by the broad blade at the hilt. In rare cases, the blade may be forged so its axis lies at an angle to the hilt’s axis. The intention is to get the blade automatically turning to slip past the ribs but this works poorly and makes the weapon less durable.
In battle, a fighter carried three kris: his own, one from his father-in-law, and one as a family heirloom. The extra two served as parrying daggers but if none were available, the sheath would serve the same purpose.
The making of a kris was the specialised duty of metalworkers called empu or pandai besi. In Bali this occupation was preserved by the Pande clan to this day, members of whom also made jewellery. Kris-makers did more than forge the weapon, they carried out the old rituals which could infuse the blade with mystical powers. For this reason, kris are considered almost alive because they may be vessels of spirits, either good or evil. Legends tell of kris that could move of their own volition and killed individuals at will. Some kris are rumored to stand upright when their real names are called by their masters.
Below Pictures of Keris stand by itself : (Believe it or not)
It was said that some kris helped prevent fires, death, agricultural failure, and many other problems. Likewise, they could also bring fortune, such as bountiful harvests. Many of these beliefs, however, were erroneously derived from the possession of different kris by different people. For example, there is a type of kris in Java that was called Beras Wutah, which was believed to grant its possessor an easy life without famine. In reality, this kris was mainly assigned to government officers that were paid, in whole or in part with foodstuff such as rice.
There are several ways of testing whether a kris is lucky or not. A series of cuts on a leaf, based on blade width and other factors, could determine if a blade was good or bad. Also, if the owner slept with the blade under their pillow, the spirit of the kris would communicate with the owner via dream. If the owner had a bad dream, the blade was unlucky and had to be discarded, whereas if the owner had a good dream the dagger would bring good fortune. However, just because a blade was bad for one person didn’t mean it would be bad for another. Harmony between the weapon and its owner was critical.
Because some kris are considered sacred and believed to possess magical powers, specific rites needed to be completed to avoid calling down evil fates which is the reason warriors often made offerings to their kris at a shrine. There is also the belief that pointing a kris at someone means they will die soon, so silat practitioners precede their demonstrations by touching the points of the blades to the ground so as to neutralise this effect.
One of the most famous legends from Java describes a legendary bladesmith called Mpu Gandring and his impatient customer, Ken Arok. The customer ordered a powerful kris to kill the chieftain of Tumapel, Tunggul Ametung. Ken Arok eventually stabbed the old bladesmith to death because he kept delaying the scheduled completion of the kris. Dying, the bladesmith prophesied that the unfinished or incomplete kris would kill seven men, including Ken Arok. The prophecy finally came true, with four men enlisted as the kris’ first death roll, including Mpu Gandring himself, Tunggul Ametung, Kebo Ijo to whom Ken Arok lent the weapon, and finally Ken Arok himself. The unfinished kris then disappeared.
Another version of the tale describes that the kris passed to Ken Arok‘s stepson Anusapati which in turn killed his stepfather after recognized that his genuine father was killed by Ken Arok with the same kris. The bloody revenge continued on and on until the reign of Kertanegara, the last king of Singhasari kingdom.
Another Javanese folk story tells of Arya Penangsang, who was killed by his own keris. The scene happened at the end of a battle to re-unite the collapsed kingdom of Demak-Bintara, fought between Jaka Tingkir of Pajang and Penangsang, of Majapahit royalty. The story tells that he fought the battle with Hadiwijaya‘s adopted son, who would become the first ruler of the Mataram dynasty, Danang Sutawijaya. Penangsang inadvertently stabbed himself when he sheathed his keris, gutting his own belly. He soon fell down, bathing in his own blood, which was flowing from the wound. While he was dying, he encircled his scattered intestines on his keris. The tradition of putting a jasmine chain around the kris’ hilt might have come from this tale.
Here you will find photographs of Indonesian talismanic weapons.
These are not weapons in any sense other than being weapons to guard against misfortune, they are not weapons intended
to be used against humanity.
In a sense, this could probably be called a “non-information” page. Not enough is known about these items of wesi aji to allow
a definitive discourse on them. My purpose in making these photos available is to assist researchers in this field.
The items hereunder that resemble a keris are known as “keris sajen” in Indonesia, and by many collectors in the western
world as “keris Majapahit“. The keris sajen is reportedly a keris used in offerings, notably the ceremony of bersih desa which
is carried out after the major rice harvest (panen raya). Dates for the harvest can vary, and each village has its own day and
own requirements for bersih desa, so offerings can change from village to village.
In the ceremonies I have seen, no keris sajen has been used. Suryo Negoro in his book “Javanese Traditional and Ritual
Ceremonies” describes the general form of bersih desa and mentions two other forms specific to individual villages.
Nowhere does he describe the inclusion of a keris in these ceremonies. Bambang Harsrinuksmo in “Ensiklopedi Keris” claims
use of this keris form in the ceremony of bersih desa, and other writers have also claimed this. It is possible that some
villages could have the requirement for a keris sajen to be included in the ceremony and other villages not have this
David van Duuren records that in the colonial days, these small keris were known as talismanic weapons.
My own observance has been that present day Javanese regard them as talismanic objects.
At the present time insufficient research has been carried out in relation to this form of wesi aji to allow any certain
definition of their place in Indonesian or Javanese culture.
In respect of the age of keris sajen in general, and this is also true of the examples shown here , it is not possible to be at all
certain of how old any particular item may be. The form is clearly an ancient one, and an example was found under the
central stupa of Candi Borobudur during its restoration, however, whether it was placed there at the time Borobudur was
built, or at a later date, we do not know. However, although ancient, it is doubtful if the form can be linked to Dongson
daggers with similar handles. The time gap between Dongson culture and early classical Javanese culture is too great.
Some writers have attempted to classify this form of wesi aji into types and sub-types, and wish to make true weapons of
the longer examples of the keris sajen. I do not intend to attempt any such classification. Too little is known of these objects
for such a classification to be of very much use. The design of the gonjo of the longer examples would seem to indicate that
these were not intended for use as a real weapon, any more than was the shorter version. Anybody using one of these long
examples as a weapon would be likely to do severe injury to their own hand, because of the narrowness of the gonjo.
I think it is highly probable that the alternate keris sajen as in #’s 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, were forged from recycled old keris
blades. Further, I believe that recycled old keris blades were sometimes used in the manufacture of certain other talismanic
keris, those with the handle forge welded to the base of the blade. Whether this was done simply as a use of recycled
material, whether to preserve a valued blade, whether to save costs, or for all these reasons, we have no way of knowing.
Apart from those items of wesi aji that are positively identifiable as keris sajen, a number of other items of talismanic wesi aji
are also shown here. Some are keris-like, with the handle in a different plane to the blade, one is of cunderik form.
I regret that I am unable to provide more information on these talismanic objects, however, I am open to questions or
discussion in respect of them.
Additional Indonesian talismanic blades will be made available for viewing at a later date.
1. A more or less conventional keris form, the handle forged from the same billet as the
blade, but with the width of the gonjo too narrow to allow effective use as a weapon.
Pamor construction with blade core,Overall length:- 345mm, (13½”)
3. Another long example. The handle possibly forge welded to the blade. The blade is
of pamor construction with a steel core, but the handle does not show any line of a steel
inclusion, and there is an overlapping layer of material in the sorsoran that differs from
the material in the blade,Overall length:- 370mm, (14½”).
4. A very scarce waved example with nine wave blade. Possibly construction uses a
steel core, but because of uncleaned condition this is difficult to be certain of at the
present time. The handle appears to be forged from the same billet as the blade,Overall length:- 325mm, (12¾”)
For Further detail please visit :
Name of the Regional Special Weapons Traditional Indigenous National Culture – Culture Nusantara Indonesia
1. DI Aceh province / the Aceh Darussalam / NAD
Traditional Weapons: Rencong
2. Province of North Sumatra / North Sumatra
Traditional Weapons: Surit Piso, Piso Gaja densely packed
3. West Sumatra Province / West Sumatra
Traditional Weapons: Karih, Ruduih, barb
4. Riau Province
Traditional Weapons: Swords JenaWi, Badik Mash Lado
5. Jambi Province
Traditional Weapons: Pepper Mash Badik (Badik Tumbuk Lada)
6. South Sumatra Province / South Sumatra
Traditional Weapons: Spear Trisula
7. Lampung Province
Traditional Weapons: Terapang, Pehduk Payan
8. Bengkulu Province
Traditional Weapons: neck, Badik, Rudus
9. DKI Jakarta Province
Traditional Weapons: Badik, Parang, Machete
10. West Java Province / Jabar
Traditional Weapons: Kujang
11. Central Java Province / Central Java
Traditional Weapons: Keris
12. Province of Yogyakarta / Yogyakarta / Jogjakarta
Traditional Weapons: Keris Jogjakarta
13. Province of East Java / East Java
Traditional Weapons: sickle
14. Bali Province
Traditional Weapons: Keris
15. West Nusa Tenggara Province / NTB
Traditional Weapons: Keris, Sampari, Sondi
16. East Nusa Tenggara Province / NTT
Traditional Weapons: Sundu
17. West Kalimantan Province / Kalbar
Traditional Weapons: Mandau
18. Central Kalimantan Province / Kalteng
Traditional Weapons: Mandau, Lunjuk Randu Chopsticks
19. South Kalimantan Province / South Kalimantan
Traditional Weapons: Keris, Bujak pickaxe
20. Province of East Kalimantan / Kalimantan
Traditional Weapons: Mandau
21. North Sulawesi Province / North Sulawesi
Traditional Weapons: Keris, bike, Sabel
22. Central Sulawesi Province / Central Sulawesi
Traditional Weapons: Pasatimpo
23. Sulawesi Tenggara / Southeast Sulawesi
Traditional Weapons: Keris
24. South Sulawesi Province / South Sulawesi
Traditional Weapons: Badik
25. Maluku Province
Traditional Weapons: Machete Salawaki / salawaku, Kalawai
26. Province of Irian Jaya / Papua
Traditional Weapons: Knife Dagger
27. Province of East Timor / East Timor
Traditional Weapon: Machete
Rencong Aceh :
Calling the weapons of the people of Aceh, in addition to guns and firearms, the most famous is Rencong. In fact, one of Aceh’s land titles known as “Land Rencong”.
Rencong or some are calling it reuncong, is a traditional weapon of Acehnese society. Aceh has the form seperli Rencong letter [L] or more precisely like calligraphy bismillah.Rencong included in the category of dagger or knife (not a knife or sword).
Historically, rencong have levels. First, rencong used by the king or sultan. Rencong is usually made of ivory (sarong) and pure gold (the dagger). Second, rencong-rencong a common sheath made of buffalo horn or wood, while the dagger of brass or white metal. In general, there are four kinds of rencong which became the mainstay weapon of Acehnese society.
1. Rencong Meucugek. Called meucugek rencong because the handle there is a form of archery and glue that in terms of Aceh called cugek or meucugek. Cugek is needed to easily held and not easily separated when stabbed into the body of the opponent or enemy.
2. Rencong Meupucok. Rencong has a bud on top of the handle is made of metal engraving in general of gold. The handle of this meupucok rencong seem rather small, namely at the bottom of the handle. However, getting to the end of the handle is getting bigger. Type rencong this kind are used for decoration or as a means of jewelry. Usually, this rencong used at official ceremonies associated with masaalah customs and art.
3. Rencong Pudoi. Rencong this type of handle is shorter and straight-shaped, unlike the rencong general. Impressed, rencong is not yet perfect so that said pudoi. The termpudoi in Acehnese society is something that is considered still shortages or still exist that have not been perfect.
4. Rencong Meukuree. Differences rencong meukuree with other rencong type is in the eye. Eye rencong this type were given a specific decoration such as pictures of snakes, centipedes, flowers, and so forth. The images are interpreted by a blacksmith with various kinds of advantages and privileges. Rencong stored long, initially will be formed similar aritan or form called kuree. The longer or the older the age of a rencong, the more kureecontained on these rencong eye. Kuree isdeemed to have magical powers.