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Keris of Indonesia


K015


(K015)
Keris Brojol Palembang 18th-19th century blade, 20th century scabbard

K002


(K002)
Keris Tilam Sari Pangawak Waja: Blade from Madiun 16-18th century, scabbard from 19th century Surakarta

K021


(K021)
Keris Singa Barong Luk 11 New Madura blade with new Yogyakarta scabbard in teak burl

K003


(K003)
Keris Tilam Upih Kulit Semangka Tangguh Majapahit pre-15th Century East Java, with 19th Century Mataram Scabbard of Timaha Wood

K005


(K005)
Keris, Brojol Segaluh Blade (pre 13th Century West Java) with 19th century Madura scabbard and ivory hilt

K008


(K008)
Keris blade from 15th century Blambangan 18th century trembalo wood sheath and handle

K018


(K018)
Keris Jalak Ruwuh Pamor Ron Genduru Surakarta style new Aeng Tong-Tong high quality blade with Madura mahogany scabbard




K014


(K014)
Keris Jalak Putut with straight blade and pamor dwi warna of wos wutah and adeg mrambut tangguh Pajang 1551-1582, in Yogyakarta branggah scabbard and old hardwood hilt




K020


(K020)
Keris Singa Barong Luk 13 Krawangan 20th Century Madura blade with very finely carved Madura scabbard in sawo wood




K011


(K011)
Keris straight Tilam Upih Blade tangguh Pajang (1551-1582, Central Java) with Scabbard of Timaha pelet Tulak wood

K001


(K001)

Keris Jalak Nguwoh Polu Tirto 17th century Mataram Sultan Agung with Yogyakarta trembalo wood scabbard

K013


(K013)
Keris straight Tilam Upih blade tangguh Madiun late 16th - early 19th century East Java, with pamor tulak adeg and old hardwood branggah style with painted gold leaf of the early 20th century


(K007)
Keris, 11 bends, Sabuk Inten 18th Century Yogyakarta blade and 19th century scabbard in Trembalo wood




Badik of Indonesia

K006

(K006) Badik in wesi kuning, from Selayar, approximately 19th century or earlier

Introduction to Javanese Keris'

Keris is the prized symbolic blade of the Malay Archipelago that was developed to the highest art form of patterned damascene in the Majapahit Empire of Java which spanned the period of the 13th -15th century and influenced most of what is South East Asia today. Keris probably began to be used around the same time as the stone temples were built in the 7th century Java as there are prototypes of keris carved into the panels of ancient stone temples in Java which look exactly like the old betok buda blades that are still kept by keris collectors. Java kerisologists call the oldest and most simply shaped keris by the name keris Budha referring to the time of the Syailendra dynasty when the blade was wrought.

According to keepers of Javanese lore in the palaces of Surakarta and Yogyakarta, a keris is never intended to be a weapon to kill as it is a symbol of God. It is an object of magical formulas of metal in specific forms forged between the hammer and anvil by venerated Mpu who posses knowledge of the unseen. Most Western writers mistakenly believe that the keris is a weapon used in silat martial arts but that is never Javanese silat and is far from Javanese truth. Many styles of keris such as the most popular Tilam Upih style can have blades so thin that they do not have the structural integrity to be an effective stabbing weapon.

To this day a Java warrior would bring his keris even if he were to be flying a modern fighter jet not because he believes that he might fight the enemy with his old keris but because he knows that his keris is a sipat kandhel.This means he feels that the keris is a blessed object that can reinforce his character and bring him confidence and protect him. One owns a keris for similar reasons to those New Age adepts who carry certain crystals or place certain runes in certain auspicious places in the belief that the crystals or runes will have specific powerful effects.

Makings of a Java Keris

According to Java lore to be called a keris a blade must consist of two particular parts namely the wilah and the ganja uniting to form the symbol of God, Eternity, Creativity, and Prosperity. The pesi at the bottom end of wider part of the wilah blade penetrates the ganja that is a separate piece that makes the base of the blade thus making the union of the lingga-yoni , an ancient fertility symbol associated with Syiwaism .

While the wilah can be correctly translated in to the blade there is no word in English to name the ganja as there is nothing like the ganja in any other weapons culture. Western writers often mistakenly call the ganja a guard or a tang and explain how it functions in combat without realizing that their fantasy is insulting the keris and the philosophy behind it. Without the symbolic lingga-yoni union depicted in the union of the wilah and the ganja a blade cannot be called a keris for a keris is first and foremost a symbol of God.

Most keris also have a gandik which signifies the 'front' of the keris. Thus when the keris is held upright with the ganja parallel to the ground the whole blade should appear to be leaning forward or bending over. A blade that stands straight up like a dagger cannot be called a keris for a keris that is a symbol of God must also portray humility for humility is a characteristic of a man of God.

Lastly a keris must be made by the beating of the hammer on the anvil using iron from the earth and meteorite from the heavens as a symbol of the union of man and God. The two metals are repeatedly beaten together and folded until at last a thin sheet of steel is sandwiched by layers and layers of alternating iron and meteorite and the keris is shaped. A blade shaped exactly like a keris cannot be called a keris if it is not forged between the hammer and anvil or if forged only from one type of metal without the fold and layer technique.

Types of Java Keris

From an esoteric point of view there are two types of keris. The keris tayuhan is kept for its esoteric powers and the less powerful keris ageman is used for dressing up in formal Javanese costume. Most keris ageman have beautiful scabbards and blades and when a Javanese shows someone his keris it is usually a keris ageman, not the keris tayuhan believed to have magical powers. However, most of the keris collected by Thierry Durieux are magical keris tayuhan. Some new keris in his collection are keris ageman for these days only rarely do contemporary Mpu approach the formidable task of uniting mind body and soul to create a powerful keris tayuhan.

Descriptions of a keris blade are determined by four factors. First the dapur is the overall shape of the keris and the combinations of the ricikan details of the parts of the keris. Secondly the pamor , which is the pattern formed on the blade by the various metals used in the folding and hammering of the blade. Thirdly the tangguh is the approximation of the style, time of making and the maker of the keris and fourthly the tanjeg is the description of the esoteric powers of the keris.

Other determining factors of the quality of the keris are the warangka , or the scabbard, and the ukiran, or the hilt. Between the ukiran and the blade there is the mendhak and on the base of the handle there is sometimes the intricate ornament selut , sometimes studded with gems. The wood scabbard is usually protected with metal, called the pendok. There are basically three types of scabbard shapes namely the gayaman, ladrang/branggah and the sandhang walikat and all could be used for the same blade for different occasions of formal dress.

As a keris was passed down from father to son or daughter often keris owners would change the scabbard because the wood would break or styles and social circumstance would change. Thus many old krises these days have relatively new scabbards. The type of wood used in the hilts and scabbards sometimes has esoteric meaning. For example the use of awar-awar wood is supposed to 'keep' the powers of the keris fresh and strong and certain marks on timaha peled wood can bring fame while a knot on the back of a tayuman wood handle will allow the owner to have more than one wife without trouble.

In Java there are certain etiquettes that must be observed when looking at keris. Here are a few points: Always take your time and do not rush when looking at keris. Remember a keris must never be pulled out of its sheath, rather, one must hold the hilt still in the right hand and pull the sheath off with the left. Always pull a blade right out and keep it still near your ear as if you are listening to it for a second as a sign of respect to the Mpu who made it before looking at it. After you look carefully return the sheath back over the blade.

Keris are symbols of the God and represent the best in the owner and the maker and thus not bought and sold like knives or swords or daggers. To purchase a keris one uses the language of courtship and marriage and business must be conducted in the daylight time. It is rude to use the language of the marketplace and say 'Can I buy your Tilam Upih keris with scattered rice damascene, please?' Rather you say, 'May I ask for the hand in marriage of your Tilam Upih keris with pamor beras wutah?. The price of a keris is not called the price but is called the dowry or maskawin meaning wedding gold. Custom has it that a token dowry must be paid even in someone gives a keris to someone else as a gift to make the 'wedding' a beginning of a happy a happy marriage between you and your keris.

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DISCLAIMER: The materials and the make dates of Asian antiques are rarely explicit on the piece. All our descriptions of use, materials, and the dates of our antiques are approximates based on our experience and knowledge. Please contact us if you have other suggestions concerning the nature and the dates of the antiques we sell. Any unsatisfactory item, if returned within 30 days, will be fully refunded excluding shipping costs.