|ORIGIN AND HISTORY OF THE KRIS|
This part is taken from a chapter of the book written by Jean Greffioz: The Kris, a passion from Indonesia.
First of all, what is a kris (or keris in indonesian and malaysian languages)?
A kris is a stabbing weapon (related to daggers) of a particular type from the Malay region, including the West part of the indonesian archipelago, Malaysia, the southern tip of Thailand (Patani), and few islands South of the Philippines (Mindanao and Sulu). Map 1 demarcates the approximate area of origin of the kris, although some krisses can be found in the neighbouring islands due to the population migrations.
There are many types of krisses in these regions, with the following common features (see picture 1):
-The base of the blade flares on the back side. This wider part (which is normally separate) at the base of the blade is called the ganja.
-The blade is provided with 2 cutting edges (with few exceptions), contrary to other daggers from the region (badik, rencong, ect)
-The blade may be straight or waved. The straight blade shape is more ancient and common, contrary to the general opinion.
-The bottom part of the blade includes carved details which are very specific and codified.
-The blade surface often includes patterns obtained by forging of various steels (pamor) and providing a damascened appearance (however the damascening process is of a different nature).
-The hilt has not only an utilitarian function, but always represents either a human being or animal (such as a bird head), this representation being sometimes very abstract for instance in Centre Java due to the islamic rules.
The kris was a very effective self-defence and stabbing weapon in a close combat, in spite of the somewhat unhandy appearance of some krisses.
|ORIGIN OF THE KRIS
It is very astonishing that the origin period of the keris is difficult to ascertain within a range of several centuries!
No stabbing weapon looking like a keris could ever be identified on the carved panels of the famous Borobudur temple dating from early 9th century and located near Yogyakarta in Centre Java. However some daggers similar to a keris but with a more massive shape and provided with a pommel (designed for an overshoulder thrust) are shown on the panels of the nearby Prambanan Hindu temple dating from the beginning of the 10th century and representing the Ramayana epic.
These daggers of Indian origin can be considered as the forefathers of the modern keris. Towards the end of the 10th century, the centre of the political and cultural Javanese life moved from Centre Java to East Java, where the kingdom of Kediri was established first, followed by the Singosari kingdom in 1222, and finally the mighty Majapahit Empire in 1292.
During this period, the stabbing weapons design progressively evolved, and the first representations of daggers identifiable to a kris were shown on a panel of Candi (temple) Panataran, located near Blitar in East Java and dating from about 1350. Although the blade of these daggers is wide and short as the previous ones, they are no longer provided with a pommel but a handle, and designed for rapier thrust.
These prototype krisses are known as Kris Buda (Buddha) and were probably introduced around the 11th century in East Java, and then progressively evolved into a shape similar to the modern kris during the 13th or 14th century.
The most ancient kris dated with a full certainty is the famous Kris of Knaud , which was given in the 19th century to the Dutch doctor Charles Knaud by a Javanese prince, as a reward for having cured his son. The blade of this kris is covered with chiselled copper representing Hindu mythological scenes. It is dated from 1264, corresponding to 1342 A.D.
There is another ancient type of kris called sajen (meaning offering), which is forged as a single piece including the hilt in human shape. These small krisses were not aimed at fighting, but thought to possess very strong magic powers, and they are still used nowadays on the occasion of some traditional ceremonies such as the blessing of a village, or before planting rice. Picture 2B shows 3 typical specimens of kris sajen, the blade of smallest one measures 9 cm only! (they are many recent copies).
This type of kris is also known as Majapahit kris in the reference books written by western authors, linking them to the Hindu dynasty which ruled Java and part of the neighbouring islands during the 14th and 15th centuries, but this dating is disputed by the Indonesian experts as the krisses from the Majapahit period are deemed to be precious and of high quality, contrary to the simple design of the kris sajen.
Another theory links the origin of the kris sajen to the bronze daggers found in Dong-Son (a vietnamese village South of Ho-Chi-Min City), where an advanced civilization developed during the 3rd century B.C, and from which a number of artifacts were found across Indonesia, especially some large bronze drums. The Dong-Son daggers were also forged in one piece with an integrated hilt in human shape similarly to the kris sajen, but this lineage theory is deemed doubtful because of the time interval of more than 15 centuries between the 2 periods.
In parallel with its development in East Java from the 11th century, the kriss was also existing in the Pajajaran kingdom established in West Java. A famous empu who lived in this kingdom around the 13th century was a woman called Ni Brok Sombro, and she his said to have later migrated to the Tuban kingdom (a vassal state of the Majapahit Empire) in East Java. The krisses manufactured by Ni Brok Sombro (known as kris Sombro) are characterized by their small size and often bear shallow grooves across the blade profile looking like finger marks, these krisses are also called kris pichit or kris pejetan. The krisses Sombro were deemed magic for facilitating deliveries, curing illnesses, keeping pests away, etc. and some models have survived until now. Another legendary speciality from empu Sombro was her very personal technique for hardening the kris blades, but the decency forbids me to relate it here. An old keris Sombro is shown on picture 2C.
|Another significant evidence of kris
representation was discovered by Thomas Raffles in 1817 on the
carved panels of Candi Sukuh, located about 40 km away from the old
Centre Java capital Surakarta (now Solo), and dating from 1361
according to the temple inscriptions.
Especially, one triptych of Candi Sukuh (see picture 3) illustrates in detail the manufacturing process of a kris blade, exactly in accordance with the traditional procedure still in use. On the left panel, the empu (personified by Bima, a Hindu half-god) is shown forging the blade, while on the right panel his brother Arjuna is activating the vertical air bellows. The central panel shows Ganesha (an Hindu god with an elephant head) apparently sacrificing an animal, probably for ensuring a successful forging operation and imparting magical powers to the kris.
|It seems well established that in the middle of
the 14th century, the modern kris characterized by a long, narrow,
and thin blade was already existing, and that the waved blades
(more deadly) and the pamor process (inclusion of laminated nickel
steel into the blade to make it stronger), were also introduced
during the same period.
Other less reliable information sources (Javanese writings and legends especially) would indicate that the kris was actually introduced much before the above periods.
According to the research made by Osteimer, a Dutch civil servant living in Jakarta at the beginning of the 20th century, who studied six old manuscripts of royal orders of krisses mentioning the names of the monarchs and empus, it would appear that the straight-bladed krisses were manufactured since the 3rd century, and waved blade krisses since the 4th century. However, obvious disparities among the various documents cast serious doubts about their thruthfulness.
According to another well-known javanese legend, the kris was brought from the East Indies (South India?) to Indonesia by Panji, a prince hero who lived around 920, and who also introduced the gamelan (traditional percussion instruments) and the wayang (puppet-show). What a fantastic guy!
As a conclusion, there is a relative certainty that the first krisses Buda appeared in East Java during the 11th century, and the modern krisses not later than the 14th century based on the kris representations on Hindu temples panels, and the few dated krisses from this period. However it remains some presumption that the kris development started earlier than the above dates acording to old manuscripts and the oral javanese tradition.
MODERN KRIS HISTORY
In the next centuries after the initial development of the modern krisses in East Java during the Majapahit period, and in spite of the progressive advance of Islam in the region (except in Bali and few other provinces), the symbolic significance of the kris continued to grow because of its assumed magic powers. Thanks to the numerous regional wars and alliances between the various kingdoms, the kris was progressively introduced into other islands than Java, but developped in a separate way in each region.
From the examination of the ancient krisses and related documents, it appears that the artistic and manufacturing development of the kris was already very advanced at the beginning of the 17th century, for instance in the Mataram kingdom in Centre Java.
Among the famous krisses dating from this period and preserved until today, one can mention the kris with a gold sheath & hilt offered by the Sultan of Aceh to the King of England James 1st in 1613. Another rare specimen is the royal kris from Bima (in East Sumbawa) dating from 1634, also set with a gold sheath & hilt and decorated with precious stones. The past history of the kris is mostly related to feats of arms and murders. A famous legend tells for instance that during a battle against the Javanese, a musilm general used a magic kris and produced a swarm of hornets from the tip of the blade that he directed towards his enemies.
The kris was also used in the famous albeit bloody Malay tradition called amok. Literally speaking, amok means a Malay subject to a fit of madness and attacking everybody with a desperate determination. Unfortunately this type of behaviour had spread beyond the Malay region a long time ago! According to witness reports from the 19th century, there was one or two cases of amok a month in Macassar ( now Ujung Pandang) in South Sulawesi, with up to 20 victims per event. Of course, the murderer was finally brought under control and executed by the population, very excited by this kris battle! This type of behaviour was considered as an accepted mode of ritual suicide for an individual overcome by personal difficulties or love despair without any solution in hand.
Other tragical historical events involving the kris were the puputan (mass ritual suicides) which occurred in Bali at the beginning of the 20th century, that I will relate in more detail in a next chapter.
Until the 19th century, permanent wearing of the kris was customary in the whole Malay region, but it progressively disappeared under the pressure from the Dutch colonial authorities in Indonesia, and the British in Malaysia. Nowadays, the kris is permanently worn only by the attendants of the kraton (Sultans palace), but it is still used during traditional cultural events such as dances, puppet shows, and on the occasion of some official or private ceremonies (weddings).
In Java, the various manufacturing styles of modern krisses corresponding to the historic kingdoms have been classified and are called tangguh (meaning estimate). Each tangguh is characterized by some specific features of the blade, especially the metal aspect (iron, steel, and pamor), the shape of the blade (length, width, and waves), and the shape of the ganja.
Accordingly, the kris experts are able to identify the tangguh of a blade with certainty, namely its estimated age and origin if it is an original blade, or its reference tangguh in case of a recently made blade. There are about 20 recognized tangguh (with some variations) and the most significant ones, classified in approximate chronological order, are as follows:
1. Tangguh Pajajaran Segaluh (12th century, West Java)
2. Tanggugh Jenggala (12th-13th century, East Java)
3. Tangguh Singasari (13th century, East Java)
4. Tangguh Cirebon (North Java)
5. Tangguh Pajajaran (13th-16th century, West Java)
6. Tangguh Majapahit (13th-16th century, East Java)
7. Tangguh Old Madura (13th-16th century) and Madura (17th century)
8. Tangguh Blambangan (vassal state of Majapahit, East Java)
9. Tanggguh Sedayu (vassal state of Majapahit)
10. Tangguh Tuban (vassal state of Majapahit, East Java)
11. Tangguh Sendang (vassal state of Majapahit)
12. Tangguh Demak (15th-16th century, North Java)
13. Tangguh Pajang (16th century, Centre Java)
14. Tangguh Madiun (16th century, East Java)
15. Tangguh Mataram, including Mataram Senopatem (16th century), Mataram Sultanagung (17th century), and Mataram Amangkurat (17th century)
16. Tangguh Surakarta (18th to 20th century)
17. Tangguh Jogjakarta (18th to 20th century)
As previously indicated, this table confirms the uncertainty concerning the advent period of the modern kris since such krisses are mentioned since the 12th or 13th century (tangguh Segaluh, Pajajaran, Singasari, etc.) while the modern kris representations on temple panels and checked datations start from the 14th century only.
The most renowned krisses are those from tangguh Majapahit (because of their age) and tangguh Mataram Senopaten (for the quality of manufacturing and the elegant shape of the blade), but some krisses from more recent tangguh are also very appreciated such as those from tangguh Hamengku Buwono VII (Yogyakarta Sultan at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century). Picture 4A shows a small kris which is deemed to date from the Majapahit period (14th-15th century), the shape of the blade and presence of pamor are characteristic of the modern kris. The new sheath is of sandang walikat type and is painted with traditional motifs (sunggingan).
Picture 4B shows 2 antique kris blades: the straight blade on top of the picture is from tangguh Segaluh (12th century), characterized by the dry aspect of the metal blade, and the very protruding gandik (front face of the blade at its base). This blade looks very old but does it actually date from the Segaluh period, or was it manufactured more recently in the manner of the Segaluh style? The 9 wave blade shown at the bottom of the picture is from tanggguh Mataram (17th century) and deemed original, please note the quality of the pamor and the elegant shape of the blade.
|SYMBOLIC AND MAGIC FEATURES OF THE KRIS
The past significance of the kris in the indonesian society is summarized by the following common saying:
The five sacred belongings of a Javanese are his house, his wife, his singing birds, his horse, ans his kris.
Things have drastically changed in modern times Indonesia, and the 3 last items have been respectively replaced by the television, the motorcycle, and the dish antenna!
Some krisses were considered as possessing their own soul. One illustration of the personification granted to the kris was the possibility given to a bridegroom not able to attend his own wedding, to be represented by his kris.
The kris was frequently used - especially in Sumatra - as a ritual object for taking sacred loyalty or obedience oaths to a king or a local governor. The grantee had to pronounce the following sacred words: If I betray, I shall be executed by means of this kris.
The decoration and value of a kris had to be in accordance with the social status or merits of its owner; usually, wearing a gold kris was exclusively limited to the members of the royal family.
The etiquette for handling and unsheathing a kris was very codified, and is still followed nowadays by the experts respecting the kris tradition.
In Java for instance, the ritual for unsheathing a kris was as follows:
-The left hand holds the sheath on the reverse side with the palm placed underneath, the tip of the sheath pointing upwards.
-The right hand holds the hilt, the thumb pressing against the mouth of the sheath and pushing to unsheathe the blade. If the blade is stiff within the sheath, it should not be forced.
-Once the blade is unsheathed, it shall be slowly brought to the forehead as a sign of respect to the soul of the kris.
In Bali, somebody willing to unsheathe a kris should first get the agreement from the owner to do so, and to be protected against the malefice. The ritual for unsheathing a kris is basically similar to the one used in Java, but the blade should not be brought close to the face nor touched for avoiding to be poisoned. After having examined the blade, it should be slowly sheathed with a grateful feeling.
For skeptical individuals, this is a true story narrated by a balinese author.
A Balinese was the owner of a sacred heirloom kris (pusaka), and one of his friends had visited him for examining it. The friend was holding the kris, and he suddenly unsheathed it without having been authorized first, then he declared that the kris was similar to the other krisses he had already seen with few minor exceptions. The kris owner was annoyed at this serious breach of good manners, but he did not comment.
The next day, the friend came back holding his painful right arm and asked to be apologized. The kris owner was surprised, and the friend told him that during the previous night, he felt a strong and persistent pain to his right hand; after having managed to fall asleep, he dreamed of an old man talking to him angrily and saying: How dared you unsheathe my kris? Go back immediately to my grand-son and apologize to him, and ask him some holy water to cure your pain!?. The friend complied with the instruction, and three days later he was cured and visited the kris owner to thank him, but dared not look at the kris.
The old writings related to the kris include many legends describing their magic powers, imparted by the empu during the fabrication process of the blade. In spite of the quick modernization of the indonesian society, and the strong influence of Islam and Christianity, it is amazing to find out that the pagan belief in the kris magic powers is still alive even amongst the most educated classes of the society.
The most fearesome magic power from the kris was its ability to kill somebody at a distance, either by pointing the kris towards the victim, or just by striking his footprints. It is interesting to note the similarity with the voodoo practices or those from our witches casting a spell on somebody.
Another magic feature of some krisses which was frequently mentioned is the ability to unsheathe, fly into the air for killing the designated victim, and return to its sheath after committing the murder. We came through two anectodes related to this subject during our stay in Indonesia:
During a business trip from Jakarta to Surabaya, we entered into conversation with a young and modern indonesian businesswoman, who narrated to us with gravity and fear her recent vision of an illuminated magic kris flying in her area at night
We also had the opportunity to see a badik (another type of sacred Indonesian dagger) in a museum with the blade missing, although it was protected by a shielded glass-case which was locked and not broken open at the time of the blade disappearance. Is it the reality, or simply the result of the astute burglary from a local Arsene Lupin?
The krisses also bare the infamous reputation (unverified) to poison their victim, and in order to reinforce this maleficent power, the Madura inhabitants used to dip the tip of their kris into the bowels of a scorpion or a snake!
Other legends narrate magic achievements of a less murderous nature, such as a kris rattling into its sheath to warn the owner of an impending danger (one reliable friend actually witnessed such an event), or a kris holding in a vertical balanced position on its tip. I could check the later performance with several of my krisses (see photo 5), and I had the opportunity to watch two krisses holding in vertical balanced position on the hilt, which requires a perfect balancing but not necessarily any magic influence.
Skeat, the author of a book related to the malay magic around 1900, reports that a magician was able to extract the equivalent of a cup of water by pressing the blade of any kris, but that the tempering of the blade was definitely destroyed and the kris had lost its value as the result of this operation.
The three most appreciated magic powers from the kris were to prevent robberies, floods, and above all fires, the krisses able to perform fire prevention or extinguishing being called makan api (eating fire).
One trustworthy indonesian colleague, who was the Manager of the Safety and Fire Prevention Department of a large gas plant, told me that he personally witnessed that a kris pointed towards the flames during a house fire allowed to significantly reduce its intensity.
On the same subject, we went through a disconcerting and sad event that I am going to tell you now: In East Kalimantan, I maintained friendly commercial relations with a local antiques dealer, and one day he offered me for sale a beautiful badik from Sulawesi, that he got from a friend who needed some money. This badik was famed for having prevented the house of its owner from burning, while the 300 wood houses around it had been destroyed by the fire. I finally decided to purchase it, and I remember the genuine sadness of my friend when he handed over the badik to me, he was kissing it and thanking it for having prevented his house from robbery and fire during the period he had it with him. Unfortunately, about 2 months after this event, the whole commercial area burned including the house of the antiques dealer! This story raises the question: Magic or not magic?.
In general, the specific terms applicable to the kris which are mentioned in the next chapters are from javanese origin, although some were known and used outside Java. A kris includes 3 main separate parts ( see picture 6):
-The hilt (ukiran or hulu or deder); in Centre Java, the 2 transition pieces between the hilt and the blade are called the mendak and selut respectively.
-The blade (wilah or bilah)
-The sheath (warangka or sarung); the sheath mouth is called awak awakan in Java, and sampir in Sumatra; the bottom part of the sheath is the gandar, and the metal oversheath found on some krisses the pendok.
|In Java, the master smith in charge of
manufacturing the kris blade was called the empu, while the sheath
and hilt were made by another craftsman called the mranggi. Because
of the symbolic significance of the blade, bearing the soul of the
kris, the empus were very respected, and often attached to the
royal Court and ennobled. In this chapter, we will describe the
traditional manufacturing process of javanese kris blades, which is
extremely complex. This traditional craft is still perpetuated
nowadays in Java, especially in Yogyakarta and Solo, and in Madura,
but with less ritual and more productivity than in the past due to
the modern tools and technology.
An individual wanting to acquire a new kris blade had to place the order to the empu, with a very detailed set of specifications (number of waves, shape and carved details of the blade, and type of pamor) according to the desired powers from the kris, for instance bringing luck, fortune, being invincible, or simply healthy. Before starting the work, the empu and his team selected an auspicious date, then started a thorough spiritual preparation including meditation, prayers, fasting, and a ritual ceremony to keep away the evil spirits, as without these steps the kris would not get the required powers.
The three required metals (as a minimum) for manufacturing a kris blade were as follows:
Iron for the bulk of the blade.
Steel for the sharp edges.
Pamor (nickel steel) for the patterns on the blade surface.
Some blades were made of up to 10 types of iron from various origins, obviously for increasing the magic power of the kris.
The pamor (meaning alloy in malay language) designates both the nickel steel used for the kris manufacturing, and the type of damascene (silvery patterns from the nickel steel) on the blade. As previously indicated, the use of pamor for manufacturing kris blades was introduced in the 14th century or earlier, and was quickly generalized. However, some blades have no apparent pamor especially in Sumatra, as will be detailed in the next chapters.
Originally and probably also later, the pamor (nickel steel alloy) was mainly originating from the Luwu district in South Sulawesi, and it was called pamor Luwu. The iron ore used for producing the pamor Luwu was quite lean in nickel content (less than 1% in the alloy), yielding a pamor pattern with a low contrast on the blade. The pamor Luwu continued to be traded as a raw material for manufacturing kris blades until approximately 1935.
In 1749, a meteor fell close to the Hindu temple of Prambanan located near Yogyakarta and Solo in Centre Java. This meteor was found to be a rich nickel ore (more than 5% according to recent analyses), and starting from the 18th century the first blades containing Prambanan pamor were manufactured. Because of the high nickel content, the pattern obtained on the blades was much more contrasted than on blades using pamor Luwu, and the pamor Prambanan was accordingly very appreciated. Moreover, its celestial origin was deemed to reinforce the magic and sacred power of the kris made from it, and the fame of these meteor krisses became legendary. Actually, and considering the relatively small size of the meteor (of which a remaining chip is displayed at the Solo kraton and considered as sacred), it is impossible that a large quantity of krisses could be manufactured with Prambanan pamor.
According to most indonesian experts, the meteoric ore (rich in nickel and titanium) was used for manufacturing kris blades since the origin of the kris, but this assertion is disputed as there is no clear evidence of the presence of other meteors in Indonesia.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, the main source of pamor used for making kris blades has been imported nickel steel, including recycled bicycle parts!
In the next paragraph I will describe as simply as possible the traditional manufacturing process of the javanese kris blades (the most complex one) out of the 3 raw materials (iron, steel, and pamor). Two or three types of iron were generally used for such operation, and the empu was normally assisted by three helpers called panjak.
The successive steps for manufacturing the kris blade were as follows:
1. The iron bar is drawn by hot forging, and folded into two equal pieces in U shape
2. The pamor sheet is inserted inside the U shaped iron bar.
3. The iron/pamor combination is remelted and drawn by hot forging, and folded into 2 pieces. It now includes 4 layers of iron and 2 of pamor.
4. The laminated iron/pamor mix is again remelted, drawn by hot forging, and folded into 2 pieces to obtain successively 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, and sometimes 128 layers of pamor!
5. The 2 ends are cut and the laminated mix is cut into 2 equal parts of about 25 cm each.
6. The hard steel sheet is inserted in between the 2 laminated pieces produced in step 5.
7. The mix is remelted, drawn and hot forged to produce the raw blade. By using this process, the sharp edge of the blade (located at mid thickness) is automatically made of hard steel.
8. The blade is dressed by grinding and filing. For manufacturing a waved blade, the waves are shaped by lateral hot forging by means of a cylindrical tool.
9. The chiselling of the blade (prabot) is made with small files and chisels, and the blade is polished for bringing out the pamor pattern.
10. The ganja (separate piece at the base of the blade) is fabricated from one of the cut ends obtained in step 5.
11. The blade is reheated to red hot and tempered into a container containing coconut oil.
12. The blade is finally treated with a mix of lime juice and arsenic oxide (warangan) to bring out the pamor contrast, the nickel alloy being less chemically attacked by the acidic mixture than the iron and the steel cutting edge.
This description is quite simplistic, as all kris blades forged in accordance with this process should get the same type of pamor (parallel lines corresponding to the various layers of nickel alloy). For obtaining the pamor required by the future owner, the empu had to make use of his secret manufacturing techniques such as hot twisting or controlled recombination of the laminated bars.
According to old writings, the manufacturing of some krisses lasted several years. A Dutch author from the beginning of the 20th century reports that he met an empu who manufactured a kris over 13 years. He had a revelation during a dream instructing him to start manufacturing a new kris upon the birth of his son, and to forge it everyday but only at cock crow! He thought that by following this instruction, his son will get a high position in the Government.
The productivity of the modern empus has drastically increased, and nowadays it takes about 2 weeks for manufacturing a good quality javanese kris blade.
TYPES & FEATURES OF INDONESIAN KRISSES
In this chapter, I will briefly describe the main differences between the various types of indonesian krisses, as well as their common features. The most natural way for classifying krisses is by area of origin, and it is generally adequate in practice. An experienced kris enthusiast is normally able to identify the origin of a kris by simply observing the sheath and hilt (provided that the blade is also from the same origin of course). The blade inspection is not always a reliable criteria for determining the origin of the kris, except for well defined types of blades from Sumatra, Java , and Bali especially (see photo 7). As a matter of fact, the javanese blades were highly appreciated in the past and were traded in other Indonesian islands, and more recently the blades manufactured in Madura have often reproduced javanese blades, which adds to the confusion. It is not systematic to find a specific type of kris in each region because of the intensive trading relations between the various islands in the past. A typical example is the influence from the Bugis people (fearless sailors from South Sulawesi) who settled in East Sumatra, the Malay peninsula, Borneo, Sumbawa, and the krisses found in these regions are often similar to Bugis krisses. Another example is the similarity between krisses from Bali and Lombok, due to the Lombok colonization by the Balinese until the beginning of the 20th century.
|TYPES OF REGIONAL KRISSES:
Within any region, even very small ones, there are generally several types of krisses as will be reviewed in detail in the next chapters. The variations may concern the sheath (warangka), the hilt (ukiran), but mainly the shape of the blade (dapur) and the pamor.
The variations generally concern the shape of the mouth, or the type or metal of the oversheath (pendok).
The style variations are more or less significant according to the area of origin.
In Centre Java (Yogyakarta and Solo) for instance, the style of the hilt was established and codified in detail for several centuries, and the only differences from one hilt to another consist in minor variations in the shape, or the type of wood used, or the transition pieces between the hilt and the blade.
In contrast, in non Islamic regions such as Bali where the human depiction is not forbidden, the styles of kris hilts are very diversified, extending from abstract to floral or figurative style in the same region.
This is the most varying kris component within a defined region, and it is particularly the case in Java and Bali. On the contrary, the Sumatra blades are often more standardized and have a more utilitarian function.
In Java, the traditional classification of the blades is very elaborate and complex, and includes 2 separate factors, the dapur and the pamor. Although this classification is strictly javanese, it has often been used by default for kris blades from other origins. However, there are some specific types of dapur and pamor in Bali and Lombok especially.
The DAPUR (javanese blades):
It represents the general shape of the blade and the set of carved details (prabot). A blade can be either straight (dapur lurus or lajer or bener) representing the mythical snake (naga) in an idle posture, or waved (dapur lok) representing the naga in an active position.
The numbering of the waves (lok) starts from the first concave wave at the base of the blade on the front side, and should always be an odd number, although the last wave at the tip is sometimes difficult to distinguish. In case of doubt, the waves could also be numbered from the first convex wave at the base of the blade on the back side, and the result shall be the same. The maximum number of waves is 13 for common blades, and in the past the blades with 15 or more waves were made for individuals with outstanding physical or mental features, these blades were called kalawija. In practice, there are blades with up to 29 waves.
There are many different types of dapur according to the various combinations of the blade shape (straight or waved) and the set of carved details (prabot). Each of these carved details is called a ricikan and bears a specific name, as well as some parts of the blade (see photo 8A).
Most of the ricikan are located on the bottom part of the blade, which is called the sor-soran. The gandik is the thick base of the blade on the front side. On some blades, the sharp edges are bordered by a line called lis-lisan or elis, extending from the base to the tip of the blade.
4. Lok 1
The 11 main ricikan contributing to the definition of the dapur of javanese blades are specified in the following list, and the most common are shown on photo 8B:
Ada-ada: A line more or less noticeable in the middle of the blade, extending from the base to the tip of the blade.
Kembang kacang: A protrusion shaped as an elephant trunk, located on the top part of the gandik, which is also called telale gajah (elephant trunk). There are various shapes of kembang kacang, including one type looking like a snub nose (kembang kacang pogok).
Jenggot (beard): Spines and serrations carved on the top of the kembang kacang.
Lambe gajah (elephant lip): Small protrusion(s) located in front of the gandik and below the kembang kacang. It could be a single one, or double, or more rarely triple.
Pejetan: This is the cavity located behind the gandik and just above the ganja. The pejetan is supposed to withstand the thumb pressure during the thrust from the kris.
Tikelalis: A channel located on the front side of the blade just above the gandik, about 4 cm long.
Sogokan: Parallel blood grooves starting from the base of the blade on either side from the middle. The sogokan is usually double and about 6 to 8 cm long, but it can be single (on the front side of the blade only), or longer.
Sraweyan: A channel located on the sor-soran, behind the back sogokan.
Kruwingan: 2 channels located on either side of the middle line (ada-ada), extending from the base of the blade almost to the tip.
Gusen : Flat face located between the kruwingan and the lis-lisan, and extending from the base of the blade almost to the tip.
Greneng: Serrations and spines carved on the rear side of the ganja, and possibly at the bottom of the back face of the blade (greneng sungsun). The greneng includes serrations (ronda and ronda nunut) and spines (ripandan).
There are some less common ricikan which are also part of the dapur of javanese blades:
Tingil: A single sharp protrusion located on the back side of the ganja or the base of the blade, which can be considered a a variation of the greneng.
Jalen: A small protrusion located in front of the gandik and just below the kembang kacang.
Jalu memet: A small protrusion located at the bottom of the gandik, below the lambe gajah.
|1. Kembang kacang (pogok)
3. Jalu Memet
6. Sogokan (twin)
In 1910, Dr Groneman (a Dutch civil servant living in Indonesia) identified 118 dapur types of javanese blades, including 40 types of straight blades and 78 types of waved blades. On the basis of the Ensiklopedi Keris by Bambang Harsrinuksmo, which is considered as the master reference book on the kris, I have found 171 known dapur (with some variations), including 70 for straight blades and 101 for waved blades; these 171 dapur are presented with their names and main features in appendix 1. This classification is however incomplete and inaccurate, as another well known kris book (reference # 2 in the bibliography) mentions 380 dapur of straight blades and 439 of waved blades, with some dapur descriptions different from the previous ones! The dapur identification of a blade is often difficult in practice, either because the blade is not of javanese origin (a very common mistake), or because the dapur as previously described include many variations and exceptions, especially for the very old and the recent blades. Photos 9A & B show some specimens of straight blades with well identified dapur (Pasopati, Tilam Sari, and Brojol), and some waved blades of dapur Kidang Mas, Parungsari, and Raga Wilah. The most famed and valued dapur are those including a naga head on the gandik. The body of the snake is often materialized in the middle of the blade until the tip. There are several variations of this dapur, the most well-known being the dapur Nagasasra with 13 waves (or sometimes 9 or 11 waves only). On precious blades, the head and body of the snake are inlaid with gold. Other mythical animals are sometimes represented on the gandik of the blades, especially the lion (singa), the elephant (gajah), Garuda, a wolf or dog, as well as sacred people or objects such as a priest or a banian tree. Photo 10 shows 2 recent naga & singa blades.
As previously mentioned, the pamor of the blade is the center of the magical power of the kris, and each type of pamor is believed to possess a specific vocation. There are many types of identified pamor, especially because they vary from one region to another (Java, Madura, Bali, Sulawesi, etc). Again the javanese pamor are the most well-known and common, and they were studied in detail.
In Java, there are 2 general types of pamor: the pamor mlumlah, with pamor layers parallel to the surface of the blade, and the pamor miring, with pamor layers perpendicular to the surface of the blade. The pamor prepared in advance by the empu are called pamor rekan. According to a study from the National Museum in Jakarta, there would be 70 styles of javanese pamor, and 52 small pamor motifs (less common). The Kris Ensiklopedi describes 80 styles of full pamor and 31 specific pamor motifs, the list of which is included in appendix 2. Considering the complexity of the subject, it was not possible to describe in detail all the types of existing pamor in this small book, and I will only mention few well known examples, some of which are shown on picture 11A and in the following chapter related to the javanese krisses.
Pamor Blarak Ngirid (coconut tree leaves) with V shaped ribs pointed upwards, and its variation Blarak Sineret with inverted ribs.
Pamor Ron Genduru or Bulu Ayam (chicken feathers).
The 2 above pamor are complex to manufacture, and highly appreciated because they are deemed favourable for leaders.
Pamor Teja Kinurung, deemed favourable for civil servants.
Pamor Ngulit Semangka (rind of the watermelon).
Pamor Beras (Wos) Wutah (scattered rice grains), existing under various designs.
Pamor Udan Mas (pluie d or), deemed favourable for traders.
Pamor Raja Abala Raja (king of the kings).
|Because of the similarities between some styles
of pamor and the design variations of a defined pamor from one
blade to another, the identification of the style of pamor of a
kris blade is often difficult in practice except for the few
remaining experts in Java and The Netherlands especially. A well
known example is the differentiation between the pamor Ngulit
Semangka and Beras Wutah.
To make the matter even more complex, some blades include 2 different styles of pamor (pamor dwiwarna) or even 3 different pamor (pamor triwarna). Generally, one pamor is a motif on the sor-soran, associated with a main pamor style on the remaining part of the blade. Photo 11B shows 2 examples of old javanese blades with a pamor dwiwarna: The blade on top of the picture features a batu lapak motif (bundle of semi-circular parallel lines on the sor-soran), and a main pamor of ngulit semangka style. The blade shown at the bottom of the picture is characterized by a pamor toya mambeg on the bottom part, and a pamor sekar glagah? on the top part.