The misunderstood Indonesian dagger

No Comments

The kris, the wavy dagger of the Malay world, is recognised by UNESCO as part of the world’s intangible heritage. But in its native homeland, the dagger is surrounded by many superstitions and religious biases.

Exhibition to demystify the kris
Jakarta Post, 24 August 2008
Read More

Categories: Indonesia


Malacca Museum break-in: Security firm sacked

No Comments

… and rightly so! The break-in, reported two weekends ago, saw the loss of three replica Portuguese pistols and eleven even more valuable kris (Malay daggers) from the History and Enthonography Museum in Malacca.

photo credit: SqueakyMarmot

Museum fires firm in charge of security after artefact theft
New Straits Times, 20 March 2008
Read More

Museum Break: Antique weapons stolen from Melaka museum

No Comments

A number of priceless antique weapons were stolen from the Malaysian Historic and Ethnography Museum in Malacca, Malaysia over the weekend, chalking up a loss amounting to “millions of ringgit”.

photo credit: Marshall Astor – Food Pornographer

  • Antique keris and pistols stolen from museum (The Star, 16 March 2008)
  • Priceless Malaysian museum artifacts stolen (The Nation, 16 March 2008)
  • Malacca museum artefact theft is inside job: Police (New Straits Times, 16 March 2008)

Read More

Kris exhibition in Bali

No Comments

15 July 2007 (Jakarta Post) – A story about the Kris, or keris, the characteristic wavy-bladed knives of the Malay world, in conjunction with an exhibition in the Neka Art Museum in Bali. It’s interesting that the story notes how the blade is honoured in ceremonies involving the Hindu god, Brahma – indicative of the unique syncretism of Hinduism in Bali.

Magic of metal: Spiritual and physical powers of the kris

Whether created by human hands or of supernatural origin, krises are believed to be physical manifestations of invisible forces. Forged in fire but symbolic of water, a kris represents a powerful union of cosmic complementary forces.

A distinctive feature of many krises is their odd number of curves, but they also have straight blades. Krises are like naga water-serpents that are associated with irrigation canals, rivers, springs, wells, spouts, waterfalls and rainbows.

Some krises have a naga head carved near their base with the body and tail following the curves of the blade to the tip. A wavy kris is a naga in motion, aggressive and alive; a straight blade is one at rest, its power dormant but ready to come into action.

Different types of whetstones, acidic juice of citrus fruits and poisonous arsenic, bring out the contrast between the dark black iron and the light-colored silvery nickel layers that together form pamor, damascene patterns on the blade.

These motifs have specific names that indicate their special powers: udan mas (golden rain) is good for prosperity, wos wetah (unbroken rice grains) brings well-being.

The kris is an important family possession and considered to be an ancestral deity, as weapons often play critical roles in the rise and fall of families and fortunes in history.

Heirloom krises have proper names that describe their power: Ki Sudamala is Venerable Exorcist and repels negative forces, Ki Baju Rante is Venerable Coat of Armor and spiritually protects one wearing it.

In Bali, an heirloom kris and other such metal objects are presented offerings every 210 days on the day known as Tumpek Landep, which means “sharp”.

They are cleaned, displayed in temple shrines, and presented with incense, holy water, and red-colored food and flowers to honor Hindu god of fire Brahma.

This is followed by prayers for a sharp mind to Sanghyang Pasupati, the deity who empowers sacred objects and defeats ignorance.

Read more about the kris in Balinese life.

Ageless charm of the keris

1 Comment

30 May 2006 (New Straits Times) – The Keris or Kris is a Malay blade that is a distiguishable piece of Malay material culture. The Muzium Negara also has an excellent collection of keris.

Ageless charm of the keris

BUSINESSMAN Rusnan Ngadio shares his experience with the keris (a traditional Malay dagger) with the layman through his collection of more than 5,000 handmade blades worth RM100,000.

“A civilisation is reflected by its cultural heritage and once that knowledge in arts and craft is lost, all will be gone. Today, there are fewer than a dozen keris makers in Peninsular Malaysia. If their trade is not preserved, we will definitely lose our cultural identity,” said the 43-year-old.

Bentara Budaya hosts keris lovers

No Comments

19 June 2006 (Jakarta Post) – I had not known that the Keris has been declared a world heritage item.

Bentara Budaya hosts keris lovers

More than 500 krises, or kerises as they are locally known, are on display at the Bentara Budaya Jakarta until June 23.

The 10-day exhibition showcases traditional daggers up to 500 years old from a number of private collectors across the country. It also features the work of modern kris makers, or empu, such as Sukamdi, Subandi, Yanto and Yantono.

Related Books
Art of Indonesia Pusaka by J. Miksic