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The Science of Keris


What is a Keris?

Before discussing about keris and its culture, it's good to make definition of  what is called a keris. It's necessary because sometimes there're incorrect definition of what is considered a keris. I think one is considered a keris if one fulfill the criterias below:

1. A Keris must have two main part, the blade of the keris (including pesi) and the ganja part. The blade and pesi simbolize the form lingga, while the ganja simbolize the yoni form. In Javanese pilosophy, which is similiar to the Hindus, the unity of lingga and yoni simbolize the hope of fertility, eternity, and power. 

2. The blade of a Keris must have some degree of deviation to the ganja, but not perpendicular. The shape of a blade of keris that deviates is the simbol of a Javanese (and also other Indonesian), that one, whatever his position in society, must always submit and respect the Creator, and it's creation. 

3. The blade of keris usually measured between 33 to 38 cm. Some non Javanese keris can reach 58 cm, even Southern Philippines Keris reach 64 cm. The shortest keris is keris Buda and keris made by Nyi Sombro Pajajaran, ie just 16-18 cm.
But keris which are made very short and small, eg. 12 cm long, or even smaller/shorter, cannot be considered a keris but instead it's kind of a charm which shaped like a keris. 

4. A good keris must be made by tempa from three kind of metal, or at least two kind of metal, ie. iron, steel, and the pamor material. Very old keris, like keris Buda, doesn't use steel. 

So, a keris made of bronze, zinc, and other metal, cannot be considered a keris. Also a keris which is made not by ditempa, but instead dicor; is not a keris, but pseudo keris. 
Eventhough there's still more criteria to identify one is a keris or not, the four criteria above is the most important.


National Keris Culture
Besides Indonesia, keris can also be found in Thailand, Filipina, Kamboja, dan Brunei Darussalam. Hence, one can say that the keris culture can be found in all region that used to be the sphere of influence of the Kingdom Majapahit. That is also why keris is a Nusantara (or South East Asian) culture. 
Keris ber-dapur Jalak Buda yang diperkirakan dibuat pada abad ke-6.The oldest keris is made in Java, about 6 or 7 century A.D. This is known as keris Buda. At the keris making culture infancy, the shape of the first keris is modest or straight keris. But the iron material in its time is considered the best, and the way it is made is not far different from the way it is made now. Keris Buda has no pamor. If there is a pamor in the keris, it is pamor
tiban, or pamor which is not planned by the Empu. 
As the society develops, the shape of the blade also progress. The shape of the blade which at first is rather fat, short and thick; morphs into thinner, leaner, and longer, so it is considered more beautiful. 
or keris component which at first only consist of
gandik, pejetan, and sogokan, in time added by a whole variety. For example, kembang kacang, lambe gajah, jalen, jalu memet, lis-lisan, ada-ada, janur, greneng, tingil, pundak sategal, etc.
Although from the shape and election of the material always progressed, the basic form of making the keris stays the same. The basic form of making the keris are: cleaning the iron metal which will be made into the blade, joining the iron and the pamor, dan shaping it into a keris. 
Nowadays keris is still made traditionally in the area Yogyakarta, Surakarta, Madura, Luwu (Southeastern Sulawesi), Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (Jakarta), Kelantan (Malaysia), and Bandar Sri Begawan (Brunai Darussalam). Keris making still use the old practices. Some of the
empu and pandai keris even still chant the mantra and prayers, and practise fasting during the making of the keris. 
Since the keris culture is spread over the South East Asian, the keris has many aliases. In Bali it is called
kedutan, in Sulawesi selle or tappi, in the Phillipines sundang. In some region in Indonesia it is called as kerih, karieh or kres. The parts of keris also has many aliases. Still, the keris made from various region has similiar shape, and the parts are not that much different. 


Not A Killing Tool

Some Western scholars and writers classify the keris as a weapon, keris is made not for killing. Keris is rather a weapon in a simbolic, a weapon in the spiritual mean. For ‘sipat kandel’  (to increase the confidence of its owner), it is said in Javanese. That is why some believe keris has mystical power.
Keris seindah ini, tentu amat sayang jika sampai membunuh orangFor the believer, certain keris can add the owner's bravery and confidence. Keris can also avoid a locust plague or other farming disaster. Keris can also get rid or cancel the harassment of ghost. 
There is kerises that really used to kill people, such as the keris used in the old days by the king's executioner. There is also keris made for lower ranked soldiers. But the usage of keris as killing tool is ceremonial and only on special occasion, such as  Kanjeng Kyai Balabar owned by Pangeran Puger. In the 18th century keris with the dapur Pasopati is used by Sunan Amangkurat Amral (the king) to execute Trunojoyo at the town hall of Kartasura.
Keris is an art form which include the art of
tempa, sculpture, symbolic art and other forms of art. The making of keris always with certain prayers and mantras, and ceremony and special sesaji. The first prayer by the empu when he will hammer the keris is to beg the Almighty so that the keris will not harm the owner and other people. The prayers are followed by tapa brata and lelaku (mainly fasting and meditating, or no sleeping, no eating, no sex on certain times).

The material to make the keris is iron, steel and pamor material. Pamor material has four kinds. First is meteorite which has titanium in it. Second is nickel. Other pamor is other metal alloy with iron as main ingredient. Usually this third pamor is called pamor Luwu. While the forth pamor is iron alloy fro other region, which if mixed with the iron from certain area will make different color and view. 

Iron and pamor are hammered repeatedly then made into many layers. Nowadays, the general need is at least 64 layers. For a keris with simple quality, it needs at least 128 layers. While the good quality keris needs at least 2000 layers. Then to get sharpness, steel is included in the middle. 
All thin material will be stronger if it is made layered. This theory is known to the ancient Javanese many centuries ago. They found this theory somehow, and used it about 7 or 8 centuries before the technology makin wood triplex or plywood made by Western technology in early 16th century. 

The selection of meteorite stones that contains titanium is another intriguing ancient Javanese knowledge. Since titanium now known to has many good features compared to other metal. Titanium is hard, strong, light, heat resistang and rustproof. In the modern world, titanium is used to make the nose of the spaceship, rockets and ICBMs. 

Relationship with Other Cultures

Besides the function as a weapon, physically or spiritually, a keris is also one of accessories to traditional clothes - in Java or in outside Java island. Still there's other function of keris, in Indonesian culture and also Malaysian, Bruneian, or Southern Thai culture. In the past, a keris functions as a ceremonial object; as a mark of family ties or dynastic ties; as an attribute to certain post; as a symbol of certain power or authority, and as a representation of the keris owner. In the monarch days, a king's envoy is only valid if he brings one of his king's keris. When a monarch servant (abdidalem) have certain post, in the inaugural ceremony he will get a keris from his superior. Even today, in the kingdom of Brunei Darussalam, this tradition is still used. 

In the old days, the authority of a king  is only recognized by the people when the king wore one of the monarch special keris in the inauguration. In Java, esp. in Central and part of East Java, when the groom somehow cannot physically attend his wedding ceremony, he can delegate his presence by presenting his keris. So the keris will be taking his place beside the groom. This custom is also present in Bali. In West Sumatra, a boy who will leave his hometown usually given a keris by his parents, as a family tie and blessing of the parents.

Keris sajen, atau keris sesaji, yang pada sebagian buku keris yang ditulis orang barat sering disebut keris MajapahitFrom various ancient stone inscription found in Java, it is known that keris once were a necessity of offerings in ritual ceremony at the time. Even in certain village in Java, even near the end of the Dutch colonial era, village cleansing ceremony still used a small blade of keris which is known as keris sajen. Village cleansing is a traditional ritual ceremony that prays to the God so that the villagers, the farms, are avoided from disease and pest, and also from natural disaster. The ceremony is meant to renew the deal or agreement with spiritual beings which inhabit the village (Sing Mbahureksa - Javanese) so it doesn't interfere with the villagers. Keris sajen is a simply made small keris. This type of keris in some Western scholar's book is called the Majapahit keris. So the naming of this simple keris as keris Majapahit is incorrect. The correct term is keris sajen, or keris sesaji. 
Of course, keris culture is very closely related with cultures in various ethincs in Indonesia. 

Original Indonesian Culture

Keris is an original Indonesian culture. Although in the 14th century, Indonesian people are either Hindu or Buddhist, there's not any evidence that the keris comes from Indonesia or other country. Also never been found is any direct relationship with traditional weapon of the two religion. If in certain temples in Java found in the stone carving that depicts a weapon shaped like  keris, in temples in India that kind of weapon simply are not found. 
Even weapon with pamor, is never been found in Indian history. The weapon shape like keris is never found in India. In Mahabarata and Ramayana, which are written by Indian epic writer(s), there can't be found any weapon named keris. The type of weapon in the Hindu epic are bow and arrows; gada, sword and chakra. But not any mention of keris! Keris is only found after those two epic stories are adapted by Javanese and become wayang stories. Some Western scholar wrote that in Persia (approx. Iran now) there were also weapon with pamor that is similiar with keris in Indonesia, this is also incorrect fact!

Some ancient Persian weapon is adorned with paintings or kaligraphic in the blade surface. But the way it is made is very different with the making of keris pamor. The way to decorate the blade in Persia is by carving the blade so a pattern is made, then in the pattern thin gold or bronze metal are embellished.  

So the decoration method used in Persia is an inlay method, which in Java is called sinarasah. But siranarah is not the same as pamor, but only as additional decoration. Pamor on the other hand is decoration which appears only after layers of metals which has different colours, ie. iron, steel, and pamor material. Iron is black, steel is gray, and pamor is bright silver. While in Persian blade, it is only made by one metal, ie. only steel. 

Indeed the pamor creation method is rather similiar with the steel creation method for the Damascus sword. The Damascus sword of steel also made from two metals which has different characteristics. The sword also has some kind of pamor like decoration in the blade surface.

Still, while the method are similiar, the purpose and function of those two are very different. Damascus sword are made with primary intention to kill the enemy, always sharpened periodically. Keris on the other hand is for charm, to bring confidence to its owner (sipat kandel - Javanese), purposely made for its magic charm, and no need to sharpened once the keris is finished.

Keris berdapur Tilamsari dengan hiasan kinatah emas In Indonesia, a good keris (beside its pamor) also have golden, silver or diamond ornament. The ornament is made to enhance the keris, or to reward the owner of the keris. Gold enhancement can be a reward from the king for the service of the owner of the keris. The highest order of ornament is when a keris is given kinatah or tinatah. The surface of the keris is chipped and carved with certain motifs to make a surface picture (relief) and then gilded. Sometimes in the narrows space between the surface paintings, diamond are placed. 

If a kinatah ornament covers a third of the blade or more, it's called kinatah kamoragan.

Types and motifs of kinatah are many. The most famous on the blade of the keris is kinatah lung-lungan, and on ganja kinatah gajah singa.
sinarasah ornament like in ancient Persian, is rather simpler than kinatah. The sinarasah method, while used in decorating the surface of the blade, is also commonly used to make a rajah motif, ie pictures that has magical power. Some example are rajah Kalacakra, rajah Bintang Soleman, etc. 

From the method and purpose of the keris is made, it can be categorized into two big categories. First is keris ageman, which only emphasize the physical (exoteric) beauty of the keris. The second is keris tayuhan, which emphasize the charm of magical power (esoteric).

From the shape and the number of parts, keris have 240 types of dapur keris. From those hundreds types of dapur, arise two main category, straight keris and undulated or curvy keris. The undulated keris is called keris luk. The number of undulation or luk vary from three to thirteen. Keris which has luk more than thirteen is considered abnormal keris (but not necessarily bad), and called keris Kalawija. While the motif of the pamor ornament, there is more than 150 motifs. 

Keris made for the monarch by the imperial master, usually get titles of Kyai, Kanjeng Kyai and Kanjeng Kyai Ageng. After titles, keris also named. Keris titles and names are archived in the imperial archives. While the Imperial keris usually kept in a special room called Gedong Pusaka.

The most famous Keris which mentioned in legend or folk tales is keris Empu Gandring from the Kingdom Singasari era. This keris supposedly made by Empu Gandring by order of Ken Arok to be used to kill Tunggul Ametung, Lord of Tumapel. Other famous keris is Kanjeng Kyai Ageng Sengkelat, Majapahit Kingdom Royal Keris which supposedly stolen by Adipati Blambangan. Keris Kyai Setan Kober is supposedly used by Arya Penangsang, while in war against Danang Sutawijaya, in the beginning of the kingdom Pajang.

In East Coast of Sumatra and Malayan Peninsula, the keris si Genje is famous.  

How to Wear

The way to wear keris while in traditional costume, differs from region to region. Even within a region, it also can differs between the keris owner social layers. And it must be adjusted, in what situation the keris is wore. About the custom to wear keris in every region, ethnic, there is distinct local rule and ethics.
In Java for example, the way keris is wore during a ceremony is different when it's during mourning or burial.

In Java keris generally wore by slipping it between the stagen (a kind of belt) in the back. Most commonly the keris is slipped diagonally to the right hand side, but different situation can change the position of the keris. In war, if the keris is wore by a ulama (expert in religion), keris will be slipped in the chest, diagonally to the right hand side. It's like in the pictures of Prince Diponegoro commonly seen in school children history book. 

Mengenakan keris dengan cara moglčng menurut adat Yogyakarta

In Bali, keris is used by slipping in the clothes folds, in the back with straight up position or diagonally to the right hand side. But in certain special occasion, the way may differs. 

Mengenakan keris cara orang Bali

In the area of Minangkabau, Bangkinang, Bengkulu, Palembang, Riau, Malaysia, Brunai Darussalam, Pontianak, Sambas, Kutai, Tenggarong, Banjar, Bugis, Goa, Makassar, Luwu, etc; keris is wore by slipping in the folds of the sarong, in the chest or stomach of the owner, with position diagonally to the right hand side.  In some ethnics in Indonesia, using custom traditional clothes without keris is unusual, weird, incomprehensible. Perhaps an analogy is like an European male wearing a suit and tie but without shoes. 

Mengenakan keris cara orang Minang, Sumatra Barat



As an antique object which has a lot of enthusiast and collectors, the value of a blade of keris is subject to its beauty, quality and materials, and its age. Usually the more the age of the keris, the more its value appreciated. But the judgement of value of a keris is not only by its age, condition or any other factor alone. 

Keris enthusiast usually has some guidance in judging the value of the keris. The guide is tangguh, sepuh, and wutuh. It means, which era the keris is made (tangguh), if the keris is old (sepuh), and has no defects, or broken in its parts (wutuh). On top of those, some keris enthusiast adds other guidance ie.  the material that makes the keris, the pamor material, beauty of the keris shape, the trueness to the way and norm of the making, and the charm or effects the keris have. 

In some cities in Java, there are groups of keris enthusiasts. In Surakarta, it's called Boworoso Tosan Aji and Boworoso Panitikadga. In Yogyakarta and Jakarta there's Pametri Wiji, short for Paheman Memetri Wesi Aji. In 1990, Damartaji (Brotherhood of fans of tosan aji) is founded in Jakarta. Periodically tosan aji and keris fans gathers to discuss the keris culture from many point of views. 

Trades in the keris community is called perjodohan or matching. While the price usually called the dowry. When a keris is given to someone without dowry, the recipient of the keris has to give petukan or jemputan (pick up) to the giver. In Malaysia and Brunai Darussalam, this tradition is called mahar (dowry) or imbal, while in Riau and West Borneo / Kalimantan it's called jemputan. 

The term of matching in the keris community arise due to the belief in most keris enthusiast that not every keris is match with anyone. Keris which is good for A, may not be good for B. Keris that is good or match isoterically, is called a jodoh (match). While the term dowry arise due to the opinion that it's rather rude and low to called a transaction of a blade of keris. So when one ask the price of a blade of keris, one should ask: "May I know the dowry?"

Even in the old days, when one wants another keris owned by the other, he doesn't state his desire to buy the keris, but ask if he can propose the keris. "With permission, I wish to propose keris that has dapur Jalak Sangu Tumpeng and pamor Wos Wutah ..."

That is all the custom of the past, as an community ethics, recognition, and respect for the high place of keris in the eyes of the community itself.

Heirloom Bath
Particularly in Java, there's a tradition of annual special occcasion bathing or cleaning of the kerises. At the Surakarta Palaces, ie. both Kasunanan Palace and Mangkunegaran Palace, the tradition of cleaning of the kerises is called Siraman Pusaka, held every Sura month from the Javanese Calendar or Muharam in the Islamic Calendar. The occasion is also held at the Yogyakarta Palaces, in both the Kasultanan Palace and PakuAlaman Palace. 

This tradition is then copied from folks outside the palaces, in Central and East Java. They also clean their kerises at the Sura Month annually. But in other regions, this keris cleaning tradition is also held at the month Maulud in the Islamic Calendar. 

In fact, this annual tradition is not so good afterall. By washing, cleaning, and the process of mewarangi (cleaning the keris using arsenic) the keris annually, the keris blade became much more worn down. Keris which is still in good condition shouldn't be cleaned every year, because the lime juice which is used as cleanser is in fact worn down most of the iron in the keris blade surface. For a keris blade which is still in good condition, cleaning them every three or four year is quite enough. 

The Origin of Keris

Keris, heirlooms and other traditional weapon is one aspects of Indonesian culture, indeed after our forefathers acquired iron technology. Various stone temples built ca. 10th century A.D. proves that people inhabiting Indonesia at the time had a good knowhow of ironworks, so they can create high art sculpture.  But whether the Indonesian at the time had known keris culture as known now, the experts are only guessing. 

Salah satu relief pada dinding Candi Borobudur yang memperlihatkan gambar orang mengenakan keris dengan bentuk masih sederhana Most ancient Relief which shows ironworks is found at the stelae found at Dakuwu Village, Grabag region, Magelang, Central Java. 

Examining the form of the letters, it is approximated that the stelae is made about 500 A.D. The letter used is the Pallawa letter. The language used is Sanskrit.

The Stelae wrote about a clean and clear springwater. On the stelae there are pictures, such as: trident, axe, crescent, blade and knife which forms is similiar to the keris made by Nyi Sombro, a woman empu from the Pajajaran Era. There's also pictures of clay flask, kalasangka and lotus flower. Clay flask in the Javanese philosophy is the symbol of knowledge, kalasangka symbolized the eternal, while the lotus symbolized natural harmony.

A Few Theories

Many scholars have analyzed about the history and progress of keris and other heirlooms. G.B. Gardner in 1936 proposed that keris is a progress form of blade weapon from the prehistoric, which were made from the tails of mantaray which is cut at the base, and the shaft is cloth wrapped. In this way, the weapon can be held and carried around. It became a dangerous and deadly weapon at the time. 

Meanwhile, GRIFFITH WILKENS in 1937 think that the keris culture is a new knowledge that arose in the 14th or 15th century. He said that the keris shape is a continuation of the spear form which are used of people in Australasian region. From the eye of the spear comes the short / stabbing weapon, which is known as keris. He reasoned since the spear is very long, it is not easy to carry around. The spear is cumbersome if used in the forest. Since at that time iron is hard to find, the eye of the spear is seperated from the lance to become a handheld weapon. 

A.J. BARNET KEMPERS has other opinion about keris origin. In 1954 the archaeleogist suspect that the keris prototype form is a continuation form of stabbing weapon from the bronze era. Keris whose hilt shaped in small human statue and integrated with the blade, is not very special according to Kempers.  

Kempers said that stabbing blade from the broze culture of Dong-son are also shaped like that. The hilt form in small standing human statue in arrogant pose (malang kerik, Javanese). This is similiar to old stabbing blade found in Kalimantan, where the hilt is shaped in the form of human in arrogant pose. 

The development of basic shape of stabbing weapon can be compared with the development of weapons in Europe. In Europe, swords were once shaped with human form with both hand stretched wide. After the spread of Christianity, the shaped of the hilt is likened to a cross. 

Indonesian kerises have hilt that shaped like a human, either in standing, crooked/bent, or squatting position. This shape is similiar to the megalithic statues found in Playen, Gunung Kidul, Yogyakarta, Central Java.

In later development, the shape became more artful and know known as the shape of keris hilt. (in Java it is called deder, jejeran, atau ukiran) with the various decoration known as  cecek, patra gandul, patra ageng, umpak-umpak, etc.
In Indonesian cultural history, the statue of human standing rather crooked is thought by some expert as symbolization of dead people. Human statue in squatting position with bended knee is thought to symbolize birth, birthing, fertility or life. It is because it's similiar to baby position in the womb of the mother. 

Some Western expert are not convinced that keris is made in Indonesia before the 14th or 15th century. They're basing their theory due to the fact that there's no clear pictures in the relief at the stone temples which are build before the 10th century. 

SIR THOMAS STAMFORD RAFFLES in his book History of Java (1817) said that, at least 30 types of weapon is known and used by the Javanese soldier at the time, including firearms. But among the various weapon, keris has a special place. Raffles also said in his book, that the Javanese soldier usually wore up to three keris at the same time. Keris which is wore on the left side is from the in-laws during the wedding (kancing gelung, Javanese). Keris wore on the right side is from his own parent. Other keris ethics and customs are written on the Raffles book. Unfortunately Raffles never mention about the history and origin of the keris culture.  

Whilst the "keris" term is already written in several ancient inscription. The bronze plaque found at Karangtengah, dated 748 Saka, or 842 A.D. talks about various offerings to mark Poh as a tax free region. Those offerings include 'kres', wangkiul, tewek punukan, wesi penghatap.
meant at that plaque is indeed keris. While wangkiul is a kind of spear, tewek punukan is a kind of double edge weapon. 

In the relief at Borobudur Temple, Central Java, at the lower southeast corner, there's a depiction of soldiers carrying sharp weapon similiar to keris that we know nowadays. At Prambanan Temple, also in Central Java, there's also a relief that depicts giants carrying stabbing weapon that is very keris alike. In Sewu Temple, near the Prambanan Temple, there is also a big stone guardian statue which has sharp weapon that is keris like. 

In the first and second edition of books written by Prof. P.A VAN DER LITH, it is said that while the main stupa of Borobudur Temple - build in  875 A.D. -  is restorated, there it is found an old keris. The keris is integrated of the blade and the hilt. But the keris form is not similiar with the keris shape depicted at the relief at the Temple. That keris is now at the Ethnography Museum, Leiden, The Netherlands. Information about the keris is written by Dr. H.H. JUYNBOHL in Royal (Dutch) Catalog volume V, 1909.

In the catalog it is said, that the keris is considered as ‘keris Majapahit‘, the hild is shaped like a human statue, the blade is very old. One side of the blade is worn out. The keris, which has register number of 1834, is a gift from G.J. HEYLIGERS, secretary from the local office of Kedu, in October 1845. The resident then were Hartman. The blade is measured at 28.3 cm in length, the blade itself is  20,2 cm, and it is 4,8 cm wide. The keris is straight, not wavy. 


The Following Part is still being translated.

Mengenai keris ini, banyak yang menyangsikan apakah sejak awalnya memang telah diletakkan di tengah lubang stupa induk Candi Borobudur. Barnet Kempres sendiri menduga keris itu diletakkan oleh seseorang pada masa-masa kemudian, jauh hari setelah Candi Borobudur selesai dibangun. Jadi bukan pada waktu pembangunannya.
Ada pula yang menduga, budaya keris sudah berkembang sejak menjelang tahun 1.000 Masehi. Pendapat ini didasarkan atas laporan seeorang musafir Cina pada tahun 922 Masehi. Jadi laporan itu dibuat kira-kira zaman Kahuripan berkembang di tepian Kali Brantas, Jawa Timur. Menurut laporan itu, ada seseorang Maharaja Jawa menghadiahkan kepada Kaisar Tiongkok "a short swords with hilts of rhinoceros horn or gold (pedang pendek dengan hulu terbuat dari dari cula badak atau emas). Bisa jadi pedang pendek yang dimaksuddalam laporan itu adalah protoptipe keris seperti yang tergambar pada relief Candi Borobudur dan Prambanan.
Sebilah keris yang ditandai dengan angka tahun pada bilahnya, dimiliki oleh seorang Belanda bernama Knaud di Batavia (pada zaman Belanda dulu). Pada bilah keris itu selain terdapat gamabar timbul wayang, juga berangka tahun Saka 1264, atau 1324 Masehi. Jadi kira-kira sezaman dengan saat pembangunan Candi Penataran di dekat kota Blitar, Jawa Timur. Pada candi ini memang terdapat patung raksasa Kala yang menyandang keris pendek lurus.
Gambar yang jelas mengenai keris dijumpai pada sebuah patung siwa yang berasal dari zaman Kerajaan Singasari, pada abad ke-14. Digambarkan dengan Dewa Siwa sedang memegang keris panjang di tangan kanannya. Jelasini bukan tiruan patung Dewa Siwa dari India, karena di India tak pernah ditemui adanya patung Siwa memegang keris. Patung itu kini tersimpan di Museum Leiden, Belanda.
Pada zaman-zaman berikutnya, makin banyak candi yang dibangun di Jawa Timur, yang memiliki gambaran keris pada dinding reliefnya. Misalnya pada Candi Jago atau Candi Jajagu, yang dibangun tahun 1268 Masehi. Di candi itu terdapat relief yang menggambarkan Pandawa (tokoh wayang) sedang bermain dadu. Punakawan yang terlukis di belakangnya digambarkan sedang membawa keris. Begitu pula pada candi yang terdapat di Tegalwangi, Pare, dekat Kediri, dan Candi Panataran. Pada kedua candi itu tergambar relief tokoh-tokoh yang memegang keris.
Cerita mengenai keris yang lebih jelas dapat dibaca dari laporan seorang musafir Cina bernama Ma Huan. Dalam laporannya Yingyai Sheng-lan di tahun 1416 Masehi ia menuliskan pengalamannya sewaktu mengunjungi Kerajaan Majapahit.
Ketika itu ia datang bersama rombongan Laksamana Cheng-ho atas perintah Kaisar Yen Tsung dari dinasti Ming. Di Majapahit, Ma Huan menyaksikan bahwa hampir semua lelaki di negeri itu memakai pulak, sejak masih kanak-kanak, bahkan sejak berumur tiga tahun. Yang disebut pulak oleh Ma Huan adalah semacam belati lurus atau berkelok-kelok. Jelas ayang dimaksud adalah keris.
Kata Ma Huan dalam laoparan itu: These daggers have very thin stripes and within flowers and made of very best steel; the handle is of gold, rhinoceros, or ivory, cut into the shapeof human or devil faces and finished carefully.
Laporan ini membuktikan bahwa pada zaman itu telah dikenal teknik pembuatan senjata tikam dengan hiasan pamor dengan gambaran garis-garis amat tipis serta bunga-bunga keputihan. Senjata ini dibuat dengan baja berkualitas prima. Pegangannya, atau hulunya, terbuat dari emas, cula badak, atau gading.
Salah satu panil relief di Candi Sukuh di lereng Gunung Lawu. Tak pelak lagi, tentunya yang dimaksudkan Ma Huan dalam laporannya adalah keris yang kita kenal sekarang ini.

Gambar timbul mengenai cara pembuatan keris, dapat disaksikan di Candi Sukuh, di lereng Gunung Lawu, di perbatasan Jawa Tengah dan Jawa Timur. Pada candra sengkala memet di candi itu, terbaca angka tahun 1316 Saka atau 1439 Masehi.

Cara pembuatan keris yang digambarkan di candi itu tidak jauh berbeda dengan cara pembuatan keris keris pada zaman sekarang. Baik peralatan kerja, palu dan ububan, maupun hasil karyanya berupa keris, tombak, kudi, dll.


Teori Itu Tak Selalu Benar

Bagi sebagian besar pecinta keris dan tosan aji di Indonesia, terutama di Pulau Jawa, teori-teori yang dikemukakan oleh para ahli Barat itu banyak sekali mengandung kelemahan, dan terkadang bahkan tidak logis.
Satu hal yang tidak ‘tertangkap’ dalam alam pikir para ahli Barat, adalah bahwa keris dibuat orang (para empu) sama sekali bukan dengan maksud untuk digunakan sebagai alat pembunuh. Banyak buku yang ditulis orang Barat menyebut keris sebagai salah satu senjata tikam atau stabbing weapons. Buku-buku Barat pada umumnya memberi kesan bahwa keris serupa atau sama saja dengan belati atau ponyard (poignard).
Padahal ada perbedaan sangat besar dan mendasar di antara mereka. Belati, sangkur, atau poyard memang sengaja dibuat untuk menusuk lawan, melukai atau membunuhnya, sedangkan keris tidak. Keris dibuat terutama untuk digunakan sebagai pusaka atau sipat kandel, yang dipercaya dapat melindungi serta memberi keselamatan dan kesejahteraan pemiliknya.
Kekeliruan lain yang terasa agak menyakitkan hati, adalah penyebutan keris-keris sajen sebagai keris Majapahit oleh sebagian buku yang ditulis oleh orang Barat. Bagi orang Indonesia, terutama suku bangsa Jawa, keris Majapahit adalah salah satu produk budaya yang indah dan relatif sempurna -- yang sama sekali tidak dapat disamakan dengan keris sajen yang dibuat amat sangat sederhana.
Dari uraian ringkas di atas, cukup beralasan bagi kita kalau memperkirakan bahwa keris sudah mulai dibuat di Indonesia, Di Pulau Jawa, pada abad ke-5 atau 6. Tentu saja dalam bentuk yang masih sederhana.
Keris mencapai bentuknya seperti yang kita kenal sekarang, diperkirakan baru pada sekitar abad ke-12 atau 13. Budaya keris mencapai puncaknya pada zaman Kerajaan Majapahit, seperti yang telah dilaporkan oleh Ma Huan. Pada kala itulah budaya keris menyebar sampai ke Palembang, Riau, Semenanjung Malaya, Brunei Darussalam, Filipina Selatan, Kamboja atau Champa, bahkan sampai ke Surathani dan Pathani di Thailand bagian selatan.
Budaya keris terkadang disalah mengertikan oleh sebagian peneliti Barat, sehingga hasil tulisan mereka terkadang tidak sesuai dengan alam budaya bangsa Indonesia.


Aspek Eksoteri dan Esoteri

Ilmu perkerisan terbagi menjadi dua aspek bahasan, yakni mengenai eksoteri dan esoterinya. Sebagian orang menganggap kedua aspek itu sama pentingnya, sebagian lagi menilai yang penting eksoterinya, dan yang lain menganggap sebaliknya. Apapun anggapan dan penilaian Anda, itu akan mencerminkan sikap pribagi Anda pada budaya keris.

Lebih lanjut mengenai eksoteri keris.

Lebih lanjut mengenai esoteri keris.


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