Ceremonial dagger "Kris"


Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia, early 19th century, partially early 20th century, private collection from Denmark.

Asymmetrical dagger kris (keris) from Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia. Both weapon and spiritual object, the Kris is considered to possess magical powers. Keris are not only found in Indonesia, but also indigenous to Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei, Singapore and the Philippines where it is known as kalis with variants existing as a sword rather than a dagger. The word "kris" means to stab or to pierce. Kris blade (called wilah, bilah or mata) are usually narrow with a wide, asymmetrical base. The general shape or outline (dhapur) of keris is sinuous (luk) or straight (lurus). The blade's surface usually bears a pattern, rough damascened pattern (pamor). Pamor patternshave specific meanings and names which indicate the mythical properties they are believed to impact. There are around 60 recognized pamor variants. Sculptured or chiseled features (perabot) are found at the bottom half of the blade.

A blacksmith (called "empu") makes the blade in layers of different iron ores and meteorite nickel. The blade is folded dozens or hundreds of times and handled with utmost precision. Empus are highly respected craftsmen with additional knowledge in literature, history and occulte sciences. A keris made according to the traditional methods can take up to almost one year. The Kris sheath or scabbard (warangka, wrongko or sarung) is often made from wood, though examples from ivory, even gold, abound. The removable hilt (ukiran, hulu) to allow the blade ritual cleansing (heirloom cleansing is called siraman pusaka). The hilt is made from wood, ivory, bone or metals and are carved in meticulous details. They often show animal figures, spiritual beings and deities (such as Bhoma, Garuda, Naga, Raksasa, Singo Barong or Dewa Bayo).  Sometimes coated with gold or silver and decorated with gemstones.

This stunning ceremonial dagger has great symbolic meaning. It symbolises the hope of fertility, eternity and power. The meticulously decorated Kris represents refinement, art and beauty, and is still regarded as a prized possession. In Javanese culture, keris is revered as "sacred heirloom weapon" (tosan aji). Kris are used in for display, as talismans with magical powers, an indicator of social status, sanctified heirlooms (pusaka) etc. Kris were worn everyday and at special ceremonies. Both men and women wear them. Kerises should be hung on the wall and fed once a month. They will work quietly behind you, protecting you from harm, or drawing in wealth and good luck. Kris is part of Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage since 2008.

Exceptional, long Keris from Sumatra. The blade is older than other parts of the Keris. Excellent condition. Silvered hilt cup (mendak or salut) with fine embossed decorations. Scabbard or sheath with minor abrasion. Gorgeous patina. Age-related wear and signs of ceremonial heirloom cleansing (siraman pusaka). Size approx. 52,0cm x 13,5cm x 4,0cm. Blade c. 40,5cm.

References, sources and citations:

The Magical Keris, Fauziah, Indoindians.com

Keris: The Sacred Daggers of Indonesia, Kalpavriksha, Sep 20, 2019, Medium

Unesco, Culture, Intangible Heritage, Indonesian Keris, ich.unesco.org.