the Keris: Weapon and spirituality Javanese symbol

In the world of Pusaka, this term which includes all the precious goods, kept from generation to generation in the family clan, keris holds a place of honor.

For the Indonesians especially Javanese, the keris is not only a weapon but a true sacred spiritual object. It is considered to be twice its owner, it protects it, contains its soul and can replace it during official ceremonies, even on the day of its marriage. The keris is worn on the back, wedged under the belt of the traditional costume in order to protect its wearer from evil spirits who could attack from behind. The keris is worn by men and women, although the female keris is shorter and lighter. For women, they worn the short and tiny keris on the front hide by long and wide fabric belts are used to hold the long cloth used traditionally

The symbolism of its form

The general shape of this dagger is very figurative and belongs to traditional Javanese iconography: the warangka, upper part of the scabbard, has the shape of a boat on which stands a character represented by the handle of the keris. The narrow double-edged blade, which gives the aesthetic quality to the keris, symbolizes the naga (mythical dragon) either at rest when the blade is straight or in motion when the blade is wavy (called “luk”), the number of undulations ranging from three to thirteen and always odd. Note that the wavy blade is more destructive than the straight blade.

The sheath called sarong in exotic wood, richly decorated with precious stones, gold and ivory is the element that allows to recognize its origin.

Javanese keris is the most elaborate and the most richly decorated with a very wide variety of shapes and patterns.

The forge of Keris: creation and spirituality

The art of forging keris was not given to just anyone. Only a pandai keris could accomplish such a task and few have obtained the supreme title of empu. Empus are highly respected craftsmen in Javanese society, attached to royal courts and possessing knowledge of literature, history and occult sciences.

Creating a keris is a long and complicated process. It all starts with the choice of an auspicious date in the Javanese calendar while taking into account the date of birth of the sponsor because the blade must reflect his personality to perfection. After determining the auspicious day, the empu begins a white diet based on white rice and water for two to three months in order to purify his body and free his mind and thus obtain the necessary inspiration. The fast will continue during the whole realization of the dagger, accompanied by prayers and meditations to remain pure and serene and to avoid movements of humour which could transpose in the keris and and beyond influence its owner later when it wears it. A good keris had to have yoni, an invisible magic power.

To make a royal Javanese keris, one of the components is a part of meteorite that fell in the Prambanan region in 1784. About one gram of meteoritic stone with a high nickel content is added to the folded iron sheet and folded tens even hundreds of times with great precision. The pattern is therefore obtained by superimposing very contrasting layers of metal and to finish the blade is coated with a mixture of arsenic and lemon juice in order to bring out the silvery white pattern, the nickel being very white.

Common keris are forged with metal of “earth” origin, or even industrial alloys.

Manufacturing according to the traditional method is an art which, unfortunately, is disappearing nowadays due to the lack of “sacred” raw materials and lack of know-how.

Javanese proverb: a man must have five things on earth: a Kris, a horse, a house, a bird and a woman. 

Indonesian keris include Javanese keris has been on the list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity since 2008.