OK, i'll start with the obvious. We know that for the most part, certainly on the keraton level where keris development would be taking place, we are talking about a Hindu culture. So if symbolism is involved then we are most likely dealing with Hindu symbolism.
Your kudi looks like a fairly modern piece to me, not pre-Islamic. :shrug:
Greneng is certainly much more developed than the notches found on European blades and the form does look very much like the Dha letter it is reputed to represent. It seems to me that they are much more than just decoration.
Keris were/are made on many different levels for many different classes of people and for various purposes. I don't find it surprising therefore that some keris have greneng while others do not.
bear in mind when you trace pre-islamic ages, perhaps it is better not only to refer hindhuism and bundhism but also JAWAISM. by doing this, hopefully, we are not trapped in the condition: "free from tiger mouth fall in crocodile mouth" :)
notice that to know greneng must to know the context of pre-islamic era is brilliant. BUT it is still in the middle of expedition. the rest seems harder
It is tempting to think of the very first, original expression of the greneng as a purely ornamental device, it is difficult to argue against this, as it is obvious that to say such a thing never happened, and never could have happened we would need knowledge of every keris ever produced, prior to the widespread use of the greneng as a feature in the keris.
However, once we reach the point where we can see a distinct form in the greneng, and we see this repeated in a number of blades, irrespective of the quality of the blade, I am very reluctant to accept mere ornamentation as an explanation.Most especially so when that form can be aligned with a form existing in Javanese script.
In fact, when we consider the 16th and 17th century examples in European collections, and compare these with examples in Jawa that are supposedly from this period, and earlier periods, it seems possible that in blades where complex ricikan were used , their addition to the blade was not the product of a gradual development process, but rather all the features were added at one time, or at least within a span of time that was relatively short.
To my mind, this indicates a planned process for an intended purpose.
Yes David, the Hindu faith was present in early Jawa, but it was not the Hindu faith as practiced in its homeland. It was Jawa-Hindu, which was a syncretic form of the faith incorporating indigenous Javanese elements and a parralelism with the practice of Buddhism. Not really a particularly easy subject to come to terms with, but an understanding of what was going on in the religious sphere at this time is essential before we can begin hypothesizing in respect the keris and its features.
Let us not forget that a culture and society consists of more than just its religious beliefs. We need also to try to gain an understanding of the other elements involved .
We must not think of early Javanese society as a Hindu culture. It was not. It was Javanese culture with overlays of foriegn belief systems that had been accepted, absorbed, and altered to fit the host society.
Kai, I'm sorry, I noted your remarks after I posted my most recent comments.
In respect of my comment that:-
"---In light of these two factors, I believe that the assumption is reasonable that the greneng, along with some other ricikan of the modern Javanese keris, first appeared during the Majapahit era.---"
Kai, here I am making an assumption, that is , it is something that I am asking to be accepted without proof.
This would be a non sequitur if I had presented it as a statement, or a conclusion, and had relied upon my previous remarks in an effort to validate that statement or conclusion, but with an assumption I am not required to validate or prove anything.Thus, we cannot say my assumption does not logically follow from the previous remarks:- it does not need to logically follow, as it is presented as an assumption, not a conclusion, which of course should be able to be supported.
If we were to take the line that my assumption is not a reasonable assumption, then we would need to mount an argument to demonstrate the reasons for it not being reasonable. We cannot dismiss it, as we can an illogical conclusion, by simply saying that something does not logically follow from something else.
However, setting this aside, you raise the question:- "---Why couldn't some kind of greneng have evolved earlier?---"
Yes, it could have, but taking into consideration the time span nominated for the appearance of the greneng, it seems exceptionally unlikely that it could have appeared earlier. The Majapahit era can be taken to stretch from around 1290 through to around 1525. These are extremes, and the core period was much shorter. If we look at the keris form that most probably existed prior to about 1300 we find that those forms have not yet commenced development into the form of the Modern Keris. It is only with the Modern Keris that we find multiple complex ricikan.
Yes, there are examples of the early Modern Keris that do not have greneng nor ron dha, and lack other ricikan. This inclusion of specific ricikan is part of the system of dhapur, so the inclusion or not of specific ricikan depends upon the dhapur that has been created.
Regarding the form of the greneng.(Dr. David)
Keris from different periods carry ron dha of differing shapes, those shapes supposedly can be aligned to the form of the letter "dha" at various periods.
Keris from some areas outside Jawa, and keris of village manufacture from within Jawa very often have very approximate renditions of both greneng and ron dha.
The greneng can take a number of forms, but in a Javanese keris the various forms will always contain at least one rondha.Early keris with greneng do have similar component features expressed within the greneng, but the composition can vary from one keris to another. To give a definitive answer to this, one would really need to examine all these old European-held blades at the same time. Photos, even the very best photos, are not really good enough, in my opinion. I think that very probably it would be able to be shown that early expressions of the greneng carry very much the same features as later expressions of the greneng, however, with later Surakarta keris I feel that we begin to see some artistic improvisation that was not present in earlier periods.
Still on “dha” Greneng
(You may omit this post, if you feel it will waste your precious time to read such an unuseful nonsense)
When did the “dha” greneng first appear? Nobody knows, and probably nobody will never ever know when it did first appear… Was “dha” greneng mean for more tactical function (if keris regarded as merely weapon), or was it more a symbolic function (if keris regarded not merely as a weapon, but also as pusaka or “sipat kandel” for the owner)? Still big question too…
Is the form of “rondha” greneng really consist of “dha” alphabet from Javanese scripture “hanacaraka” (caraka-script)? Maybe yes, and maybe no. But if yes, then it is for sure that on the first day when the keris maker incorporated the “dha” scripture or “rong dha” (two dha), or even “rondha with rondha nunut” (two dha with more dha on the tail of the blade, just right on the rondha), people on that day have known the caraka-alphabet.
Then, my simple understanding will directly agree, that the first incorporation of the form “dha” greneng was not before the incorporation of the Javanese scripture “hanacaraka” in the Javanese culture. As we all have known, the caraka-script is not the only alphabet in the life of Javanese culture in the past. (There was Pallawa script too in the olden days)
Back to my simple understanding on this javanese scripture. Common Javanese in the past had almost the same experience in learning this script. Me too. From the lesson of my old Javanese teacher in the past, I know that this “hanacaraka” script is not merely alphabetic script. But also story, and “piwulang” (spiritual lesson) to the javanese pupils.
The javanese pupils, usually learned by heart quickly the alphabetic series of the caraka-script, once they knew what the story of the alphabet about. The 20 javananese alphabetic script itself formally called as “Dentawiyanjana”.
“Ha na ca ra ka” means “there are envoys” (a couple, named as Dora and Sembada)
“Da ta sa wa la” means “they should do everything only upon the instruction of their Master, Aji Saka”
“Pa da ja ya nya” means “both has equal strength, equal power” (to guard the pusaka of the Master. Not allowed to move the pusaka, except in the instruction of their Master)
“Ma ga ba tha nga” means “both became carcass” (both were dead, because of fighting each other to defend the pusaka, fighting because of misunderstanding).
And what was the “piwulang” (lesson) of the two dead carakas? Dora itself, means “not good deed”, and “sembada” means “good deed”. Both had power, had equal strength, and both held same duty, to guard the pusaka. Never move the pusaka, what ever the reason. Except in the instruction of their Master, of course.
There were hard fighting between Aji Saka – their Master – and the cruel king Prabu Dewata Cengkar that had habitude of eating human being. The “sakti” king (powerful king, with a kind of divine power in him) almost killed Aji Saka. And in the critical situation, one of the envoys will use the pusaka to help their Master against the devil king Dewata Cengkar. But the other envoy defended the pusaka, because no matter what reason they were not allowed to move the pusaka. So the two envoys were fighting each other till both of them dead together…
Did this “Dora and Sembada” story have a relevant symbolic meaning on the forming of the “dha” in the greneng? Only past time knew the truth… The end of the story, Aji Saka, then created the “hanacaraka script” based on the tragedy of his envoys. And it was told that Aji Saka became a great king in Medang Kamulan kingdom. When it happened? It’s your turn to reveal…
Aksara Bali and Kres
I am certain that I have read somewhere, that the first inscriptions of keris mention it as KRES, and experts who analysed the prasasti were convinced that kres means keris. I notice your certainty in judging the knowledge of the experts who examined the paticular prasasti that I think was mentioned in Harsrinuksma's ensiklopedi. I can't say that they were not certain that the word kres in the prasasti was refering to an object we would now recognize as a keris. In fact, I believe their opinion, that kres is refering to keris.
The words kres and keris contain the sound RIS, which is also related to IRIS, which is an important function of keris as a physical weapon besides stabbing, but that is not important in this discussion.
My opinion that a leter like the caraka DHA exists in the Bali alphabet comes from this site: http://www.babadbali.com/aksarabali/books/tobacaan.htm
Map of control
Dear all, thank you for some wonderful contributions. If you would allow me a flight of intellectual fancy I will float the following ideas.
The concept that the greneng has a function which determined its form seems to have reasonable support.
It seems unlikely that the function was related to its use as a weapon.
It appears likely that the greneng appeared somewhere in the 1100-1300 year range CE (current era= same as AD).
It seems probably that the greneng 'arrived' in that relatively short period of history in what is very similar to its current form and most importantly in a relatively constant form ie it is not the evolution of a decorative tradition.
This form was important to the culture which conceived it and hence was repeated consistently. It is possible/probable that the current cultural interpretation of the form is not the same as its original one.
It has been suggested that all the ups and downs of the greneng represents the northern coastline of the island of Java, (certainly if you look at maps of some stretches of this coastline there are areas that have the 'dha' shape recurrently).
Perhaps given all this the greneng was originally a physical representation (a map) of the area of overlordship/influence of one of the dynasties of central and/or eastern Java (the Singosari or the Majapahit seem most likely given the dates but if evidence of the greneng is found earlier then other regimes would fit). The dynasty wished to assert its authority over a given area (perhaps after a rebellion, perhaps after consolidating power) and chose to do it by carving it into one of their most powerful representational tools, their keris.
please feel free to shred this idea, it is as I said just a flight of fancy
Pak Ganja, I really do have a great deal of difficulty in understanding why you would attempt to discourage anybody from reading your interesting and valuable contribution to discussion.I am certain that there are many people who will read this who do not know this part of the Aji Saka legend, and your contribution will add to their knowledge.
However, let us be fair:- the translation and interpretation you have given is not the only one possible from the hanacaraka.Moreover, even when we look at the these translations and interpretations, the true meanings are not simple and obvious. In fact we are considering a moral teaching that has strong links with 19th-20th century Kejawen. Even this moral teaching can be interpreted in varying ways, to carry varying lessons.
I'm not going to diverge into talking about this here, but for those of you who do have an interest, a few thoughtful minutes with Mr. Google will prove very instructive. You might like to start with the Joglosemar site:-
There is much to be discovered about this if you are prepared to put in the time.
But the crux of the matter is this:- Aji Saka is a legendary figure, as is Medang Kamulan. I do not know the origins of this legend, nor when it first began to appear, but if we look at the variations, it does seem obvious that as with all legends it has developed through the telling and retelling, and the current version seems to owe much to the clash between local Javanese Islam and mainstream Islam which occurred at the end of the 19th century. This was probably due to the actions of people returning from The Haj, and resulted in a distinction being made for the first time between the abangan and the santri.
When we begin to consider legend as a source for historic possibility, we need to consider not just the source of the legend, but the way in which it has developed over time.
Then of course we need to consider the philosophy of the hanacaraka, coming to us from PB IX and Yasadipura.But the question must arise:- what has this got to do with the origin of the greneng? I submit:- nothing.
But still, its interesting---just doesn't have anything at all to do with what we are talking about.
G'day Bram. Can I call you Bram, or Pak Bram, or Pak Kiai? Which would you prefer?
Howabout if I just call you Bram, and you can call me Alan? Lets drop the formalities.
About the "kres" thing, I've also read what you are telling us many times, but I have not yet seen a complete translation done by a qualified scholar and subjected to peer review. All I have seen is the romanisation of the original script and interpretations placed upon it by people who may, or may not be qualified to give that interpretation.
In fact, I'm not even certain as to what inscription this is. I think I've read the source somewhere, but off the top of my head, I don't know it, I don't know who has done the translations, who has checked them---I know nothing except that there is an old inscription that contains the word "kres".
Yes, "kres" resembles "kris", and it might in fact be the same word and mean the same, but even if it does, at the time of the inscription, this word could have referred to an object other than that which we today would recognise as a keris. Then there is the fact that the most authoritative work to date on the Old Javanese lexicon---Zoetmulder--- does not list the word "kres".
Interestingly, the word "kres" is a Modern Javanese word having the sense of cutting or slashing.
I think you may have been reading something into my writing that was not there Bram. I have no certainty at all that the experts who examined the inscription that you mention were either correct or incorrect. How could I have?
I have not seen the complete inscription.
I do not know the process that was applied to romanise it.
I do not who worked on it and who checked it.
I know nothing at all about it, except a vague reference in a book prepared for the popular market.
I do thank you most sincerely for pointing out that this inscription was mentioned in Ensiklopedi. I know I've seen reference to it in other places as well, but Ensiklopedi was a good start. Here we are told that it is an inscription dating from 500AD, it is written in Pallava script, and the language used is Sanscrit. That's a lot of info.
Yes, it would have been written in Pallava script if it was written in 500AD. Last known Pallava script use in an inscription was in March 804.
But was it written in Sanscrit?
I'm not so sure that it was written in Sanscrit. It may have been. The Tarumanegara inscription was written in Sanscrit, and that was about the same time as the "kres" inscription.We don't see Old Kawi until the 8th century, so, yeah, OK, lets agree this "kres" inscription was written in Sanscrit.
But once we do that we have a problem, because Macdonell does not list the word "kres" as a part of the Sanscrit lexicon. In fact, I don't think that the syllabel "kre" occurs at the beginning of a word in Sanscrit; "kri" does occur fairly frequently. Interestingly the word and syllabel "kris" has the sense of thinness in Sanscrit.
So---where does this leave us in respect of our respected archaic inscription that contains (supposedly) the word "kres"?
Personally, I think we need to know a wee bit more about the inscription, its translators, and its checkers, before we draw any conclusions at all.
In any case, this inscription was from about 500AD.
It would be a magical feat of language development if the word "kres" really and truly referred to an object that we would recognise as a kris.
Language is living beast. Constantly moving, jumping and changing direction. Once it ceases to behave thus it dies.
Yes, I think many of us may have heard the "iris" relationship brought up in the past. In fact, I wrote a paper about this maybe 25-30 years ago---before I learnt that I knew nothing.But still, even though I knew nothing---and in truth, still do not--- it wasn't a bad guess, because "iris" does occur in Old Javanese, and might logically be considered as a root word for "kris", which also appears in Old Javanese. Maybe it might not be a direct root, but the idea is there, and the feeling of "slicing", "making thinner", the Sanscrit "kris", and the Old Javanese "kris", together with Old Javanese "iris".
Yeah---why not? Looks like a good basis for a thesis to me.
The mistake I made in my old paper was to link "iris" to Old Malay, rather than Old Javanese.
But anyway, all this interesting stuff has wandered away from our core question:- origin of the greneng.
I've already remarked upon the way I feel this question should be considered, so I won't repeat myself.
I love this divergent crap. It means we can talk all day if we feel so inclined. Good stuff, and interesting. Lets you play with ideas.
Keep this stuff coming Bram. Love it!!
Thanks for the alphabet link.
As I said previously, I was running on memory. What I had was a mental picture of the Balinese alphabet with the same order as the Javanese alphabet, but with different romanisations, which obviously can be put down to differing speech inflections. After looking at your link I threw "balinese alphabet" into google. Here's what I got:-
Actually, the romanisation ain't worth a cupfull of cold water; what we need to look at are the original script representations.In my link you'll see these are a modern version. If you go to Raffles you'll find that he presents maybe as many as a dozen different script forms that have been used in the past for writing Javanese---and by extension, Kawi and Balinese.Yes, of course there's a DA, or a DHA in the Balinese alphabet, but most importantly, there is a script character that echoes the Javanese DHA.---whether the person who romanises it aspirates it or not.
As for your beliefs, Bram.
These are your own personal property, and it is not my intention to try to divest you of your own personal property.
Hold fast to your beliefs. Ignore those who would try to make you change them.
However, please do make room for a little logic.
We all have room for both.In one situation we can be creatures of belief, in a different situation, creatures of logic.
Retain the beliefs, but don't let them interfere with the logic.
I have made an error in the above post.
Pak Ganja was kind enough to indirectly point out to me that the word "kres" is mentioned in an inscription dating from 842AD, not 500AD.
This means that it was written in Old Javanese, not Sanscrit.
Which in turn means that what I have written above about "kres" is irrelevant to the discussion.
This "kres" word matter has been more fully addressed in the "Inscriptions" thread.
I apologise for any inconvenience I may have caused.
Very well David, its a flight of fancy.
Can you explain how the presence of the greneng on the keris assisted in assertion of authority over a portion of the a realm?
Especially when Sunda was virtually ignored in the Majapahit literature.
If we wish to make the greneng a geographical representation of something, we need to look at geography from the perspective of a lord of Old Jawa.
I don't think we can use this map theory. This is just not a reflection of Javanese thought of that period.
If you like, Alan... I am interested in commenting on the mention of Ajisaka. Who was and why Ajisaka? My intuition is that Ajisaka is the personification of "the knowledge of the pillar(s)" similar to current Freemasonry, and is concerned with creating a just and peacful society.
Sorry to wander off the thread.
As for the greneng representing a map, well, old Jawa kings didn't seem to like or need maps much. They often did not have borders on the ground, and they considered owning people more important than territory.
One thing we must consider when thinking about how things became widely used, is the influence of charisma. If a God-King wants a greneng, all his subjects might want one too. When Panembahan Senapati died at his funeral cigarettes were served and from that day Jawa men smoked, court poets noted. So the use of greneng might be like that too, one day a King used it and the next day everyone wanted one. Why? Because of charisma.
Just my opinion...
Bram, those two words are loaded.
Yes, we can extract "pillar of knowledge" from them, but we can extract other possibilities as well.
What we extract can depend upon what language the words were first used in. Did this legend originate when Old Javanese was in general use, or after Modern Javanese came into general usage?
We can extract "king" from "aji".
We can also extract "kaji" from "aji"---this is a known variation.
Again the word can be interpreted in several ways.
However, "pillar of knowledge" is workable, and it could well have been intended in that way.
Possibly when it was first used the story-teller was playing with ideas that would be generated in the minds of his audience by a combination of sounds, and the supporting story. Pillar of knowledge could be used to generate the idea of knowledge coming from The Haj, by the unspoken reference to "kaji". The ideas of "king", and "pillar" could be interchangeable
There are a number of possibilities, my personal feeling is that this legend was born after Islamic penetration of Jawa and was perhaps used in propaganda. I don't like the parallel with Freemasonry much. I cannot see such a thing being a part of the supportive fabric, moreover, it is stretching belief just a little too far, but I have no doubt that the story was used as a teaching medium. You yourself know that these legends were not just for light amusement. They were not 15th century versions of TV soap operas.The story tellers in Javanese society were an informal----and perhaps sometimes a formal---mechanism of societal control.
The greneng flowing from imitation of royal preference?
This would have come from the top, no doubt about that, but why?
And was it a personal royal preference, or by royal dictate?
Was it personalised to the ruler, or was it at the direction of the ruler, and in any case----why?
I have very little knowledge of keris, but I am able to look at it from a design point of view. The greneng seems to me like a fairly complex feature. Shaping the edge of an object in the form of letters is an involved thought process; one has to identify the possibility to shape the edge in an unconventional manner and then realize that a specific contour of that edge may be read as meaningful letters.
I have worked as a graphic designer, I aspired to become an architect, and I am currently following an urban planning profession, and in all of these I have always had a design process. To get to design E I have to go through A, B, C, D first. To get to a legible ron dha on the "tail" end of the ganja, I feel that a designer had to go through a number of illegible steps. I imagine that at first there was no greneng, no ron dha. Then there arose a deformation of the edge of the "tail" area, something uncommon. It may have been a physical need to stop an opponent's blade, or it may have been something else, possibly even accidental damage. My point is that designers realized that the edge deformation was pleasing or useful and could be shaped in a meaningful way, eventually to become the contour of letters, and eventually to acquire a mystical meaning. This must have happened in time and involving considerable trial and error.
I guess this is what David's initial question referred to; what was that initial deformation of the tail edge that prompted the design process that lead to a legible or meaningful greneng.
These are my thoughts and I have no way to support them.
Thank you all for a fascinating discourse.
Thank you, Manolo, for your suggestion on the 'designing' aspect. There is, actually, a 'pre-formed' greneng called 'greneng wurung'. Wurung or durung means 'belum' in Bahasa and literally means 'not yet', 'unfinished'. In this case, it could be translated as 'unperfect greneng'. But this kind of greneng has it's own problems. It is very possible that this forms were caused by the worn-out blade. This form also, very likely, to be found on the lower quality blades. Thus, incapability of the maker should be taken account. But it is quite tempting to think that the greneng wurung is the predecessor of the full-shaped greneng.
David, as you suggest that we should find the cause in Hindu cultures, why don't you consider the kukri's cho ? This notch in the lower part of kukri has similar form with greneng/ ron dha, and it also has symbolic meaning(s) and 'lack of functionality' as a tool/weapon.
Please note while I'm suggesting some relations between cho and greneng, I keep my opinion neutral regarding this relationship :)
i also belong to the himalayan imports forum, where the cho/kaudi debate comes up frequently. a recent thread-> Linky
the conclusion is normally 'no one knows why they have one, or why other nepali weapons do not, they just do'.
they are now a religious and traditional inclusion on the kukuhri's such that it is not considered a kukuhri if it does not have one. the kami's normally bless the new kukhri's in a mass ceremony involving sacrifice, so they are serious.
kukuhri cho/kaudi also come in a closed style rather than the more common notch:
so, the blood dripper/blade catcher theory falls a bit flat with those variants.
Regarding the notch in a khukri blade.
What I might know about khuks could be written on the head of a pin, however, I do have a good friend who lives in Canada, and who, for the last 20 years or so, has been married to the daughter of a Nepalese Brahmin, who lives with them. Father in law was a professor of cultural studies at an Indian university, and my friend is a long-time student of the khukri, weapons culture in general, and Nepalese weaponry in particular. He is an intelligent man whose work involves logical investigation at a university level. He does not, to the best of my knowledge involve himself in internet forums and when I have raised this question with him he has indicated in a very forceful manner that he has no wish to use his time in this manner.
I asked him for his take on the notch in the blade of khuks. Here is his response:-
not one reason but a few.
the principle reason , which could be carved on stone,I was told by a nepalese of experience, not just a figured out theory, is to control blood flow, when chopping up people.
blood on the edge will flow along the edge to the notch then drips off the notch to the ground rather than running over the handle..
I tried it though with milk not blood and it works pretty well..
As well it forms a lock, when in scabbard bladedown and the notch helps lock it.,.
as well many people have told me it represents Mt kailas in tibet, where shiva is said to rest, so its religous symbol i.e. could be prayed to.
Timely Brother Rasdan, and funny,
Djchengkis Khan is the most hilarious thing I've seen in six months or more.
You are most welcome Alan..
Now it's stuck in my head .......... :mad: ;) :D
I was too busy falling off my chair laughing to notice the melody.
I still think that greneng is just an empu's signature and has nothing significant in its physical function aspect. However, I must say I agree with the notch in a khukuri theory - being blood flow stopper.
Another thing to note, though both types of weapons came from Hinduistic culture, empus were very revered that sometimes even the kings married off their daughters in rewarding their efforts. The same could not & cannot be said about the kami caste (khukuri makers) - They were considered untouchables :confused:
Ahahaha, never had such a belly-splitting laugh in a long time. :D
Has been added to "Classics". :)
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