As things have been quiet on the board for a while I thought I would ask a question that has been on my mind for some time. What is the purpose of the greneng? From my reading there seem to be three basic theories, firstly that it cut down on the amount of blood that travelled from blade to handle and thus made the keris easier to hold in combat, secondly that it was designed to catch or deflect an opponents blade, so part guard part disarming strategy and finally that it was an opportunity for the craftsman to exhibit his skills. Does anyone have any evidence that one or more of these are correct? I must say theory one seems a little implausible to me, 2 makes more sense biomechanically and 3 makes marketing sense. :confused:
Just to clarify a point David, you are talking in terms of the original reason for the inclusion of the greneng in keris blade design?
That is, the possible reason it may have originated many hundreds of years ago.
You are not inviting speculation on the later development of the greneng and its esoteric, talismanic, arcane or philosophical interpretations?
Am I correct in this assumption?
Alan, you are correct I am talking about the original purpose. If we take the 'form follows function' approach there should be a reason it is like it is. Thanks for clarifying my question
View of a novice, just one angle
Hi, all that I have learnt of the Kris is relatively new to me from study and an elderly friend who spent a very long time in and out of Bali in the 70's and 80's with the people who inhabited a 10th century water temple far removed from the tourist Mecca we all know of today. From all that I have read and learnt first had from those who have travelled there is that it is entirely form before funtion with regards to these knives.
From all that I can gather from my talks with Max, the Kris and every part of it is all a spiritual connotation, much like the importance of the Gajah in their culture which it also found on Kris knives as are other "items" that are held with great importance like the Naga and many others I have seen on old blades.
I have always said to Max how much the Genang side of a Kris reminds me of the Indonesian Archipelago and I am only surmising that Genang being a city in this Island chain is represented on the blade, it may be how it all came about, or this ideal of mine may go back further and hence this is how the city received it's name. If anyone can touch on the origins of the city of Genang, here may be the answers....
Hold your Kris knives up against the map in the link below and tell me what you think? I beleive the line between Ganja and the main blade of the Kris represents the break between the major islands which would put Genang in the correct position on the blade.
Yep, I go off on a tangent sometimes and think too much but I think there is a thesis there for either myself or someone who wants to get the jump on me with further research, heck maybe someone wants to help me with it and get an honouree doctorate
PS I think I had a moment of madness and dropped the "r" from the Grenang to get Genang, though there still maybe be some validity to these mad thoughts
I agree with you DrD about #1 and #2. If you will indulge a little speculation: judging from how the keris is held, I would surmise that the intention was to simply keep the hand from slipping down the blade on a thrust if one's grip slipped. I think it would feel better to put solid pressure on the hand there than at the fingers. It would also make sense that it would protect the users hand when parring an opponents weapon with the blade (assuming this was a strategy with a keris), the decoration acting as a "sword catcher" in the sense that a blade couldn't skip or slide past that area and onto the forearm, but I can't see getting enough leverage out of it to disarm or catch a blade though. :shrug:
I would say no. 3 - the signature of an empu that can be translated these days as marketing ploy. I am quite sceptical about sword catcher theory as according to Malay keris fighting tradition, keris is not to be parried against another keris or other edged weapon for that matter.
Some excellent ideas here gentlemen. t_c having grasped a few of my keris in response to your answer I think it is very sound and suspect that stopping your hand sliding down onto the blade is a very practical 'form follows function' explanation...and perhaps that the idea of preventing slip was then extrapolated into the more exciting and gory theory of diverting blood to prevent slip. The carvings of the greneng could deflect or turn an attacking blade slightly I'm sure but like you I really doubt that could be used to catch a blade or twist it from the attackers hand.
Freebooter your map of the archipeligo theory is very very interesting indeed, and bears more thinking about.
Penangsang II thanks for the insight on fighting tradition, I have not found much information in the texts on how these were used in their heyday (I respect the fact that there are martial artists who have developed a method of combat using keris in the modern era but we dont really know that that was the original method). I have been told that the keris was used commonly as a weapon of stealth, a quick thrust before the victim knew what was coming and then the attacker was away. If that was the usage then the need for building an elaborate defence strategy into the keris would be minimal.
just to mix the batch a bit, the moro kris has a similar construction, (possibly the overall design was already 'locked' from it's indonesian roots by the time it evolved into the moro version?), though used for the cut rather than the thrust, and other moro weapons designed for the cut may or may not have a guard capable of preventing such slippage even though the blade is capable of such.
the grips on most malay/indonesian keris i've seen (tho not all) are more like a push dagger where the grip itself would prevent sliding down the blade even without a guard, also ensuring the weapon cannot slide out of your hand in the opposite direction, and even guardless filipino weapons tend to have a bulbous, or hooked pommel end to prevent that slippage away from the blade even if there is no guard preventing slippage towards it...
scandinavian knives traditionally have a guardless form, a child is given a knife with a guard however, and a sign of his coming of age is when he learns how to use a knife without one even under slippery conditions cleaning game or fish, or the occasional human.
spanish knives, khyber knives, choora, canary knives, gaucho knives all solve the sliding on thrust problem by having an offset grip in line with the spine, with the swell in the blade below the grip preventing the hand and fingers from sliding forward, and most people i've heard discussing those also indicate it offers some ability to deflect an incoming attack and protect the fingers if not the whole forearm...
the decorative notch near the grip (kaudi or cho) of a kukhri has also been described by some as a blood deflector, sword catcher, etc. but the main conclusions about it's purpose and origins are that no one really knows. a kukhri is not really one without it tho. the same goes for the kris, which is incomplete without the ganja/greneng.
This might explain the function of gonjo itself, but not the greneng per se.
You are absolutely correct David, the slippage bit is gonjo function not greneng function.
Perhaps if I might ask another question of those with greater historical understanding, when did the highly stylised greneg first appear? Is it apparent early in the post keris buda era or is it a significantly later arrival? Understanding this may give some clues.
This matter of how, when , where, and why the greneng first appeared on the keris is one of the really big, and really important questions of keris development. There can be no doubt that in the material culture of humanity form does follow function. A need arises, and the object is created to satisfy this need.
In the case of function following form, the object already exists, and is adapted to a new function; examples of function following form would be the back of an axe used to drive nails, the side of a knife used to crush garlic, a motor vehicle used as a weapon. The axe was made to chop wood, the knife to cut something, the motor vehicle as a means of transport, but human ingenuity adapted these things and turned other of their qualities to a different purpose, a purpose for which they had not originally been designed.
If we can accept that a thing comes into existence to satisfy a need, then the first question we must ask in respect of the greneng on the keris is what was the need for this feature?
Before we can answer this we must ask what was the function of the keris at the time when the greneng first appeared. If form follows function then we need to know the function of the keris and why this particular form of the keris was necessary, at the time when it first began to appear.
We know beyond any doubt that in its initial form the keris was primarily a weapon, however, over an extended period of time this weapon developed into forms that differed from its original form, and during this period of development it also acquired characteristics and a nature which perhaps were not attached to its original form.In simple terms, the nature of the keris varies, depending upon the time and place where it is found.
I would like to suggest that the keris in Jawa, at the time when the greneng first appeared, may have already commenced its development as a symbol of the male element, and a cultural icon. As such, its function was more than that of just a simple weapon. Thus it follows that the function of all of its parts was also more than the function of elements of weaponry.
The question that follows from this is:- when did the greneng first appear?
The simple answer is that we do not know with any certainty.
However, it does seem reasonable to assume that the incorporation of the greneng into keris design occurred after the beginning of the 14th century, and as a part of the development of the archaic form of the keris, into the modern form of the keris.
The keris is quite different to any other weapon of which I have knowledge:- it is first and foremost a weapon, but in some applications it has a nature that is the essence of the indigenous culture of the Jawa/Bali nexus. As a weapon it has the nature of a destroyer, but as the pusaka keris it also has the nature of a binding element that can bring together the disparate elements of a kin group, or of a kingdom. Thus it embodies the duality that is at the core of this culture. Above all, it is the symbol of the male element in both the small world in which we live, and within the entirety of creation.
Because of the complex nature of the keris, we cannot look for one dimensional answers.
I am of the opinion that the greneng, and its integral parts, were added to the keris to satisfy a percieved need associated with its function as something other than a weapon.
So yes, form does follow function, but the function of the keris at the time the greneng was added to it had already begun to move from that of a simple weapon.
Why Rong Dha?
I think dr David proposed us a very interesting topic to discuss. Yes, not all the Javanese keris bears details of “greneng”. But this specific detail has its importance in the development of (Javanese) keris culture.
Greneng usually found in keris with luks, although some straight (lurus) dhapurs of Javanese keris do have this detail. I tried to note from an existed list of about 212 dhapurs in Javanese keris (let me lend the list of dhapurs’ details, of Mr Haryono Guritno, “Keris Jawa, Antara Mistik dan Nalar”, page 172-179), some 109 out of them (about more than a half) with “greneng”. Mostly keris dhapur with luks. (From 94 straight dhapurs out of 212, only 46 have detail of “greneng”, or less than half of those 94 straight dhapurs have “greneng”). There may be of course, more than 212 keris dhapurs in Javanese keris.
And this is my personal view on “greneng”. Javanese like to “speak” with symbolism. As do in keris too. So, beside the nature of keris as a weapon, keris is also the symbol of their small world. (Beside the nature of keris as a weapon, it is also a “sipat kandel”, or “medium of someone’s confidence”). So it is not surprising, if the Javanese tried to put symbols of life, their small world, on the details of keris.
All details of keris, from tip to the bottom of keris, bear this life symbolism. And they express their symbolism in “natural language” (The javanese speak more with heart, emotion, than with logical reasoning).
Let us talk the details from the tip of keris. There are at least four kinds of keris tip’s forms: (1) Nggabah Kopong or like empty rice grain, (2) Mbuntut Tumo of like the tail of human hair’s louse, (3) Ngudhup Gambir, or like the ‘Gambir’ flower’s bud, (4) Nyujen of sharp pointed like the tip of ‘Suji’s” leaf. (Please, see the illustration).
The details of the ‘gandhik’ (front-bottom of the keris) also mentioned with this “natural” way. The “sekar kacang” (like the peanut’s flower, or like the trunk of elephant). Also the details surround the “sekar kacang”, like “jalu memet” or cock’s spur, “lambe gajah” or like the lips of elephant… The keris itself, is the symbol of a human body. If you lay the keris with the handle upright, than the handle is the “head” of the human body, and the whole blade of keris is the body.
And the part of “wadidang” or rear-bottom of keris? This is quite “strange”, because some keris have two “dha” forms (the javanese may call these details as rong dha or two dha, or let you spell it in easier way as “ron dha”). “Dha” is the 12th alphabet in the javanese scripture or what people called as “caraka-script”. (Please see the illustrations below).
Yes, the big question is why they depicted the “dha” scripture in the “greneng”, and not the other javanese alphabet? And why two “dha”, and even “four dha” in the “greneng susun” or “greneng robyong”? And maybe the next question is, like dr David’s question: what is the purpose of “greneng”?
Just wondering. Like another example in malay armoury, the arabic word "Alif, Lam Alif , Ha' would have their insight meaning and 'defensive or invincible properties' in Tasawuf and Sufism teachings.
Would this also may have similar connection in olden Javanese alphabets?
IDENTITY IN GRENENG
There were some Javanese warriors which were known wearing keris, not for weapon but for “sipat kandel” (medium of self confidence). They were Pangeran Diponegoro during the Diponegoro Rebellion war in 1825-1830 and General Soedirman before the Indonesian independence in 1945. But they only wore keris in his belt, in front of their belly, but never used as weapon. Pangeran Diponegoro – in many depictions – used sword as his weapon (and also for commanding his troop), while General Soedirman use pistol as his main weapon for self defending.
Beside as a sipat kandel, keris is also a part of the owner’s identity. Sultan Hamengku Buwono IX had once commissioned keris to Empu Djeno in the 20th century, kerises with dhapur Jangkung Mangkunegara (three luks), and some tombaks or spears. The Sultan commissioned Jangkung Mangkunegara with certain degree of “condhong leleh” (the inclination of keris blade).
And this is just illustration, that I quoted from Mr Haryono Guritno, the writer of Keris Jawa Antara Mistik dan Nalar. I found it is interesting. Mr Guritno wrote quite comprehensive on some kinds of greneng. He wrote too “greneng” as part of “identity” of the maker. Like a specific signature of the maker. (Please see the illustration).
The “greneng” was copied from real kerises which was made by certain empus in 19th and 20th century. From the illustration, you may see the “signature” of certain empu in the form of greneng, such as (1) Empu Braja Setika, (2) Empu Singa Wijaya, (3) Empu Jaya Sukadga, (4) Empu Wira Sukadga, (5) Unknown Empu, and (6) Empu Djapan…
Were the forms of greneng “dha” from Javanese alphabet, or “Alif” as mentioned by Newsteel in the previous post, that is still an interesting discussion…
A very interesting discussion. While thinking about the symbolic meaning and function of the greneng, it might be appropriate to keep in mind that the meaning of greneng is also "to mutter, speak in a low voice to a confidant or to one's self" , and that two dha, or Dhadha, means chest, breast.
We have had discussions on ron dha, and greneng , at times in the past.
Almost invariably these discussions turn in the direction that this discussion is turning, that is, we begin to look at the ron dha and the greneng in terms of twentieth century understanding. There is nothing wrong with this, and I'm sure that it is interesting for some people, however, the question that was asked by Dr. David very specifically addressed the origin of the greneng.
That means we need to place our considerations of this matter into early Jawa. We need to try to hypothesize using the fabric of early Javanese society as our foundation, rather than a 19th-20th century Javanese philosophical belief system as our base.
Does anybody have any thoughts on this matter that may come close to the spirit of the original question?
If "greneng" form does follow function, then how about "sekar kacang"? Does "sekar kacang" form, follow function too?
Yes Mas Bram,
"Greneng" means also "grundel" (speaking in a low voice, but with intonation of discontent). Two "dha", or "rong dha" could means "dhadha" or chest. But if "greneng robyong" or "greneng susun" with four dha, then it could be "dhadha dhadha" or waving your palm-hand to say good bye to someone...
Nice to see your comment again, Mas...
I don't think it is a question of whether or not form follows function. In almost all cases it does. The question is what exactly is that function. Please keep in mind that function need not be a physically one. It could be a spiritual or esorteric function as well. It could be the function of the empu "signing" his work as well, though i do tend to see this as more of a recent concept (19 & 20C) as Alan remarked. And even then it is not the form of the greneng itself that is unique to various empus, but the style in which it is rendered that becomes the "signature". The form it takes (DhaDha) is fairly cosistent and is still not explained. So the question remains, why this form? Why the letter Dha, if that is what it represents? Does this letter, have a specific meaning in the culture, spiritual or otherwise. In the Hebrew alphabet, for instance, each letter translates as a particular word which in turn has even deeper spiritual meaning. Could such a system be in play here?
I think we should leave discussion of the sekar kacang to another thread.
Thanks, David. I think your explanation is indeed very useful to us to continue the discussion in a positive way. Of course I must agree with your opinion on this...
Yes, I think we must continue the discussion on greneng in this thread...
As I remarked in my previous post, we have wandered away from the spirit of the original question .
Yes, "greneng" does mean to grumble,yes, we can find other words in modern Javanese that contain the syllable "dha", however, as far as I can ascertain, the word "greneng" did not exist in Old Javanese. Those with knowledge in the field of Javanese linguistics tell us that up until the time of Mataram the language spoken in Jawa was more akin to Old Javanese than to Modern Javanese.If we can accept that the greneng and ron dha were in existence prior to Mataram, then I believe we must also accept that greneng as a name for this feature is one which has come into usage since the 17th century.
Based upon the fact that the greneng can be found in keris originating in areas to which it spread during the Majapahit era, it is a reasonable assumption that the greneng did exist prior to Mataram.
The question has been raised as to whether the kembang kacang is a product of form following function.
Why stop at the kembang kacang?
Why not ask if all features to be found in the modern keris are a product of form following function?
My answer to this would be that yes, of course they are.
But the question remains:- what was that function?
I have already said:-
"I am of the opinion that the greneng, and its integral parts, were added to the keris to satisfy a percieved need associated with its function as something other than a weapon.
So yes, form does follow function, but the function of the keris at the time the greneng was added to it had already begun to move from that of a simple weapon."
David has said a similar thing using different words:-
"--- that function need not be a physically one."
Thus, my answer to the question of whether the ricikan of a keris were put in place for a specific reason, to serve a specific function, must be that most definitely they were.
But what was that function?
How can we begin to even consider a rational answer to this question when there is as yet no clear answer to the nature of the keris from the point where it began to develop into the modern keris?
In respect of the keris in pre-Islamic Jawa we have a number of barely grasped concepts that it is entirely possible we may never grasp, simply because our way of looking at the world and its structure is so very much different to the way in which people in pre-Islamic Jawa looked at the world.
If we are to come to even the smallest understanding of the reason for the incorporation of the greneng, the ron dha, the kembang kacang, etc, etc, etc , into the form of the modern keris, then we must first endeavour to come to an understanding of the nature of the keris at the point in time when these features began to appear.
This is what I identify as the problem:-
a)--at what point in time did the keris begin to display features that are difficult, if not impossible, to explain in terms of its function as a weapon?
b)--what societal and cultural factors were in existence at that time which may have been instrumental in the appearance of these features?
These are the matters which must be addressed before we can begin to hypothesize upon the reason for the greneng.
We must first come to an understanding of the culture of the society which gave birth to the modern keris.
If we can construct a supportable answer to my two questions, then we have placed ourselves into a position where we may be able to hypothesize upon the nature of the keris within that cultural framework, and then the reason for the greneng.
So gentlemen, can we begin to consider this question in a logical and structured manner?
The question that Dr. David has raised is a very, very important question. It is positioned at the core of our understanding of the keris, and of early Javanese society. A question such as this must be addressed with respect, care, thought, knowledge and logic. To do otherwise would be disrespectful to both the keris and the culture which gave it birth.
It seems we all agree to use the 'form follows functions' approach to address with the question DrD propose, that is the 'original' function of greneng (please separate it from ganja).
Before we go further, we must consider the function of keris itself. If we see keris as a weapon, we could compare it with other weapons from other cultures. The form of a weapon seems to evolve to the most effective and efficient form, according to the way it is used. Now we see, the form of any weapon from any culture seems to evolve to a single, or several but limited, similar shape. A Japanese sword, for example, despite it's minor differences in details, resembling only a single form. Tanto, Wakizashi and Katana, basically differ only in length. Chinese swords evolve to basically two shapes, which simply caused by how it is used: Dao and Jian. European sword has many shapes, but it 'method of employment' for each shape also differs. All in all, effectiveness and efficiency are two elements that weapon always sought after. Keris, if it only served as a weapon, must sought these two elements too while the shapes evolved. But despite evolving to a single or several, limited forms, keris, especially Javanese and Bali, had amazingly evolved to hundreds, some in bizzarre shapes, while retained virtually single mode of employment: to stab. If we see keris only as a weapon, and thus it’s elements/details (ricikan) were driven by merely ‘weapon factor’, the beneficial ricikan that proven in fight would be soon copied by another maker, e.g. if greneng effective enough to catch opponent’s blade, then all keris would have greneng. In reality, it is not. In fact, the most abundant keris shape (dhapur) perhaps is tilam upih, a very simple keris. The keris’ evolution suggests that keris might be serving another function, other than weapon. But to explain what function other than weapon keris has been serving for comprehensively, I’m afraid, would take a separate book.
Denys Lombard, a French historian, describes how Java islands lacked it source for iron, while it needed it badly to open the forest. This, according to him, explains why iron had been connected to magical properties in Java more than any other cultures and how the blacksmith earned their special status. The lack of iron also explains why Javanese prefer keris as their symbol of status and knighthood while another culture such as Japanese’s Bushido and European’s Chivalry choose sword, as keris is smaller and thus, need less iron. The Dutch soon found the Java’s iron shortage and enlisted iron as main cargo in their ships that left Europe.
Regarding original function of greneng (or Ron Dha), I’m afraid, none of us could gives satisfactory definite answer if it is what we’re looking for. Suffice to say, greneng and ron dha, in my humble opinion, serves as a symbolic form. Unfortunately, only very limited, relatively recent sources, which explained what it stand for. Serat Centhini (ca. early 19 C), described the meaning of ron dha together with kanyut, which according Serat Centhini resembling ‘Ma’ character in Javanese alphabet, so it sound ‘Dha-dha Ma’, which interpreted as ‘inside the chest, the death reside’. (Dhadha, as Mas Bram said, is chest. Ma, interpreted as Mati, is Death). Other interpretation by Widyaharja, an old Mranggi of Jogjakarta Court, describes greneng (dha-dha) as a symbol of honesty. Other book regarding keris’s symbolism, among other, is the work of Pangeran Karanggayam, supposed to be Demak Court’s poet, so it might be as early as late 16 C. Unfortunately, I haven’t read it. Ganjawulung perhaps? I would not be surprised if he wrote another interpretation. This ‘open interpretation’, while confusing to strangers, plays an important role in old Javanese art’s survival. Despite creating new form of art from the scratch when values had changed, Javanese would rather changed or ‘modify’ their interpretation of the symbolic meaning of a particular form/art. Everyone is free to interpret, as long as capable and reasonable. Thus, we see some ancient art of Java such as keris and wayang survive until now. But further survival, unfortunately, is questionable.
Regarding the first appearance of greneng, well, it could be quite hard to determine exactly when it emerged. According to the table of alphabet comparison by Sonobudoyo Museum, the ‘dha’ character emerged during Majapahit era. IF greneng really resembling ‘dha’, than it’s safe to assume that greneng might started to emerged as early as in Majapahit era, probably later, but not sooner. Serat Panangguhing Dhuwung also stated indirectly that ron dha form had been known in Majapahit and Pajajaran era (interestingly, this work, attributed to Wirasukadga, a well-known Surakarta’s empu, didn’t mention about Tangguh Singasari, Kediri, Jenggala or any other tangguh older than Pajajaran/Majapahit era. The books is enigmas in itself, as many of its terminologies, perhaps was easily understood in its era, but today is hard to be understood. A good example of how things changed). Why they choose ‘dha’ and not any other character or form and what it was originally stands for would remind a mystery, and I haven’t seen any viable method to solve it. It is also worth to note that, if I’m not mistaken, the ‘dha’ character is unknown in Bali alphabet.
Regarding the problem that Alan proposed, well, I agree no more that those problems are some of the important problem regarding keris. Regarding the first question, two elements should be identified simultaneously. The first is the keris’ features which are hard to explain in the weapon’s point of view, and the second is the time those features emerged. The first element could be answered by blade examples that exist today or indirectly by any valid old/ancient keris pictorial/illustration. The second element, naturally, would be answered by dating the blades or illustration samples. Here comes the stumbling point: dating the blades, a classic problem.
Please remind, while I proposed to see the keris from another point of view, I didn’t negate its function as a weapon. Please also bear in mind, what I wrote is mostly from Javanese keris culture point of view.
Thank you for your thoughtful input Pak Boedhi.
In so far as the question of the time at which the greneng first appeared, I feel that the evidence is fairly convincing for its appearance during the Majapahit era.
The earliest keris in European collections date from the end of the 1500's, beginning of the 1600's. These keris are still in pristine condition, and give a good idea of the appearance of keris from this period when new. Many of these keris carry fully developed greneng and other ricikan, indicating that by the year 1600 these features of the keris were already full developed.
In other parts of South East Asia in which keris are found, the keris forms frequently echo the ricikan of Javanese keris. It is generally agreed that keris spread into these other areas during the Majapahit era.If this is so, then these ricikan were undoubtedly present on Javanese keris when they first entered other parts of South East Asia during that Majapahit era.
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.
Apart from these two factors, there is the other evidence for a Majapahit origin that has been offered by Pak Boedhi
Now, what do we know of Javanese society and culture during this era?
This is where we must start if we are to hypothesize on the original reason for the greneng & etc.
There is no doubt in my mind that it is possible to construct a defensible hypothesis to explain the greneng, and other ricikan, but to do this we must leave "traditional keris knowledge" behind us and embark on an anthropologically based examination of Jawa during the Majapahit era.This is doable, but it is not doable other than by engaging in serious and extended research of the period.
As the first found inscriptions that mention keris call it kres, it might be safe to assume that from the beginning the greneng was called a greneng. The Balinese alphabet does have a dha, by the way.
When did the keris begin to have non-weapon function features? I would say from the beginning, as soo as the ganja was attached there you have a non weapon form to follow a symbolic function.
Hello Alan and all others,
Thanks for your contributions!
This is a non sequitur: Why couldn't some kind of greneng have evolved earlier?
Yes, these are very interesting points. Just playing advocatus diaboli: Are there Majapahit era keris with greneng which don't display any ron dha?
Kiai Carita, I admire your absolute certainty.
Most especially do I admire it in the absence of any certainty that the object to which the word that has been romanised as "kres" was in fact an object that we would recognise as a keris. It may have been, then again it may not have been. Interestingly, the word "kres" is not to be found in Zoetmulder.
If we can assume that the greneng has been a part of keris design since some time during the Majapahit era, then it seems reasonable to assume that we should be able to find the word "greneng", or a word which could have become "greneng", within the Old Javanese lexicon. I cannot find either in Zoetmulder. This is, of course, not proof that the word, or words did not exist, but before we can defend the assumption that the greneng has always been known as the greneng, we do need a somewhat more positive argument.
In any case, this debate over words is once again straying from the core issue. It really doesn't matter whether the early keris was known as keris, kris, kres, or puklak.Nor does it matter by what name the greneng was known. What we are considering here is the reason for the greneng, not its given name.That is immaterial to this discussion.
I disagree totally with your opinion that the presence of the ganja on a blade made of it a non-weapon.
The early monumental representations of the keris quite clearly show these weapons with ganjas, and used in the way they were, that ganja had a definite function in the use of the early keris as a weapon. For that matter, the ganja has a weapon related function in modern keris design too.
Later philosophical interpretations have attached a symbolism to the ganja that cannot be assumed to have applied in a society and culture which could no more have understood this philosophy than it could have understood the Space Shuttle.
Kiai Carita, I acknowledge your right to hold the opinions you have put forward, however, if you would like these opinions to be accepted by others, may I suggest that you offer some logical argument, or substantial evidence to support them?
Regarding your assertion that the Balinese alphabet does in fact contain the consonant "dha".
I know almost nothing about the Balinese language, but I do seem to recall that in the Balinese alphabet there is no "dha", but there is "da". However, Kawi was used in Bali, just as it was used in Jawa, and in Kawi we can find "dha", which would be used in Bali for the writing of script in Kawi.I will stand correction on this Balinese language question, as I really am very ignorant of this language. Perhaps somebody with intimate knowledge of the language may be able guide us?
Might I ask those with more experience if examples of keris from the older collections all exhibit the same form of greneng. It seems that modern keris often carry the dha character shape (or multiples of it) in the greneng but was that always the case? If early keris with greneng have very similar shapes in the greneng as currently that may lead us in one direction, if they varied significantly that would possibly have different implications.
i am of course, less experienced in this area than most of y'all, but maybe from the outside can offer another view. i can also easily make a fool of myself, but what the heck, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
while not very informed on the subtle definitions of the greneng, which needs to be defined for us new members, and assuming the original poster was basically talking about the ORIGINAL FUNCTION of the notched area at the top of the blade near the ganjah, i note that the rencong also has similar notches cut into the similar area, and in fact on the rear side of the area where your fingers can come in contact on mine (they're sharp little devils too).
the kudi/kujang also has decorative notches on the top of the blade, on my pre-islamic one, they are well forward, over the 3 holes.
10.5 in. blade kujang - 9in. blade rencong
european blades frequently have decorative filework notches cut into the blade spine, scots blades are also frequently notched
4 in. weidmannsheil hunter
could it just be that they are decorative items that have evolved into fancy forms & have become 'traditional' in some areas, adding more esoteric interpretations in later ages.
as not all kris blades have them, and some non-kris blades have them, i'd think that if they had a definite non-decorative kris specific function then all kris would have them to some extent, however they are apparently optional.
occam's razor (razors generally come without greneng :) )?
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.
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