Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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alexish 31st October 2017 01:21 AM

Coat of arms on Madura colonial soldier's keris
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I presume that the Madurese sarung as shown in the attached pictures are in the style of that appropriate for a colonial soldier in the Netherlands East Indies. Does anyone know about the coat of arms carved on the sarung? Are these the coat of arms associated with Madura or Sumenep?

A. G. Maisey 31st October 2017 09:55 PM

Madura is an island just off the north coast of Jawa, these days it is reached by a road bridge.

The two major centers on Madura are Sumenep and Pamekasan. Both are now Kabupatens, or regencies, that is, administrative areas. In past times Sumenep was a Sultanate, but I think Pamekasan was only ever a kabupaten.

In respect of traditional Madura keris dress, the European crown as a major motif seems to be usually associated with Pamekasan dress, however it can appear as a sub-motif in Sumenep dress also.

The "trophy of arms" motif shown on this scabbard is not typical of either Sumenep or Pamekasan but similar motifs do occur in both keris dress and other applications throughout areas of the Indonesian Archipelago that were under colonial domination. For example, in the Surakarta Karaton there are a number of examples of the use of this typically European "trophy of arms" in architectural and decorative applications.

Most European based collectors tend to regard this style of Madura keris dress as having been produced to satisfy early European demand for highly decorative keris to take home to Holland. However, the broad style of this dress was also used by indigenous Madurese.

alexish 1st November 2017 01:03 AM

Dragon on Madura Coat of Arms
6 Attachment(s)
Dear Alan,

Thanks. The Dragon and Flying horse motifs on the Sumenep coat of arms appears occasionally on the sarungs of Madurese keris. I know about the flying horse legend realated Si Mega. Do you know anything about the Dragon? Is there any story and legend behind the Dragon?

A. G. Maisey 2nd November 2017 08:14 PM

This representation of a dragon is a European influenced one. We also find Chinese influenced representations of dragons in later Indonesian decorative motifs.

These Chinese & European dragons are different cultural interpretations of the Naga.

However, the Naga is not really a dragon, the visualisation of the Naga as a dragon is just a convenient way to put a physical form onto something that is not a physical being. Something similar to the way in which virtually all religions create physical forms for non-physical beings, in order to assist lay people to visualise a deity or other entity.

This is not the place to begin discussion of the Naga as understood in Javanese/Balinese and other SE Asian cultures. However, there is information available on this subject that is sufficient to fill several libraries, all you need to do is to look for it.

Insofar as the keris is concerned, the keris itself, that is, the blade, is amongst other things, an icon that embraces the concept of the Naga, specifically the Naga Basuki, who in Hindu belief is a binding force.

As this translates into esoteric keris belief, that binding force of the Naga Basuki flows through all of creation, and by the medium of a family (or pusaka) keris, binds the present custodian of the keris to past generations of a family and to all current members of a family. In this sense, the keris becomes an embodiment of the Naga Basuki, binding all members of a family, past and present, and thus can be seen as a part of ancestor worship, which in the Javanese/Balinese context, relates back to the Mt Meru and Gunungan beliefs.

So, Nagas? Plenty there for you to learn Alex, if you have the interest and the dedication.

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