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E-brain 15th October 2017 10:03 AM

Help translation asked
6 Attachment(s)
A few years ago I bought this keris from a fellow collector in the Netherlands. I didn't notice initialy, but a Friend Toon Bosmans, discovered two inscriptions on the back of the pendok. It is very hard to make a readable photo of it, so I asked an other friend of mine Janno Nijenhuis to try and draw these inscriptions. My question: is there anyone who can read and translate this scripture for me, please?

A. G. Maisey 15th October 2017 09:19 PM

Reading this sort of thing is not always as simple as might be expected. It looks like Javanese Hanacaraka, and if the letters have been reasonably closely executed I can probably get it brought into Roman text --- my own understanding of Hanacaraka is not good enough to read text presented like this, however I have sent images to a relative who will be able to read it if the letters are standard renditions and the words are in fact Javanese words.

The reason for the qualifications is that very often these sort of inscriptions can be written in a "secret language". In the past, but seemingly not so much now, people in Jawa would develop a language, or use an existing language, that we could liken to our own "pig latin", except vastly more complex. Social groups would do this sort of thing, as well as families.

Similarly, cypher languages were used, where an ordinary word could have a meaning other than it appeared to have --- a very simple parallel in English might be Cockney rhyming slang, the conversation of two people skilled in the use of this form of language can be totally incomprehensible to an outsider.

Add the further complication that Javanese is a multi level language to begin with --- minimum two levels, and dependent upon social context perhaps as many as 11 levels --- and it gets to the point where one can only understand something if the speaker or writer wishes another person to understand.

In any case, I've sent the query and when I get a response I'll post the result.

A. G. Maisey 18th October 2017 06:54 AM

I have had a response from my relative.

The letters in this Hanacaraka text have not been written in a standard way, they appear to have parts missing, almost as if the message is in code.

My relative is very familiar with Hanacaraka text and he is unable to make sense of this text as it stands. However,when he returns home to Solo this coming weekend he will refer it to a very elderly gentleman who is familiar with some of the variations of Hanacaraka, and see if he can read it.

mariusgmioc 18th October 2017 09:50 AM

What if the text was copied wrongly?

Maybe literally copying it using a thin paper and a soft-tipped pencil might help. :shrug:

A. G. Maisey 23rd October 2017 09:12 PM

2 Attachment(s)
My relative has returned the two images below to me, and you can see what has been written on them.

The image with the Javanese letters:-


is unintelligible, his comment is:-

"kelihatannya huruf terputus, sehingga tdk. terbaca"

Free:- "it looks as if the letters have been cut to the point where this cannot be read"
Literal:- "looks it letter cut until not read" (past tense)

The image with the Javanese letters:-

Line 1:- NYA HA JA YA

NYA:- is an abbreviation for "nyonya" = a Chinese or European married woman
HA:- can be understood as an exclamation = "how about?" or "yeah, for sure!" or "so!"
JA & YA are dependent upon when and where the inscription was made

the entire line depends upon how it was intended to be read


if we read this line as :-" lengkara arum" it can be understood as "impossible to be fragrant" but this might also be intended to be understood in a figurative sense

As with just about every Javanese inscription of this type that I have seen, the only person who truly knows what this is meant to say is the person who had it put there.

Sometimes an inscription like this might be the name of the keris, or it might be a personal motto, or known saying, perhaps a short prayer, but usually it is something that is not intended to be understood by whoever might read it.

With this sort of thing it is always possible to take what might be able to be understood and fill in the gaps by guessing, but if we do that we place our feelings and interpretations onto something that was not intended to be understood by others in the first place. Then, even if we do manage to extract something intelligible from it, what we finish up with could well be intended to be understood in a figurative sense.

Rick 27th October 2017 12:42 AM

Thank you for taking the time to do this mate. :)

A. G. Maisey 27th October 2017 02:08 AM

It was my pleasure Rick.

E-brain 28th October 2017 08:58 AM

Dear Mr Maisey,

I thank you for the time and effort of you and your relations to help me out.
My question for help i also posted on a few Facebook groups (indonesian based) on the subject of Keris where I'm a member of.

This is a summary of what i gathered from the response i got from these groups.

At the bottom of the pendok it says: "ya ini penolak gering”

This is a kind of esoteric meaning of a kris ... the letter ~ "aksara" (indestructible) written to give the same effect in the phisical world; to the owner,

‘Be this, [a] safe guard [of the owner, from] illness’

At the top of the pendok it says: 'yaiki panulak ing ...'

The closest possibility is that the keris is a gift from sombedy, it could be a lord or high social status person, in purpose to make the keris a
shield for the village's safety (as in the first Javanese line that's written in pendok: 'yaiki panulak ing ...' which means the keris is the symbol
of power or rescuer from disaster (with an assumption that the keris is known as the upbringing of glory and grace).

Al this is open for discussion.

And I have to tell you that the drawing of the tekst is made by a graphic designer who has no knowledge of the script and therefore just drew what je saw as being engraved. There is also some scratching and where on the surface of the pendok.



A. G. Maisey 28th October 2017 10:11 PM

Thank you for this update Karel.

I have submitted your most recent post to my relative, and here below is a precis of his comments. I have given his comments in English, and only as a precis, the full text of his response is in Indonesian and also covers some upcoming family matters, the English translations are my own:-

If this line:-

ja iki pa nu lak heng/eng (the final representation in this line cannot be read)

is understood as:-

"ini penolak gering" (this is Bahasa Indonesia, not Javanese)

a speaker of Bahasa Indonesia would understand it literally as :-

"this to ward off sickness"

or freely as "this is a protection against illness"

however, if we bring it into Javanese:-

"ja" is pre-1972 "ya", understood in Ngoko as the English "yes", however, when we have "ya iki" this is understood as the English "this is"

"panulak" is Javanese ", it comes from the word "tulak", "tulak" can be understood, depending upon context, as "a magical protection", however the word "panulak" has no magical connotations, it is the act of keeping something away, or of warding off. The Javanese word "tulak" comes into BI as "tolak", meaning "to push away", "tolak" has a number of BI derivatives with a number of contextual meanings.

So, "ja iki panulak --- " could be understood as "this is to ward off ---"

Now, at this point we have problems.
A Javanese native speaker will not understand "heng" or the unaspirated form "eng" as "ing" these are different words with different meanings. Yes, spoken, and to non-native speakers there is a similarity in sound, but we are looking here at writing, and the Hanacaraka representation of "heng" and "ing" are quite different.

"eng" can be understood in two ways, it can be a "fill word" such as is used in hesitant speech, that is, English words such as "er", or "um", or it can be the English word "um" used as an exclamation

"ing" means, depending on context, either "at", "on", "in"

Quite a difference.

But the real problem is with the last letters in this line, which to my informants were totally unintelligible, but to the Facebook informants were understood as "gering". To a speaker of Bahasa Indonesia "gering" can be understood as "sick", this is especially true when the word "gering" is used in reference to animals, or is used in Jakarta dialect.

However, to a native speaker of Javanese as it is spoken in Surakarta and in Jawa Tengah in general, the word "gering" means "to be sickly or unwell, or languishing, or thin because of illness", if the word "gering" is used to mean "sick", that usage can only correctly be applied to an animal.

In other words, an animal can be "gering" or "sick", but if the word is used in reference to a person who is actually sick, as opposed to being sickly, that is extremely crude usage that can be taken as an insult. To refer to a sick person as "gering" is tantamount to referring to that person as an animal, or perhaps as a person who is below consideration as deserving of respect.

So, to translate that first line:-

" ja iki pa nu lak heng/eng (the final textual representation in this line cannot be read)"

into Bahasa Indonesia as:-

"ini penolak gering"

which in English becomes (literal):-

"this to ward off sickness"

is not really something that could be called an adequate translation of the text as presented.

To give this the English translation of:-

‘Be this, [a] safe guard [of the owner, from] illness’

seems to be a giant leap.

To hypothesise further upon the basis of the supposed translation is not something I am prepared to pass comment on.

I should probably give a little bit of information about the people who supplied me with information.

My relative is a man in his early 50's, university educated, a middle manager in a large company. He is a member of a noble Surakarta family, and has the right to use a noble title. His native language is Javanese and he is extremely proficient in the three general levels of Ngoko, Madya & Krama.

Because he was not able to extract a clear meaning from the text, he referred this text to a family friend who is a retired lecturer in Javanese literature. This man apparently also had problems in getting a defensible meaning from the text, so he discussed it with two of his academic friends. Nobody was able to produce a clear, defensible transcription into Roman text, and everybody was reluctant to guess.

Karel, perhaps your Facebook informants are correct, and my informants are incorrect. We can only form our own opinions.

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