Join Date: Dec 2004
I was surfing the forum and revisited this thread.
Something just occurred to me about the keris.
I have always wondered what a keris from the Malacca Sultanate or from a period close to after its conquest after 1511 to 1600 would have looked like. I think perhaps in the Sendai keris, we could be looking at a keris from the Peninsular or East Sumatra or at least acquired from that area rather than from Java or Bali.
In 1618, Portugal and Spain were in a Union under one King. While they were separate kingdoms, I would expect that Spanish power in Manila would hold sway and have significant influence over Portuguese possessions in South East Asia.
The Portuguese were constantly in conflict with the Malay states in the Peninsular and Sumatra, and even sometimes Allies. It would not have been difficult for the Portuguese to acquire high status keris as war booty or gifts. The Spanish, through the Portuguese, would have easy access to such keris.
At the same time, the Dutch had made significant in-roads in the East Indies (Indonesia) and working very hard to exclude Catholic Spain and the Portuguese from the areas they controlled. By 1619, Batavia was established, which would mean that the Dutch were generally successful in their policy in controlling the coastal areas of Java. This would make access to Java by Spain or Portugal very difficult at the time the Japanese Envoy was in Manila.
But more intriguing for me is the Kastane. Most of Sri Lanka or Ceylon was a Portuguese colony from 1597 to 1658. So it is not too surprising for the Portuguese to have acquired Kastane like the one featured and again pass it on to the Spanish.
Thus seeing the two items together, hints strongly at a Portuguese origin. And if the Keris has a Portuguese origin, it is more likely that it would have come the Peninsular and East Sumatra rather than from Java and Bali.
If the gifts were given by King Philip in Spain, he would have acquired them in the first from the Portuguese rather than the Dutch, which would mean a keris from the Peninsular / East Sumatra. Theoretically, Malacca and Ceylon were the Spanish King's dominions and hence logical to have items from these areas in his collection.
If the Japanese envoy acquired it when he was in Manila, the possibility of a Portuguese origin is even stronger given the enmity between the Dutch and Spanish and the difficulty in accessing Dutch controlled areas in Java.
So perhaps we are looking at a "Peninsular" keris instead.
If it is Peninsular, it would mean that keris form and aesthetics were fairly uniform in the Malay archipelago at that time, following closely precepts set in Java and Bali; we can't help say it is Javanese or Balinese in form at first look. So perhaps the diversification of the keris into distinct regional forms that we know today came much later in the 18th century and keris in the 17th century and earlier were all Javanese/Balinese in form.
Just a thought.