Join Date: May 2006
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.