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Old 10th March 2020, 12:25 PM   #22
A. G. Maisey
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Join Date: May 2006
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Jean, yes, I understood that you took the safe path and let Martin have the attribution, thus I was not questioning you, but rather asking the world at large if anybody knew of any authoritative source for Martin's attribution.

Jean, you have shown us a rather slight, pleasant looking figure carved from wood that you tell us is a representation of Bhima. This figure has a snake around its neck.

Which Hindu deity is very often depicted with a snake around his neck?

Does Bhima wear a snake around his neck?

David has shown us a couple of figures that he identifies as Dvarapalas, I'm assuming that he has taken this designation from the same source as he took the images, because before we can decide if a figure is truly a guardian (ie, dvarapala) we need to place it in context. But if they are not Dvarapalas why should we necessarily name them as Punakawans? These figures are totally removed from context, so we cannot really designate them as anything.

We really do need somebody who is recognised as expert in this field to tell us the things we do not know. Guesses and opinions from laymen are not a lot of use. What I mean by "expert" is a recognised authority in this specific field of art history, somebody like Bernet Kempers, or Fontein, or Kinney, or Klokke, or Kieven, or van Bemmel --- or any other recognised authority in the field of classical Javanese art. Having a high level of knowledge in one field does not necessarily mean that a person has a high level of knowledge in a related field.

Marco has given us a couple of additional images, one of which is identified as the old grab-bag of Raksasa, which is probably fair enough. I've got several hilts that have hair buns, and if they have fangs, I'd be more or less content to call them Raksasas.

This identification of keris hilt figures has been an ongoing problem for a very long time. I have found from experience that it is close to a total waste of time to talk to present day carvers about this. The answers might be buried somewhere in some obscure paper, but I have a great many papers on file, and I have not found anything helpful yet. Standard texts do not seem be too interested in this ID question. Respected people in Balinese & Javanese society seem to contradict one another and hold fast to their own opinions.

Helena van Bemmel had a book published around 25 years ago that is a comparative study of SE Asian Dvarapalas with specifically Dvarapalas in Indonesia that are still in place, but even that does not help a whole lot with specific identification. The whole thing is this:- as people from a Western cultural base we expect that if we see a figure carved as something that resembles a God, or a Demon, or whatever, then we should be able to give it a name. In fact those Gods, Demons & whatever are formless, the statue only exists to personify the invisible force. Dvarapalas have a pretty generic form that brings into the mind of the viewer the idea of protection, but that protective force is present without the Dvarapala, and the idea of protection that the figure conjures up in the mind of a viewer has the effect of concentrating the protective force.

I believe most people who follow the keris discussions in this forum are well aware of the ideas of the World we can see, and the World that we cannot see. Gods, Demons and Dvarapalas are from the world that we cannot see, they are pockets of force, all the statues do is personify them for people who do not yet have the ability to conjure them without a point of focus.

I feel that we need to be exceptionally careful about trying to place names on things that we do not understand. This is the reason that I would very much like to find somebody who knows one hell of a lot more than I do about how to affix identities to the figures we see used as keris hilts, and also Javanese/Balinese statues in general.
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