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Old 11th June 2018, 10:22 AM   #1
jagabuwana
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Hi all,

Picked this up today, which is the first keris in my possession, and what may form the beginning of a modest collection.
  • From what I can tell, it is dhapur brojol
  • Quite long at around 45cm in length
  • Blade labeled as "Javanese" in the antique shop. Though a hunch (which may be a worthless hunch, given my limited knowledge ) tells me it is not. Sumatran came to mind.
  • The mendak is quite loose and looks like it's been squashed or kinda mangled. Are they supposed to rotate loosely or be quite firmly fitted?
  • It wasn't sold with a sheath. Does anyone know much about the hulu? I thought it was Cirebon at first but now I think it might be quite recent work or modern motifs

I may be way off, but as always in here, happy to be wrong in the way of learning.

Cheers,

Novan
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Old 11th June 2018, 10:34 AM   #2
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another look at the dodgy mendak
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Old 11th June 2018, 11:24 AM   #3
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A shame about that poor little mendak. But that is probably the easiest thing to replace on any keris.
Your handle is not particularly modern. It is an ornamental design common in Madura/East Jawa keris Madura is officially part of East Jawa). It seems to have some age and i would not be surprised if it were at least pre-WWII.
When you give your measurement as 45cm is that just the blade or are you including the hilt as well?
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Old 11th June 2018, 12:01 PM   #4
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Thanks for the information David - yes it does appear to be a Madura hulu
Also the length is just the blade, from the tip to the gonjo.
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Old 11th June 2018, 12:17 PM   #5
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The blade is old, better than fair, I'm almost certain that it will be Tuban classification (ie, Tangguh).

The hilt is Madura, Pamekesan Tumenggungan.

The Mendak is angkup randu, East Jawa/Madura.

It might be possible with patience and care to straighten the kinks out of the mendak, but if not, a replacement could be obtained.

This is a very nice keris as a first keris, it is virtually the same as the first keris I ever bought, about 64 years ago.

First step should be to clean up the hilt with a toothbrush, when all the dust is out of the carving, use a couple of drops of baby oil and hand rub it in.

Don't be in a rush to clean the blade, give it some oil and think about things for a while.
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Old 11th June 2018, 07:08 PM   #6
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Congratulations on your first keris!
There's an incredible amount to learn about the keris, and by extension Indonesian history and society. The hilt you've shown is indeed of a common type, and it won't take you long at all to recognize the Madura style.

The previous comments have already addressed most of your questions.
As to the fit of a mendak, generally I would say it's not always a tight fit, but if it's of normal and even height (i.e. not squashed or otherwise compromised), it will fit snugly between the gonjo and ukiran. Often you'd still be able to rotate it, but the fit wouldn't be a loose one where the mendak will rotate by itself.
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Old 11th June 2018, 10:20 PM   #7
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Thank you Bjorn! All noted.

Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
The blade is old, better than fair, I'm almost certain that it will be Tuban classification (ie, Tangguh).

The hilt is Madura, Pamekesan Tumenggungan.

The Mendak is angkup randu, East Jawa/Madura.

It might be possible with patience and care to straighten the kinks out of the mendak, but if not, a replacement could be obtained.

This is a very nice keris as a first keris, it is virtually the same as the first keris I ever bought, about 64 years ago.

First step should be to clean up the hilt with a toothbrush, when all the dust is out of the carving, use a couple of drops of baby oil and hand rub it in.

Don't be in a rush to clean the blade, give it some oil and think about things for a while.



Thanks for the appraisal, Alan. Iím definitely pleased with it. Iíll be heeding your advice and not hurry to clean it - I think that is wise. Iíve oiled it and will take time to familiarise with it and vice versa. In absence of a sheath, Iíve loosely wrapped it in a square batik cloth. I became fixated on the wilah though, and forgot to clean the ukiran. I'll do so after work.

In previous posts of yours, Iíve noted that giving (unsure of the appropriate verb here) tangguh is difficult if not impossible to do using pictures alone. In this instance however you are almost certain that it would be tangguh Tuban (and I do understand that tangguh is the justifiable opinion of the knowledgeable appraiser). I'd be interested to know - what gives you such a strong indication in this case?
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Old 11th June 2018, 10:34 PM   #8
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Bjorn, sometimes , in fact often, the mendak is not a snug fit on the tang of a keris.

In older keris the tang is frequently very worn, eroded and thin, then the mendak will turn freely unless it is held in place by pressure from the hilt. In this situation, the best thing to do is to wind the thread that holds the hilt in place, all the way down the tang so that it prevents the mendak from moving back and forth. In the old days when hilts were held in place with jabung, the mendak was effectively held with jabung.

The thing is this, there is little standardisation in the case of mendak/tang/hilt. Often a Javanese planar hilt will have the bottom of the hilt recessed to accept a mendak, but just as often you need to try 20 or more mendak before you get an ideal fit. Sometimes a tang on a keris will be too thick for the general run of mendak, then you need to ream the mendak out --- if its just a couple of thou difference --- or get a mendak made specially, and special size mendak are not at all cheap or fast and easy to get.

The function of the mendak is not only to form a transition from hilt to blade, but also to act as a "shock absorber" if the blade strikes bone when it is used.

The way in which most keris are intended to be held means that the index finger is anchored against the top of the gonjo, if the blade tip jams up against bone, or anything hard, that will bring the blade to a jarring stop, and unless the user is wearing a keris ring --- something that seems not to have been usual for a long time, at least in Jawa --- the top of the gonjo will very likely damage the user's index finger.

Thus the mendak, rather than the metuk:- the mendak collapses and absorbs some of the shock. It does not need to be a firm, neat fit, it only needs to be in place and collapsible. The angkup randu style that is found on most old Madura and East Jawa keris is perhaps the most effect "shock absorber" of any mendak.

But of course, in a dress keris everything should be as neat as possible.
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Old 11th June 2018, 11:02 PM   #9
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tangguh > menangguh > penangguh : noun > action > doer

Old Tuban blades were often quite a bit more substantial than other Javanese blades.

The cross section is "like young bambu", ie, more or less ovoid, thick, no ada-ada.

The gonjo is short and thick, buntut urang is short, no waist between gendok and buntut urang, it is not ngebit rontal, but it is also not quite nguceng mati, it is pretty straight and generally ugly, the sirah cecak is short and a bit rounded. I cannot clearly see the profile of the sirah cecak from above, but what I can see seems to indicate that the sirah cecak conforms, and the rest of the gonjo does conform.

Gandhik is low, blumbangan is not deep.

The thing with tangguh is this Novan:- get a textbook example and photos that show what needs to be seen and many different tangguh you can can bet on --- maybe not absolutely 100%, but certainly 99% or better.

The problem with tangguh in the present day is that virtually nobody understands the how, where and why of it, thus it has become a commercial tool used to assist sales, and every keris ever made is supposed to be able to have a tangguh. Sorry baby, doesn't work like that. But try telling that to the half educated dipsticks that want to spout tangguh this that and the other all over the place. Best to say nothing.

Your keris I'd put my shirt on.

EDIT

It has been pointed out to me that I should mention that the word "tangguh" is both a part of Javanese language and Indonesian language, and that it has a number of meanings and applications.

Accordingly I have deleted some of my original text in the interests of clarity. What I have written about the word "tangguh" is adequate for the purposes of keris discussion

Last edited by A. G. Maisey : 11th June 2018 at 11:26 PM.
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Old 12th June 2018, 12:00 AM   #10
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[QUOTE=A. G. Maisey]Thus the mendak, rather than the metuk:- the mendak collapses and absorbs some of the shock. It does not need to be a firm, neat fit, it only needs to be in place and collapsible. The angkup randu style that is found on most old Madura and East Jawa keris is perhaps the most effect "shock absorber" of any mendak./QUOTE]


Judging from the above quote Novan, your mendak may have seen such stresses.
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Old 12th June 2018, 09:37 AM   #11
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I never thought of the mendak as a practical shock absorber, very interesting. Funnily enough my decent command of Bahasa Indonesia means that I am aware of how to action/verb a noun, although I do get confused then when mixing English and Indonesian (eg if menangguh is the verb in Indonesian, then I am unsure if it is doing or giving tangguh in English). Not that it matters, seeing as it's not an English word anyway, and I think you all got what I meant. Thanks for all that info regarding mendak and tangguh, Alan.

So yes Rick it does seem that the collapsed mendak that it came with seems to have come under some sort of stress from above. Makes me wonder if this keris was ever used to stick anyone, though I guess it's more likely that whoever fit this new ukiran may have pushed it in way too far and hard and thus depressed the mendak. Still, I always wonder where a keris has been, whose hands it's passed through and what it has seen and done in its heyday, for no reason other than curiosity and fascination. Of course I know there is no way of knowing this in most cases.

But back to tangguh Tuban. I understand that there is no agreement (or perhaps consensus is a better word?) as to whether tangguh should be, or is a classification according to the keris' style or type, period, or perhaps all three.

So Alan, when you personally say that it's a pretty safe bet that this is keris tangguh Tuban, are you making a statement on the time period of when it was potentially created ie. during the time of Kerajaan Tuban, or that it was made in this period but not necessarily in Tuban and that it is simply a Tuban-style blade, or none of the above and perhaps "tangguh Tuban" can only mean that this is a keris that fits the parameters of what is said to be Tuban keris with no attempt given about it's location of manufacture and age?

For clarity:- I am only trying to get a better understanding of both (1) tangguh itself and (2) precisely what you mean and when you say that this could be tangguh Tuban.
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Old 12th June 2018, 12:40 PM   #12
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Novan, I do not consider that hilt to be "new". To me it has the look of something with good age, my estimate would be pre-WWII, post 1850.

In respect of tangguh.

Amongst the very serious keris people whom I have known, there is no consistency of agreement as to exactly what tangguh really represents. The man who taught me how to use tangguh and how to identify the characteristics held the very firm belief that if a keris was classifiable as tangguh Majapahit, it had been undoubtedly made in the Kingdom of Majapahit, during the period of Majapahit rule. This man had been the penangguh for the Boworoso Tosanaji, an old and highly respected keris appreciation group that was formed up under the guidance of Panembahan Harjonagoro. My teacher was Empu Suparman Supowijoyo (Alm.) of the Karaton Surakarta Hadiningrat.

So, from the elevated perspective of these people when something is classifiable as one tangguh or another, it was beyond doubt made at that time, in that place.

In such elevated company I would never for one moment disagree.

On the other hand, another highly respected keris authority, who was also an empu, and whom I counted as a good friend from the mid-1970's, until the time he left us, did not hold quite the same opinion as Empu Suparman and some other people. This second man was Empu Pauzan Pusposukadgo (Alm.), also of the Karaton Surakarta Hadiningrat. On the subject of tangguh, Pak Pauzan would say :-_ "tangguh nggak sungguh" : broadly, "tangguh is not real".

I would never disagree with him either.

If one wishes to gain understanding from Javanese sources one listens and agrees, one does not try to elevate oneself by demonstrating how clever one is. Always look up, never look down.

Tangguh is a part of a belief system, accept it and believe, or do not believe as you wish. It is like a lot of things Javanese:- belief makes it real:- if sufficient people believe something then that makes the belief reality.

However, if I move away from Javanese environments and patterns of thought and behaviour and address the subject of tangguh in a dry and rational fashion, I find that I am forced to explore the reasons for its very existence and what its root purpose was.

Here is not the place to address this, I have written briefly on the subject, and one day I will perhaps write at length on it. In the meantime, I suggest that you may extract an answer to your question from this:-

http://www.kerisattosanaji.com/keristangguh.html

When possible I avoid the use of the word "tangguh". The word itself, the purpose of the system, the meaning of the classification, the way in which the system should be used, are all so badly misunderstood and corrupt at the present time that whenever possible I substitute the word "classification" for "tangguh". Identification of a tangguh effectively classifies the keris as something, so I prefer to skirt around the mire that tangguh has become and call it what it is:- a classification.

Novan, you use the word "kerajaan" to refer to Tuban.
Tuban was a trading port, not a kerajaan. It was a part of the North Coast trading network, a place where people brought their goods for sale, and where others came to buy those goods, take them somewhere else and sell them.

In elite Javanese eyes, keris and other tosanaji that is classifiable as Tuban had no honour attached to it, because it was trade goods. An integral part of the value system that is a part of the tangguh system is connected with honour.
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Old 12th June 2018, 06:47 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
In older keris the tang is frequently very worn, eroded and thin, then the mendak will turn freely unless it is held in place by pressure from the hilt.


Thank you for the clarification, Alan.
The above part of the quote is the main principle I had in mind, but you managed to express it far more clearly.

Out of curiosity, do you have an illustration of a keris ring? This is the first time I've heard of such a thing.
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Old 12th June 2018, 09:27 PM   #14
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No Bjorn, I do not have a keris ring, nor have I seen a picture of one. I believe I saw one once in Solo, but I could neither handle it nor buy it. My memory of it is that it had very slightly raised rim around each edge, this of course created a recessed central band which if it was a keris ring, the top of the gonjo would sit in, and the rim on each side would prevent it from slipping off the ring and biting into the finger.

I think perhaps Gardner may have mentioned keris rings, If not Gardner, one of the writers from that era.
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Old 12th June 2018, 10:37 PM   #15
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Thanks for elaborating on tangguh some more, I have a better understanding now. I'd read the linked article before but this gave a fuller, elaborated picture. I'm familiar with the Javanese worldview and emphasis placed towards belief, as it is much the same in Sundanese. I'm therefore surprised that Empu Pauzan Pusposukadgo (alm.) would say that tangguh isn't "real". Was he extracting himself from the practice or shared belief and system, or was he saying that it was supported only by shared belief and understanding and therefore not "real" in the same way reading historical manuscripts is real? I know you mentioned that this is not the place to expand more on tangguh, so perhaps asking more is asking too much.

Regarding Tuban and Tuban blades:

I was under the false impression that all tangguh refered to Kingdom names or eras of reign. With Tuban being a trading port, does this necessarily mean that blades made in Tuban are of inferior craftsmanship and quality than blades made by keraton empus? And were they made and then sold "off the shelf" as opposed to having been commissioned by someone?
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Old 13th June 2018, 05:24 AM   #16
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Novan, I used Pak Parman and Pak Pauzan as examples, but you will find this disagreement and variation in understanding right across the spectrum of all people who have heard of or who involve themselves in tangguh.

I think in Pauzan's case it was because although he came from Abangan roots, he migrated into the Santri class and he became a very devout Muslim, by denying the perceived reality of tangguh belief he divorced himself from something he saw as a lower level of belief. Similarly, although everybody else regarded him as an empu, he refused to be known as one and always referred to himself as a keris artist. He understood an empu as somebody who attempted to bring life into an inanimate object, and as a good Muslim he could not accept this, as only God can create life.

In my own case , I have done considerable research on keris development and have come to the conclusion that tangguh as it is understood today is a folk belief system.

We have all heard that the Tangguh Majapahit Keris is a thing of beauty, a major artistic achievement. Well, it just happens that we have images of the Majapahit keris that were created at the height of Majapahit power. The images below are from the bas reliefs on Candi Penataran near Blitar in East Jawa. This was the major Candi of Majapahit.

Then we have tangguhs like Singasari, and Kahuripan, Segaluh and Pajajaran, all way before Mojo.

Consider Pengging, located near where Solo airport is now, a kabupaten governed by an official from Majapahit, that many people take to be Pengging Witaradya, a legendary place dating from 9th-10th century.

The tangguh system does use names for its classifications that can be linked to eras, but those eras also occupied geographic locations. It seems to me to be more likely that tangguh relates to geographic location, or perceived geographic location, rather than historical era. All these tangguh apply to the Modern Keris, the form of the keris that came into existence some time after the 14th century, thus all keris that conform to the various tangguh classifications came into existence some time after the 14th century --- but try telling that to a True Believer, especially one who was never real strong on his high school history to begin with.

But anybody can believe whatever they wish. The whole tangguh system is so screwed up now that it would be next to impossible to sort it out --- and who wants to anyway? Commerce will always triumph.

In respect of Tuban blades.

Tuban blades are not necessarily inferior in terms of physical quality, but in the Javanese value system a trading port has no honour, whereas a kingdom does, and a kingdom that is regarded as an honorable one has more value than a kingdom regarded as having little or no honour. This concept is not at all difficult to come to terms with.

Yes, of course Tuban blades were made simply as items of trade, as in fact were most keris. If a keris is made as a pusaka it will have a chosen dhapur, a chosen pamor, it will be made with the appropriate ceremony and offerings, and it will cost multiples of the cost of a keris made for dress use or as a weapon. Most keris were not made by empus, most were made by pande keris or pande besi, or were a collaboration between a number of people, but a pusaka keris would be made by an empu.
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Old 13th June 2018, 11:01 AM   #17
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That makes sense. I understand the "belief is reality" worldview that you're mentioning, but it's also clearer now what Pak Pauzan alm. meant when he said "tangguh nggak sungguh".

Those reliefs are definitely food for thought, not that it should come to much surprise. Thanks once again for elaborating and taking the time to share your knowledge.
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Old 13th June 2018, 05:47 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
No Bjorn, I do not have a keris ring, nor have I seen a picture of one. I believe I saw one once in Solo, but I could neither handle it nor buy it. My memory of it is that it had very slightly raised rim around each edge, this of course created a recessed central band which if it was a keris ring, the top of the gonjo would sit in, and the rim on each side would prevent it from slipping off the ring and biting into the finger.

I think perhaps Gardner may have mentioned keris rings, If not Gardner, one of the writers from that era.


Interesting stuff, Alan.
It seems these rings are a rarity these days, which makes sense considering they served a very particular, practical function related to using a keris as a weapon. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but as I remember the use of keris as weapons was already less frequent during the 19th c. (at least in Jawa). Instead, the focus during this period was already on the social and religious aspects of the keris. Would it then be fair to assume that keris rings had already fallen out of general usage even during this period of time?

Regardless, I assume that many of these rings were eventually molten down for re-use in the creation of other materials.
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Old 14th June 2018, 10:50 PM   #19
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Yes Bjorn, I cannot disagree with that which you have written.
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Old 15th June 2018, 05:26 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
No Bjorn, I do not have a keris ring, nor have I seen a picture of one. I believe I saw one once in Solo, but I could neither handle it nor buy it. My memory of it is that it had very slightly raised rim around each edge, this of course created a recessed central band which if it was a keris ring, the top of the gonjo would sit in, and the rim on each side would prevent it from slipping off the ring and biting into the finger.

I think perhaps Gardner may have mentioned keris rings, If not Gardner, one of the writers from that era.


Yes, Alan is right, as usual. Gardner dedicated few words to keris rings in his book. He also added a photo where two rings (chinchin melawan) are shown among a few pendongkok.
The pic is rather bad and apparently nothing distinctive appear. They seem common rings.
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Old 16th June 2018, 10:36 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GIO
Yes, Alan is right, as usual. Gardner dedicated few words to keris rings in his book. He also added a photo where two rings (chinchin melawan) are shown among a few pendongkok.
The pic is rather bad and apparently nothing distinctive appear. They seem common rings.


Thanks for the confirmation, Gio. I'll have a look at Gardner again one of these days.
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