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Old 29th June 2014, 01:44 PM   #91
Sajen
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Three more Ramajala Tegal hilts from my collection.
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Old 29th June 2014, 03:40 PM   #92
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Yes, Alan, this kind of postmodern criticism of the "one-truth-Enlightenment" has been going on much longer than 50 years now in the academia. Machlup and Arbesman are just two out of 100's.
However, for a discussion on a forum like this, and to be able to handle other "non-academic" everyday situations, I find it quite boring and nonconstructive to force all participants to write long disclaimers each time they state something. If it would be in an academic situation the accepted way would be first to have a method and theory discussion about these factors of skepticism and uncertainty to show that you are aware of them. And after that you would be allowed to state something and argue that it is valuable current knowledge. And then in the end you could write that you hope someone in the future will be able to add-on new knowledge and perhaps prove that you were wrong (like, for instance, Freud did).

If the moderators are afraid that the participants of this forum are not aware of this philosophical discussion, maybe they (David ) can write some kind of disclaimer for us all so we can keep the discussion going in each thread?

I think a statement like: "Most probably it was supposed to be a Yaksha" , which both contributes to the discussion but at the same time accepts the existence of alternative interpretations, is better suited to answer the level of a non-academic forum like this.

Michael
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Old 29th June 2014, 04:06 PM   #93
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VVV
David, I didn't write that Jensen state it is a yaksha (he usually calls it "a raksasa prince").
You really should try to get hold of the Kris disk. Besides being like a Stone or van Zonnenveld for the keris world regarding that it compiles most of what has been written about it outside Indonesia, it also is the largest and best picture source for complete "historic" keris (complete=the dress is also old and have not been changed according to the present fashion).

Thanks for your response Michael. Please forgive my inaccurate assumption, but since you stated it was most probably a yaksha followed immediately by a praise of the Kris Disk as a better reference for original symbolism it seemed to me you were implying that was the source of your information. Hopefully you can see why i would make such a connection. I have never heard or read this identification for this hilt form before and was hoping for some further supportive reference points. Perhaps you could share with us then whether you heard or read this suggested elsewhere or if it is a theory of your own making.
As for the Kris Disk, i have indeed been looking for a reasonably priced copy for some time.
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Old 29th June 2014, 07:30 PM   #94
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Sorry David, I do understand now why you read it that way.
Somehow I remembered that we have had this discussion before and found this thread from 2008.
Since then I am leaning more and more towards that most of the hilts attributed as rakshasas are instead yakshas, based on their usually more benevolent character and to their function as guardians of places in the nature (genii loci). In my 2009 study of 138 Malaysian incantations collected during the colonial times, different kind of guardian spirits clearly dominates as receivers of the spells (58% followed by "Satanic" (pure evil) characters 17%). They were "dressed" in either Islamic, Hindu or even pre-Hindu clothes. Very much resembling how saints were/are used in Roman-Catholic countries.

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Old 30th June 2014, 01:44 AM   #95
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Yes Michael, of course you are correct:- Machlup and Arbesman are only the tip of the iceberg, but those two happen to be a very prominent and well-known tip. It has been obvious from probably the beginning of mankind's learning curve that the cat can be skinned in more ways than one.

Again I agree with you that since this Forum is not academically based, and additionally because many of our contributors do not have English as a native language, it is perhaps best to keep responses and new information to a simple, straight-forward, basic level, and this is precisely what I have been trying to do for the entire time I have been involved in discussions here.

However, I do believe that there is a difference between simplicity and insufficient information to permit understanding of base concepts, but this mindset makes it reasonably difficult to determine a point at which to draw the line between "too much", and "not enough".

For example, it is easy for the modern day western collector to differentiate between the raksasa and yaksa --- I'll use Javanese spellings, since we are discussing Jawa.

The raksasa is big, ugly and hairy, and he's a baddy.

The yaksa is a nature spirit somewhat delicate, and essentially a goody.

Thus, if we are involved in a discussion that is centered around the beliefs and terminology of modern day western collectors it is probably more than enough to restrict ourselves to this level of terminology.

However, when a question is raised that seeks to find the specific identity of one of these artificially created groups, it becomes more than a little difficult to provide an explanation in the absence of sufficient information to understand that explanation.

If we stop with generic terms, as understood by collectors outside Javanese society, yaksa & raksasa are probably enough, but then when we get to trying to understand the differences between these two generic groups we can be faced with a problem:- should we apply our own construction to the understanding, should we apply the understanding of present day Jawa, or should we seek to apply the understanding of the people responsible for the production of the artifact that we are attempting to understand?

My present belief is that the nature of the question raised dictates the nature of the answer given. I am open to opposing argument to this position, as my own ideas do sometimes vacillate between trying to provide reasonably complete answers, and answers just sufficient to extinguish the question.

This matter of raksasa and yaksa is a good example of what I mean.

Many of the hilts that have these abstracted figural forms would have been produced by people who spoke Old Javanese.
( Modern Javanese seems to be accepted as having begun its development in the courts of Central Jawa following the establishment of the Second Kingdom of Mataram, roughly some time around 1600)

In Old Javanese the understanding of "yaksa" was that it referred to a group of creatures who were half-gods dedicated to the service of (principally) Wisnu, however, sometimes they were found in the company of dangerous creatures such as the pisaca, a group that included the setan, raksasa, iblis, jin, and other evil and dangerous creatures.

In Old Javanese thought the raksasa was an evil, dangerous demon.

So in Old Javanese thought, the yaksa was usually, but not necessarily, a goody, but in reality the yaksa could also be a bhuta.
A bhuta is generally taken to refer to an evil spirit that haunts lonely places, but it can also mean simply a giant, and in Old Javanese it can carry a wider range of meaning, dependent upon context.

In present day Jawa Krama the yaksa is thought of as a member of the same group of creatures as the daitya, raksasa and asura. In Old Javanese thought the Asuras were enemies of the Dewas, the Daityas were a sub-clan of giants belonging to the larger group of Asuras.

Now, what I have written above is in my view the absolute basic, simplistic level of info needed for a layman to understand the nature of a yaksa and the nature of a raksasa. When we have this most basic level of understanding it becomes clear that to try to differentiate between the yaksa and the raksasa becomes somewhat difficult. Most particularly so if we are trying to understand an abstracted figural carving made by a person who saw the world in Old Javanese terms.

For a long time the world of collectors outside Jawa referred to these figural hilts as "raksasa".
Not particularly accurate, not making any attempt to understand the form in terms of the creators, but sufficient so that all other collectors outside Jawa knew what was being talked about.

We have at least two choices:- we stay with the terminology of yesterday, or we attempt to expand our understanding to allow us to use a perhaps more accurate terminology.

One route is for the collector, the other route is for the student.
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Old 30th June 2014, 08:58 AM   #96
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Thanks Alan for your interesting clarification of the difference between a raksasa and yaksa in "old Jawa". I buy that your spelling is more appropriate in this Javanese case and will adopt it from now.

To facilitate the reading of this thread I would also like to include the quote I referred to above and used in the 2008 thread about yaksa according to Indian mythology:

"A Yaksha, translated as a ghost [bhuta in Sanskrit] in Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend, are connected to the creative forces of a deity.

'It eventually became a collective noun for mysterious semi-divine beeings, who can assume any form at will, living in forests, trees, caves and jungles and play a prominent role in Indian mythology and folklore. They were said to inhabit the sacred tree in each village and to protect the prosperity and well-being of the community.'

It also says that some of the yakshas

'...were assimilated into main deites, such as Shiva, as exemplified by his epithet Virupaksha, which originally was the name of a yaksha.'"

To summarize, and to answer David's question, the three main arguments in favor of yaksas over raksasas as a probable interpretation of these hilts (based on my present understanding and presented in a simplistic but hopefully clear way) are:

- a yaksa is a genius loci (local ruler/guardian spirit of places in nature), which according to my studies are the most often used metaphysical beings for everyday and individual religious situations. Instead of going directly to (and perhaps disturbing) the main guy people prefer to use geographically closer and (enough) powerful intermediaries as a start. "Demons", like the raksasas, are much less used for these matters, especially if you are not a religious specialist.
- a yaksa is more often benevolent to human beings than a raksasa. Like most other metaphysical beings this does not mean that they are always benevolent or "good" from the human perspective.
- the floral and vegetative motifs on the hilt might be an indication that the depicted being is (or was once before Islamic times) some kind of nature spirit (like a yaksa).

For each individual hilt I also fully agree with Alan that it might, and most probably, have several layers of other (personal for both the maker and owner) meanings, too. This also seems to be a quite universal pattern found within both artwork and religious symbolism (like for Christians the religious statues resembling Greco-Roman gods or a local human ruler, saints depicted in local and contemporary fashion, the Black Madonna, the Virgin of Guadalupe etc.).

Michael
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Old 30th June 2014, 09:32 AM   #97
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For those of you who don't have the Kris disk I also attach three pages (out of several) discussing the raksasa/yaksa symbolism of the quite early figural Banten-hilts found in old European collections.

Michael
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Old 30th June 2014, 01:38 PM   #98
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Thanks for that quote Michael. It is always useful to go back to source and learn how things were understood before they were taken to Jawa and became part of the Javanese-Hindu understanding.

Of course, when we take that step and move outside the Javanese understandings, into the mainstream Hindu understandings, we really should take the additional step and look at the understandings in Hindu epic literature, and the historical foundations as well as the mythological understandings. When all these things are put together we obtain a more complete and clearer understanding of what happened not only in the mainstream, but more importantly for us, what happened in Jawa.

But as you have so correctly pointed out:- we are not in academia.

There is sometimes a degree of confusion between the word "bhuta" and the word "bhoot" (bhut).
Bhuta might refer to a ghost, but can also refer to an imp or a goblin or some other like creature, but a bhoot (bhut) is always a ghost of a type that cannot be exorcised.

These bhuts are real bad news.
If you happen to see a beautiful woman hitching a ride at night, be sure to check that her feet don't face backwards. If the feet are on back to front, drive on by just as fast as you can --- she's a bhut.
But if you're not quick enough, and she actually gets in your car, its best to have a bit burnt turmeric on hand:- throw that in her face and she'll bail out real quick.
You gotta be prepared with these creatures, just can't tell where or when they might strike.

My grandmother used to put a lot of faith in garlic --- but that's another story and another culture.
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Old 2nd July 2014, 08:33 AM   #99
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sajen
Hello Gavin,

here the brother of your hilt! I personally would call it a putra satu hilt in abstract form.

Regards,
Detlef


I am with Sajen, these pieces apparently originate from East Java/ Madura and are locally called putrasatu (prince?), I show an older cousin....
Regards
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Old 2nd July 2014, 08:57 AM   #100
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A beautiful hilt, Jean.
Yes, we all know about the term putrasatu, but that is what Alan referred to as "the understanding of present day Jawa". We were trying to go a bit deeper into the symbolism of this, and the related, hilts. Even if it is not possible to find a definitive answer it is still interesting to give it a joint try and perhaps find some probable clues.

Michael
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Old 2nd July 2014, 12:52 PM   #101
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Thank you Michael and Alan for your very educative posts.
I am now showing another common specimen of putra satu hilt with peculiar features (sort of mask on the face, shield under the left elbow, and left leg looking like a fish tail?). Any interpretation for it?

Regards
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Old 2nd July 2014, 01:02 PM   #102
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I've got a thing about names, and for that matter, about language in general.

Words are supposed to convey ideas:- we get the words wrong, the ideas get deformed, twisted and those ideas no longer move freely from one person to another.

When we examine words we can learn a lot about origins.

Origins of ideas, origins of motives, origins of the things to which the words refer. Other origins too.

So words are pretty important. They need to be right. That is, if they are intended to mean anything.

In this discussion group, we use words, because we would be unable to discuss if we did not use words. Who ever heard of a discussion without words?

We more or less agree on a common vocabulary, and we do this so that each of us knows what the other person is talking about.

So, if Jean refers to the hilt shown in post #99 as a "putra satu", we all know what he's talking about. If Michael calls it a "yaksa", yep, we understand him too. If somebody wants to call it "raksasa", I doubt any of us will have any problem with that.

For myself, I don't really care what anybody calls it. My professional mind would like to label it as a Jawa ZX7, but then I'd be the only one who knew what I meant, so that would be a pretty silly way to go.

But lets look at what the common terms used to describe this hilt type mean.

We've already had a discussion on yaksa & raksasa, so I won't revisit them except to mention in passing that both words are Javanese, and were known in Old Javanese.

But "putra satu". That one is an interesting name.

Why?

Because it is a new name. A very new name. A name that is extremely unlikely to have been in use in Jawa prior to, let's say, 1950. A name that in any case would never have had a Javanese usage at any time in history.

Why?

Because it is Bahasa Indonesia, not Javanese.

In Javanese the word "satu" refers to a kind of cake.

In Javanese the word "putra" means a child.

But when these words occur in Indonesian they mean something else entirely.

The word "putra" means "prince" (it has other associated meanings, depending upon context; it is a contraction of "putera")

The word "satu" means "one".

I do not know where the term "putra satu" originated. I know it is in general usage amongst collectors, and some dealers.

My gut feeling is that this term is a dealer's invention to flim-flam collectors.

Most importantly, this term tells us nothing at all of what name this hilt type may have been given by the people who carved them and wore them.

It is simply a term that permits identification amongst collectors.
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Old 2nd July 2014, 08:38 PM   #103
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Thank you for your logical education about the term "putra satu" Alan. Of course I am aware about the meaning (my young son is named Putra) but never thought about that it can't be the correct name for this hilt type simple because it isn't a javanese term.

Regards,
Detlef
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Old 3rd July 2014, 01:55 AM   #104
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Here are a few more "green bean cake" hilts.
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Old 3rd July 2014, 05:40 AM   #105
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
Here are a few more "green bean cake" hilts.


Beautiful hilts, thank's for sharing.
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Old 3rd July 2014, 11:13 AM   #106
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I suggest the terrifying name "devilish granny" for this one.
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Old 3rd July 2014, 02:54 PM   #107
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Yaksa? Perhaps an older one.
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Old 5th July 2014, 01:38 PM   #108
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A handle from the collection of a friend. Cirebon? West Java? What you think?
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Old 5th July 2014, 02:08 PM   #109
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From the same collection. Semar, Central Java?
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Old 6th July 2014, 03:13 AM   #110
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I will add a few examples. Bali?
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Old 6th July 2014, 03:16 AM   #111
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I love the endless knot motif worked into this example.
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Old 6th July 2014, 03:18 AM   #112
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Very abstract yet upon close review you can see facial features.
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Old 6th July 2014, 03:21 AM   #113
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Same as previous one. Very abstract but I can make out a face.
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Old 6th July 2014, 03:25 AM   #114
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This is an interesting one. I see a dragon in the abstract carving and there are also 2 Chinese style dragons carved on the sides of the handle. There is also an Arabic inscription to boot on the handle.
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Old 6th July 2014, 04:48 PM   #115
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Nice examples Rick. Those first two are quite interesting, though i'm not sure that first one is Balinese.
These last two, however, seem beyond the intent of this particular thread. They seem a bit too much of a stretch for me. They are abstract hilts, not figural, no matter what our imagination allows us to see in the form. While i do believe the hidden figures are intentional it is not what we generally mean when we talk about figural hilts. If we were to follow this track then EVERY keris hilt would be included as "figural" hilts since they pretty much all allude to such forms one way or another.

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Old 6th July 2014, 10:38 PM   #116
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It may be useful to have a look at this previous thread:-

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...light=dvarapala
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Old 7th July 2014, 07:31 AM   #117
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Another one.
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Old 14th July 2014, 01:25 AM   #118
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Here's mine.
Unfortunately the bottom part of the ivory has been cut away ( or maybe eaten by rat.... not sure).
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Old 5th August 2014, 03:52 AM   #119
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A few more.
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Old 7th August 2017, 04:46 AM   #120
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Hi,

This is my figural hilt collection. Any idea about this hilt origin?

Thank you,

Best regards,

Joe
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