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Old 27th May 2018, 08:13 AM   #1
A. G. Maisey
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I was in Bali recently, and as usual I did the required visit to the Neka Museum in Ubud.

There are quite a few more older keris there now than the last time I went there in 2016. Amongst these older keris are two royal keris from Karangasem.

I apologise for the photos. It is more than a little bit difficult to photograph display items in this museum, unless you are lucky with time of day and light, I've been there a number of times, but I just haven't got the timing figured out yet.

Anyway, these two take the blue ribbon in the bling stakes.
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Old 27th May 2018, 06:29 PM   #2
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I apologize to everyone but the noise you heard was my eyes hitting the floor. Iíve now put them back into my skull! 😳
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Old 27th May 2018, 08:12 PM   #3
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Nothing exceeds like excess.


That said, there's room in my collection for these, but insufficient volume in the exchequer.
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Old 27th May 2018, 08:42 PM   #4
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Javanese keris forever
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Old 27th May 2018, 09:02 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcokeris
Javanese keris forever

Well, i happen to be a big fan of Bali keris, but i understand you thought here Marco. I prefer my keris just a bit more understated than these. A bit of gold is one thing, but i am afraid i am simply not royal enough for these.
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Old 27th May 2018, 09:14 PM   #6
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If ya got it --- flaunt it.
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Old 27th May 2018, 10:42 PM   #7
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It's gorgeous, though verging on garish! Then again what do I know :P I wonder what those purple gems are.
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Old 27th May 2018, 10:55 PM   #8
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They're actually reddish, and we would call them "mirah" in Jawa.

They might be sapphires, or garnets, or tourmalines, or --- since this is Bali --- pastes.
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Old 28th May 2018, 07:44 AM   #9
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Like David I am a big fan of Balinese krisses but much prefer the type of kris shown on the attached pic...
I doubt that these 2 glittering krisses are very old, at least the dress.
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Old 28th May 2018, 09:34 AM   #10
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Actually Jean they are old keris.

Read the clipping.

The dress maybe more recent, probably is, but the Balinese ethic in respect of keris dress is very considerably different to the tastes of collectors in the world outside Bali.

Then of course we need to consider what is correct in a hierarchical society:- Kings do not dress in the same way as farmers, and they do not dress their keris in the same way that farmers dress their keris.
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Old 28th May 2018, 11:30 AM   #11
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Alan,

these are wonderful Keris. Imho a little bit too much decoration but this is subjective and it is most difficult to find the perfect balance. European aristocratic swords of the renaissance are also hopelessly overdecorated in many cases.

I have one question, the Cocetan got a symbol on its base, which looks like an eye in flames, similar to the eye in the pyramid.
Is this an eye and what is the meaning of this detail?


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Old 28th May 2018, 12:58 PM   #12
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Roland, this motif is upside down in the larger image, I've cropped it and turned it right way up.

It is the Karang Bintulu motif.

This is a common "fill" motif in Balinese art, the motif consists of a bulging eye above a row of teeth and tusks, above the eye we usually find a mountain. The eye and teeth relate back to the well known Kala or Bhoma motif that we find above gateways, the mountain or rock relates back to the Gunungan, a foundation motif of indigenous belief. F. Bosch believed that the Kala motif was influenced by Surya (The Sun).

In this representation of the Karang Bintulu the Gunungan form is rendered in a form that resembles flames, so the flames are probably indicative of the influence of Surya.

Since the bintulu relates to Bhoma, and Bhoma is a protective motif, the bintulu can also be interpreted as a protective motif, even though it is only a fill motif, never a dominant motif.

The Gunungan motif is perhaps the most frequently encountered motif in Indonesian art, it combines references to Mt. Meru (dwelling place of the Gods), Siwa, The Ancestors, the Meru (the Balinese multi roofed shrine) and combined with a Bhoma reference it completes the foundation stone of Balinese/ Javanese traditional belief, as Bhoma, who is the son of Wisnu and Basundari, is the child of water and of earth, since water and earth result is plant growth, and plant growth for farmers is essential for prosperity, Bhoma is protective of earthly well being. Balinese are mostly farmers.
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Old 28th May 2018, 02:16 PM   #13
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Alan, thanks for the explanation of the Karang Bintulu motif.
Certainly you are correct that kings do not dress their keris the same way as farmers do. I believe that is way many of us find these keris a little too blingy for our personal tastes. We are farmers...or at least, not kings.
I do actually like the kocetan hilt however, though i find the other one (do you recognize who it represents?) quite ugly. The gold work on the sheaths gives me the impression of new work, though i suppose it could be new goldsmithing done over older wooden sheath. As you say, that doesn't really matter in this context as new dress is a common and expected thing within the culture. It's only us collectors who seem to value preserving old and original dress.
It isn't really easy to get more than an overview of these keris from these photos and there is so much kinatah on the blades that it is difficult to get a good sense of the garap of the blades, but i would image that given the provenance they are probably well conceived beneath all that gold.
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Old 28th May 2018, 02:24 PM   #14
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Alan,

thank you very much for your comprehensive explanation. Your wisdom and knowledge always impresses me!


Roland
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Old 28th May 2018, 03:49 PM   #15
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Thank you Alan for sharing!

The dress maybe more recent, probably is, but the Balinese ethic in respect of keris dress is very considerably different to the tastes of collectors in the world outside Bali.


This I can confirm! When I have had some years ago the privilege to see the private collection of a Balinese he noticed that the blade of a short pedang get rust because the blade has had contact with the beautiful antique scabbard. He told me that he will throw away this scabbard and will order a new one for his pedang.
It's a nice story which show the local value of an antique scabbard for a Balinese.
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Old 28th May 2018, 03:58 PM   #16
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If I like these kerises... a lot, does it make me royal?! At least in tastes?!
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Old 28th May 2018, 04:33 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mariusgmioc
If I like these kerises... a lot, does it make me royal?! At least in tastes?!



In this case royal means it comes from a royal aristocratic family and this got nothing to do with personal taste.

A royal Keris can be recognised by his level of artwork and amount of gold.

As far as i know, in ancient times gold was only allowed to aristocratic members of the society. Or as a gift from the aristocracy/nobility for important "normal" people (small amount of gold) or as a gift for other royals/high army representatives from all over the world (often a lot of gold).


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Old 28th May 2018, 05:36 PM   #18
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I LOVE THE BLING! The beauty and artwork...........

Perhaps it is also because I am part Filipino. Like the Balinese, Filipinos and Moros love their bling (and they are cousins to all Indonesians).
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Old 28th May 2018, 09:38 PM   #19
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As to personal tastes in respect of the bling factor.

Almost 30 years ago I was fortunate enough to acquire two royal keris that had been the property of the Raja of Badung. They were not quite as exuberant as the the ones that are shown here in my photos, but both had more than enough gold to make them unmistakable for what they are.

Both these keris always had a very unsettling effect on me. I was uncomfortable handling them, and essentially all I ever did was to maintain and store them.

A few years ago I sold one of these keris, I still have the other.

I am a little more comfortable with slightly less prestigious keris also.
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Old 28th May 2018, 09:52 PM   #20
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Sajen, I have found that keris literate people in both Bali and Jawa are very well aware of the monetary value of old dress for tosan aji, even down to the value of a single face for a gandar. Even broken wrongko atasans have a value if the material is of very high quality, as most standard Javanese wrongkos can be carved into different forms.

Part of the maintenance process for keris in both Jawa and Bali is that scabbards are periodically cleaned out with a segrek. Over time this results in the scabbard becoming too loose and the mouth of the scabbard needs to be relined to give a close fit to the blade. Dress for keris in particular is regularly changed to reflect the changing circumstances of an owner, or for other reasons. One of the repeated stories I have heard is the dream of the old man asking for new clothes, or a new wife.

One of the advantages of a keris that uses a pendok is that the gandar can be a separate, much lower quality wood. This permits the gandar being changed instead of cleaned, which means the atasan can be cleaned from the bottom instead of the top, and the mouth does not deteriorate so quickly.
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Old 28th May 2018, 09:56 PM   #21
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David, I do not recognise any specific entity being represented by the bhuta style hilt.
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Old 29th May 2018, 12:19 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
David, I do not recognise any specific entity being represented by the bhuta style hilt.

Thanks Alan. On closer inspection it seems to have animal features (snout and hair). I wonder if it might be intended as Hauman.
While we have discussed that many newer hilts are carved with no particular intention of deity or persona, i would think that there might be more intention for a keris that is considered to be of royal lineage.

Last edited by David : 30th May 2018 at 03:11 AM. Reason: spelling...
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Old 29th May 2018, 01:03 AM   #23
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Anything is possible David, I really do not like to get into conjecture in relation to this sort of thing.
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Old 29th May 2018, 08:09 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David
Thanks Alan. On closer inspection it seems to have animal features (snout and hair). I wonder if it might be intended as Hauman.
While we have discussed that many newer hilts are carved with no particular intention of diety of persona, i would think that there might be more intention for a keris that is considered to be of royal lineage.


I enlarged the pic and David is right. If it depicts Hanuman he should normally have a tail in the back. The style of carving (eyes, eyebrows, beard, ect) looks recent IMO.
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Old 29th May 2018, 09:27 AM   #25
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Hanoman is one of the Vanaras from the Ramayana.

Only one of them, yes, perhaps the best known, but only one Vanara.

Some of the others are:-

Bali (Vali), Angada, Kesari, Nala, Nila, Sugriwa.

There are maybe double this many Vanaras again.

Not every figural keris hilt in the form of a monkey is Hanoman.

Different people can have different reasons for wanting some other monkey figure as their personal keris hilt. How can anybody possibly know what was in the mind of the person who ordered that figural hilt in the first place?

It is very incorrect to assume that just because we see a monkey figure used as a Balinese keris hilt, that figure is automatically Hanoman.

This is the reason I will not put names on most of these figures found on Balinese hilts, be they monkeys or otherwise:- I was not privy to the private thoughts of the first owner of that figure, nor to the private thoughts of the man who carved it.
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Old 29th May 2018, 12:50 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
It is very incorrect to assume that just because we see a monkey figure used as a Balinese keris hilt, that figure is automatically Hanoman.


Thank you Alan and you are right but frankly it is not very critical for me to know if the mythical monkey figure is Hanuman or Sugriwa (the 2 most famous ones).
The monkey hilt from Neka Museum has long thumb nails but the feet carving is not very clear (claws or not?).
I attach the pics of 2 Balinese monkey hilts from my collection, the recent wooden specimen should depict Hanuman since he holds a gada (mace) which is the attribute of Hanuman.
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Old 29th May 2018, 04:18 PM   #27
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Kinatah on the blade with monkey hilt doesn't seem to be an old one, the motifs are quite adventurous as is their execution; the second, if it's older, is at least refurbished. Also the blades are most probably not older then end of 19th cent. and (besides Kinatah) not really refined.
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Old 29th May 2018, 07:09 PM   #28
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Thank you Gustav, it is my impression also from the pics but we would need to see the blades for a more accurate assessment. It seems to me that the descriptions from Pande Neka (in his book for instance) are often very enthusiastic.
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Old 29th May 2018, 07:56 PM   #29
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Definitely interesting to see these pieces. Personally I'd also feel more comfortable with a more restrained style, but for a raja such keris do seem appropriately lavish.

I actually do like the kinatah on the blades. It's the blink on the jejeran that bothers me somewhat, especially on the right one. It seems to fit the kocetan better as the gold fits more snugly to its contours.

And I love the bintulu motif on the left blade.

Thanks for sharing, Alan.
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Old 29th May 2018, 10:55 PM   #30
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Here is a summary of the newspaper article:-

Since Keris Ki Baju Rante , a pusaka keris from the Karangasem Kerajaan, came to the Neka Museum, other keris from the Karangasem Kerajaan have followed.
At the present time the Neka Museum has Ki Taman Mayura, Ki Taman Ujung, Ki Baju Upas, Ki Baru Bengkel, Ki Baru Kumandang.
The two keris shown in this thread are Ki Taman Mayura and Ki Taman Ujung, they were made by Mpu Keris Kerajaan Karangasem Pande Rudaya who was an 18th century Kerajaan Karangasem pande.


The newspaper article does not say if the kinatah work dates from the 18th century, nor does it say if the dress of these keris dates from the 18th century. What it does most clearly state is that the keris themselves date from the 18th century.

The obsession of western collectors with what they regard as "originality" is not a part traditional Balinese or Javanese cultural values.

We all know that the dress for a keris can be and is changed from time to time.

It is a similar situation with the kinatah work on a keris. Kinatah was and is often bestowed on a keris because of some action or service performed by the custodian of the keris, or by the custodian of the keris to honour the keris for actions performed by the keris that were of benefit to the custodian.

Most old keris with kinatah that we see today did not start life adorned in gold, that gold came later.

It could well be that the kinatah work on Ki Taman Mayura and Ki Taman Ujung has been placed upon these keris at some time later than the time of their being brought into existence. The exuberance of the dress could well be very recent, and could perhaps be viewed from a Balinese perspective as the presentation of two important and highly respected keris in a manner befitting their status.

I have commented a number of times that the value systems of collectors in the various societies outside the traditional societies of Bali and Jawa vary considerably from the value systems of the people who are members of these traditional societies and who own the cultural values espoused by these societies.

Perhaps once again we can see the divide in understanding between the owners of a culture and those who accumulate artifacts from the culture.

If we are to understand the products of a culture other than our own, we do need to have a minimal understanding of the value systems of that culture. In respect of Balinese culture it may assist our understanding if we realise that when something that is associated with the Balinese belief system is made, that work involved in the making is in fact work that is dedicated to God.

A Balinese pusaka keris has a nature that can be likened to a shrine. This characteristic is not unique to Balinese weaponry, it is a nature that is also found in other Hindu weaponry, as noted by Robert Elgood.

Just as the meru is prepared for the visit of a being from the Hidden World, so the keris is also prepared for such a visit. Just as a meru is made more beautiful for the visit of a deity or an ancestor, so the keris can also be made more beautiful for such visits.

I personally believe that it is incumbent upon all those who assert that they have an interest in the Keris to attempt to gain some understanding of the culture that produced the Keris.

I acknowledge that my beliefs may not be the beliefs of others, but the failure to understand that in which we have an interest deprives us of a better enjoyment of that in which we have an interest.
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