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Old 20th May 2024, 03:13 PM   #1
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Default Parts of a pusaka keris

Esteemed and learned colleagues of the keris,

Please help me understand the significance and meaning of the components of the bilah and ganja (as illustrated in the attached diagram). My interest stems from gaining a better understanding of the Moro kris and its history.

Can you explain what the various components of the "elephant trunk" area represent: the praen; sekar kacang/telale gajah; jalen/ilat baya; and lambe gajah/jalu memet on one side; and the ron dha nunut on the other side.

Also, on the ganja, can you explain what the following represent: the cocor; sira cecak; kepet urang; kanyut buntu; padakin; wawungan ganja; and the three components of the greneng (ron dha, thingil, ri pandhan).

Lastly, can you point me to references explaining how these elements came to be arranged in this formal manner for a pusaka keris.

Thanks for your help.

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Old 20th May 2024, 04:01 PM   #2
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Hi Ian. The keris is at this point a rather multicultural artifact. As you probably know, it began when Jawa was mostly a Hindu/Buddhist culture. Islam took hold of the region a few centuries later. Most, if not all, of the features that make up the modern keris were fully developed by the end of the Mojopahit era. But the meaning ascribed to these various features did not necessarily transfer to the subsequent Islamic era. Likewise i am not convinced that the intent of these various features remained the same when the keris was then adopted by the Islamic Moro cultures and became the Moro Kris/Kalis. Much of the meaning of the earlier Hindu symbolism of these features has been lost or obscured by time. Which, of course, has not stopped collectors from speculating about it. Certainly we can see possibilities of yoni and lingam symbolism in the pesi and gonjo. We have discussed the connections to the concept of OM to the ron dha. If we think of the sekar kacang as an "elephant trunk" we should be able to make some connections to the concept of Ganesha though other symbolism such as singo, naga and putut can also occupy this space on the gandik. But all these Hindu meanings become even more vague once the culture becomes primarily Islamic. So i am not sure how this will help you to understand the Moro kris better.
As for pusaka keris, as far as i know, there are no requirements for a keris to have any particular arrangement of ricikan for it to qualify as a keris pusaka.
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Old 20th May 2024, 08:06 PM   #3
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Thanks David. I understand that the features that I am inquiring about predate Islam and reflect Hindu/Buddhist influences. These features have been used for centuries beyond the original Majapahit period, and the details on very old examples can be found on items produced well into the 20th C and up to today. Some of these require considerable effort to produce.

The file work going into the careful reproduction of the "elephant trunk" area, the jenggot and greneng, and the ongoing placement of these features in the traditional manner, suggests that they are still respected today. Or is it the case that craftsmen of the last few centuries have been working from an old pattern without really understanding the meaning of what they were producing, simply following tradition?

When it comes to the adoption of the keris into the kris in the what is now the Philippines, there has been an opinion expressed elsewhere on this site that the kris emerged before the presence of Islam in the islands. As a corollary to this theory, the kris was used primarily by those who would go on to convert to Islam, but it was not introduced in conjunction with Islam. In the process, the keris was converted from a thrusting dagger to more of a slashing sword in becoming a kris. However, many of the features of the keris were retained, and are still reproduced, on the kris, notably the separate ganja, many of the various bela features, and representations of the greneng. Even a minute detail such as the lambe gelah/jalu memet can be found on kris. Why reproduce another culture's ancient iconography to this degree, and continue doing it today? Is this just tradition?

I realize that I am straying beyond the bounds of this forum, but I wanted to let you know why I am asking the questions above.
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Old 20th May 2024, 10:19 PM   #4
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Ian, I believe that I can provide some sort of a response to your rather broad question, but at the moment I do not have time, and to address the matter adequately would require a lot of words, sufficient words to fill a pretty lengthy paper.

I would suggest a reading of a couple of my articles, the earlier one, "Origin" needs a re-write, but the necessary foundation is still adequate.

The second article, "Interpretation" I'm still more or less happy with, for as far it goes.

There is another piece of writing I did & that is included in a book:-

my contribution is chapter 6:- "The Journey of the Keris", this piece of writing goes some way towards addressing the Islamic adoption of the keris, but it is far less than is required, I needed to comply with certain requirements.

These three pieces of writing, taken together give a reasonable account of the development of the Javanese keris, & to get to the place where I feel that you wish to be you do need what can be found in this published work.

The question you have asked is really immense, but when I get time I'll have a crack at writing something that might provide some sort of an answer.
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Old 21st May 2024, 02:56 AM   #5
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Thanks Alan. I appreciate you are particularly busy and that a response would take some time. I will look at the references you provided. Thanks for responding to my request.
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Old 21st May 2024, 04:21 AM   #6
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Didn't take long Ian, about 20 minutes this morning & 30 minutes after lunch.

Helps if one already has the language, then it becomes no more difficult than looking up words in an English dictionary.

Thing is this, once all the mystique of exotic sounding words is taken away it all becomes easier, once we understand that the keris words only echo words in common use, and that Javanese language relies on likening things to other common things, everything just falls into place.

For example, the word "sogokan" is the word for a long stick, or pole used to poke things, if your drain is blocked you go looking for a sogokan, but the symbolism of the sogokan is that of the lingga, which is of course symbolic of Siwa (Shiva).

Something else that it is handy to know is that Javanese people do not like speaking in direct terms, so you often need to interpret what is said in normal speech to something else. When we speak of ourselves in Javanese, we use our personal name, ie, "I'm going into town" is spoken as "Alan will go into town".

Its a whole different way of thinking.

Perhaps an acceptable way to begin on this exercise might be to strip away as much of the obscurity of language as we can, so here is a word list, I have used a number of dictionaries, so you have dictionary meanings, not my own ideas:-

praen --- features, countenance (Javanese)
sekar --- sekar (Jv.-- krama for kembang)
kacang --- bean, peanut (Jv.)
telele --- correctly:- tlale --- elephant trunk (Jv.)
gajah --- elephant (Jv.)
jalen --- (jali) --- a kind of grass, millet (Jv.)
ilat --- tongue; also --- a peg to control water flow
baya --- crocodile (Jv.)
lambe --- lip, edge, rim (Jv.)
jalu --- spur on cock's foot (Jv.)
memet --- intricate, complicated, joined into one, difficult to grasp, mixed
together from separate parts (Jv.)
ron --- leaf (Jv. -- krama for godhong)
dha --- a letter of the Javanese alphabet
nunut --- to ride together with (Jv.)
cocor --- beak (Jv.)
sira --- correctly:- sirah (Jv. -- krama for endhas)
cecak --- small house lizard (Jv.)
kepet --- unaccented "e" -- hand fan, accented "e"'s --- caudal fin, tail
fin, second "e" only accented -- thin, empty (Jv.)
urang --- shrimp, prawn (Jv.)
kanyut --- to get carried away (by a current) (Jv.)
buntu --- blocked at one end (Jv.)
padakin --- unknown, perhaps "pidakan"? pedal, to step on (Jv.)
wawungan --- unknown, perhaps "wuwungan"? "wuwung" = rooftop (Jv.)
greneng --- a complaint, but specific to keris:- a small crooked ornament
it seems likely that originally this word was "glendheng",
which means long uncut stalks of bambu or wood, but over
time it has become corrupted to "greneng" (Jv.)
thingil --- something that stands higher than its surroundings (Jv.)
ri --- abbreviation of "eri", a thorn or a fish bone (Jv.)
pandhan --- pandanus (Jv.)
pusaka --- heirloom, revered object, inheritance, family rice field (Jv.)
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Old 24th May 2024, 10:14 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Ian View Post
Or is it the case that craftsmen of the last few centuries have been working from an old pattern without really understanding the meaning of what they were producing.
This sort of thing happening is a frequent enough occurrence across many cultures that some anthropologists actually have an informal term for it. They call it a Blind Motif. An oft repeated element that is so ubiquitous and longstanding within a culture that it's original meaning is lost. That is to say that it wouldn't surprise me if it were the case. Because it wouldn't be nearly the first time it's happened.
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Old 26th May 2024, 07:29 AM   #8
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The art of the early renaissance period in Europe is a good place to begin looking at the use of symbolism in art to carry a message.

In Jawa, Islam adopted the keris & other icons of the Hindu-Buddhist era and altered the old symbolism. This is very muddy field to try to move through, because even the symbolism of pre-Islamic era could be understood in varying ways, depending upon context, & sometimes depending upon the state of mind of the viewer. This same variation in understanding can still be found in Bali today --- & I guess, to a degree in Jawa.

Ian, I had a look at that article published in the Indosphere site.

I really do wish that these people who dive into deep water without testing its depth would leave the Dong Son culture out of keris discussion.

Copy & paste from various sources is not writing, it is theft, somebody who does this clearly has little understanding of the subject matter.

Last edited by A. G. Maisey; 26th May 2024 at 07:43 AM.
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