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Old 28th October 2019, 10:39 AM   #1
Mickey the Finn
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Default Mudra and asana in/on keris hilts.

It's primarily (but not exclusively) Balinese hilts depicting a figure in asana which I'd like to gain some understanding of. "Mudras of India" by Carroll & Carroll (ISBN 978 1 84819 109 9) provides some insight. I'm aware of a few titles dealing with the topic of Balinese keris, but I don't know if any would treat the subject of asana and mudra as found on figural danganan in enough depth to justify the outlay. Balinese figural hilts seem to depict a very limited number of asana (when an asana is, in fact, depicted on a Balinese figural hilt). Who (social status/ profession/ occupation/ calling) uses what hilt-asana and when/ where? Are the figural hilt-asana codified to be used only with certain, specific dapur, by certain people, at certain times, in certain circumstances? If anyone could provide an exhaustively detailed, thesis-grade response, or a more-or-less gentle push or shove in the direction of a pertinent post or link here or elsewhere [in English, Bahasa Indo, Finnish, Estonian, most any of the Indo-European "centum" languages, or Sundanese, Malay, or Javanese written in or transliterated into Roman letters], I'd appreciate it. (I have done the preliminary homework of searching for "mudra" and "asana" using the forum's search function). Thank you in advance.
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Old 31st October 2019, 05:58 PM   #2
David
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Welcome to the forum Mickey.
I understand that your focus is more on Balinese figural hilts, but i would not dismiss some Javanese hilts from your studies, especially the Buta hilts, many of which display rather clear mudras.
Though i do not own it myself i understand that Karsten Sejr-Jensen´s Kris Disk has a section that analyzes mudra signs as they appear of keris hilts. If you can locate that source it might be a good start for you.
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Old 1st November 2019, 08:48 PM   #3
A. G. Maisey
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Mickey, these are just a clarification questions:-

1) could you please confirm that you are seeking to relate the asanas and mudras that are sometimes encountered in Balinese totogan keris handles to the hierarchical position within Balinese society of the keris custodian, or to the form (dhapur) of the keris?

2) could you please specify a time frame, that is to say, specify the period in Balinese history to which you wish this question to be considered.

3) could you please briefly outline your current understanding of the traditional socio-cultural position of the keris in Bali?

I am asking these questions because you have asked a question for which there can be no single answer, and indeed, there may be no answer at all. If there is any answer, that will depend upon a number of factors.

As David has pointed out, the relationship between Bali and Jawa does need to be taken into account.
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Old 10th November 2019, 08:11 AM   #4
Mickey the Finn
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Thank you, David. I have indeed seen, and am the current custodian of, a few Javanese and/or possibly Madurese figural ukiran which depict the digits of the hands in positions which might possibly convey some esoteric meaning. I've also seen a few Tajong, and possibly Coteng hilts with similar hand/finger positioning. Sometimes the fifth digit/little finger of the left hand is greatly extended (abnormally long) across the midriff toward the right, while the thumb of the right hand points across the midriff to the left, while the other fingers are folded into the hand (like a "thumbs up" pointing to the left). The only photos I have on hand were not taken by myself, and so, cannot be posted.
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Old 10th November 2019, 10:45 AM   #5
Mickey the Finn
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Mr. Maisey,
My former fiancée once became exasperated and upset with my inability to give a straight yes-or-no answer to, "[Prince] Charles will be the next king [of England], then"?
1) If, in fact, they can be related to either "the hierarchical position within Balinese society of the keris custodian, or to the form (dhapur) of the keris" [or both], then, yes. I'm often mistaken, and with respect to knowledge about keris I might be compared to a babe-in-arms, but I strongly suspect there is a relation. If there is no relation at all, then any information you have and are willing to share about asanas and mudras as depicted on figural hilts (primarily Balinese, but not to the exclusion of any others) would be greatly appreciated.
2) It would be a stretch to describe my understanding of the history of Bali as even rudimentary. My original post might convey the impression that I think of Bali as one big homogeneous lump. In an attempt to answer your second question, I have to say, "It depends". I'm thinking of a time (not the same time with respect to each of the kingdoms of Bali) when "court protocols" were still in force, and enforced. Probably not much later than 1849 for Buleleng, and not much later than 1906-1908 for other kingdoms. We could go back as far as 1293 or even before; this might be going back to before there was such a thing as a "keris Bali", but I'm okay with that.
Well, to specify a "no later than", or "court protocols enforced until, but not after" date is actually somewhat arbitrary, and possibly very misleading. I myself am the current custodian of more than one keris which, based on "stuff I've read on the internet", I have reason to believe I ought not to have in my possession, and which I would never wear inside any keraton on Java, any more than I would wear certain motif batik within these keraton, although I may possess examples of kain batik bearing such "forbidden motifs". Although I know I wouldn't be put to death for wearing a Naga Sasra with Wahyu Tumurun, I don't consider that a legitimate excuse for me to do so, neither on Pulau Jawa, nor anywhere else in this world.
3) Based on what I've read here, you choose your words, as well as their order, with care. I understand your question to be asking about my "current understanding of the traditional socio-cultural position of the keris in Bali, and not about my "understanding of the current traditional socio-cultural position of the keris in Bali". I've read your monograph "An Interpretation of the Pre-Islamic Javanese Keris", and it forms large part of my current understanding of the traditional socio-cultural position of the keris in Bali. In the event you had been asking about my "understanding of the current traditional socio-cultural position of the keris in Bali", I would have answered, "In this age when anyone at all can buy any dhapur that strikes their fancy and match it with any hulu and cincin they please, it's not what it once was".
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Old 10th November 2019, 05:47 PM   #6
A. G. Maisey
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Thank you for your response Mickey.

I am currently I am in the middle of one of my periodic work cycles, I do not have time right now to spend much, if any, time on trying to give you a halfway acceptable answer to your question. My gut feeling is that there is no answer.

I know of no research on this subject, and the period when any such hierarchical stratification might have applied is long past. But I might be able to dig up something. If I can, I will post what I might find here.
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Old 18th November 2019, 12:00 PM   #7
Mickey the Finn
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Thank you, Mr. Maisey. This is a development which I had not anticipated.
I believe that I've made a number of false assumptions.
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Old 18th November 2019, 07:20 PM   #8
A. G. Maisey
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It is very easy to make false assumptions where the keris is concerned, Mickey.

I have generated a number of questions, and I'm still working on this, I have ordered a text on Balinese mudras in a priestly context.

I have contacted a friend in Bali, Ubud actually, who has connections in the cultural community and with both priests and people in the keris community.

When I am ready to ask sensible questions, he will ask those questions for me.

Your question seems like a good one to me. I could be wrong about this, and in the context of post puputan Bali, I probably would be wrong, but if we consider the nature of the mudra we need to consider both the internal and external factors. If we consider the mudra and perhaps the aksana, we need to consider in context. Thus the mudra in a totogan relates to what? At the moment I do not know, in fact I would not even guess. But I might eventually know. The same is true of the totogan aksana.

So, if we think of the mudra/aksana and we wonder, how much more true is it that we need to consider the totogan keris grip itself? We know a little bit about the totogan grip, the purpose is to act as guardian for the shrine that is the blade. Evil loves emptiness. The shrine of the blade is normally empty, held ready to accept the spiritual entity for which it has been prepared. The totogan of the hilt is there to guard against entry of an evil entity. But there is probably not a whole lot more than that about which we can be certain.

Good question Mickey, and we're working on it.
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