status and how a keris is worn?

Discussion in 'Silat' started by Narrue, Feb 21, 2006.

  1. nechesh

    nechesh Valued Member

    Tristan, i don't think it is just a family thing. My point is that as cultural influences changed in Jawa so did the attitude towards the keris. As you point out, you have seen pictures of soldiers riding into combat with tombak and pedang with keris at their backs.It would be interesting to know what period those drawings date back to. Certainly the tombak and pedang were always considered the superior and preferred weapons of war. The keris was brought into battle for more talismanic purposes. Still, in a pinch it could be used if you were otherwise disarmed. I don't believe the keris was ever intented as a weapon of war. This doesn't mean, however, that there wasn't a time when people might end up fighting with keris. People get into fights everyday and if the only weapon you have on your person is a keris (and back in the day every male carried one daily) then it is likely that it could get drawn in anger. I think there came a time (i couldn't say when, but probably some time after the fall of the Mojopahit kingdom) when the use of the keris in this way became strictly taboo in Jawa. It is probably best in enforcing a taboo to adopt the belief that it has always been this way. But since we have written observation from early periods that it was not i find myself questioning this assertion.
  2. Orang Jawa

    Orang Jawa The Padi Tribe-Guardian

    Salam hormat Neches,
    Thanks for sharing and I agree with you in general :)
    > People get into fights everyday and if the only weapon you have on your person is a keris (and back in the day every male carried one daily)
    Back in the day every male carried keris daily? I have doubt on this, they may carry parang or other weapons but not keris, since keris is reserved for the upperclass system, just like katana during the Meiji period.
    Keris is a symbol cast system say to speak...
    I can be wrong too.
  3. nechesh

    nechesh Valued Member

    Salam hormat Tristan,
    Sorry, but there is nothing i have ever read or hear before that claims that the keris were reserved for the upper class system. The common man was not likely to own an empu made keris (those were reserved mostly for the kraton and the very well off) , but many villages had pande who made keris for the lower classes. There were certain restictions over the years about specific aspects of the keris. For instance, there was a period when only court members could own keris with pamor on the gonjo. Red enamel on the sheath pendok was reserved for the royal family. There were times when gold adornments were restricted, not that a poor famer could afford that anyway. I have quite a few village keris in my collection, one which dates back to the Mojopahit. When is it that you believe keris were restricted to only the upper classes?
  4. Orang Jawa

    Orang Jawa The Padi Tribe-Guardian

    Salam hormat Nesche,
    >The common man was not likely to own an empu made keris (those were reserved mostly for the kraton and the very well off)
    I stand corrected, you are absolutely right! :) I was talking about the empu made keris. Matur Suwun.
  5. tellner

    tellner Valued Member

    And upper class people never got angry and fought each other? :)
  6. Orang Jawa

    Orang Jawa The Padi Tribe-Guardian

    And upper class people never got angry and fought each other?
    Yes to the first but for the second somebody else to take care of it :)
  7. tellner

    tellner Valued Member

    Reminds me of an old joke. The captain and the sergeant were arguing about making love. The captain said it was about half work and half pleasure. The sergeant said it all work. A private, sweeping up outside, stuck his head in and said "It's all pleasure. If there were any work you'd have some private do it for you."
  8. RAMANA1

    RAMANA1 New Member

    tristan-are you presently teaching cimande?have you ever met pendekar sanders?
  9. Orang Jawa

    Orang Jawa The Padi Tribe-Guardian

    NO, I have never met Pendekar Sanders, to tell the truth, I have never met any silat player with Pendekar title either. May be someday, huh?
  10. Kejawen

    Kejawen New Member

    Salam Persilatan,
    Interesting topic...I've been wondering this very question since i've started to get myself in silat. To my opinion, there is two possibilities i could think of:1. keris is held at rear by Javanese to hide from view of enemy at confrontation; 2.Most Javanese silat gerak with low Kuda-kuda thus if the keris is held in front, it would obstruct the smooth lower body movements of the Javanese warrior. On the other hand, the malays wore them in front for quickdraw and to display their status in the society. Correct me if i'm wrong. :)
  11. nechesh

    nechesh Valued Member

    Kejawen, i don't believe it is a matter of correcting you if you are wrong, it's more a matter of we just don't know, so my thought are as valid as yours. But given your reasoning, why wouldn't the Jawanese wear them in front just as those on the Malay peninsula? The status the keris portrayed would be just as important in Jawa as in Trengganu, or Sulawesi, Sumatra or Bali for that matter so your reasoning really doesn't explain the difference in the position of the keris on the body. Also, i have seen pictures of Jawanese where the keris, though situated to the back, appears clearly visible at the side from the front of the person, so i do not believe consealment would have been the issue. Anyway, since every man carried one all the time back in the day concealment would be a non-issue. You knew everyman was armed. And since it showed status and was part of everyday dress it was meant to be seen.
    I think Narrue's original thought that wearing position may have somehow been related to status might be in the right direction in certain Indonesian cultures. Most often we see the Balinese wearing them high on the back so that the ornamented hilts pop up over the shoulder. But i have also seen images of Balinese wearing them at their sides. Perhaps this did have something to do with social standing. Keep in mind that social standing and the transfer of power (spiritual and otherwise) have always been the most important aspects of the keris even in the days when it was still used as a weapon. I think that it is probably useless to try to ascribe martial reasoning to how the keris was worn in different cultures since i believe this was always about a social and spiritual statement more than a martial one.
  12. tellner

    tellner Valued Member

    I've even seen old pictures of men wearing a keris in front or behind and carrying a bigger, less ornamented one in the left hand.

    "Well, you've got your everyday working sticker. Then you've got your fancy Sunday-go-meeting sticker. Don't make me use the fancy one." :)

    For those who have spent time in Indonesia, how are everyday working knives carried in places where people use them? In the front? Behind? Off to one side?
  13. Kiai Carita

    Kiai Carita Banned Banned

    Tellner, ini Indonesia you see people carrying their everyday working knives in their hand, mostly. If they bother to make a scabbard, they might put their knife either in the back or the side.

    Where you wear your a keris, in Jawa, means different things. You wear it a different way were you riding a horse or pony. Different again if you are going to see the king or perform wayang kulit. If you have it in you back but diagonal to your left it means you wish ill to the person you are dealing with. If you wear it in front, it means that you have left material things behind and were concentrating on the spiritual. An ulama would wear his keris in the front.

    In the rather recent past, many people wore three kerises. One in the back and one on either side. The one on the back would be yours, and either side would be gifts from your parents and your inlaws when you got married.

    The keris is not primarily a martial weapon. The weapons drills you practise in old Jawanese pencak in comics are for pedang sabet, pedang sudhuk, golok, tongkat, trisula, kerambit, tombak (long and short), sarung, destar, selendang, tali, pecut, bandul, panah.

    In the keris world, a handsome and sturdy and well worked keris with gold is not necessarily thought to be esoterically superior to a simple plain one which would snap if thrust into a bone. It is an esoteric weapon, not a material one, primarily.

    Warm salaams to all,
    Kiai Carita
  14. Narrue

    Narrue Valued Member

    I remember this story about a guy who was very sensitive to outside vibrations. One day he was in a shop in Indonesia and he seen a very old keris blade which was also in very bad shape. Anyway he could feel something strange about this blade so he bought it.
    The shop keeper practically gave it away since it was in such bad shape.
    When the guy got home with the blade and examined it further he could feel something inside the blade so he split the blade open with a hammer.

    Amongst the layers of the blade he found a piece of fabric/parchment folded up and located in the centre of the blade. The strange thing was that on the paper there was Sanskrit letters. He said from that point on he understood how to make a true keris.

    I have to say I don’t understand how you can forge a piece of paper into a red hot blade without burning it but I do wonder if in old times it may have been a practice to incorporate charms (probably metalic) into the blade to give it spiritual power.

    The interesting thing is that when a charm (jimats) is made it is drawn onto a piece of paper, cloth, metal or white substance with intention and then empowered with a mantra and given its purpose. From that point onwards it is considered as a living thing and thus it must be cared for as a living thing. If this is not done and the jimats is not treated with respect it can die and its living energy disappears. To keep it alive the owner must offer it incense (food) and prayers at least once a year.
    This seems to tie in well with the ceremony’s that are preformed for a keris so I wonder if there is some truth behind that story.
  15. Jebat

    Jebat Valued Member


    I've been told the Malay Bugis way is on the back to the right.
    And that's how I wore it during my wedding too....
    The old way was the same but hidden by overhanging clothing.
    At the Siam court in the 17th century it was worn in front to the left. I guess there are many ways. Whether it is suposed to be seen or not is probably the most important reason for wearing it a certain way.....

  16. nechesh

    nechesh Valued Member

    Narrue, this is one of those stories i would take with a very large grain of salt. I personally like stories of stange and magickal natures, but i, like yourself, don't see how a piece of parchment could survive the forging process. Also i wonder why the writing would be Sanskrit and not Kawi and why a translation of the writing is not a part of the story. It seems to me that that would be the most important element. It also seems rather assuming of this "sensitive" fellow that he would now understand how a "true" keris was made.
    The "charm" to a keris blade is integral to the blade itself. There is no need to place parchment within a keris to make it mystical. The mpu, though fasting, prayer and incantation makes the keris a jimat of sorts. Particular pamor patterns are worked into the blade to add to the intention of the charm.
    You are, i believe, correct to say that the living spirit that the mpu imbues into the blade can die or leave if proper care and feeding are not adhered to. Of course, not all keris are so concieved or mpu made. Perhaps this is what the story refers to when talking about how one makes a "true" keris. ;)
  17. nechesh

    nechesh Valued Member

    All the Malays i have seen wearing keris in contemporary times have worn theirs in front.
  18. Orang Jawa

    Orang Jawa The Padi Tribe-Guardian

    I'm with Kiai all the way. I too never heard people used keris as a combative tools.
    My dad came from Jogja and my mom from Solo, we wore keris in our back. The last time I wore my keris in my back, my blangkon on my head and Kraton custom wear, it was during my Sunat celebration. Is a big things for the family tradition. My Dad have an Rd. title too, but he never used it, by blood I have those tittle too but none of my brothers ever bother to add it to their names. It was just an old tradition that we kept it inside the family. My dad gave family keris that day as a symbol of adulthood. I still have it, take care of it and respect it. But I don't do the ceremonial cleaning like most people do, with flowers during suro month etc.
    Am I the only progressive and an open minded keris owner on this forum?
  19. nechesh

    nechesh Valued Member

    Please forgive me Orang Jawa for correcting your English, but i am sure you meant to say that you wore your keris AT your back, not IN it. I would hate to see you hurt yourself. ;) :D
    You wrote:
    Am I the only progressive and an open minded keris owner on this forum?
    Could you further explain what you mean by this. I would like to know if i qualify for your progressive club or not. :)
  20. Orang Jawa

    Orang Jawa The Padi Tribe-Guardian

    Thank you Nesche, You are funny man!!! :eek:
    I meant that keris is just that a sharp object and a family symbol. Some of the keris owners went overboard and treating keris like they have a magical power. Myths surrounding keris are abundant!! I took a good care of my keris as I took a good care of my Shinto Sword, also given to me by my dad.
    So if you don't wash your keris with flowers, praying mantra, etc. then you are a member of progressive keris owner :)
    No offense intended,

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