Keris is a knife stabbing group of daggers (pointed and sharp on both sides). It has many cultural functions that are known in the western and central archipelago. Keris is one and the famous Java traditional weapon. The shape is distinctive and easily distinguished from other sharp weapons because it is not symmetrical at the base of the widening, often winding blades, and many of them have pamor (damascene), namely bright metal strokes on the blade strands.
The origin of the keris has not yet been fully explained because there are no descriptive written sources about it from before the 15th century, although the mention of the term “keris” has been listed in inscriptions from the 9th century AD. Scientific studies of the development of the shape of a dagger are mostly based on the analysis of figures in temple or sculpture reliefs. From the 15th century, one of the reliefs at Sukuh Temple, which is a place of worship from the late Majapahit period, clearly shows a master craftsman making a kris.
This relief on the left depicts Bhima as the personification of the master craftsman forging iron, Ganesha in the middle, and Arjuna is pumping air blowers for the furnace. The wall behind the master craftsman displays various forged metal objects, including a dagger.
This is the reason for experts to state that the form of the kris known now has achieved its modern development during the Majapahit period. Although as a comparison, there are reliefs in the Bahal Temple relics of the Panai / Pane Kingdom (11th century AD), as part of the Srivijaya kingdom, in Portibi North Sumatra, showing indications that at that time the kris had found its form as it is known today.
Meanwhile, we can trace the knowledge of the keris Java traditional weapon function from several inscriptions and reports of foreign explorers to the archipelago. Note Ma Huan, a member of Cheng Ho’s expedition, from 1416 and Tome Pires, Portuguese explorer from the 16th century, alluded to the custom of using keris by Javanese men (Cortesao, 2005).
Keris Java traditional weapon is used as a tool to defend themselves from enemy attacks, and animals or to kill enemies, as well as complementary offerings.
Technology of Keris Java traditional weapon
Common things that need to be considered in the morphology of the keris are curves (curves), ornaments (ricikan), color or beam of blades, and prestige patterns. The combination of these various components produces a number of standard forms (dhapur) of the keris that are widely described in the references to krisses.
The kris as a weapon and ceremonial instrument is protected by a keris sheath or warangka. Warangka is a kris component that has a certain function, especially in the social life of Javanese people, at least because this part is seen directly.
Warangka was originally made from wood (common are teak, sandalwood, timoho, and yellow). The rules of use have been determined, although not absolutely. Warangka Ladrang is used for official ceremonies, for example before the king, other official events of the palace (coronation, appointment of royal officials, marriage, etc.) with the intention of respect.
The procedure for its use is to slip the keris axle in the folds of the belt (stagen) on the back of the waist (including as a consideration for the safety of the king). Meanwhile, the weave warangka is used for daily needs, and the keris is placed on the front (near the waist) or behind (back waist).
In war, what is used is the keris waraman gayaman, the consideration is from the practical and concise side, because the warangka gayaman allows quick and easy movement, because it is simpler.
The shape of the keris warangka is different from one area to another. Even in one area there are often several types of warangka. These different forms of warangka make it easy for people to distinguish, and at the same time recognize keris from Bali, Palembang, Riau, Madura, Java, Bugis, Bima, or even Malaysia.
In Javanese society’s view, a dagger or suspicious, is one of the cultural treasures. The symbolic power of the keris is believed by the Javanese people to lie in prestige, which is a mixture of keris-making materials in the form of meteor iron.
This type of material contains elements of iron and nickel. Based on the material of making a kris, the process of making a keris of Javanese civilization is symbolically identical to the concept of unity of “father-father-motherland”.
Iron is obtained from the bowels of the earth (Mother Earth) and prestige material is a meteor falling from space (Father Akasa). The two were then put together into a keris weapon (Timbul Haryono, 2004).
But then the function of sharp weapons such as the heirloom keris or the heirloom spear changed. The “refinement” of the keris’s function seemed to have been strengthened from the 19th century onwards, in line with the easing of political turmoil in the archipelago and the strengthening use of firearms.
In this development, the role of the kris as a weapon gradually diminished. For example, in Javanese idealism about a “perfect” man, it is often stated that a kris or suspicion is a symbol of knowledge / skill as a provision of life.
Keris cannot be separated from Javanese civilization. The development of manners of the use of keris and variations of the form of warangka known now, can also be said is a form of refinement of the keris’s function.
Keris as a work of multi-material and multi-skill (expertise), a dagger is a merging of the metal forging art on the blade, the art of packaging or jewelry on the climbing, skidding, and guiding it, as well as wood carving art in the upstream and its fragments.
At present usage, the dagger is more an accessory object in dressing, which has a number of cultural symbols, or a collection object which is valued in terms of its aesthetics.
Sometimes people use a dagger just as a grandeur ceremony outfit when the wedding meeting. Then the kris was decorated with diamonds or diamonds at the base of the keris’s upstream. Even the scabbard made of fine fibrous and textured wood or metal, carved in such a beautiful, gleaming gold plated as the pride of the wearer.
In some areas, there are also keris sheaths made from ivory, buffalo horn, and even from ancient animal fossils. Warangka keris is always made beautiful and often luxurious. That is why, warangka can also be used to show the owner’s socioeconomic status.
Kris has become a high-value business commodity from the upstream to the blade of the keris. In fact, sometimes the technological aspects of the kris receive less attention than the legendary and magical aspects. Kris became part of cultural commodification.
Kris can be seen as a form of the process of creation, expression and representation of ethical and aesthetic art, which should be reviewed critically and scientifically with a variety of background issues, including the essence, problems and rationale that forms the rules of beauty.
Because, according to Soediro Satoto (2003), the keris is a social institution, social documentation, social mirror, social morals, social experiments, social systems, semiotic systems, both social semiotics and cultural semiotics, which are very rich in nuances of meaning contained in signs signs that are built up, through iconic, indexical, as well as symbolic.
The recognition of the keris as one of the world cultural heritage by UNESCO in Paris November 25, 2005 is certainly proof that it becomes an important thing in civilization, something that we deserve to keep fighting for.