October 27, 2019

Keris in Bali - A Sacred Dagger and Magical Heirloom

In Bali, Keris or Kris is often called Kadutan. Keris is often mentioned in traditional folktales and is believed to have magical power. This traditional dagger also becomes a popular souvenir sought by foreign tourists. UNESCO gave the title "Masterpiece of The Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity to the Kris of Indonesia on November 25, 2005.

Keris In Bali, Balinese Keris, Senjata Tradisional Keris Bali

The keris form a certain tilt angle when viewed from a horizontal line at the bottom of the blade (the ganja). This is a unique characteristic of the keris as an asymmetrical blade recognized by UNESCO. Keris is a noble culture, not only in Bali and Java, but also in several regions of Indonesia and even in neighboring countries such as Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Keris is seen as a noble hard object (metal) called "tosanaji". This noble blade is considered as a symbol of power and pride. This is an heirloom inherited from generation to generation. Keris is usually worn in special events such as wedding and other ceremonies.

In Javanese tradition, keris are tucked on the back. It has the philosophy that violence as the last resort. Everyone must prioritize harmony and discourage direct confrontation. During the wedding ceremony, the keris handle was decorated with jasmine garlands which meant that the groom should not be careless, irritable, impatient and rude.

A keris has aesthetic values such as: the dhapur (the shape and design of the blade), the pamor (the pattern of metal alloy decoration on the blade), and the tangguh (the age and origin of the Keris). The high aesthetic value in a Keris makes it a valuable collection item.

It is said that the initial keris prototype came from the Dongson Bronze Culture in Vietnam around 300 BC, and then spread to other parts of Southeast Asia. Furthermore, it is mentioned about the carving in the form of a dagger on the reliefs of Borobudur and Prambanan Temples, both of which were built in the 9th century AD.

Meanwhile, according to Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles's research (1817) on Candi Sukuh (15th century AD), states that the form of the keris known today came into existence around 1361 AD in the Kingdom of Majapahit, East Java. The Relief at Sukuh Temple tells about the workshop of Javanese keris blacksmith. This illustrates Bhima's figure as blacksmith forging the metal together with Ganesha and Arjuna.

Keris is an asymmetrical dagger with a unique blade-pattern called pamor. Generally, the keris can be divided into three parts: blade (bilah or wilah), hilt or handle (hulu), and sheath (warangka). These parts are often beautifully carved as a work of art.

The keris blade is called, "wilah" or "bilah". The shape (dhapur) can be wavy blade while the other is straight blade. "Luk" or "lok" is the number of curves on the blade and the number is always odd.

The shiny pattern on the blade is called "pamor", with dark iron as a background. The pamor motif is created from the process of forging the iron with nickel. Besides nickel, sometimes pamor is also obtained by using unusual materials such as meteorite.

The keris blade is divided into: wilah, ganja and pesi. The wilah is part of the dagger which is wavy or straight and has a certain shape (dhapur). On the base of the blade, there is metal part (has a hole), called the ganja. While the pesi is the bottom part of the Keris which is embedded in the hilt (hulu). The pesi is inserted into the ganja hole, so the wilah and the ganja are inseparable. This philosophically means unity between lingga and yoni.

The hilt or "hulu" is the handle of the Keris. This can be made from several materials such as rare wood, gold or ivory. This part is often carved, coated with gold, and decorated with beautiful precious stones.

While the "warangka" or Keris sheath is made of wood, sometimes it is also given a metal coating and carved with beautiful motifs.

Keris is usually made by Mpu or Empu Keris, the master craftsmen who have special expertise in forging a Keris. They are people who have knowledge, technical skills and also spiritual expertise.

Keris is said to contain elements from nature involved during the process of creation, including: water, wind, fire, earth (also interpreted as metal and wood), and spirit (soul). Some types of keris can be made in a relatively short time. However, a quality keris blade takes a long time or even years to complete.

Empu Keris did more than just forge metal (iron, nickel and steel), but also performed rituals to infuse mystical power. It is believed that some keris bring luck to their owners as it is believed to fertilize the land and provide an abundant harvest.

Empu Keris will be very careful in forging the blade and pay serious attention to the character and personality of the buyer. A keris must match the owner, otherwise it can create a disaster. Empu Keris is a profession which is passed down from generation to generation and they are highly respected by the community.

In Bali, Keris is considered a sacred heirloom and is believed to have a certain spiritual energy. Keris or Kadutan are usually purified during Landep Tumpek. This is a holy day dedicated to Ida Sang Hyang Widi Wasa in the manifestation as Sang Hyang Pasupati. This is a symbol of gratitude for the sharpness of mind and the ability to create weapons and other furniture for protection, safety and prosperity.

The keris will be brought from the holy room and opened from the warangka. The blade is washed with clean water, given lime juice, coconut water, and fragrant flower oil. Furthermore, the asymmetrical dagger is sheathed again, decorated with palm leaves complete with scarves. Keris is placed together with other weapons made of metal.

Furthermore, the offerings are placed complete with colorful flowers and fragrant incense. Then the prayers are vocalized and sprinkled with tirtha (holy water). The procession is complete, and the keris are returned to the holy room. The Tumpek Landep falls on Saturday or Saniscara Kliwon wuku Landep and is celebrated every 210 days or six months in the Balinese Calendar. This is a cultural heritage that continues to be preserved today.


  1. google.co.id
  2. wikipedia.org _ Kris _ on October 25, 2019
  3. Wijayatno, Waluyo; Sudrajat, Unggul. (2011). "Keris dalam Perspektif Keilmuan". Direktorat Jenderal Kebudayaan. ISBN 6029820311, 9786029820317. Retrieved October 22, 2019.
  4. Image : Original Collection

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1. Tumpek Landep

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