The kris or keris is a unique dagger indigenous to Indonesia that has an asymmetrical blade and beautifully decorated handle traditionally used for self-defense purposes as well as hunting.
In this blog post, we will discover the history, features, and uses of these daggers.
Kris Knife Origin
The design of the kris dates back to Indonesia’s pre-Islamic history.
The kris started to be used in the island of Java to many parts of the archipelago of including Sumatra, Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa, South Sulawesi, Kalimantan, and Southeast Asia which are present-day Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, southern Philippines, and Southern Thailand.
These blades were worn daily and during special ceremonies, with heirloom blades being handed down through the next generations. The word kris literally means dagger while keris usually refers specifically to fixed blade types.
Usually, kris knives are steel daggers with serpentine-ridged or flame-shaped blades. A blade often has a double-edged damascene pattern in the steel, forged into the steel as pamor (patterns). The
The blade usually has wavy ridges called luks (grooves) which are said to enhance the sharpness of a blade.
Wooden handles are made from an all-natural material and are carved to depict a variety of images. The handle is often made of deer horn or animal bone, while rare expensive handles were made from gold or silver although most people today use plastic. The kris blade is attached to a base, known as “tangguh”, which serves not only as a handle but also bears the user’s personal characteristics or insignia.
Traditional carving tools, such as “watu” and “berang”, are used. The carver uses these tools to carve various figures on the handle. The most popular ones are animals like dragons, horseheads, tigers, elephants, snakes, and even rhinoceros.
There are two types of materials used to make kris sheaths: wood and ivory. Wooden ones are usually made from “tayuman” or “putat”, two types of tropical hardwood.
While the wood is not very durable, it is lightweight and easy to maintain. Ivory sheaths are more expensive than wooden ones as they were believed to be more precious because of their value and rarity.
Interestingly, a kris does not have to be used in combat. In fact, it is more commonly seen as an accessory hung on one’s belt or worn around the neck by warriors and common citizens alike.
However, if needed, a kris can serve both offensive and defensive purposes. It was also said that these weapons were used in ceremonies or even as arrangements for dowry payments.
Apart from being used by warriors, there were many other ways these weapons could be utilized. For instance, they were also used as adornments in royal costumes or marriage ceremonies.
In fact, kris slashes are still commonly found today among the decorative tattoos that Indonesians use to decorate their bodies. Unlike before where the people who bore these kris slashes were feared for having a particular power or influence, today they are regarded as symbols of honor and pride.
One important thing to note is that the kris can be more than just a weapon for self-defense or even a status symbol among royalty – it could also indirectly represent one’s wealth at one point in time, given that each piece is handmade with diamonds, gold and other precious stones attached to it.
Trivia: Kris was believed to possess magical powers. Most kris carvers were said to have been inspired by certain supernatural spirits when they carved their blades – a practice known as “kerambitan” in Malay.
In a nutshell, the kris knife is one of the most interesting and intricate weapons that you can find in Indonesia and Asia. The blade has a unique pattern, thus making its identity easily recognizable among other knives present out there.
Indeed, kris is more than just a tool. It is a physical manifestation of the rich culture and history of Asia.