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Photo Courtesy:History of Java, TS Raffles


Keris Information

(Information courtesy of Paul's  Keris Page)

The sections are described as below:

  1. Blade
  2. Details of the Blade
  3. Dapur
  4. Hilt
  5. Rings
  6. Sheath
  7. Pamor
  8. Pamor types
  9. Keris cleaning during Muharram


The blade is called the wilah in Javanese and mata in Malay.

The prototype keris is the Keris Majapahit or Keris Sajen.

Unlike modern day hilts, the hilt of the Keris Majapahit is forged

with the blade and always in the shape of a man, slightly crouching

with his arms tucked into his side.

Keris Majapahits have long been considered a talisman;

used more as a charm than as a weapon. Hence they have been

and still are being produced after the fall of the Majapahit

Empire. Most Keris Majapahit in existence today post-date the

Empire. Real old Keris Majapahit from the Empire period are

very rare. Keris Majapahit do not have a ganja and most do not

have a kembang kacang (these will be discussed in greater

detail later). Modern or fully evolved keris follow the

general pattern of Keris Majapahit, but with greater elaboration

 Details of the Blade

It is the details found at the bottom of the blade

that makes the keris a keris. The keris blade suddenly flares

asymmetrically out as it reaches the base at the tang. There

the blade meets the "Ganja", a separate piece of metal which is secured

firmly to blade by a special joint. The Ganja is taken from the

same billet as the blade in the early stages of forging. The Ganja is sharp

at one end and relatively blunt on the other; these features are called the

"Aring" and the "Degu" respectively.  The tang is fitted through

the Ganja and the Ganja is merged with the blade as smoothly as possible

such that sometimes it is not noticed as separate from the blade.

Many authorities use this Ganja as the definitive structure that

characterises a blade as a keris.

Other key features at the base of the blade are the Picitan,

the depression on the blade where the blade is held between

the thumb and the fore-finger; the kembang kacang, a feature above the

picitan to give protection to the thumb and the forefinger;

the sogogan, decorative groves at the base of the blade; and

saw-like serrations along both edges called either the

janggut, if above the kembang kacang, or ri-pandan if on

or above the Aring. The janggut and ri-pandan are actually

guards, designed to catch an opponent's blade and prevent it

from reaching the hand. However, there are no fixed rules on

whether these features must be present or what forms they



Apart from these distinctive features, the keris comes in

all shapes and sizes imaginable. The Indonesian term for the

shape of the blade is "Dapur". At last count, there are about

145 listed and identified Dapur. This doesn't include the variations

in-between. While the conventional view of a keris is that it is

wavy, straight blades abound. The waves or "luk" are

always odd in number when counted in the traditional way; the

first luk starts above the picitan, and the second on the alternate side

of the blade and on and on till the tip. Some of the common dapur

are  Sempana  (7 luk) or Sangkelat (13 luk). Some blades,

have a lion or singa, snake or naga, or a praying man or pendita

instead of having a kembang kacang. The names of the dapur of

these blades follow the motive they have like Singabarong

or Nagasasra.


The hilt of a keris is a sculpture in miniature. It is mostly carved

from wood but every conceivable material can be used from horn to ivory

to silver or gold and even fossilized mammoth tooth and Tridacna shell.

Designs, however, tend to be traditional and 20th century innovations are

rare. Keris hilts descend from lifelike representations of a man. Islamisation

has caused the evolution of the original hilts into very abstract

representations where the barest outline of a man can be discerned. Only in

Bali, which remains Hindu, do you see lifelike representations of man, gods

and beast.

In Javanese, the hilt is called Ukiran while in Malay it is called Hulu.

Unlike most other blades, the hilt is not always permanently affixed to the blade.

It is secured to the blade by a strip of cloth, string or hair that is wrapped

round the tang and then inserted into the hilt. The tightness of the fit is

controlled by how much cloth you wrap round the tang. This has two

advantages; it allows the hilt to be turned to allow it to have the best

match to shape of the hand, and to allow the hilt to be changed and

varied according to the economic situation of the owner.

Sometimes a resin is used to secure the hilt to the blade. The resin,

when cold, solidifies into a strong adhesive but with heat, it softens and

allows the blade to be removed. A firm fit yet easy removal of the

hilt is possible with this resin. Many are of the view that this was the

traditional way of securing the hilt to the blade and the use of

cloth or hair is a recent development.

A working knowledge of hilt design can help you place where a

keris is from. In Central and East Java, most keris hilts are the abstract

seven plena hilts. North Java has its own keris hilt forms. In Cirebon, the

main hilt form is that of a squatting long haired demon or raksasa.

Madura has a stylised human form that is heavily decorated with foliage

either inscribed, pierced or in relief; one form maintaining the

profile of a man, another deviating away somewhat.  Madura hilts have added

much Dutch influenced designs such as epaulettes, crowns, coat-of-arms,

helmets. One particular attractive Madura form is the "corn-cob", also heavily

decorated with foliage.

In Sulawesi, Sumatra and Malaya, the main form is the Jawa Demam;

the "Fevered Javanese". Many believe that it is an abstraction of the

Garuda because of its beak like projection. However, there is strong

evidence that it is an abstraction of a man as more primitive examples

clearly shows hands, feet and teeth which the Garuda lacks. If you study

early forms of the Java Demam from Palembang and Tegal, you will notice

that the "beak" is actually an elongated nose. The abstraction of the

Jawa Demam varies from highly stylised as in the case of Patani

and Palembang hilts to highly abstract in the Malay or Bugis form.

In Perak, there is a hilt form, which I think is a recent development;

a hilt in the form of a parrot. In Moro or Sulu pieces, the 'cockatoo'

pommel is well known. Some Riau sundangs have similar pommels, though

some have realistic representation of a parrot's head rather than a stylised

figure. The Perak Parrot hilt could have developed from this.

In Bali, you find a whole range of hilts from figural representations

of Demi Gods to the intriguing 11 chequered hilts to functional plain

hilts with hair wrapped around it. Balinese hilts are larger

than most and more erect given that the Balinese keris blade is

longer and larger than most and used for cutting and stabbing.

 Hilt Rings

A unique part of the hilt section of a keris is the ring or cup

that comes between the hilt and the blade.  In Javanese pieces, the ring

and cup are separate pieces, although sometimes they are glued or

welded together. The ring is called mendak, while the cup is called selut.

The mendak and selut can in itself be a work of art. The highest quality

are embedded with precious stones and made from gold. The same

practice applies to Balinese pieces

The Malay version is called the Pendongkok. It usually comes in one

piece either as a flat cup or a cup with the stem fixed to it. Pendongkoks

come mainly in brass or silver, sometimes ivory. Again the high quality is

made from gold but this rare because of adat restrictions. Most "gold"

pendongkoks are actually gilded silver. Many are decorated with granules

and filigree. Seldom do we see one with precious stones like that of

Bali and Java.

The rings and cups symbolizes the lotus; a link to the

Buddhist past of the Malay people. It is common practice in the

Malay and Sumatran Pendongkok to find lotus motives used as

decoration and the pendongkok itself decoratively divided into

eight panels or sections, a stylised version of the eight petal


There is a purpose to the rings. They are constructed to provide

gradual incline tapering towards the base of the blade. This allows for

a comfortable grip of the keris for the forefinger and thumb, facilitating

the effective handling of the weapon.

 The Sheath

Like the hilt, the sheath of a keris varies from region to region

but there is a common design among the varying styles. The sheath

comprises a large cross-piece and a stem, which makes it look like a

capital T. The cross-piece is called a wrangka in Javanese

and sampir in Malay. The cross-piece is designed to take the flaring

base of the keris but on the practical side, it does away with a special

brace for carrying the keris as you just have to insert the keris into

one's sash or belt and the cross-piece provides a stable anchor.

Most of the regional difference are seen in the design of the

wrangka. In the Balinese and Javanese keris, the wrangka comes

in basically two forms, the Ladrang and the Gayaman.

In the Ladrang, the upper ends of the wrangka curl up while the

lower ends curve inward towards the stem making it look like a boat

with a swirling bow and stern. The Gayaman is flat and somewhat

oblong, like an elongated hamburger. In the Javanese gayaman, one

can still make out the outline of a boat, particularly the Gayaman

design Jogyakarta.

The boat is most clearly seen in the Palembang wrangka. It does

not take a lot of imagination to see the bow, stern, and the keel in

the wrangka.

The Malayan wrangka, or sampir, is squarish or rectangular in

shape. It has very slightly upturn edges and an inward curve on the

lower edge on one side. This corresponds to the bow of a boat.

There is a belief that the wrangka or sampir is a representation

of the moonboat of Malay/Javanese legends but it could be a legacy of

fact that the Malay race, from its earliest times, is a sea-faring people.

The sheaths are in the main made of wood. Special woods with

attractive grains are chosen. The kind of wood used and its grain

is believed to have magical properties which contain or restraint the

power of the keris. Hence old keris sheaths invariably have wood

in them. Old sheaths of silver and gold are actually wooden sheaths,

covered in sheet metal. Sheaths made entirely of metal, bone, or

ivory are new developments, most likely to please foreign tourists.

In Java and Bali is Timoho or Pelet (Kleinhoven Hospita Linn).

Teak Gembol or Jati and Sono (don't know the botanical names here)

are also popular. In Malaya and Sumatra, the premier wood is

Kemuning (Murraya Paniculata Jack). In Bali, so important is Pelet

wood that even if there is a gold sleeve made for the stem,

there would be a window or two to show the wood. Most times

the metal sleeve would be restricted to the rear of the sheath so

that the entire front portion is exposed. Only in rare exceptions or

relatively new pieces is the Bali sheath completely covered sheet


Sheaths sometimes come in metal sleeves of brass, white metal,

silver or gold. This is particularly so for Javanese pieces.

In Java, the metal sleeve is called pendok. It comes in two main

forms; the bunton, which is a full metal sleeve or the blewah

which has a section almost the length of the sleeve about 8mm wide?

cut out in the front. This is to allow the wood of the sheath to

be displayed.

In Malaya, the sleeve is called the slorok. While the full

slorok is common, it is almost impossible to find one with a cut

like the Javanese blewah. So to show off the wood beneath the slorok,

the Malays fit the slorok in sections either two or three so that the

wood will be exposed between sections.


The most striking feature of the keris is the damascene or "Pamor".

Pamor is formed because the keris is not made from a homogenous

piece of metal but a combination of iron, steel and iron with a

high nickel content. The iron gives the keris its body, and the steel

its cutting edge. It is the nickel that gives the blade its pamor.

The pamor is brought out and made visible through a process of

washing the finished blade in a solution of arsenic and lime juice.

Base iron turns black in such a solution while the nickel remains

unaffected. Smiths or Emu (a term of respect) have learnt and

mastered the art of laying out nickel and directing the forging to

give a desired pamor. So advanced is the skill now that you can

order a blade with your name or a Koranic text in pamor.

 Pamor Types

There are basically two classes of pamor; flat "mlumah" and

vertical "miring".

Pamor mlumah lies parallel to the flat of the blade such that

if you run a finger on a blade with Pamor Mlumah, it is relatively

smooth to the touch. Common mlumah pamor are Kulit Semangka

(Watermelon Skin), and Beras Wutah (Scattered Rice Grains).

Other varieties are Bendo Sedago and Uler Lurut.

Pamor Miring, on the other hand, raises up perpendicularly or

diagonally from the flat of the blade. If you run a finger down a blade

with Pamor Miring, you will feel like your finger is going over many

tiny ridges. Most of the elaborate pamor are of the Miring class like

Blarak Ngirid (Coconut Fonds) and Ron Genduru or Bulu Ayam

(Rooster's feathers).

Aside from this, there is also a concept of "willed" and "fated"

pamor. "Willed" or Pamor Rekan refers to pamor designs that are

pre-planned. "Fated" or Pamor Tiban is pamor left to chance, or to

the grace of God, in the process of forging. Most Pamor Tiban are of

the Mlumah class. They have very strong spiritual connotations. Some

come is shapes of animals, or a star or a circle in an unexpected

place. The most powerful are those that resemble a man.


Muharram is the traditional time of the year in the Muslim calendar

when keris owners in South-East Asia would ritually clean their blades.

Muharram is the first month of the Muslim year. In this regard, it is linked

to new life or rejuvenation. In Java, Muharram coincides with Suro which is

the Javanese Keris cleaning month.


Pamugaran Gallery follows the traditions of Javanese culture and

 adheres to the practice, and the conduct, of the ritual cleansing ceremony conducted

at the Kraton (palace) of the Sultan of Yogyakarta in Central Java, Indonesia.


Cleaning a Keris is not just a matter of maintenance. There is a mystical

aspect behind the need to clean a Keris. The idea is to rejuvenate the

pamor and breathe new life into the Keris. In Javanese culture the Keris holds

a special place of significance for a number of reasons. There is a belief in the

spirit of the Keris and it is the owners responsibility to ensure that the spirit

remains with the Keris. For this reason the spirit needs constant care and attention

 otherwise its power will be depleted and possibly lost. A ritual cleaning is one

of the ways to rejuvenate the power of the Keris.

Hence some collectors bring their Keris for cleaning even though they are

rust free and their pamor in good shape.