The keris hunt

I have always loved traditional art. It's is only now do I actually have my own spare funds to actually buy myself some of the things that as a boy I could only admire from afar. I have a small collection of traditional weapons that I don't think I should really share publically. A few years ago I joined Kenjutsu classes which is basically japanese sword play. It is one of the three disciplines that a Samurai warrior had to learn, the other two being Jujitsu (un armed grappling, locks & throws) and Karate (un armed kicks and punches). For Kenjutsu I bought myself a few wooden swords for training as I was told that they do tend to break after a few months of training. Naturally, my first real sharp bladed weapon was the Japanese sword or the Katana. I could only afford a Chinese made one but for now I think that's plenty good. I don't think I should spend alot on my hobbies, macam membazir pulak...

So, back to the topic. I finally have some spare funds to get me a nice keris. The keris is the traditional dagger of South East Asia (SEA). The first keris that were rocognisable as the keris that we know today were dated back to the Javanese Majapahit dynasties of the 14th century. The Keris' of the Malay peninsular followed suit not long after I guess though trade and intermarriage between the various kingdoms of SEA. Each region had then developed it's own style. I will do a piece specifically Keris' after I collect my own, hopefully very soon.

Though it is essentially a weapon, the modern day keris is collected and owned more for the artistic and antique properties. When the british came in the 19th century, they outlawed the keris and comfenscated them all. This brought rise to a new type of weapon called the badik which is another story altogether. Anyways, since admiring the Keris from afar and reading alot about it, one keris style really stood out and caught my eye. This keris is called the "Tajong" style keris, originally from the northeast of the Malay peninsular, probably first forged by the blacksmiths and woodcarvers of the Langkasuka and inherited through the kingdoms of Pattani and Kelantan. This is how a Tajong style keris looks like:


It's intricate carvings, imposing shape and design made it popular amongst the Malay rulers and was a symbol of authority and power hence it's role as a "keris kuasa" or in english, the keris of power. In the old days, only Sultans and rulers were allowed to own a Tajong keris and those who weren't and did were beheaded!

This tradition continues till today with the Tajong keris being part of the official regalia of the Yang Dipertuan Agung of Malaysia or Supream Leader/King of Malaysia. It is indeed the symbol of power of the King.


 The current Yang dipertuan Agong in his official regalia (left) and his "keris pendek" (right).

On his right hand is what is called the "Keris hukum". Its a type of "Keris panjang" or in english long keris. Keris' are essentially stabbing weapons and are useless for slashing though the sharpened blades could still cut. In martial arts, specifically Silat it is used as an extention of the arm during combat turing a punch into a deadly stab. So a long keris that is too long becomes clumsy and useless in combat. This fact explains the role of the long keris as a "keris hukum". Basically in the old times, the Sultan was the law. Everything he said was creed and when the decrees a punishment he will indicate with his long keris and for excecutions the excecutioner will use the long keris to excecute the unfortunate person. *warning! rather gory explaination coming up*. *The long keris was used by stabbing the poor guy who would be kneeling, from the top between the neck and the collar bone, pucturing the lungs and piercing the heart. This was a "cleaner" method of excecution than say, beheadings. as it would've been less bloody*
Sultan Mizan in his Terengganu state regalia, still with a Tajong keris and a long keris
Old times were very brutal indeed. Be thankful that we now live in modern days with the rule of law and a constitution to protect the rights of everyone. How do I know all this? Definately NOT through my parents! To them keris' are just full of mistical mumbo jumbo, jinns ands stuff that should be avoided at all costs. That maybe true of antique keris' but the modern day keris is collected mainly because of it's artistic value and craftsmanship. Some of the information above I learnt from a man I met through my "keris hunt". Which brings me back to my original story... I do tend to get carried away when talking about stuff don't I? 

So, I've been searching the net for people who sold keris', craftsmen who make them and collector alike. Most are not located in the Klang Valley so it was rather inconvenient for me. I don't like spending alot of money on something I don't get to touch and feel first. One day I can across this blog to a person by the name of Ab Majid Bujang, and I later found out that he is the President of the Persatuan Seni Purba Nusantara Selangor (PURBA) which when I met him is actually a keris collectors association of Selangor. The Registar of Societies prohibits the use of keris names in society saying that it is reserved for government use. If you noticed, most official emblems of Malaysia have a keris motive in it... for example:

The royal Malaysian Police emblem has a Keris and a sword at the back of the tiger's head
Ok, so I called up this guy and asked if he had any new Tajong keris' for sale and he said yeah. So i agreed to meet him at his office in Shah Alam yesterday after work. After some drama in the form of my car battery running flat, having jump started it, driving to a workshop and replacing the flat battery we proceeded to his house in section 19, Shah Alam. When we got there I was greeted by this: 
On the cupboard is his hilt collection. Its the biggest hilt collection I've ever seen and is a wonderful showcase of traditional malay woodcraft at it's very best.
He tells me that he has a collection of over 100 keris' both for sale and for his own collection. Based on what I saw I truely believe him. He showd me his most prized pieces, some costing more than RM20,000 each! I was very carefull when handling those! He showed me some of the keris of his own design too. He seems to like the Bugis type of keris from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. He says it's because the Bugis peoples were a fierce warrior people which i tend to agree with. Indeed even if you read the standard malaysian history textbook many of today's sultans and aristocrats are of Bugis descent as they fought their way to the upper echelons of Malay society.
His prized Bugis keris collection on his wall
He showd me the ones he had for sale, which I then chose the blade, which is usually  for the Tajong keris is of the "Pandai saras" design. Once I selected that, I got to choose the hilt which is true an impressive piece of art. I chose one that matched the colour of the "Sampir", the blade cover. Unfortunately, he didn't have a spare "pendokok", the metal piece between the hilt and the blade. That meant I'd have to wait a little longer to have my very own keris Tajong as he will have to source me a pendokok. We talked and he showed me his most prized posessions in his collection of keris until almost 9pm that night. In his eyes you can see the passion he has for kerises.
Abdul Majid showing me how to take care of a keris
 I finally bid him farewell, promising to see eachother again once he finds the Pendokok for my keris. 

While at his house, he showed me some of the books he had on the Keris. All written by Javanese authors. It's a shame that no one has written a detailed book on the Kerises of Peninsular Malaysia. Young people like me would find it very interesting indeed. Whilst going through the book I found this exact illustration:

The proper way to wear your Javanese keris

It showed how the Javanese keris is worn. Very different to how the Peninsular Malays brandish the keris. I then remembered how my brother wore his keris during his Javanese wedding which was just like this. Looks like his mak andam knew what they were doing. Many a times do you see a Javanese keris worn with a baju melayu at a Malay wedding worn wrongly.
Yes bro, you're wearing yr keris correctly!
Anyways, enough about Kerises today. Enjoy the weekend dear readers.