A kris naga sasra dagger




Indonesia, Bali


19th century


Forging, chiseling, chasing, inlaying, gem-setting


Steel, gold, silver, rock crystal, glass


Overall length 545 mm; blade length 427 mm

The pattern-welded blade features thirteen curves. The shape of the blade (dapur) is known as "naga sasra", which means "thousands of serpents". The surface pattern (pamor) is called "beras wutah" (or "wos wutah"), literally "scattered rice grains". Both the form and the decoration of the blade reflect a strong Javanese influence. Each side of the blade exhibits a crowned serpent chiseled in bas-relief and decorated with gold in the kinatah technique. The serpent’s head rests on a triangle (tumpal). The scaled body follows the curves of the blade from its base and almost to the tip. The part of the blade including the cross-piece (ganja) is decorated with a gold vegetal scroll design. This type of decoration is typical of Central Java, where is referred to as "kinatah emas kamarogan", if the gold design covers at least one third of the blade surface on each side. The typical Balinese figural hilt (togogan) depicts Ravana, the king of raksasa demons in Hindu mythology. Sitting Ravana holds in his right hand probably a precious vessel of amrita, the elixir of eternal life. The silver miniature figure (togog) is copiously inlaid with red-colored glass cabochons of various sizes and a single faceted rock crystal. The integral silver hilt cup (selut) and the silver hilt ring (mendak) are also inlaid with red-colored glass cabochons. No scabbard.

COMMENT. Kris is the specific asymmetrical thrusting dagger that is closely associated with the culture of Indonesia but also common in Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei, and the southern part of the Philippines. There are other local names for this peculiar weapon as well. The term "kris" is a European form of the Javanese word "keris", which in turn might have evolved from the Old Javanese "ngiris" meaning "to stab" or "to pierce". The kris was originated in Java probably around the 9th century and was common to the rest of the Malay Archipelago during the Majapahit era (1293-1520) through Javanese merchants and migrant craftsmen who contributed to the emergence of regional manufacturing centres and new styles. Although there are many kris variations, they all have common features. The most important and most valued part of the kris is the double-edged blade as a possessor of a certain magical power, which is related to its shape (dapur) and pattern (pamor). The relatively narrow blade features an asymmetrical wide base (sorsoran) and an integral but more often separate pointed cross-piece (ganja), which performs both protective and decorative functions. This feature distinguishes the kris from other types of edged weapons. The general shape of the blade can be either wavy (dapur luk) or straight (dapur lurus). The number of hilt forms is enormous, but almost all of them are curved and convenient for stabbing. The upper part of the scabbard, typically, is strongly expanded. Each part of the kris is an object of art and helps to characterize it in terms of origination, age, affiliation, and symbolic meaning. Apart from the surface pattern and the shape of the blade, the aesthetic value of the kris also includes the "tangguh" referring to its age and origin. The kris is not only an effective close combat weapon but also an important and inalienable element of Indonesian culture performing intricate practical, social and sacred functions.

Kris luk is the common name for the wave-bladed krises. The word "luk" means "curve". The number of curves on the kris blade is always odd and is varied from 3 to 29, but there may be more in practice. The last curve at the blade tip is sometimes difficult to distinguish. The maximum number of curves is 13 for "normal" blades, while the very rare blades with 15 or more curves were made in the past for individuals with outstanding physical or mental characteristics. The number of curves has a specific symbolic meaning. In addition, it is believed that the curves of the blade increase the severity of wounds inflicted upon a victim. A wavy blade dissects more blood vessels causing severe blood loss.

LITERATURE: 1) Сіваченко Є. Холодна зброя Сходу з колекції Олександра Фельдмана: [фотоальбом]. – Харків, 2009. – С. 47; 2) Сиваченко Е. Сталь и Золото: Восточное оружие из собрания Feldman Family Museum = Steel and Gold: Eastern Weapons from the Feldman Family Museum Collection. – Киев, 2019. – С. 590-591, №250.