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A ceremonial wedung knife

Number

M30.337

Origin

Indonesia, Bali

Time

19th century

Technique

Forging, casting, chasing, inlaying, gilding, carving, lacquer painting

Material

Steel, silver, brass, varnish, wood

Dimensions

Overall length (without scabbard) 436 mm; blade length 257 mm; scabbard length 634 mm

The heavy blade is made of plain steel with a straight spine and an S-shaped cutting edge. One side of the blade features a single narrow fuller surrounded by a silver-inlaid geometric design. The spine of the blade is inlaid with small brass plates and a brass stylized makara monster figure. The hilt is carved from black wood featuring an intricate pommel in the form of garuda mungkur meaning "garuda, facing backward". The pommel is partly lacquered in red and gold. The parcel-gilt silver hilt collar is decorated with a series of oval bosses to imitate gemstone cabochons. The kojongan style wooden scabbard is skillfully carved and painted with vegetal motifs. The upper part of the scabbard features a crowned serpent’s head. The reverse side of the scabbard depicts a mythological scene, most likely involving Sita and Anggada, the characters of the great Indian epic Ramayana.

COMMENT. Wedung is the traditional Javanese and Balinese large knife, which features a relatively short but broad and heavy blade with a straight spine and an S-shaped cutting edge. The ornate examples were used for ceremonial purposes, while simpler ones served mainly as working tools. Unlike the kris, which is exclusively a man's accessory, the wedung could be worn by both men and women. The ceremonial wedung style knives were usually decorated with stylized images of garuda, the legendary semi-divine bird or bird-like creature of Hindu and Buddhist mythology. It is portrayed either as a giant bird with partially opened wings, or as a man with wings and some other bird features. The garuda is considered an important deity of protection and a sworn enemy of serpents or nagas, hence its name, which means "devourer" in Sanskrit. According to Hindu tradition, the garuda is the king of birds and the vehicle (vahana) of the god Vishnu. In Buddhist mythology, the garudas are a race of enormous predatory birds of great intelligence and social organization. Like the nagas, they are among the lowest deities because they combine the characteristics of animals and divine beings. In Tantric Buddhism, the garuda is associated with counteracting certain diseases caused by nagas and destructive emotions or poisons. The garuda is the national symbol of Indonesia and Thailand.

LITERATURE: 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. 610-611, №260.