A kris parung sari royal dagger




Indonesia, Java (Surakarta)


17th century (blade); early 20th century (hilt and scabbard)


Forging, openwork carving, lacquer painting


Steel, silver, brass, diamonds, wood, lacquer


Overall length (without scabbard) 470 mm; blade length 372 mm; scabbard length 421 mm

The pattern-welded blade features thirteen curves. The shape of the blade (dapur) is known as "parung sari", which means "sinuous flower". The surface pattern (pamor) is called ngulit semangka, literally "watermelon skin". The hilt is carved from brown wood in the yudo winatan style, which is typical of Surakarta. The silver hilt cup (selut) is pierced with a floral design and inlaid with faceted diamonds. The small silver hilt ring (mendak) is girded by beaded friezes. The wooden scabbard has a wide upper part (warangka) in the gayaman kagok bancih style typical of Surakarta. It exhibits an opulent painted polychrome and gilt decoration called sunggingan. Each side depicts the coat of arms of the royal family of Surakarta or radya laksana, which was designed personally by Sultan Pakubuwono X (r. 1893-1939). The coat of arms is surrounded by a complicated "forest" design or alas alasan, involving various animal motifs. The narrow lower part of the scabbard (gandar) has a slotted cover or pendok blewah. The cover is lacquered in red, except for the slot on its obverse side showing a band of alas alasan design.

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.

This example represents a kris variation with a wavy blade called "kris luk". It comes from the royal palace of Surakarta, which is officially named Keraton Surakarta Hadiningrat. Both the coat of arms and the red colour indicate the very high status of its owner. The red lacquered pendok (pendok kemalo bang or pendok bang pangeranan) was the privilege of princes, namely sons and brothers of the sultan (susuhunan). In addition, there have been cases when such krises were used as royal gifts. For example, a kris with a similar scabbard was presented by Sultan Pakubuwono X to one of the Balinese rulers in 1928 (see Jessup, H.I. Court Arts of Indonesia. – New York, 1990. – P. 76).

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. 566-567, №238.