Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bali keris

Bali keris
The material culture of power is most perfectly represented by an object famous throughout the Malay archipelago: the keris. Keris instantiate particularly potent relations to the invisible world. They were, if anything, even more important in pre-colonial Bali.

Keris are long daggers, stabbing weapons suitable only for close combat. As objects, they are often spectacular. The longer edge of the upper part of the blade is frequently carved with curlicues, barbs or even figure. Silver and black damascene patterns along the length of the blades are created by beating altogether alternating layers of iron to bring out the design, called pamor. Many keris also have wavy blades, resembling flames or the sinuous motion of snake. The curves of the blade (luk), like the roofs of Balinese shrines, come in odd numbers. To compare keris blades and shrine roof is not whimsical, the blade keris is in certain ways a portable shrine, and in both instances, the greater the number, the higher the spirit that inhabits them.

During the days Balinese smiths still manufactured keris, their skills involved more than a knowledge of forges and bellows, every step of the process required the recitation of mantras and the making of offerings , before the keris was finally brought to life by means of ritual. Through these processes each keris was shaped to have a distinct “personality” – a distinct form of efficacy. To maintain a keris’s power requires a symbolic reproduction of its creation through a regular practice of making offerings. The day known as Tumpek Landep, Saturday-Kliwon in the week Landep (which means “sharp”), is sacred to metal object and weapons, especially keris. On that day, keris are taken down from their shrine, lovingly cleaned and rubbed with oil, purified with holy water and provided with offerings. The most important of these, the tebasan pasupati, the ingredients of which are entity red (the meat of a red chicken, red rice, red fruits, red pastries and a dab of chicken blood), recharges their “kesaktian”.
Bali keris
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