The Origin of the Keris

For my Golden Legacy column on Brunei Times tomorrow (Sunday), I will be publishing about the kris, the Malay dagger. The accompanying photograph is that of Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien with a kris tucked into his sinjang. This photograph was taken during His Majesty's Coronation in 1951. Please go and buy tomorrow's Brunei Times if you want to read more. In the meantime, a couple of paragraphs from tomorrow's column:-

What is the origin of the kris? No one is sure how the first kris came into being. There have been a number of tales, most of them supernatural. One story widely told in Brunei is of two brothers who went on a journey. One had a bamboo staff and the other a crude blade. Both weapons were given to them by their father. Both are said to possess supernatural powers and could turn into anything the brothers wished for.

One day, they came across a palace. They saw a beautiful princess weaving a piece of cloth on a loom. The first brother commanded his staff to turn into a bird so that it could fly and spy on her. The second brother commanded his blade to change into a venomous snake that bit the girl who fell into a deep coma.

The King tried everything to revive her but he could not. He grew so despondent that he announced that he would marry off his daughter to the person who successfully revives her. The second brother was the only one with the antidote, which he obtained from the magical kris, succeeded and the princess subsequently became his wife.

So, the craftsmen from that period drew inspiration from the tale and created a weapon that looked like the story. The kris that was invented is the one with the deadly blade sinuous like a snake, the hilt taking the form of the bird’s head and the sheath representing the loom into which the snake slithered into it.

The kris was also said to be of Javanese origin. In fact the word ‘keris’ is said to be a Javanese word and is derived from the word ‘ngeris’ meaning to stab or to pierce.


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