Secrets of Bali
by Jonathan Copeland
Probably nothing so embodies the mythological, spiritual, artistic and technical ideals of Balinese society as the kris. The kris is a long dagger with a blade, which is either straight, or curved like a snake.
It is held in high esteem and awe. They are among the world's greatest metalwork and have magical powers. Some krises are reputed to warn their owners of potential dangers.
Nickel is beaten into iron to form a blade with dark patterns. After forging, the resulting blade, due to the nickel "impurities" introduced, produces complex white patterns called pamor. There is a whole complex poetic vocabulary to describe the various types of pamor. Sometimes the Balinese sandpaper the blade eliminating all traces of pamor. The sheath is made of wood.
Balinese ironsmiths, who forge the krises, come from a special clan, called Pande. They are descendants of Brahma, the god of fire, and command great respect. They work with iron, which protects against evil.
Krises can have magical properties and protect their owners. It takes at least 10 days to make a simple kris.
Hilts and scabbards may be decorated with gold and silver scroll-work, ivory, rubies and rare woods. The curves are called luk and are always an odd number.
Once every Balinese year, on the day called Tumpek Landep, the Balinese make special offerings to krises.
To order: make sure pop ups are allowed.
Balinese Kris 1
Hilts or handles may be carved with demons, gods or birds. There is great diversity: humans, ancestors, wayang puppet figures, elephants, flowers, pillars, insects, parrot heads and many more. There is also a hybrid shape: a bird shaped like a human being.
Birds, such as the Garuda, perfectly complement the serpent blade. Birds are associated with the skies and the heavens, whereas the serpent is earth-bound. Together, symbolically, they represent the whole Universe.
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