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Old 12th July 2021, 08:25 AM   #1
jagabuwana
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Default Keris from Garut with Quranic inscriptions

Here is a photo of a keris taken by Isidore van Kinsbergen, in the Rijksmuseum collection (source: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/collec...-F-2005-159-12)

The description is as follows:
Kris (keris) ornamented with a veiled Durga, acting as the goddess of the netherworld, ready for frightening a victim to death; probably inscribed with a Koran verse in Arabic script. Garut, Garut district, West Java province, 18th century.
In case it helps spur some discussion, some questions:

* When did Quranic inscriptions start appearing on keris?

* Why do you think we don't see more examples of old keris with overtly
Muslim features given the importance of Islam in the royal courts of Java

* Does anyone know anything more about this specific keris that can be shared?

* How likely is it that this a well-kept keris buda which had been added to?

* Is there anything to be made about this keris, such as if it is one that we would expect to be fine and expensive in its time?
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Old 12th July 2021, 01:16 PM   #2
A. G. Maisey
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The deity Durga has had a bad rap from too many people for too long.

I am not going to attempt to set that straight, I am going to ask anybody who might happen to read what I am now writing to put in just a few minutes and by using only internet resources try to determine exactly who Durga is and why she is so important to followers of Hindu beliefs.

This should not take any more than five or ten minutes and it just might give you a much improved understanding of many things. A short time spent reading, a much longer time spent thinking and you might even start to wonder about the "Veiled Durga" that even supposedly well educated museum staff seem to be so fond of wheeling out on occasion to make little children shudder.

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Old 12th July 2021, 02:12 PM   #3
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It's as if the way Durga is described here by the Rijksmuseum is closer to a narrow and probably wholly erroneous perception of Kali. Though I don't think that was the understanding or intention behind the author and it seems that they hadn't put much thought into it (although they should have).

I do wonder if that description of Durga is derived from the photographer's contemporaneous notes or impressions. It would make far more sense if that were the case because the reading is tinged with what you might expect of a person or institution who'd be inclined to view Javanese culture as an "exotic" one. Another way to describe it might be orientalist in the Edward Said sense.

I actually almost completely passed over how they chose to describe Durga and chose more to question whether the figure is actually Durga, before quickly putting that question to bed pretty quickly in my own mind because it's not a question that was as interesting to me at the time of posting. But in my studies I do intend to better understand the figures that are commonly represented in and on krisses, along with why they are represented.

I'm glad you had paid more attention to this than I did if only to encourage us to understand Durga in a way that is more truthful and thoughtful. Thank you Alan.
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Old 12th July 2021, 04:31 PM   #4
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I'm not sure that Jagabuwana's questions were focusses on the Durga hilt so much as they are on the blade. We have certainly spent a bit of time on this forum discussing these hilts, but they have always been a bit inconclusive.
More than researching Durga in Hinduism i think perhaps the focus needs to be more specific; that is Durga in Indonesia (and perhaps specifically Jawa and Bali as i don't believe i have seen these Durga hilts from any other areas). Hinduism in the Mojopahit Empire (and subsequently in Bali) has its own unique character. I don't claim to have a complete understanding of it, but think it should be noted that what might be true for Hinduism in India might well be different in Jawa and Bali. Durga certainly went through some changes when she reached what is now Indonesia.
Durga is a diety that has many aspects. Some traditions refer to the Navadurgā (nine forms of Durga). Though even when she has a terrible and destructive aspect i believe the intention was always that those powers were to be used against demonic forces to combat evil. She is also associated with protection, strength and motherhood. So i am not so sure her intention is to scare the little children.
But in Java and Bali, Durga became associated with Calon Arang and the widow Rangda who became a devotee of Durga. The emphasis in this legend is placed upon a more terrible aspect of the goddess. In a sense we see a demonization of the goddess in this case as the witch Rangda becomes not just associated with Durga, but is seen as an aspect of her.
There are at least 135 know statues of Durga erected at temples throughout Indonesia. I find it interesting that none of them represent this "veiled" aspect that appears in this particular hilt form. Nor do these Durga hilts display any of the known attributes or associations that are traditionally connected with Durga. This doesn't mean that these hilts are not meant to depict some aspect of the goddess, but it does raise questions in my mind. I have attached a few statues of Durga. I believe these might all originate in Jawa. I have never seen this "veiled" aspect depicted anywhere else but in these particular keris hilts from Jawa and Bali.
But none of the questions you asked were about the hilt.
* When did Quranic inscriptions start appearing on keris?
Good question that i don't know the answer to beyond, of course, some time after the fall of the Mojopahit. But i must say that i always approach keris with Quranic inscriptions with a skeptical eye. While i am sure such inscription were at times applied legitimately, i have seen many, many more that seem to have been added at some later date to make a keris appear more, rare, sacred, desirable, etc. for the marketplace. I have never thought that was the case with this particular keris however.

* Why do you think we don't see more examples of old keris with overtly
Muslim features given the importance of Islam in the royal courts of Java

Again i do not know for sure. As i just mentioned, i don't believe there are a lot of legitimate old keris with such features on them. The keris was kept and incorporated into Islamic culture relatively unchanged in form. Many aspects of that form have the features of the original Hindu symbolism intact. These aspects (naga, ron dha, etc.) weren't physically changed, though the original philosophies towards them may have been reinterpreted. Perhaps it was just considered such a venerated and sacred object that adding overtly Islamic features was not considered necessary, especially if they could be looked at and become inclusive of Islamic thinking.

* Does anyone know anything more about this specific keris that can be shared? Someone must. LOL! This is an old photograph (turn of the century 1900?) and i don't believe i have ever seen any other photos of it. Does anyone even know where this beautiful keris is today?

* How likely is it that this a well-kept keris buda which had been added to? Well, given the time-frame of the photograph it certainly wasn't added recently. LOL! I suppose it is quite possible it was added after the fact of the original manufacture. Hard to say when that would have been though. You say well kept, which i suppose it is to some extent. But i am not convinced this keris buda was created in the original time-frame for that form. It seems to have a nice old mendak, not the methuk that we would see with original keris buda. I suspect that this keris may well have been created in Islamic Jawa. Exactly when or just how old it was when photographed is an open question.

* Is there anything to be made about this keris, such as if it is one that we would expect to be fine and expensive in its time?
To my non-expert eye this is a finely made, beautifully formed example of this form. I wouldn't image it would have been cheaply made in its time.
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Old 12th July 2021, 09:49 PM   #5
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This Keris is a heirloom called Ki Dongkol, and is quite popular among a certain group of people (besides Keris enthusiasts), because it was the "personal" Keris of the leader of Darul Islam, Maridjan Kartosoewirjo.

After his death it was apparently given back to the family it came from, and should still be with this family in Suci, Garut.

Kinatah is in a style, which can be attributed to 16th cent. perhaps slightly earlier. I don't think, the blade is older than that.
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Old 13th July 2021, 12:13 AM   #6
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Hullo Jagabuwana,

I think the above item used to be owned by Adjengan Tjinoenoek / Pangeran Papak / R. Wangsa Moehammad.
If so, part of the inscription should read: "la ikraha fiddin" (there is no compulsion in religion).
If you're REALLY interested in the above item, you'll need to get in touch with his descendants or foundation in Suci/Cinunuk.
BTW ..... The item forms part of a couple, the other half being the sword Ki Rompang.
Hope it's of help.

Best,

Last edited by Amuk Murugul; 13th July 2021 at 12:34 AM. Reason: added info
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Old 13th July 2021, 12:56 AM   #7
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This family traces itself back to Sunan Cipancar/Sunan Pancer, born ca. 1510. Similarly to the Majapahit/Demak connection, the tradition says he was related to Pajajaran royal family.

Mid 16th cent. could be quite acceptable for this Keris.
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Old 13th July 2021, 01:52 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gustav View Post
This family traces itself back to Sunan Cipancar/Sunan Pancer, born ca. 1510. Similarly to the Majapahit/Demak connection, the tradition says he was related to Pajajaran royal family.

Mid 16th cent. could be quite acceptable for this Keris.
Hullo Gustav,

R. Wangsa Moehammad was the 7th.-generation descendant of Soenan Tjipantjar.
Soenan Tjiipantjar / R. Widjaja Koesoemah II (GalihPakwan - Limbangan) was the great-grandson of Silih Wangi III / Sri Badoega / R. Pamanah Rasa (Soenda-Galoeh, Pakwan Padjadjaran).

Best,
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Old 13th July 2021, 02:10 AM   #9
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Frankly, this keris and the associated stories are not of any particular interest to me personally. Probably some people might find this to be a strange attitude for me to have, and I have no intention of going into my reasons for this attitude.

But the hilt and description is of interest to me. This "veiled Durga" thing has been a stone in my shoe for a long time. It is to the best of my knowledge a totally westernised appellation.

In Central Jawa the craftsmen who were carving this hilt form between 1970 and 2014 named this hilt as "wadon" = "female".

The name that is supposedly more correct is "balu makabun" = "a widow who is left with daughters" (Balinese); in Balinese "balu" is a contraction of "balung", a widow or widower; however, again Balinese, if we change "kabun" to "kebun" (also kebon) the meaning can be understood as "widow + garden", so this then gets (badly) translated as "widow in a garden". But "kebun" has another meaning too, used as an adjective:- dirty, foul, untidy, covered in filth. So if the spelling (and pronunciation) becomes "balu mekabun" it gets (badly) translated as "filthy widow".

But the problem with all these translations that understand "makabun" as something to do with a garden is that "dikebun" is "in a garden" & "berkebun" is gardening, but in Bahasa Indonesia. If the "ma----" becomes "me-----" (mekebun/mekebon) it makes no sense to a native speaker of Balinese nor of Javanese.

"Makabun" must be understood as a word that when combined with "balu", ie "balu makabun" can only be understood as " a widow left with daughters"; a widow left with sons is "balu makarang".

But if we look at the word "kabun", what we find is that "kabunbunan" (look at the composition of the word :- ka-bun-bun-an) we have a word that is derived from "bun", "bun" = a climbing plant, a plant that grows upwards and covers the thing it is growing on. In Balinese "kabunbunan" = a cloth worn by women as a wrapping that covers head and chest.

The prefix "ma" in Balinese has a number of uses, in formal speech it is pronounced "mah", in colloquial speech it is pronounced "me", and combined with other words and in standard phrases it acquires a meaning only in that phrase.

Now we can come back to "balu", in Balinese "balu" is an alternative way of referring to Rangda.


David is correct when he points out that Durga was understood in a different way in Jawa/Bali during the East Jawa period, and then he mentions Calon Arang. Calon Arang was a widow, she was also a dukun (witch) who specialised in black magic, & she had a daughter (as often is the case in folk tales, a beautiful daughter).

Within the elite circles of kraton society it seems that Durga was understood in the mainstream Hindu way during the East Jawa period, but within the populace outside elite circles Durga seems to have been understood in a different way, this was probably due to the general populace being totally ignorant of the tantric practices that were favoured by the elites. Understanding of tantric ritual is secret, outsiders can have no true understanding of it.

So we have two different understandings of Durga in East Jawa/Bali at that time. A misunderstanding that appears to have been generated by the secrecy of tantric practices and consequent ignorance of the population who were excluded from elite society.

Over time and with the influence of Islam that misunderstanding has been picked up by more outsiders and what we have now is just one hell of a mess that has caused impenetrable ignorance.

So look at this "balu makabun" again.

Do we have a contraction of "balu makabunbunan" = "a widow wearing a cloth wrapping over chest and head"?

What class of the populace understood Durga in an incorrect way?

What class of the populace had the entitlement to wear keris and to create keris dress forms?

Why do native speakers of Balinese and Javanese not understand the popular "balu mekebun"?

Finally, exactly what does this "balu mekabun" look like? Perhaps she looks something like a woman with a wrapping that comes up the body & covers her head?

Importantly, what does this hilt form represent?
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Old 13th July 2021, 04:34 AM   #10
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Gustav, thanks very much for this detailed shot of the blade. For some reason i have had a difficult time finding hi-rez photographs of this keris on line that allow for the detailed enlargement you have provided.
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Old 13th July 2021, 08:14 AM   #11
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David - thank you for your adding your thoughts on this. I should note that while my questions didn't relate to the hilt, I really do welcome any relevant discussion about this keris. Between you and Alan, you have given me much more to study and think about when it comes to Durga and the representation of other deities or otherworldly beings.

Gustav and Amuk - thank you both for adding some history and provenance to this keris. Knowing this enriches my understanding about this particular keris.

Alan - Thank you for your analysis of the linguistics and the history, and especially for the questions that you raised. It has caused me to think about what you had written for longer than I might have initially. For someone like me who is early in their keris education, focused questions like these are really helpful to help shape and steer my thinking with regards to the knowledge presented.

I will share my answers to these questions, for the sake of continuing this discussion and as a way of advancing my own learning. If you're inclined to, I would of course be grateful for your correction, or perhaps more valuably, more questions to ponder.

Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey View Post
So look at this "balu makabun" again.

Do we have a contraction of "balu makabunbunan" = "a widow wearing a cloth wrapping over chest and head"?
I can only agree, though maybe accept is a better word. Agreement would imply that I had preexisting views on this that matched or reconciled with yours but that is not the case.

Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey View Post
What class of the populace understood Durga in an incorrect way?

What class of the populace had the entitlement to wear keris and to create keris dress forms?
Well, it would seem that non-elites and particularly those populations who didn't have access to Tantric knowledge and practices are those who understood Durga in an incorrect way. But is this saying that they don't understand Durga entirely, even without consideration for Durga as represented on a keris? Or is it saying that non-elites do not and can not understand Durga when it comes to what Durga represents when selected as a figure on keris fittings, and why Durga is chosen as a deity to represent?

As for the second question in this block, it is the elites or keraton classes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey View Post
Why do native speakers of Balinese and Javanese not understand the popular "balu mekebun"?

Because the me prefix does not make sense to a native Javanese or Balinese speaker, but I don't understand why this point was made and why the question was asked. Is it because there is a popular but incorrect idea that this hilt form is called and/or pronounced balu mekebun (which is linguistically nonsensical), instead of the correct and linguistically sensical balu mekabun

Edits added 8pm AEST: critical typos corrected


Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey View Post
Finally, exactly what does this "balu mekabun" look like? Perhaps she looks something like a woman with a wrapping that comes up the body & covers her head?
Yes the hilt shown does resemble a woman with kabunbunan. I can see this clearly when it comes to a cloth that wraps the body, but not so much the head. I say that only to highlight my unfamiliarity with these hilt forms and thus unsure of what I am seeing, not as a refutation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey View Post
Importantly, what does this hilt form represent?
This I find most difficult to answer. But in thinking about this, then at this point I am led to believe that it is incorrect to identify the figure represented by this hilt as Durga. But this hilt form does more generally represent the feminine, and specifically a "widow left with daughters". If the keris proper, i.e. the wilah is the masculine, and specifically symbolic of Siwa and the linggam, then perhaps hilt form represents its female, fertile partner.

Last edited by jagabuwana; 13th July 2021 at 11:10 AM.
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Old 13th July 2021, 09:52 AM   #12
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David, the old links I posted 11 years ago are still working, a wonder in the age of internet.

http://www.geheugenvannederland.nl/?...:1403-3790-37B

http://www.geheugenvannederland.nl/?...unt=1&wst=kris
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Old 13th July 2021, 11:17 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Amuk Murugul View Post
Hullo Gustav,
R. Wangsa Moehammad was the 7th.-generation descendant of Soenan Tjipantjar.
Soenan Tjiipantjar / R. Widjaja Koesoemah II (GalihPakwan - Limbangan) was the great-grandson of Silih Wangi III / Sri Badoega / R. Pamanah Rasa (Soenda-Galoeh, Pakwan Padjadjaran).
Best,

Amuk Murugul, thank you.
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Old 13th July 2021, 01:50 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gustav View Post
David, the old links I posted 11 years ago are still working, a wonder in the age of internet.

http://www.geheugenvannederland.nl/?...:1403-3790-37B

http://www.geheugenvannederland.nl/?...unt=1&wst=kris
Thank Gustav. Yes, i just recently heard an interesting report on what is known as "link rot". Apparently everything posted on the internet doesn't really stay there forever as they have always been telling us.
But when i went to the links you provided it still gave me their main page and i had to search under "kris" to find this image. I copied the link to the actual item again. lets see if this takes us directly there. I find it interesting that these photos of both sides of this kris still seem to be the only searchable photos of this fairly well known keris.
Also interesting that this photo is even older than i previously suspected, apparently dated to 1863-64.
https://geheugen.delpher.nl/en/geheu...A1403-3790-37A
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Old 13th July 2021, 02:07 PM   #15
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Yes, van Kinsbergen is very important for the early photography in Java. This beautiful book is a must

https://www.worldcat.org/title/isido.../oclc/64626523

you easily will find it on abebooks or amazon. This is where I first saw the Keris.
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Old 13th July 2021, 11:44 PM   #16
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Jaga, I do not yet have any solid answers to give you. I asked questions in the hope that somebody might carry out some serious research and also have the time to think. The simple truth is that I have too many irons in the fire and cannot give all the questions that are spinning in my mind adequate attention.

The questions are there to generate ideas. Just that.

However, I might be able to move just a little further on a couple of points.

The "balu makabunbun" idea seems to me to be something that might have come after the event, that is, the figure was created, and when it was created the creator had a clear idea in his mind in respect of what he had created, however, some time after the creation this figure was described by someone as "balu makabunbun". But why choose a widow? Why not just a woman?

However, if we start with the idea of "a widow", we have the phrase "balu makabun", and that name does not relate in even the slightest degree to the form of this figure, that name is not a description, it tells us something that we cannot see just by looking at the figure:- a widow is involved.

We can clearly see that this figure is female. What we cannot know without the name is that it is a widow, not only a widow, but a widow who has lost her husband and is left with daughters. So then the question becomes:- "which widow"? Well, it cannot be Durga, because Durga is not married, never having had a husband, she had none to lose. Some people regard her as the "eternal virgin", but then, how can that be when she had four children? These were her spiritual children:- Ganesha, Kartikeya, Saraswati & Lakshmi. So if this hilt form is truly named as a widow, ie "balu", it most certainly cannot be Durga.

The function of a keris hilt is to protect the shrine that is the keris, so whatever widow this might be, she is fulfilling a protective function.

How many candidates are there?

It seems that we need a widow who has daughters.

Durga is an incarnation of Parvati, as is also Kali, Parvati is the sakti (energy/power ) of Siwa. When Siwa is calm the sakti is Parvati, when Siwa is angry the sakti is Durga, when Siwa is ferocious the sakti is Kali. Siwa is empowered to exercise the particular aspect of Himself through his sakti. In Tantric rituals it is possible for Durga and Kali to become mixed.
In Jawa Durga was worshipped primarily as a protective goddess and the principal goddess of Saivism (the worship of Siwa), she is also the goddess of fertility, and this aspect overlaps the pre-Hindu goddess of fertility, Dewi Sri.

The relationship between the Jawa/Bali folk character Calon Arang & Durga is that Calon Arang worshipped Durga with performance of the Tantric marana ritual, performance of this ritual gives the worshipper the powers of the god worshipped. One of Durga's powers is the ability to spread disease, this was the power that Calon Arang wanted in order to punish the people of Erlanga's kingdom for being afraid to marry her daughter. So at this point, when Calon Arang gained Durga's power to spread disease many simple people were confused as to just who was responsible, was it Calon Arang, or was it Durga? Over time the two merged, but only in uneducated popular belief.

Durga was not a widow left with daughters, but Calon Arang gained her powers and Calon Arang was a widow with a daughter.

Rangda is an incarnation of Calon Arang. The meaning of the word "rangda" is "widow". In Bali many people believe that Rangda can exercise a protective function. To understand this we need to recognise that good & evil are present in all creation, evil occurs when the balance turns in that direction.

To my mind Calon Arang seems to fit into the Balu Makabun frame pretty nicely:- widow + daughter. But maybe it is really Calon Arang after she has gained the powers of Durga and as her Rangda incarnation. Never Durga, but an aspect of Durga present in Calon Arang and incarnated as Rangda.

Why is the hilt figure's head covered, or veiled? Perhaps because Calon Arang --- or Rangda --- has gained the powers of Durga, but she is not Durga:- the powers are there, but who is wielding them?

Then we have Queen Mahendradatta.

The above is just a rough sketch of the ground that we have to work with. I have covered it with hypotheticals, as I have said, I have no answers, only ideas and questions.
~~~~~~~~~~~~
Durga in Jawa between tenth century & fifteenth century. Within the courts mainline Hindu belief was followed with Durga in a protective persona and as the slayer of the asura Mahisasura. Those outside the courts, the lay people, understood Durga as a raksasi. People who study this sort of thing tend to believe that this erroneous understanding was generated by lack of knowledge of the Tantric rituals engaged in by the elites.
~~~~~~~~~~~~
Confusion. The balu makabun/mekabun/mekebon/mekebun confusion probably arises from two sources, in Balinese formal speech the pronunciation of "makabun" is with a distinct "a", in colloquial speech the "a" becomes an "e", even though the word itself does not alter. A person who is not a native speaker of Balinese would note the word in accordance with what he hears, if that person is not Balinese it would be natural to understand the "kabun" --- which spoken colloquially will sound like "kebun" or even "kebon" --- as "garden", and he will construct his understanding based upon this. So, we get the "widow in a garden" idea.
It is I believe a construction from outside of Bali.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Iconography. As to what this female hilt style represents, I doubt that we will ever really know. Perhaps a few thoughtful hypotheses might open an avenue of thought that could result in a defensible interpretation of the form.
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Old 13th July 2021, 11:53 PM   #17
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David. I threw in the "scare little children" thing as light relief, however, it is not all that far from reality. Bear in mind that the common people of a society do not have the same understandings that the educated people have, in Balinese terms, this would be Sudra understandings as opposed to the understandings of K'satriya & Brahmin.

In the uneducated mind it seems that Durga & Calon Arang & Rangda all sort of form a commonality.

Rangda eats little children.
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Old 15th July 2021, 07:04 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey View Post
But the hilt and description is of interest to me. This "veiled Durga" thing has been a stone in my shoe for a long time. It is to the best of my knowledge a totally westernised appellation.


Importantly, what does this hilt form represent?
WOW. Thank you for the insight into the etymology of this hilt! My post isn't exactly cogent to where Mr. Maisey is taking his argument. It is just a little back story as I've been thinking on this style of hilt for a while, off and on for a year. The carvings I have always found invoke a emotional response that is as vague and powerful as the images themselves.

I have not gotten into the Javanese interpretations of Durga yet, only the synopsis of the source material the Javanese used. My main source so far has been Rao's Hindu Iconography. Using that I have not found a clear match of which incarnations are in David's pictures from post #4. The first seems reminiscent of Mahakali with tusks, eight arms, and the head dress. To me it seems most probable the statues are Katyayani? The buffalo is certainly Mahishasura. I am not sure what the small figure on the right would represent in two of the statues. I am attaching a bit of back ground information to this post. I believe this information is from a Shivistic point of view and to me seems more appropriate for a conversation on Javanese thought. The book was published in 1914 so I believe it is public domain. Sorry for the p. 350 being turned.
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Old 15th July 2021, 07:06 PM   #19
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A bit more background. Hopefully this will show how multi faceted the subject is in main line Hindu thought. Sorry the image turned again when uploaded.
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Old 17th July 2021, 03:57 AM   #20
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You will probably think much longer on this hilt style, IP. It has been in my thoughts since I first encountered it, and I really forget how long ago that is.

In fact, I am not taking any argument anywhere, I am only laying out a few ideas for consideration, currently I do not wish to push any firm ideas on this hilt style, except for one:- my personal belief is that every idea I have so far encountered in respect of this hilt style is wrong. I am not yet ready to push a replacement idea.

In the study of things related to pre-Islamic Jawa, and to Bali, an understanding of mainline Hindu beliefs is useful, but as with most belief systems, there are a number of ways for the beliefs to be understood. Mainline Hindu belief has four major belief systems and I don't know how many sects.

Gopinatha Rao's "Iconography" was re-published sometime in the 1990's, it was originally four volumes, in the republication those four volumes were republished in two volumes. I've had it for about 20 years, I had been aware of it long before i bought it, but had never seen a complete copy. When I got it I set out to read it cover to cover. I failed. I dive into from time to time, but in all honesty I do not find it to be of much use.

There are a number of variations in all the Hindu stories and beliefs, and since my principal interest is Jawa-Bali, I have needed to concentrate on that. Although we speak of Jawa-Hindu, and Bali-Hindu, there is variation between these belief systems and mainline Hindu. Jawa-Hindu was a synthesis of Hindu + Buddhist + plus indigenous Javanese belief. Bali-Hindu is indigenous Balinese belief + Hindu-Buddhist belief imported from Jawa + Hindu belief and Buddhist belief that entered Bali prior to the Javanese influences that came into play. In recent times this syncretic mix has been overlaid with all kinds of external influences, including those which have arisen from the time of formation of the new political entity of "Indonesia". Bali-Hindu is now known as Agama Hindu Dharma.

When we consider Balinese interpretations of Hindu or Buddhist figures we often see interpretations that would not be recognized by a follower of mainline Hindu or Buddhist belief. We find that characteristics get mixed, or misinterpreted, and then we have the indigenous characters, whose characteristics are sometimes mixed with characteristics of Hindu or Buddhist characters.I have come to a place where I am inclined to believe that perhaps the carver of a figure is really the only person who knows exactly who or what he has carved --- the rest of us can only guess.

IP, you might find Dowson's "Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology" to be of interest, it was first published around 1870, and has been through many re-prints since.

Edit

Oh yeah, that little figure the left. I cannot recall having read who or what that might be, but the demon kerbau was only the asura Mahisa in animal form, when the demon buff was killed, Mahisa emerged from its throat. In some sculptures of this type Durga is seen touching the head of the little figure, in Javanese culture this is an extremely insulting thing to do. It might be Mahisa. There are plenty of references on Javanese sculpture, you'll probably find an educated opinion in one of them. I'm only guessing.

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Old 17th July 2021, 07:20 PM   #21
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The little figure being the "human" form of Asura Mahisa is common knowledge for some longer time already.

Here two of the more recent papers, handling the Durga/Uma/Rangda/Calon Arang topic, in their entirety:

http://nirc.nanzan-u.ac.jp/nfile/303

https://www.academia.edu/35754671/We..._Durga_in_Bali
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Old 19th July 2021, 01:55 AM   #22
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Possibly so Gustav, possibly so, but "common knowledge" does not always penetrate the perimeters of separated, or even merging, circles. Still, since there are only three characters in this little story one would hardly need to be particularly bright to guess who the little fellow is standing to Durga's left. I'm pleased that so many people must agree with my guess.

The links you have supplied are a nice addition, I'm sure they could be of use to anybody who wished to expand their knowledge of this matter. Neither of these authors seem to disagree much with my own understanding of these matters, but I do feel that Weiss is perhaps repeating information gathered from a lay source. Many people in Bali will merge Durga, Calon Arang & Rangda into one character, but in my experience this common understanding is not always shared by all people from the higher levels of society.

All these folk stories have a multitude of variation, I sometimes think that every person has his or her own personal version of every story, or more realistically, versions, because depending on an individual's emotional state on any given day, one can hear differing versions of the same story that emphasise either positive or negative aspects. Variation in the story, then leads to variation in understanding, particularly by a person from outside of Balinese society.
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Old 19th July 2021, 01:58 AM   #23
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The third foto of Durga that David has shown us is a statue from Candi Jawi, located in the village of Candi Wates, about 40km from Surabaya in East Jawa.

Candi Jawi was built by Kertanegara, the last ruler of Singasari, who died in 1292. It is mentioned in the Nagarakertagama. Candi Jawi is a Hindu-Buddhist candi, rather than pure Hindu.

This statue of Durga is now in the Mpu Tantular Museum in Surabaya.

From the perspective of keris study, the kadgo in the form of a Keris Buda, or proto-keris, provides guidance as to keris form and method of use at this time.

Here is a foto of the Durga kadgo that I took a few years ago.
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Old 19th July 2021, 10:23 PM   #24
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In Balinese Barong play Rangda carries a white cloth, Kekudung, or in high Balinese, Kekereh (spelling according to Fred Eiseman Jr.). By putting it over her face she becomes invisible. Barong also has such a cloth.

Of course Rangda from Barong play has exactly as much to do with Wadon hilt as the real life person Queen Mahendradatta (or more precisely, Gunapriyadharmapatni) with Calon Arang.

But there could be one link, and that is tantric rites indeed. The other case, where a persons face is covered, is the "Giant from Pejeng", Bali, and the Chatuhkaya from the same place. Both depict abstract masks instead of faces, on giants statue the masks fastening with ribbons is clearly discernible. Both pieces depict demonic figures, Bernet Kempers calls the Giant Bhairava (Bhima is also proposed as possibility, he notes there are several Bhimas - the hero from Mahabharata, Bhima as semi-divine figure, redeemer and initiator into certain mystic circles, and Bhima as one of the eight manifestations of Siva, with terrifying appearance - with preference for the last one) and writes "The Giant and his companions seem part of Siva's spiritual ambiance, suggestive of certain mystic rituals which apparently took place in the Pejeng region. ( A rakshasa figure in Pura Pegulingan, Pejeng, carries an inscribed shield. According to K. C. Crucq the characters reveal the rakshasas name: dha(h ma) dasara, "the honorable Boozer")." In his book "Ancient Indonesia Art" he depicts also a Kala head from East Java with a similar feature partly covering the face.

After the conquest of Bali in 1343, according to Nagarakrtagama, supervisors from Java are sent. There are nine Buddhist domains. "Eight are kept by Bajradharas (vajra-bearers), or tantrists. Only one was cared for by "observers of the vinaya (disciplinary regulations)", people apparently following earlier regulations." (Bernet Kempers)

It seems to me, one crucial element of Wadon hilt is, that it itself is an embodiment of idea of transformation. The women's figure (which fits the Indian iconography of a widow with unadorned arms and ancles, more or less exposed more or less hanging breasts) is in a shift between a very realistic depiction and a planar hilt, where sometimes only head and arms, marked as lines, are still discernible.

The figure becomes invisible indeed.

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Old 20th July 2021, 05:01 PM   #25
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Thank you Gustav and Alan for very interesting contribution to this subject.
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Old 20th July 2021, 11:07 PM   #26
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Thank you David.

I have given serious consideration to continuing this discussion, there is more than a little content in some posts that should be clarified, however, this clarification cannot be provided in the absence of lengthy text dealing with matters that are so far off topic that they could not be justified.

As I have already stated, I am not yet in a position where I can put forward any defensible opinions in respect of the true character represented by this female hilt style.

The only thing of which I am relatively certain is that the term "Veiled Durga", or its equivalent in any language native to Indonesia, did not originate anywhere in either Jawa or Bali.
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Old 21st July 2021, 10:45 PM   #27
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Thanks Alan. Yes, i have to say i have been equally intrigued with this hilt form for sometime, as i think you know. It is certainly one of the most enigmatic keris hilt forms i have ever encountered, but i have always questioned the Durga identification and it does seem to me to be one that has been fostered mostly by Western writers and collectors. I will not dismiss it out of hand, but still have never been shown significant evidence to fully support it.
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Old 22nd July 2021, 12:45 AM   #28
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Yeah, it is a problem, but maybe, for me, it would not be a problem except that I have never heard a name that equates to "Veiled Durga" in Bahasa Indonesia, Javanese, or Balinese.

I'd be happy to accept the carvers' "Wadon" for the Javanese name, it can be logically explained in terms of Javanese understandings of the keris.

But then we have the "Balu Makabun" name that seems to be general in Bali, and that I have been assured by a close friend who happens to be recognised as a respected authority on both the keris and Indonesian art & culture in general, that the current generally accepted name for this hilt style is the BM term.

I think he's right.

I think the Javanese Wadon is correct insofar as Jawa of the last 100 years or so is concerned. Maybe not absolutely correct, but correct in limited terms.

I think the "Veiled Durga" is a complete invention of somebody who was not a part of Indonesian society.

Currently all I have is a folder of notes that is not much more than a collection of ideas, some good ideas, more bad ideas.

From my perspective, a big hurdle in this matter is the varying and often erroneous understanding of the characters that I currently see as major contenders for the character whose face we cannot see.

I don't like pulling opinions out of thin air, so until I can come up with something supportable, I'm just going to let this whole thing go back to sleep again.
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Old 22nd July 2021, 05:06 PM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey View Post
I don't like pulling opinions out of thin air, so until I can come up with something supportable, I'm just going to let this whole thing go back to sleep again.
Agreed. Don't worry though, it will probably wake up sometime around 4am to pee like so often find myself doing these days. LOL!
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