I initially posted this article as a “Page” rather than a “post”. Now, I just decided to move it to a post instead as my stats shows that it got quite a number of visitors.
Kudos and credit goes to the original writer here.
1. The keris is a unique weapon
The keris is absolutely unique to the Malay archipelago. Its artistry, effectiveness, and mythology simply has no equal anywhere else in the world! It can be said that it represents the highest level of Malay creativity. Only a unique culture is capable of creating such a unique weapon!
The keris is irrefutable proof of an incredible level of outside-the-box thinking! And this characteristic is inherent in the Malay culture and psyche. Such a creative culture has vast potential – it can be applied into any other field of work that the Malays choose to. And surely, the culture that gave birth to the keris is able to adapt itself and create unique Malay successes in other fields!
Keagungan Melayu (Malay Grandeur) sees the keris as a symbol of the creative power that the Malays already possess within themselves!
2. The keris is a product of noble character
What sets the keris apart from other weapons in history is the artistry that goes into its creation. The details found on the blade exist in no other sword in the world. Ordinary iron and wood is transformed into an ornate item that is rich with meaning and significance.
The keris is a creation of patience, love and reverence. Patience in crafting the elaborate details into the keris. Love for Malay strength, artistry and culture. Reverence towards the keris as a powerful expression of the Malay mastery of both martial arts and fine arts.
You cannot mass-produce a keris – that would demean its significance and power. Each keris has to be handcrafted and its value is derived from the personal power of its creator or its bearer. So the power of the keris is not found in the created object, but in the culture and person who created it!
Keagungan Melayu (Malay Grandeur) sees the keris as the refined expression of the Malay’s noble characteristics – discipline, reverence and mastery over themselves and the world around them.
3. The keris is a weapon for the strong in character
The keris is a weapon unlike a sword. While a sword allows for some distance between the combatants and can be used to attack and defend, the keris is a close combat weapon and is not designed to block or parry. It is an attacking weapon and can only be used at close range.
Close combat takes great courage and skill because there is no room for mistake and there is no second chance. In a keris battle, the enemy is right in front of you and defeat comes immediately at the slightest mistake. So strong focus and determination to win is absolutely essential. (In fact, the keris’ design implies that this is the preferred mode of battle!)
Why is this significant? Because it is an indication of the culture that created it. A culture that is not afraid to get up close and personal with its enemies. In a broader sense, it shows that the Malay culture has tremendous courage to tackle its problems head on. More than that, it shows an incredible determination to win.
Above that, Keagungan Melayu (Malay Grandeur) sees the keris as the symbol of courage, strength to overcome adversity and determination to succeed.
4. The keris can only be wielded by those who have mastered themselves.
You cannot wield the keris effectively in battle unless you are well-versed in silat. And anyone who truly understands martial arts knows that its objective is not to harm, but to exert control over the self, to drive the self towards greater heights of excellence and to hold such power with discipline, self-control and humility.
The sharpness of the keris is not meant to wage war on others, but to wage war on one’s self. The significance of the keris is not in the ability to kill but it means that you must have the ability to control your inner desires. To be worthy of wielding the keris is to wrestle with and conquer your inner self. What does it mean to conquer yourself? It means that you must face and overcome your fears, physical and mental limitations, and ego.
Only those who embody such qualities are worthy to carry the keris. And that is the true meaning behind the authority of the keris – mastery of the self. The keris becomes a symbol of authority because people acknowledge the eminent qualities of the owner. If such an eminent person were to invoke the authority of the keris, people would gladly defer to his authority.
Above that, Keagungan Melayu (Malay Grandeur) sees the keris as a symbol of the ability to command respect because the Malays have mastered themselves
5. The keris is the perfect representation of Keagungan Melayu
In warrior cultures, the sword is the weapon that is usually revered. Many swords have gone down in legend – Excalibur of King Arthur of England, Green Dragon Crescent Blade wielded by Guan Yu the legendary general of China, and Zulfiqar the sword gifted from God to the noble Imam Ali are but some of the blades that have gained legendary status. But among swords, the keris stands alone in its uniqueness.
More of that later. First…
Swords are held in high esteem not only for their craftsmanship, but they are also given significance by their maker and their wielder. A sword is made legendary first when it is forged with some special quality. The swordsmith invests an exceptional effort into the sword in terms of the material used, design of the sword or the spiritual values the sword is intended to represent. That’s why an exceptional sword must have an equally worthy owner (giving rise to legends like Excalibur which found only Arthur worthy to wield it).
Thus, the significance of a weapon is in its inherent qualities. It does not lie in its ability to kill – otherwise a butcher’s knife would be the greatest weapon of all for the sheer number of lives it takes! The wielder of the sword must reflect the intended values expressed within the sword.
The keris is unique among sword cultures because it does not have the versatility, reach or attack/defense capabilities of a sword. The keris is basically a stabbing weapon – its entire design concept is to be effective only at that range. It cannot be used from a distance like a sword – it can only be used when two warriors are toe-to-toe in battle.
And therein lies the greatest significance of the keris – because it is born from a certain kind of quality: fearlessness.
One would have to be fearless to wield a weapon such as the keris. Unlike a sword which you can kill while still beyond the reach of an enemy’s arms and legs, the only way to kill with a keris is when you are right next to him. You would have to grapple with him, using all your skill to get close to him – blocking his attacks and overcoming his defenses – and finally, seeing an opening, to stab him. The blade itself is a work of art in its effectiveness – the waves designed to produce maximum damage with just one thrust.
Taken as an allegorical representation of the Malay spirit, the keris signifies a fearless willingness to face up to any situation and not to back down or avoid. To grapple with them, using all one’s mastery of skills gained from hard training and discipline. To identify opportunities and capitalise on them. To confront and overcome circumstances with an iron will to succeed. To design solutions that maximise effectiveness. This is Keagungan Melayu (Malay Grandeur) as expressed by the keris.
Whereas the legendary swords are individually significant, the whole CONCEPT of the keris itself is significant. And since the keris is one of the highest expressions of Malay culture, it follows that the keris signifies the worthiness of the entire culture – the Malays.
Above that, Keagungan Melayu (Malay Grandeur) sees the keris as a representation of the Malays’ greatness as a culture and a race, a culture that is able to succeed on its own merits with its own strengths.