Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1342 Majapahit bhayankari

Subjectbhayankari palace guard
Culture: Javanese
Setting: Majapahit empire, Indonesia 14-16thc
Evolution1275 Singhasari warrior > 1342 Majapahit bhayankari

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources. Field Notes)

* Steel and magic 2020 p268
"[B]hayankaris (terrible) ... was the name for the palace guard officers of Majapahit."

*Steel and magic 2020 p250
"[T]he Majapahit palace guards were called bayankaris ('the terrible ones').  This might have given rise to the term keris, which has verifiably been used from the time of the Majapahit empire until today."

* Draeger 1972 p


* World of the Javanese keris 1978 p12
"We may only speculate about how and when the keris and its manner of use evolved.  The earliest dated blade is said to bear the Saka era date 1264 (A.D. 1432).  The date, probably in the form of a chronogram, is open to misinterpretation, and the blade itself could easily have been made later.  However, keris are portrayed in the fourteenth century reliefs at Panataran (A.D. 1369).  Keris in sheaths reminiscent of today's Buginese sheaths are worn at the backs of three figures from Grogol, near Surabaya, dated A.D. 1413.  In the Museum Pusat in Jakarta is a strikingly animated clown-servant figure with a sheathed keris at his back.  He forms the handle of a bronze mirror attributed to the fifteenth century.  Like the keris blades at Sukuh, the forms of the keris mentioned above are sufficiently developed to imply that they have passed through earlier evolutionary stages.  Most examples seem to be East Javanese, supporting one theory that keris emerged as part of the East Javanese cultural renaissance that followed the tenth century collapse of the kingdoms of Central Java and culminated in fourteenth century Majapahit.
    "Foreign travellers [sic] confirmed the dispersion of the keris: Ma Huan in Majapahit in 1433, Tomé Pires on the north coast of Java in 1515, and Theodore de Bry in Bantam in 1596.  Artifacts brought to European museums can be dated at least to the time of their ascension.  The oldest keris known in England were collected before 1637, and a fine lance with pamor and gold has been in the Danish Museum since 1647."

* Elgood 2004 p252 
"Krīs (Malay kěris) A dagger.  A variety of forms exist from south-east Asia though there is debate about the date when the design started and where.  'The earliest dated krīs is reported to bear a śaka date equivalent to AD1342 on the blade.'  It has been argued that the weapon evolved pre-fourteenth century in Java following the Hindu conquest but in the tenth century Abū Zayd al-Sirafī described how in Sarandib gangs of al-Hind kidnapped wealthy merchants at the ports with their uniquely made sharp krīs.  A stone tryptych at the mid-fourteenth century Hindu temple at Sukuh portrays a god forging a krīs and is claimed as the earliest sculptural representation of the weapon."

* Roots online > keris
"By around the 14th century the keris had evolved into more or less its modern form as a thrusting dagger with an asymmetrical blade and integral guard. It was during the height of the influence of the Majapahit Empire that the keris appears to have spread out of Java. Fine keris were frequently sent by the Majapahit kings as prestige gifts to prominent local rulers and kerises were also produced in Java as piece goods for regional trade."

* Stone 1934 p546
"SELI-BESI.  'Iron kris,' probably the Majapahit kris with an iron hilt forged in one piece with the blade." [reference omitted]

* World of the Javanese keris 1978 p34
'Ma Huan, referring to the knives (probably keris) worn in Majapahit, observes 'for the handles they use gold or rhinoceros horn or elephants' teeth, engraved with representations of human forms or devil's faces, the craftsmanship being very fine and skilful' [sic].  Two of the three oldest keris known in England have human figure hilts ....  Like the guardians at temple or court gates, these are probably apotropaic guardian figures; many of them are positioned on the pesi so that they face directly outward from the person's back, when the keris is worn."

* Aspects of Indonesian culture 1979 p64
"Although the sacred blade has always been the most important part of the kris, the hilts and the scabbards were also beautifully decorated.  Originally many hilts represented stylised halfmen, a guardian or demon, but probably through Muslim influence this trait has now vanished.
    "Some of the finest krises were made during the Majapahit period (1293 to 1478)." 


* Steel and magic 2020 p78 (describing a trident, Central Java 17thc)
"The trisula is associated with the Shiva cult, and symbolises the three aspects of the god as creator, protector, and destroyer.  If the shaft is long, then it represents the axis of the universe.  The trisula is also the weapon for the exorcising of demonic beings."

* van Zonneveld 2001 p


* Draeger 1972 p

* van Zonneveld 2001 p84


* World of the Javanese keris 1978 p49
"Earlier (pre-European?) Javanese dress apparently left the upper body bare, the keris as now, generally at the back.  This placement relates to back-protecting motifs in Javanese art, such as Banaspati, the terror-inspiring manifestation of Shiva seen, for example, on the back of Ganesha, or the garuda mungkur at the back of crowns like those worn by wayang figures."