Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1831 Penins, Malay panglima
>>>kris daggers
Subjectpanglima rebel chief
Culture: Peninsular Malay
Setting: Malay Peninsula late 18-19thc
Objectkeris kris daggers


​* Steel and magic 2020 p298-299
"The long-nosed anthropomorphic shape of the figure seems, at first glance, to differ pronouncedly from other forms originating in the Malay cultural region, but there is a striking parallel to the motif in the demonic figures of Hindu mythology. They are based on Tantric ideas of the late thirteenth century that became formative for the Javanese aristocracy first in the late Singgasari period and then the whole of the subsequent Majapahit period. The hilt figure cranes its neck and has a characteristically aggressive expression that emphasises its demonic nature whilst the long nose and staring eyes are characteristic traits of demons from Shiva's entourage. ...
      "Tajong hilts are sometimes interpreted as depicting Shiva himself, but this seems unlikely. It was unusual for a hilt figure to be modelled on a main god. Rather, the basic shape can be clearly identified as a demon hilt, some examples of which assumedly predate 1600 and are kept in the oldest European collections ...). The hilt figure's richness in details changed over time. While the coteng type, considered to be an early form of tajong, can feature even more evident Shaivaistic attributes -- like a handa drum (damaru) or a skull-cap -- the requirements of the Islamic context led to an increasing stylisation Arms and legs of the figure dissolved into abstract langkasukan motifs. The tajong is sometimes also referred to as pekaka ('kingfisher'), but the symbolism has nothing to do with a bird: the nose is not a bill, since it is obviously situated above a mouth with canines."

* Sheppard 1972 p127-128
"[T]here is one type of Malay kris-hilt which has preserved in great detail the appearance of a mystical bird's head, with fierce projecting eyes, and a beak which curved upwards to a sharp point, and which is sometimes 21/2 inches long. It was the most decorative of all Malay kris and is referred to in books as Kris Hulu Pekakak -- 'the Kingfisher Head Kris', [fn8: Kris Hulu Pekakak. The word Pekakak (kingfisher) may be a corruption of Chikakak,the name of an ogre-like Javanese shadow puppet to which this kris hilt bears some resemblance, or the word may be onomatopoeic from the cry of the kingfisher.] but it was known colloquially as Kris Tajang. [fn9: Kris Tajang means literally the kris which is kicked with the heel. ...] It was worn by men of rank or property in Patani, Kelantan and Trengganu until the beginning of the twentieth century. The hilt was fashioned out of gold, silver, ivory, bone or hard wood in all three states. If the hilt was made of wood, the upward curving tip of the beak was often covered with gold or silver. The sheath was usually longer than the blade for a reason which will become clear later. This type of kris was too big and too heavy to be worn, like other Malay kris, in front at the waist, and it was therefore worn at the back, the shaft held in position by a waist-cloth, with the long beak pointing outwards. Although it was a most ornamental weapon it was also potentially lethal. If a man wearing a 'King Fisher Kris' was suddenly attacked he kicked the base of the long shaft upwards with the back of his heel and seized the hilt as it came up level with his left shoulder. If the opponent was too close to stab, the sharp curving beak was thrust violently forward into the attacker's eye, blinding him instantly: the shaft crosspiece was also abnormally large and the upper side was usually given a pronounced upward curve. It was thus possible for the owner, after drawing his blade over his shoulder, to snatch the sheath from his waist-cloth and, holding the unusually long sheath near its base, press the curved crosspiece against his opponent's throat, just below the chin. If this surprise move was successful the enemy was forced backwards, leaving his body open for a deadly kris thrust."  [CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION: Is such an awkward method of drawing a dagger efficient, assuming it's even physically possible?]

* Steel and magic 2020 p299
"The scabbard mouth is probably modelled on the typical shape of a Malay-Thai boat. The figure on the hilt appears to be standing in that boat just like a mythical ancestor. The keris tajong is widely considered to be a 'martial' martial weapon, even if its outward appearances seems [SIC] to suggest a lack of combative function. However, it is an effective thrusting weapon and its long scabbard is sturdy enough to be used for parrying."


* Steel and magic 2020 p294-295
"[The] coteng hilt depicts a bird-like creature sitting in a squatting position on a triangular (tumpal) throne.  It has a long beak and feathered wings with a spiral langkasukan motif.  The langkasukan spiral symbolises the wings of Garuda, a makara (a mythic Hindu water creature), and the eternal spiral of life.  However, the coteng hilt also shares several features with the old yaksha hilts of Banten: bulging eyes, fangs, human teeth, long curly hair, a necklace, pointy ears, and its position of sitting in a squat on a vegetal triangular throne.  At the top of its head is a crown and at its back, a triangular headdress, resembling a garuda mungkur (a protective headwear).
    "The distinctive style of hilt, coteng, is related to the tajong hilt of Pattani, Terengganu, and Kelantan (and also the former Langkasuka Kingdom).  The coteng hilts, however, are usually smaller than the tajong; they always lack a chin beard, and they have long, curly hair at the back of their head.  Roughly half the coteng hilts are fully covered in silver ..., which is seldom seen on a tajong-hilt.  Furthermore, the coteng often have an integrated pendokok (hilt ring).

​* Steel and magic 2020 p299
"[T]he coteng type [is] considered to be an early form of tajong" ....


* Frey 1988 p50
"Much has been written about the hulu, the hilt of the Peninsular Malaysian kris. It is usually in the form of a highly abstracted crouching or squatting figure which is holding its sides as if in distress. The position is known as jawa demam (fever stricken), jawa gigil (shivering) or jawa sakit. Considerable speculation concerns its origin -- whether it is indeed an aspect of the Hindu bird-god Garuda, carrier of Vishnu; a zoomorphic evolution of some god-figure stemming from the Majapahit hilt or simply a variation of the cockatoo, the parrot, a common design element positively identified on many Malayan hilts."

* Sheppard 1972 p126-127
"The earliest known kris blades were probably made with meteoric iron, which was rare and believed to possess magic qualities. Later, iron, when purer iron was used, nickel or nickelous iron was added to provide damascened patterns on the surface of the blade. When the blade was finished, it was treated with arsenic to bring out the pattern; gold or silver inlay was sometimes added to record the name of the titled owner, or to reproduce a Koranic text or rows of Arabic numbers on the blade.
      "The hilt [nH: Kris hilt -- Hulu Kris] of the Malay kris is rounded and curved to bear a superficial resemblance to the butt of a small pistol, and it is grasped in the palm of the hand in exactly the same way as a pistol butt, with the four fingers, close together, curling round the hilt from below, while the thumb is extended along the upper side of the hilt. The grip is admirably suited for thrusting.
      "The design of the kris hilt has been compared to many different objects: to the winged steed of Vishnu, which had the head of a bird and the body of a man, sometimes called Garuda; or to a protective Orge, called Raksasa; or to a 'Javanese with fever' or to a chicken with a broken neck [nI: Ayam patah Tekah] or to the skull cap of a Pilgrim [nJ: Hulu Kopiah Pa'Haji]. In most cases it was probably intended to represent the Garuda, which was believed to possess enormous strength and other supernatural powers. These, it was hoped, would be transferred to the owner of the kris.
      "The spread of Islam in the Malay peninsula caused the shape and appearance of the Bird-Man hilt to be modified, but a short beak and a pair of folded arms can be recognized on many Malay kris-hilts to this day. The forward tilt of the beak, the suggestion of hunched shoulders and the folded forearms are responsible for the 'Javanese with fever' interpretation: it relates to an incident during the reign of Sultan Mansur Shah of Malacca, when the warrior Hang Tuah killed a 'Javanese with fever' who had run amok."