Magic in Bali's elaborate blades - Tourism Indonesia


Monday, August 27, 2007

Magic in Bali's elaborate blades

ONCE upon a time, Balinese kings and their courtiers strutted the battlements of the Royal Palace in Klungkung - a renowned artistic centre in the east of the fabled Indonesian island, near the great sacred volcano, Agung. The partly rebuilt palace still stands in the bustling town, and there's another legacy of those colourful days that lives on today - the kris.

These fearsome wavy-edged weapons - in fact, there are also straight-edged examples - were crafted by artist-swordsmiths known as empu, who specialised in forging and folding iron and nickel into blades displaying a curious layered or striated effect known as pamor. Legend has it that much of the nickel came from meteorites that fell on the island.

As well as elaborate blades, great care was lavished on kris hilts and their T-shaped scabbards, which were fashioned from exotic woods, horn or ivory and mounted with gold and gems. The kris was, perhaps in some places still is, thought to have magical properties through which rulers could retain their powers. For this reason, kris makers were revered as sorcerers and worked under royal patronage. Many empu lived in and around Klungkung.

Magic or not, however, the kris-wielding Balinese had little chance against the superior weapons of the Dutch, who overran much of the island in the mid-19th century. Early in the 1900s, many of Bali's last "royals" used their krisses to commit suicide.


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