The kris maker
The kris dagger, once the main insignia of the warrior class and nowadays a status symbol among collectors and enthusiasts, has survived the ages and earned global recognition as part of the country’s precious heritage.
In the past, kris were crafted by empu, blacksmiths who led a solitary life and possessed great supernatural power. One of the descendants of those empu is still making kris in this modern time. His name is Made Gde Suardika. His family has been forging kris for seven generations and Suardika believes that the tradition will not end with his generation.
In his workshop in Jl. Kenyeri, Denpasar, Suardika demonstrated that making kris is a difficult endeavor. The work should be started on an auspicious day, the materials must be carefully selected, religious offerings must be made, and, most importantly, the empu must maintain a clear mind and good intentions throughout the long, arduous process. Failure to do so will result in the creation of a flawed kris. It is no wonder that Suardika can only create a few dozen kris in a single year.
He starts by heating and forging an iron plate, initially weighing around 15 kilograms, to turn it into only a half kilogram before it is folded. Additional material, usually nickel, or precious meteorite ore, is then inserted into the folds. The additional material will form the whitish decorative pattern, known as pamor, in the body of the blade.
The process of heating, forging and folding is repeated many times, while shaping the iron to create a wavy blade. He only uses charcoal made of teak wood to heat the iron.
The number of luk (waves) is usually odd, as requested by the person who will keep the dagger. They also possess special meanings: three luk is for safety, five is for spirituality, seven is for honesty, nine is for calmness, 11 is for wealth, 13 is for power.
The process of forging the iron plate and the pamor could take days, or even months. Suardika once spent six months to create a kris with special number of luk ordered by a prominent figure in Bali.
Some of those in Bali who have collected Suardika’s creations, include the governor, the Denpasar mayor, as well as figures from the royal houses of Kesiman, Gede Karangasem, Agung Klungkung, Sibang, and Griya Jro Gede Sanur.
- Photos by Wasti Atmodjoaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa