In the last days of the Hindu Kingdom of Majapahit in Java, there lived a king whose name was Prabu Brawijaya Pamungkas (‘Brawijaya V’, also known as Bre Kertabumi; 1468-1478). At that time, King Brawijaya’s son, Raden Patah (1475-1518), made an attempt to usurp the throne from his father. In order to avoid being murdered by his own son, King Brawijaya then fled from the Royal palace in Trowulan, and moved to Gunung Lawu, a mountain in Java where he used to perform his ascetic practices.
After King Brawijaya’s exile from the keraton in Trowulan, Raden Patah established the Islamic Kingdom of Demak in Demak Bintara. Next, Raden Patah forced his father to convert from Hinduism to Islam, but Prabu Brawijaya Pamungkas refused. Then Raden Patah and his men went out to Gunung Lawu in order to take King Brawijaya prisoner. King Brawijaya, then, fled to Candi Ceto. Once Raden Patah’s men found out about this, King Brawijaya was forced to flee once again. This time he went to Sendang Panguripan and Drajat. But even then Raden Patah still continued the search for King Brawijaya. In the end, the king was forced to flee all the way to Jember, Tengger and Blambangan in East Java.
In 1526, tired of being constantly on the run, King Brawijaya eventually decided to return to Gunung Lawu (hence, people often also refer to him as Eyang Sunan Lawu). There he would reside in the woods to practice meditation for several months. During these months he reflected on the deeds he had performed throughout his life as a king. Eventually, the king acknowledged and fully accepted the results of the karma he had accumulated, and thus he realized that in order to make an end to all unnecessary suffering, he would surrender himself to his son’s wishes.
For this purpose, King Brawijaya ordered his empu to forge him a new keris. When the empu completed the king’s order, he presented to him the keris Tilam Sari. According to this empu, the philosophical meaning behind the dapur Tilam Sari consists of the following concepts: (1) ‘tilam’: a sofa, a lounge, a resting place, or a residence; and (2) ‘sari’: a sweet fragrance. Thus, ‘Tilam Sari’ represents a fragrant residence for both God and man.
The empu’s intention for making the keris Tilam Sari is to enhance the worldly life of the owner of the keris. Therefore it is believed that the owner of a keris Tilam Sari will experience profound happiness and peacefulness throughout his entire life; that he will be respected by others; and that his life shall be guided and protected by God.
The keris Tilam Sari has a straight (‘lurus’) blade that usually features the following ricikan: an unsophisticated gandik; tikel alis; pejetan and tingil or greneng. Though the dapur Tilam Sari looks very similar to Tilam Upih, yet the difference being that the Tilam Upih does not feature tingil or greneng. The tingil of a dapur Tilam Sari is short but sharp like a thorn. The reason for this is, that, although the empu wishes that the owner of the keris will gain a lot of knowledge in his life, yet his intellect should not turn him into an arrogant person who feels himself superior to uneducated people.
– Graaf, H.J. de & Pigeaud, T.H. (1974): ‘De Eerste Moslimse Vorstendommen op Java. Studiën over de Staatkundige Geschiedenis van de 15de en 16de Eeuw‘. ‘s-Gravenhage: Nijhoff.