Sampari: the Keris from Bima, Sumbawa

The Sampari is the keris from Bima, Sumbawa, and is similar to kerises from other parts of the Indonesian archipelago. There are both straight- (‘sapupaka’) and wavy- (‘nteko’) bladed Sampari, though the former being higher valued for the higher quality of damascening (‘pamu’) on the blade. Back in the days, the sampari were forged from iron that was brought to Bima from Kalimantan, yet in more recent times the blacksmiths started using cheaper materials, such as car suspension springs made of steel.

Sampari: the Keris from Bima, Sumbawa

Another type of keris, which can be found in the village of Dara, (near Bima) is the Keris Majapahit. This keris Majapahit features an iron hilt in the shape of a human figure, and is called ‘Na Watu Ka Waja’ (‘an ancient one in tempered steel’). The discovery of the keris Majapahit in Dara can be explained by the fact that the state of Bima once was a tributary of the Majapahit Kingdom. The rock temple near the mouth of Bima Bay may demonstrate the historical evidence of contact with the Javanese Hindu kingdom.

Keris Sampari Hilt

According to local historians, the origin of the state’s name comes from a historical figure whose name was Bima, and who possibly was an envoy of the Majapahit Kingdom. The legendary hero is also recorded in the lineage of the royal family of Bima. It is further believed that it was at the village of Dara where Bima’s sons first sat foot on the island of Sumbawa. For this reason we may assume that the human figure on the iron hilt of the keris Majapahit of Dara may thus be a representation of (Sang) Bima. It is also interesting to note that, on public occassions in the Sultanate one could determine someone’s social status by looking at the hilt (‘Ta Taro Po’) of the keris that they wore. Members of the royal family could be recognized by the gold-covered scabbard (‘Cori-cori’) of the keris that they wore, whereas nobles could be seen with kerises that had silver-covered scabbards, and commoners had them made of wood. The Sultan’s keris, however, featured a gold-covered scabbard which had gems and tassels (‘Bata Gemala’) on it, and a hilt which represented none other than the historical figure called Bima.

Keris Sampari Handle

The formal similarities of the Sampari to kerises from other areas in Indonesia can also be explained by looking at the regency’s trade and political connections. Apart from the contact with the Majapahit Kingdom, Bima have also had long-lasting political contacts with Makassar, South Sulawesi, which eventually led to the establishment of the Sultanate of Bima in 1640. During the twentieth century the Sultanate of Bima would expand its reign to western Flores, Sumba, Sanggar and Dompu. Despite these connections, however, the people of Bima have remained a distinctive culture of their own; a culture in which the keris (or sampari) is one of the most meaningful social symbols.

Reference: Hitchcock, M. (1987): ‘The Bimanese Kris; Aesthetics and Social Value’ in: Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 143 (1987), no. 1, Leiden, 125-140.

Spread the knowledge