Ritual keris daggers from Bali are held in high esteem for their elaborate design and high-end materials. An example of the amount of detail given to the Balinese keris as a whole can be seen in the characteristic danganan hilt. For instance, this particular handle is hand carved from the horns of a water buffalo. Cows as well as buffaloes are considered to be holy animals in the Hindu belief system. That is because the vehicle of Lord Śiva is in fact a divine bull called Nandi, who also guards the gates of his Lord’s heavenly abode.
According to ancient Indian philosophy, the head is the most sacred part of the body. Therefore, buffalo horn is the material of choice for making a reverential art object of this kind. The revered animal’s horn is adorned with Balinese religious symbolism, which portrays a brahmin priest with a scepter (Sanskrit: vajra) and bell (Sanskrit: gaṇṭā) in his hands (see image below). It is a hand carved figurine that represents the Hindu hermit sage Rêsi Droṇa of the ancient Indian Mahābhārata epic.
This saintly seer (Sanskrit: ṛṣi) was also known by the name of Droṇācārya, which means that he was a spiritual teacher. However, he was not just an ordinary guru, for Droṇa was the religious preceptor of the royal Pāṇḍava and Kaurava princes who were fighting each other in a constant battle between good and evil. In addition, Guru Droṇa was the holder of the divine weapon of Lord Brahma. Armed with this sacred sword, he upheld the cosmic law and order of the universe. Thus, it is believed, that anyone who seeks spiritual guidance can invoke the blessings of this priestly figure through the power of a special mantra (see below).
Though it is essentially a keris hilt, the figurine can also be used for ritual worship by placing it on one’s altar or shrine, either at home or at one’s workplace. Moreover, a fully ordained priest from Bali has performed a consecration rite for the statuette, so that the owner will be able to both request as well as to receive the guru’s aid in times of need. Indeed, the rêsi‘s spirit can be called upon for many things, allowing one to banish demons and to drive out evil forces, to gain political power and influence, to help establish a profitable business, or even to restore trust among family members in order to solve a dispute.
Mantra for worshipping Rêsi Droṇa
Oṃ Namo Guru Droṇāya
Gurur Devo Maheśvara
(Homage to Guru Droṇa. The guru is Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva).