East Javanese Keris Carita Gandu Luk 11 from the Hindu-Buddhist Tangguh Janggala Era (11th–12th Century CE)


The ancient blade of this keris is forged from top-quality iron. Based on the extraordinary quality of iron and the remarkable forging skills of the empu (blacksmith), it is estimated that this keris was made in the tangguh Janggala era (11th–12th century CE) in East Java, Indonesia. After the Srivijaya invasion in the ancient Javanese Hindu-Buddhist Kingdom of Mataram (732–1006), Airlangga (991–1049) united the eastern states of the former Medang Kingdom (i.e. Mataram) and established the Kingdom of Kahuripan (1019–1045). In 1045, King Airlangga renounced the throne to become a rêsi (i.e., a wandering forest hermit). Thus Kahuripan was divided into the Kingdom of Janggala (1045–1136) and Daha (1045–1221). Alternative spellings of Janggala are ‘Jenggala’ and ‘Jenggolo’.

Keris Carita Gandu

From the three historical kingdoms (i.e. Kahuripan, Janggala, and Kediri – another name for Daha) which existed between the eleventh and thirteen century in East Java, it was the Kingdom of Janggala that produced the largest quantity of high-quality metal artifacts, including keris, tombak, and other pusaka heirloom weapons. Indeed, there is little to no mention of kerises from the other two tangguh (i.e. Kahuripan and Daha) from the same era. When compared to the various pusaka items of the tangguh Segaluh and Pajajaran era from the twelfth century in West Java, then the East Javanese kerises of Jenggala can be considered superior both in quality of metal material and technical design.

Keris Carita Gandu Luk 11

The detailed design of this keris, then, resembles a dapur keris model known as Carita. The term ‘carita’ refers to a subdivision of kerises with eleven luks, such as the Carita Bungkem, Daleman, Genengan, Keprabon, and Prasaja. However, the characteristic features (ricikan) of this particular keris are classed as a Carita Gandu keris. Like the other variants of the Carita dapur, the blade of the Gandu type also features eleven waves (luk). Yet unlike most other Carita kerises, the ada-ada element of the Gandu model has a rather smooth, curved surface, which can be considered a reflection of the empu‘s extraordinary talent. Indeed, the exquisite ricikan parts of the keris Carita Gandu demonstrate true craftsmanship and refinement.

Keris Carita Gandu Luk 11 with Pamor Wos Wutah

There are, however, striking similarities between the Carita Gandu keris and another eleven-waved (luk) dapur called ‘Sabuk Tali’. Thus, under certain conditions, depending on one’s personal interpretation, one may rightly argue that dapur of this antique keris in fact represents the Sabuk Tali model. But at the same time one should also be aware of the inevitable flaws of this interpretation since not all of the ricikan of this keris match the conventional features of a Sabuk Tali keris. This is perhaps most evident in the thick and wide ganja part at the base of the blade. Either way, it is clear that this keris is made by a real artisan at the royal court of Janggala, one of the main important empires from the East Javanese Period. And in many ways this sacred dagger can thus be considered a masterpiece of East Javanese art. Besides its historical significance, the keris Carita Gandu also is a mystical object of high repute.

Keris Carita Gandu Luk 11 with Antique Wooden Hilt and Warangka Sheath

Due to the esoteric power embedded within the iron blade, the keris has the supernatural ability to boost the owner’s charisma, thereby improving his or her social life and interpersonal relationships, whereby s/he gains authority over others and thus consolidates his or her leadership. Carita literally means ‘story’, which, in this context, should be understood in the sense of ‘speech’. Gandu is the name of a seed of a type of sweet fruit. Thus, the meaning of ‘carita gandu’ refers to the keris’ inherent magical quality of influential speech, helping the owner of the keris to develop public speaking skills through the use of soft and sweet words to effectively persuade one’s audience. In addition, the featured Wos Wutah pamor motif serves to increase one’s wealth and income, as well as to achieve happiness in life.

Keris Carita Gandu Luk 11 with Pamor Wos Wutah from the Tangguh Janggala Era

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