Both a spiritual object and an effective weapon, the moro kris dagger is one of the world's most unique blades. Continue reading to learn about the intriguing history of this dagger and its symbolism within Indonesia, thanks to American BladesPro.
Originating from Java, Indonesia, the moro kris (also known as, the 'kris') is an asymmetrical dagger with a distinct wavy blade and sculptured hilt. Many scholars have attempted to trace where the first moro kris was forged. Based on the evidence, archaeologists believe that the earliest version of the moro kris can be linked back to Dongson bronze culture in Vietnam and the Champa Kingdom around 300 B.C before spreading to regions in South East Asia.
Although this is the consensus among scholars, a study done by Sir Thomas Raffles in 1817 claimed that the moro kris we currently know was forged into existence circa 1361 AD within the kingdom of Majapahit, East Java. He came to this conclusion after discovering the oldest known kris blacksmith workshop that archaeologists believe has existed since the 15th century. Located in the Candi Sukuh Temple in East Java, the workshop is carved out of stone and displays three Hindu Gods.
A photo of the inaugural kris workshop. On the side of the building, three Hindu Gods being shown are Bhima (left), Ganesh (middle) and Arjuna (right). Each of them is performing a function of kris forgery.
Shape and Forgery
Most moro kris daggers have three components, a blade (bilah or wilah), a hilt (hulu) and a sheath (warangka). All three parts of the moro kris are carved with unique inscriptions and vary in material. Metals, rare forms of wood, gold and ivory are often used to forge the dagger. On average, a moro kris blade ranges between 15 to 50cm long depending on its purpose. Its blade has a sharpened tip and edges to ensure it cuts from all angles. Also, the number of curves (known as lok or luk) along each blade is traditionally odd. The majority of the blades have 3 to 13 curves but others can reach up to 29.
An image of a traditional moro kris dagger.
Each kris has a pamor (pattern) across its blade. Each pattern has names and explanations about the mythical powers the dagger carries. Surprisingly, the most advanced material used to create these inscriptions is meteorite iron. Meteorite iron was first applied to moro kris' after a meteorite hit an area near the Prambanan temple complex in Indonesia. After being excavated by locals, the iron was then sent to Surakarta for bladesmiths to forge out the inscriptions.
Symbolism in Indonesia
Produced in many regions of Indonesia, the moro kris has been used for decades. While the dagger has been produced in many parts of Indonesia, Central Java holds the tightest cultural bond with the moro kris followed by tourist hotspot, Bali. The dagger symbolises power, heroism, harmony, art and beauty in Javanese culture. Performing rituals with the dagger is also a common practice for the Javanese. Much like the Balinese and Sundanese people, the Javanese also wear the moro kris on their backs to symbolise that violence is only used as a final option within the culture.
Amazing daggers feature far and wide across the continent of Asia. Here at American BladesPro, we have a great range of Tanto Swords from Japan. Like the moro kris, these swords are classed as daggers. Follow the link above to view our collection of these unique blades.
The moro kris is also symbolic for Malay nationalists. Once Malaysia gained its independence, the Malay nationalists used the dagger to symbolise their freedom and the pride they take in their ethnicity. It is so symbolic to the Malay people, the United Malays National Organisation includes the moro kris within its flag.
Across the years, the moro kris has impacted a variety of cultures. Due to its influential status, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) named the dagger an intangible piece of cultural heritage in 2005 to honour the weapon.