This blog post is about my experience in having a keris specially crafted for me. Initially I wanted to blog in Malay, but for the benefit of my global readers, it will be posted in English. I am getting married in June, and it would be nice to have my own keris worn during the ceremony.
A keris is a Malay dagger. It is a short to medium length dagger, with a wavy blade. In ancient times, it was used for combat and ceremonial purposes. In modern day, while there are silat schools that use it for combat, it is mostly used for ceremonial (related to Sultan and other Malay ceremonies).
Thursday, 4th October 2012
On 4th October 2012, I went to the ancient city of Melaka to meet a renowned keris pandai besi (meaning “iron skilled”) by the name of Abdul Rahman Mohamad. He runs his own shop called Mateng Sasro Enterprise. He was recommended by a friend, an aficionado in keris art. Back in 2010, I accompanied my dad to meet pandai besi Mat Zin, a keris maker in Kuala Kangsar, Perak. Mat Zin’s craftsmanship is very good, but this time I would like to engage a different keris maker, to experience the art from a different state.
During our initial visit to Rahman’s workshop in Melaka, he presented a number of ready-made keris that were ordered by other clients. It was impressive. We told him we’re looking for a keris istiadat (meaning “ceremonial”). A keris istiadat has different specifications compared to keris tarung (meaning “combat”). After discussing further, he advised me on the keris specification based on my built (body size, height, etc). After that, we discussed about the appropriate design of the keris. Below are the details:
- Type: Keris Semenanjung, tempa Melaka
- Lok: 7-lok
- Blade length: 11 inch
- Sheath wood type: Sampir arang bunga
- Hilt: Ayam teleng
- Buntut (the lower end of the sheath): Tanduk kerbau
Rahman said a keris of this specification would cost around RM1,500. He said the arang bunga wood is not easy to find, and it would require him to venture in the jungles of Pahang to find it. The whole process would take around 3-4 months, depending on how fast he could find the wood. My father was interested in getting one for himself, so we ordered 2 pieces. We agreed on the price, and to follow up in 3 months time.
Wednesday, 1 May 2013
Turns out the whole thing took nearly 6 months. At the end of April, I received a call from Rahman, saying the keris is finally ready. I was very excited. Given that 1st May is a public holiday (Labour Day), dad and I decided to take the opportunity to drive south to Melaka. Rahman told us he moved to Bukit Piatu, a village not far from his previous location.
His new workshop in Bukit Piatu is bigger. Apparently, he built the entire workshop, along with his new village house, by himself. I was told it’s common for people in villages to built their own houses. Amazing.
As you can see, Rahman was very happy to see us. The keris we ordered was presented in a blue velvet casing.
The keris we ordered was a beautiful piece of art. The arang bunga sheath turned out much better than I expected. Rahman had blackened the blade, and it had a nice smell. The ayam teleng hilt feels nice in my hand, and the pendongko (silver alloy ferrule) connecting the hilt and blade looks simple yet elegant.
Normally, other keris aficionados would send their keris to a silverware or goldsmith to have the sheath decorated. I plan to do that, but I don’t think there is enough time to decorate it before my wedding. Most likely I’ll have it done after.
Overall, I am satisfied with Rahman’s workmanship. It lived up to my expectations. I am also pleased to see this ancient art still alive despite the rapid urbanisation around us. Keris makers can make a decent living, and most importantly, they are passionate about their work. I was told there are more renowned pandai besi folks in the east coast, namely Kelantan and Terengganu. Maybe in the future I may get the opportunity to visit them.
To those interested, Rahman’s contact details are provided below:
Mateng Sasro Enterprise
Abdul Rahman Mohamad
No 263-1. KM 4, Bukit Piatu