Until today, some tribes in Indonesia use traditional weapons as tools for hunting, self-defensing, and yes, attacking someone or something. Even more, some people who still believe in superstitious think that traditional weapons are surrounded by mystical power. Take keris for instance.
This is a knife-length weapon from Central Java and East Java. Keris has serpentine shape. It was a pride for the palace, tucked on the waist, as a symbol of courage and nobility. In ancient age, a man wasn’t considered as a real man if he had no keris.
In reality, keris function more to stab than to slice. It’s not so effective weapon by that. But you must know, while preparing and making a keris, Mpu (the keris maker) always did special pray to the God and do fasting first. That’s the power come. He could also fill keris with mystical beings, such as a genie in order to protect the keris owner and give more destructive power.
Keris is a custom, personal weapon, and should never be a mass product. Keris for the king, priest, high ranking official, farmer, trader, fisherman, worker or soldier are different. Hence, a good keris for a king is not necessarily good for a trader, and vice versa.
Well, that’s merely a creed. Anyway, let’s not talk about the supernatural stuff here. I just want to introduce you some traditional weapons in Indonesian culture.
This weapon is more like a sword. Its popularity reaches overseas. Many foreign tourists brought mandau as a souvenir when they headed back to their country. I don’t want to scare you, but in 2001, the Dayak people use mandau to cut off the heads of other ethnic people in Indonesia. Some kind of genocide in Borneo land. Oh, that was really horrible, if you followed the news. But of course, it’s just a tragedy. It doesn’t happen every day here.
Rencong (Aceh, Sumatra)
It’s as long as a machete. Rencong is quite popular because of its unique shape. It was a weapon of the nobility in Aceh, a sign of virility and pride for the owners. During the war against invaders, rencong was a bold symbol of struggle. A few Acehneses consider Rencong as heirlooms and sacred, especially the ancient ones. But again, this is just a belief.
Kelewang (North Sumatra)
Kelewang is more like a sword. Actually, this is not a typical weapon of North Sumatra tribes in the past. People invented it around the 1900’s as a weapon to rob. In Medan city, 1980’s, kelewang was often used as a main tool for man-to-man fight between thugs or gangsters. But nowadays, the presence of kelewang has faded, replaced by some shorter, practical blades.
Badik (Bugis-Makassar, Sulawesi)
Badik’s shape resembles a knife, and almost similar to rencong. It has a long history during the early days of the kingdoms in Sulawesi. Badik had become a part of youth Bugis-Makassar, perhaps such as mobile phones today. Wherever the young Bugis-Makassar people went, they definitely brought Badik, tucked in between pants and waist.
Kujang (Sunda, West Java)
It’s kind of machete with unique, beautiful shape. Currently, Sundanese seldom keep kujang in their own, because its function has been replaced by bedok (a blade for gardening), which is more practical in use. Well, I think Kujang is now just for a display item or collection.
Celurit (Madura, East Java)
This weapon is quite practical and shaped like a crescent moon. In some other parts of Indonesia, celurit called arit. The main function of celurit is to cut the grass. However, sometime, it’s also used for murder intention. Not to mention the criminals who use it to threaten their victim. In Madura, a bloody fight using celurit called “carok”. It’s a common tradition, usually what bring it are woman, land or dignity.
Well, there are some other traditional blades in Indonesia. Only, they’re quite similar. And the others are some common weapons like you can see in over the world: spear, arrow, blowgun, knife, sword, etc.