That’s not a knife...
Published/Last edited or updated: 17th March, 2018
The relatively new Kris Nusantara Museum offers a formidable collection of krises which will appeal to both the Kris-inclined and those with just a spare hour to kill.
Opened in August 2017 by the Indonesian President Joko Widodo (who himself hails from Solo), the modern museum spans a series of floors each dedicated to a different aspect of krises and while the collection is indeed impressive, it is very unfortunate that zero effort was made to supply even a minimal amount of sign boarding or captioning in English.
Friendly staff make up for this by supplying an English speaking guide for free to walk you through the entire museum (which takes roughly an hour), but this is an unfortunate oversight which detracts significantly from what could otherwise be quite a fascinating museum. As foreigners are charged double for admission, perhaps they’re planning on putting that gouge towards some translation efforts—we doubt it.
While the kris is most closely associated with Central Java (and to a lesser extent, Bali and Sulawesi), you will come across them further afield in Indonesia and also in Malaysia and Thailand. Krises can be seen in the carvings on Borobudur and Prambanan near Yogyakarta and Candi Sukuh (near Solo on the slopes of Gunung Lewa) and the earliest evidence of a kris-like item has been traced back to the Dongson period in northern Vietnam (ie., around 300BC).
Made from layered iron, the kris is an asymmetrical dagger formed of three parts—the blade, the sheath and the hilt. These are often so ornately prepared that each part could be considered a standalone work of art—and together they often form a masterpiece.
A kris can be a spiritual object, a ceremonial device, a weapon or all three. Our guide explained that in weddings, especially where a Sultan was marrying a minor wife, she may be required to marry the kris in the ceremony as the husband would not actually attend. Unusual.
Among devotees, highly regarded krises are believed to posses magical powers or to act as talismans—much as amulets are revered in Thailand—and they often play important roles in legends and folklores. A Javanese proverb recounts how a successful Javanese man must have five things—a horse, a house, a wife, a bird and a kris—our guide aid the kris was the most highly revered of these five.
Within the museum, krises are displayed on a red background in a seemingly near never-ending series of glass cases. Some interesting maps the sign boarding explain where different krises are from and also detail the different styles of blades, hilts and sheaths. There really is a staggering variety of blades—and while our guide was knowledgeable, the lack of English explanations is frustrating.
Aside from the glass boxes, dioramas show how the blades are made traditionally (which on occasion included the infusing of magic into the blade, sheath or hilt), while dummies display the various manners in which a kris can be worn—each position carries with it a different meaning.
Some blades are almost machete–like in styling with others range from snake like wavy blades through to twin blades, and on the top floor, a majestic stiletto style blade which was used for executions—our guide was extremely enthusiastic about that particular blade.
You’ll need at least an hour to fully explore the museum and it is just a ten minute walk from Radya Pustaka Museum and about thirty minutes from the Batik Museum—forming a pleasant “museum loop” you can walk in half a day.
Address: Jl Bhayangkara 2, Solo
T: (0271) 746 3997;
Coordinates (for GPS): 110º48'38.98" E, 7º34'8.69" S
See position in Apple or Google Maps: Apple Maps | Google Maps
Admission: 15,000/20,000 rupiah for foreigners and 7,500/10,000 rupiah for Indonesians (weekday/holiday)
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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