Kris with Sheath


Not on view

This cast-gold and gem-encrusted kris hilt is particularly noteworthy for the quality of its fluid modeling and crisp sculptural detail, features suggesting that it was made as early as the sixteenth or seventeenth century. The subject represented is thought to be Rāhvana, also known as Dasamuka, the evil antagonist of the Rāmāyana. The oldest of the Sanskrit epic poems, it is still revered throughout India and Indonesia.

Rāhvana was a mighty demon (rākshasa) and the ruler of the kingdom of Ngalenka (Sri Lanka). Like the buffalo demon, Mahisha, he gained nearly matchless powers through the practice of severe ascetic devotions to Shiva, which enabled him to defeat and humiliate the gods on several occasions. Because a human champion was needed to combat Rāhvana, Vishnu agreed to manifest himself on earth, in his seventh avatar, as Prince Rāma. After a series of Adventures Rāma attacked Rāhvana's kingdom with the help of an army of monkeys and bears, led by Bhīma's half brother, Hanumān. Like Bhīma, Hanumān had inherited from Batara Bayu great strength, the ability to leap immense distances, and other fabulous powers. He plays a major role in the climactic battle with Rāhvana's demon army, to the extent that, in some Indonesian versions of the tale, it is Hanumān, not Rāma, who ultimately kills Rāhvana.

On the hilt Rāhvana is recognizable as a demon by his round bulging eyes with large pupils, coarse features such as his broad flat nose, and prominent fangs. His kingly status is signified by his royal crown, abudnant jewelry, and elaborate and intricately patterned costume. In his right hand Rāhvana holds his sword, called Kicandrasa, possibly representing the weapon given to him by Shiva as a reward for his devoted worship.

Kris with Sheath, Steel, wood, copper, gold, semiprecious stones, turquoise, pigment, Balinese

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