, Hilt for a ritual dagger [keris] Enlarge 1 /1
Sundanese people Java, Indonesia, Cirebon
Hilt for a ritual dagger [keris] 17th century Description: Hilt of a ritual dagger
Place made: West Java, Indonesia
Materials & Technique: sculptures, gold, cinnabar
Dimensions: 7.0 h x 2.8 w x 2.0 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2005
Accession No: NGA 2005.159

In Java, double-edged keris daggers were symbolically significant beyond their practical use as weapons. While the blade is the most important and sacred feature of a fine keris, elaborate hilts in a variety of figurative and stylised forms are a prominent feature of court dress. When worn tucked into the back of the wearers sash or belt, only the hilts are visible. The shape of this keris hilt appears to represent Garuda, the man-bird of legend.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Asian gallery extended display label