Mandau for Dancing

Code:  IN1a

This is a contemporary Mandau sword (also called a parang ilang, meaning “double knife) with wooden sheath and a small knife from Borneo (Kalimantan). This particular mandau seems better suited to ceremony and dancing and less suited to fighting or the clearing of brush. This is a light, small type of mandau used by the tribes of the south and eastern districts: the Toenjoeng, and Bentian en Benoewa dayaks (dajaks).

The Mandau is the traditional sword of the Dayak aborigines of Borneo. This mandau has 2 blades: the main sword and a small knife fitted in the back of the sheath. The Mandau measures approx. 46cm long. The sheath, made of two strips of shaped  wood bound together with pleated rattan, is carved in the traditional Dayak tattoo motif with talismanic symbols including the  Dayak Aso dragon, a mystical dragon dog animal.  Like the Keris, the Mandau is believed to have supernatural power and is transmitted from generation to generation.  

The hilt on this sword is wood; others may be made of bone.  A formalized animal head is the principal decoration, along with clumps of hair protruding from the top of the grip.  Sometimes these hairs are human, but more often goat.  It is difficult to tell on this sword.

Most unusually, this is a complete example of a double sword.  A small plain sheath is on the backside of the main sheath, containing a very small blade with a round grip.  The purpose of the smaller knife is variously explained to be personal hygiene,  domestic purposes, dissecting a killed animal and most gruesomely, removal of soft tissue from within an enemy’s skull, typically through the nostrils.  In remote villages of Kalimantan, travelers still come across skulls—usually not fresh ones.

Read more about the The Iban Dayak

Read more about The Mandau


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