Javanese system of blade classification    (A. G. Maisey)

Tangguh” is a term relating to the classification of a keris or other blade.  Classification may refer to its type, period made, or the period of the maker.  There is no universal acceptance among collectors of what the word “tangguh” means, but it has proven to be a useful concept for organizing a set of physical characteristics that define a keris. A definition of tangguh sometime given is “estimating the style of a particular era or place”.  The description of any tangguh could overlap because masters tangguh categories sometimes disagree and descriptions were passed down via oral tradition.

Physical Indicators

  1. Tanting: perceived weight
  2. Besi: iron
  3. Baja: steel
  4. Pamor:  the material used to create the contrasting pattern on a keris blade
  5. Pawakan: the form of the body of the keris; visual impression overall
  6. Gonjo: the wider, separate section at the blade base
  7. Gandhik: the swelling at the front of the blade base
  8. Blumbangan: the depression at the blade base gripped between thum and forefinger
  9. Sogokan: the fuller or fullers sometimes found in the sorsoran of a keris
  10. Ada-Ada: the central ridge
  11. Kruwingan: the depressions running on either side of the ada-ada
  12. Luk-lukan:  the waves
  13. Wadidang: the broad curve of the blade into the egonjo

The characteristics of the above features of a blade are assessed and an attempt made to align these characteristics with the accepted characteristics of the various tangguh classifications. Complete agreement with one single classification is seldom obtained, except in those cases where a blade of extremely high quality is concerned. A balanced judgement is made, and an opinion given, which may place the blade into one of the Javanese classifications. Experts also differ on the number of tangguh.

The factors affecting value are tangguh (classification), attribution, provenance, state of preservation, excellence of execution of both pamor and form; the pamor motif can affect value, a perfectly executed and difficult pamor miring motif has a much higher value than a pamor mlumah motif.


Tangguh Classifications

ANCIENT AGES: The Buda/Budho Keris (circa 125 - 1125)

  • Kingdoms: Purwacarita, Medang Siwanda, Medang Kamulan, Tulis, Gilingwesi, Mamenang, roller Wiraradya, Kahuripan and Kediri.

Buda is easily recognizable because the blade is always short, wide, thick, and heavy. What is difficult to distinguish between the genuine and the counterfeit. Only serious enthusiasts can tell the difference.


ANCIENT MIDDLE AGES (circa 1126 AD - 1250 AD)

  • Kingdoms:   Janggala (Jenggala), Kediri, Pajaran, Cirebon

Janggala features: short shape of ganja, wadidang upright, iron-smooth and solid black pamor like white hair, sogokan with pamor.

Pajajaran features: ganja ambatok mengkurep, fluffy, sirah cecak long, fibrous and dry iron, pieces of blade slender, pamor like a fat/large, or pejetan or blumbangansogokan rather wide and short.  Pajajaran was centered in West Java from the 13th to 16th Century.  The old Sunda kingdom with an animist culture.


OLD MIDDLE (CENTRAL) AGES (circa 1251 AD - 1459 AD)

  • Kingdoms: Majapahit, Jenggala, Kediri, Tuban, Madura, Majapahit, Blambangan

Majapahit features: Pieces of blade slender rather small/slim, ganja sebit rontal small and flexible, short and pointed sirah cecak, odo odo is sharp, heavy metal and black. Pamor ngrambut long hairy or fibrous.

Jenggala features: The iron is dense and smooth jet black. Pamor, if present, is like white hair.

Tuban features: High-shaped ganja - furry, blunt head spot. , sirah cecak blunt, pamor spreads out, cut of blade is convex and wide

Madura features include a blade that is pig iron - rough and heavy, sekar kacang blunt and has a “big” pamor.


MIDDLE AGES (TENGAHAN) (circa 1460 AD - 1613 AD)

  • Kingdoms: Demak, Pajang, Madiun, Mataram

Early Mataram (Senopaten) features: a form of ganja (lizards catch prey), full pamor sogokan, sekar kacang like bun of Wayang (puppets), pamor looks solid and the upper of puyuan are stuck (end of sogokan)


YOUNG AGES (NOM) (circa 1614 - 1945)

  • Kingdoms:  Kartasura, Surakarta, Yogyakarta, HB, PB

Kartosura features iron that is a little bit rough, heavy paunch blades, and ganja with lizard head and pointed shape.

Surakarta features a blade such as a cassava leaf. The iron is fine. pamor spread. Puyuan pointed shape, gulu melted on short ganja. Odo-Odo and other parts look sweet and flexible.

Yogyakarta has a hanging ganja, smooth and heavy metal, full pamor spread out throughout the blade.

The Pakubuwana X period of heritage keris is said to have ended in 1939 after which many of the greatest keris makers did not survive World War II


INDEPENDENCE (KAMARDIKAN) (circa 1945 - present)

Kerises created after Indonesia’s independence in 1945 are included in the classification called “kamardikan”   Resurrection of the keris art in Surakarta was resumed in 1970 by a master (“empu”) called K.R.T Hardjonagoro (Go Tik Swan), supported by Sudiono Humardani.   The keris made by the these makers and those that followed are called Kamardikan.)