The Javanese system of blade
The word "tangguh" in the Javanese language has a number of meanings, depending upon the
context of usage:-
Robson and Wibisono ( Javanese)
1. dependable; 2. estimate; opinion concerning; 3. characteristics of a keris according to the
period of the maker.
1. dependable; 2. considerate; 3. an appropriate time; 4. approximately, about, around; 5.
supposition, estimate; 6. style, form; 7. embryo; 8. type (specific to keris).
From the above it can be seen that the dictionary meaning given to the word "tangguh" places it
squarely as a term relating to the classification of a keris, however, the dictionaries consulted are
not in agreement as to whether "tangguh" refers to classification according to type, or
classification according to period, and dependent upon prior identification of the maker.
In fact, the application of tangguh to keris, in Java, is not precisely in accord with any of the
dictionary meanings given. Further, even within Java there is no universal acceptance amongst
those with a high degree of keris knowledge, as to exactly what the tangguh of a keris means.
In practice , a keris blade is assigned a particular tangguh after an appraisal of various physical
features of the blade has been carried out.
The indicators considered in this appraisal include, but may not be limited to:-
1) Tanting : percieved weight.
2) Besi : iron
3) Baja: steel
4) Pamor: the material used to create the contrasting pattern observed on a keris blade
5) Pawakan: the form of the body of the keris; the overall visual impression
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 thumb 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 gonjo
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. These tangguh
classifications include, but are not limited to:-
Mataram (several sub-divisions exist)
It cannot be emphasised too strongly that any tangguh assigned to a blade is an opinion. However,
it should be an opinion that can be defended by arguing the accepted characteristics of the various
indicators against the characteristics of the indicators in the blade to which the tangguh has been
assigned. It is not sufficient for anybody to simply give an opinion on a tangguh without being
able to provide solid reasons for that opinion.
The social roots of the tangguh system suggest that it was never intended that every blade should
be able to be classified within the system, thus to assign a tangguh classification to any blade,
irrespective of the level of quality of the blade, and the strength of the indicators present in the
blade could be considered to be an incorrect application of the system.
Although the opinions of people with an equally high level of keris knowledge can vary, and
although the same person could give a different opinion on two different occasions, this will only
happen where keris of less than excellent quality are involved. Moreover, there will never be any
confusion of a more recent tangguh with a tangguh associated with an earlier period. For
example, a Surakarta period blade will never be given a tangguh of Pajajaran or Majapahit.
From the point of view of a collector based in the world outside Java, it is perhaps best to use an
assigned tangguh as an indicator of whether a blade can be considered to be old, middle aged, or
recent, but without attaching any specific date to that blade.