It originated in Java in the 9th century during the Sri Vijaya empire and subsequently spread throughout the Indonesian archipelago, Malaysia, Southern Thailand, Southern Philippines (Mindanao), Singapore, Brunei and some parts of Cambodia, Laos and Burma as the favoured close quarter fighting weapon. A good keris is made of iron, nickel, several alloys and a piece from a meteorite.
The serpentine blade is reminiscent of a snake in mid-strike. Traditional keris makers are known as Empu in Indonesia and Pandai besi in Malaysia.
It is the detail at the bottom of the blade which distinguishes a keris from an ordinary knife.
Several guards have been designed to catch an opponent’s blade from reaching the hand and to prevent slipping.
Another well known keris in colonial Ceylon was the “Henaraja thalaya” (Blade from the thunderbolt) used by the legendary bandit Utuwankande Saradiel in the 18th century.