A Batak Kalasan
Karo Batak, Sumatra – 19th century
Materials: Horn (Bubalis armee bubalis), Steel, Wood, Silver, Suasa
The ‘Kalasan’ is a traditional sword of the Batak people on Sumatra. Another local name for this type is ‘Piso Rempu Pirak’ which means ‘knife with silver strips’. While the blades are generally always the same, flat spine and with an S- shaped cutting edge and small protrusion near the base, the hilts can vary. The most common hilt types are the ‘Hulu Peusangan’ and the ‘Sukul Jering’. Both commonly seen in the Toba and Karo regions. This example however has a very unusual hilt, which I never encountered before. Made of white karbouw (buffalo) horn and depicting a very detailed ‘Makara’ eating a human.
The blade of the ‘Kalasan’ is, as mentioned earlier, of typical shape. The local term for this type of blade is ‘Taka’ and has a straight spined blade with an S-shape cutting edge ending in a sharp tip. On the cutting side, a small protrusion is visible which functions as a guard for the index finger. The blades were made of local steel and were rarely imported as such compared to other types.
The scabbard is well made and bound in thin silver sheets which is preferred by the Batak tribes as we can see returning in many decorative sword sheets and even blunderbusses. Consisting of two wooden sheets which perfectly follow the outlines of the blade. The scabbard mouth is carved with decoration and a large ‘suasa’ and silver sheet ending in smaller sheets towards the tip.
Very unusual, yet very exquisitely carved. The details of the mythical ‘Makara’ creature with sharp teeth, scaled body and sharp nose must be mentioned. The facial expression of the person being eaten leaves nothing to ones imagination. The hilt is mounted on a ‘suasa‘ ferrule which is finished with a double silver ring.
Condition: Excellent, minor piece of the silver sheet is missing on the scabbard, further perfect.
Blade spine thickness: 8mm
Blade length: 49.4cm
Scabbard length: 51cm
Total length: 61.2cm
References: A. van Zonneveld’s ‘Traditional weapons of the Indonesian Archipelago’
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