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COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Zwaard met gevest van been schede en mesje TMnr 391-120.jpg
A Mandau complete with a whittling knife, Langgei Puai, pre-1927.
Type Sword, Cutlass, Ceremonial Knife
Place of origin Borneo (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia)
Service history
Used by Dayak (Sea Dayak), Bidayuh, Kayan, Kenyah, Penan
Blade type Single edge, one side convex
Hilt type Antler/deer horn, wood
Scabbard/sheath Wood

Mandau is the traditional weapon of the Dayak people of Borneo.[1][2] Sometimes it is also known as Parang Ilang among the Bidayuh and Penan people, Malat by the Kayan people or Baieng by the Kenyah people. Mandau is mostly ceremonial. However, a less elaborate version called Ambang is used as an everyday practical tool.

Associated with the Headhunting Ceremony, where people would gather to attack other tribes, and gather heads to be used in various festivities, Mandau is both a work of art in itself and a formidable weapon.


Characteristics for the Mandau is that the blade is shaped convexly on one side and somewhat concavely on the other side.[3] The blade is mostly made of tempered metals, with exquisite vine-works and inlaid brass. The hilt is made from animal horns, such as deer's horns, although some variations with human bones and fragrant wood also have been found. Both the hilt and scabbard are elaborately carved and plumed. Details of carvings vary from tribe to tribe, but mostly depict creatures or, if human bones were used, anthropomorphic deities.


Ambang is a term used for Mandau that is made from common steel. Often it is also made as souvenir. For the untrained eye and those who are not familiar with the Mandau, will not be able to distinguish the difference between a Mandau and an Ambang because of the outlook appearance that looks almost similar. However the two are actually very different. If one examines in detail, the differences are very obvious that the engravings can be found on the blade and it is embedded with gold, copper or silver. The Mandau holds a stronger edge and with flexibility, as it is said that the Mandau is made from iron ore obtained from rocky mountains forged by skilled blacksmiths. Whereas the Ambang is made from ordinary steel.

See also


  1. Lumholtz, Carl (1920). Through Central Borneo. C. Scribner's sons. ASIN B002Y5W5SE. 
  2. unknown (2003). Arts of Asia - Volume 33, Issues 4-6. Arts of Asia Publications, University of Virginia. ASIN B0039912OC. 
  3. Albert G Van Zonneveld (2002). Traditional Weapons of the Indonesian Archipelago. Koninklyk Instituut Voor Taal Land. ISBN 9-0545-0004-2. 

External links

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