Kelulus or kalulus is a type of rowing boat used in Indonesia. It is typically small in size, keelless, and propelled using oar or paddle. This type of craft were traditionally used for short transit in protected waters. It is not the same as prahu kalulis of the eastern part of the Indonesian archipelago.


The name kelulus seems to be derived from Malay and Javanese word "lulus", which means "to go right through anything". According to Hobson-Jobson, the literal translation would be "the threader".[1]


The earliest report of kelulus is from Hikayat Raja-Raja Pasai (Chronicle of the Kings of Pasai) of the 14th century, in which they are mentioned as one type of vessel used by the Majapahit empire. Although they are not well described, kelulus is one of Majapahit's main vessel types after jong and malangbang.[2]

From Portuguese sources, they are transcribed as calaluz (calaluzes for plural form), whereby they are described as "A kind of swift rowing vessel used in the Maritime Southeast Asia".[3]

Tome Pires in 1515 reported that the pates (dukes) of Java has many calaluz for raiding, and described:

"...but they are not fit to go out of the shelter of the land. Kelulus were specialty of Java. They are carved in a thousand and one ways, with figures of serpents, and gilt; they are ornamental. Each of them has many of these, and they are very much painted, and they certainly look well and are made in a very elegant way, and they are for kings to amuse themselves in, away from the common people. They are rowed with paddles."

"... They go out in triumphal cars, and if they go by sea [they go] in painted calaluzes, so clean and ornamental, with so many canopies that the rowers are not seen by the lord; "[4]

In 1537, Javanese kelulus encountered in Patani are described as having two rows of oars: one is made of paddles, the other one is "as galleys"; they carried 100 soldiers, with much artillery and firearms. Gonçalo de Souza, in his Coriosidades writes that they have 27 oars (54 rowers?) and 20 soldiers and are armed with small swivel guns (falconselhos) at bow and stern.[5]

Spanish dictionary lists them as "Small boat used in the East Indies".

Portuguese historian António Galvão in 1544 made a treatise about Maluku, which lists the types of boats from the region, including the kalulus. He described the hull as being egg shaped at the middle but sloping upwards at both ends. At the prow they are shaped like high snake neck with the head of a serpent and the horns of a deer.[6]


Kelulus were used as transport vessel or war boat. Majapahit overseas invasion used kelulus, usually in uncountable numbers.[2] The pati of Java had many war kelulus for raiding coastal villages. During the Demak Sultanate attack on Portuguese Malacca of 1513, kelulus were used as armed troop transports for landing alongside penjajap and lancaran, as the Javanese junks were too large to approach shore.[7]

Queen Kalinyamat of Jepara attacked Portuguese Malacca in 1574 with 300 vessels, 220 of which are calaluzes and the rest were jong. The attack ended in failure for the Javanese.[8]

See also


  1. Yule, Sir Henry (1996). Hobson-Jobson: The Anglo-Indian Dictionary. Wordsworth Editions. p. 143. ISBN 9781853263637.
  2. Chronicle of the Kings of Pasai, 3: 98: After that, he is tasked by His Majesty to ready all the equipment and all weapons of war to come to that country of Pasai, about four hundred large jongs and other than that much more of malangbang and kelulus.
  3. Pinto, Fernão Mendes (2013). The Travels of Mendes Pinto. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226923231.
  4. Pires, Tome. Suma Oriental. The Hakluyt Society. ISBN 9784000085052.
  5. Coriosidades de Gonçalo de Souza, manuscript in the Biblioteca da Universidade de Coimbra, Ms. 3074, fol. 38vo.
  6. Jacobs, Hubert (1971). A Treatise on the Moluccas (c. 1544), probably the preliminary version of António Galvão's lost Historia das Moluccas. Rome: Jesuit Historical Society.
  7. Winstedt, Sir Richard (1962). A History of Malaya. Marican.
  8. Sumatra, 431. William Marsden, Cambridge University Press (2012). The History of Sumatra: Containing an Account of the Government, Laws, Customs, and Manners of the Native Inhabitants.
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