The East Javanese period starts with King Sindok who was to found a dynasty that would rule through 1222.
Sindok's dynasty was first called Isana, and later Dharmawangsa after a late 10th C king.
King Sindok ruled from 929 through 947. The years of his rule were recorded in
an old prasasti that is kept in Calcultta. Sindok's daughter Sri Isanatunggawijaya married King Lokapala and of their union Makutawangsawardhana
was born. We know little about these two rulers, but more is known about the
latter's successor King Dharmawangsa who ruled from 991 - 1016. Dharmawangsa composed a legal code (the Shivashasana, known on Bali as Poerwadigama), and ordered the first Old Javanese version of the
Dharmawangsa attacks Srivijaya, but the Kingdom had not weakened to the extent that the attack went unchallenged. In return Srivijaya mounts a counter attack. Dharmawangsa died and his son in law, Airlangga proclaims himself King.
Airlangga was the eldest son of Makutawangawardhana's daughter
Gunapriyadharmapatni and Udayana, a Balinese prince. Airlangga's youngest
brother, Anak Wungsu, was to rule on Bali. He is buried at Tampaksiring.
In 1024 a war ensued between Srivijaya and the South Indian King Rajendracola. In 1035 Airlangga succeeds in
establishing himself as King, and he unifies Java.
Airlangga was an illustrous ruler. He commissioned the Arjunawiwaha - a Javanised Indian epic, started waterworks and encouraged the sea trade through Tuban. The royal seat was not in Tuban, however, but in
Kahuripan. He tightened ties with Bali and Borneo, that later became his most important vassal.
In 1042 before retiring as a hermit, Airlangga split his kingdom between his two sons. Of the two kingdoms Daha (at Kediri) and Janggala (near Surabaya) the former was to thrive through 1222. The Daha kingdom boasts the important king Jayabaya, whose prophesies remain popular right through the present day. Jayabaya also commissioned a Javanese version of the Bharatayudha in 1157.
Daha was ultimately brought down by a rebellious province. Ken Arok, was an upstart who gained the power over Tumapel, a fiefdom east of Kawi, and then gradually extends it by gobbling up parts of the old Janggala kingdom. As he consolidated his power he rebelled against Kediri and proceeded to ask its obeisance. Ken Arok takes power as king Rajasa, and with him starts the Singasari dynasty. The last king of Singasari, Kertanagara was to change Javanese foreign policy. He entered into an alliance with Champa and sails against Srivijaya in 1275. Kertanagara's troops remained West for many years, making the Kingdom vulnerable to attack.
When, in 1293, Kertanagara's troops returned home they had not succeeded in bringing down Srivijaya, but did gain a vassal in the old kingdom of Melayu which at the time was said to have revived. Kertanagara's kingdom was attacked out of Kediri while his troops were away, and Kertanagara abdicated.
Before his abdication, Kertanagara had rejected the advances from Kublai Khan who demanded obedience from Kertanagara. To illustrate his point, Kertanagara had defaced the Khan's envoy. In return, Kublai Khan sent a punitive expedition, but it was said to be ill-fated. Of the 1,000 vessels sent, few arrived, and the sailors were starved and low on morale. The vessels had not been allowed to moor in Champa, an ally of Singasari. When the Chinese troops did reach Java,
Raden (Prince) Wijaya, a descendant of Kertanagara, sent them on Jayakatwang, the usurper from
Kediri. R. Wijaya had been allowed by Kediri to establish himself at Tarik
near Surabaya as a forward base to protect the kingdom. This faith turned out to
have been misplaced: R. Wijaya soon set out to establish his own power
The village at Tarik was renamed
Majapahit, and R. Wijaya proceeded to attract residents there and at the same
time began to establish an army. His dynastic ambitions were made explicit by
his act to take the four daughters of the deceased king of Singasari,
Kertanegara, as brides. To this menage he soon added a Malay princess, sent as
tribute to the now deceased king Kertanegara. This became the starting point of
an active policy of expansion. Areas nearby were brought under actual control,
with safety assured, while areas further away could settle their own affairs,
albeit under a governor appointed by Majapahit. The most outlying areas likely
only sent tribute and requested notional approval for the appointment of new
The good location of Majapahit - accessible
on the Brantas river - and improving road safety and security encouraged trade
and economic growth. Principal local produce included rice, beans and salt, some
of which were in turn traded for spices in East-Indonesia and used to trade for
fabric and ceramics/porcelain with other nations. In this way Majapahit also
became a major player in the entrepot trade. The ascent of Majapahit
continued under his son Jayanegara who after his death in 1328 was de-facto
succeeded by his half-sister Tribuwana Tungga Dewi (Bhre Kahuripan) who ruled in
name of her Mother Gayatri [link:
genealogy]. Early during her reign, Tribuwana was faced with two major
revolts (those of Sadeng and Keta) that were forcefully subjugated by Gajah Mada,
then commander of the army of Majapahit. He continued to play a major role in
state affairs even after Tribuwana's son, Hayam Wuruk ascended the throne as
Much is known about the kingdom of Majapahit at this time due to the survival of
the Nagarakrtagama, a narrative about
King Rajasanegara as written by one of his courtiers under the pen-name Mpu
With the aid of Gajah Mada, Hayam Wuruk (r
1350-1389) further consolidated the power of the kingdom to most of the area we now call Indonesia, less North Sulawesi but with the inclusion of the Malay Peninsula.
Gajah Mada remains famous to this date for his Palapa Oath (Sumpah Palapa): his
pledge not to enjoy in worldly pleasures before having united the entire
Nusantara Archipelago under the suzerainty of Majapahit. Relations between Hayam
Wuruk and Gajah Mada cooled after the Bubat incident of 1357. This incident is
described in the Kidung Sunda. Hayam Wuruk intended to take Dyah Pitaloka, the
princess of Pajajaran (the kingdom controlling Sunda/West Java) as his bride.
When the party of Pajajaran arrived at Majapahit, Gajah Mada insisted they
formally acknowledged the overlordship of Majapahit, something they refused to
do. In the ensuing battle both Dyah Pitaloka and her Father Sri Baduga Maharaja
In retrospect, the Bubat incident and
Gajah Mada's subsequent withdrawal from active politics formed a turning point
in the history of Majapahit. Gajah Mada retained his nominal position as First
Minister but had lost some important duties. Illness further restricted his
effectiveness. After his death in 1364 he was not succeeded by a single person,
but by a Council of Ministers that never managed to function effectively. Three
years later a new First Minister, Gajah Enggon had been appointed but he was not
of Gajah Mada's caliber. The descent of the Kingdom accellerated after the death
of Hayam Wuruk in 1389 when his son Wirabumi, born of a minor consort, contested
the passing of the throne to H's nephew and son-in-law Wirkamawarddhana.
As Majapahit weakened, its power eroded. This erosion was worst in the cities on Java's north coast which prospered from foreign trade. This trade brought Islam - via Persia, India and Sumatra - to Java. The city states that were to gain the supremacy over Majapahit were no longer semi-Hinduised but Muslim.
Last updated: 10-Apr-2011