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Indonesia History - Mataram / Medang - 752-1045 / 832-1042

Powerful groups such as the Buddhist Srivijaya empire and the Hindu Mataram kingdom appeared in Java and Sumatra towards the end of the 7th century. The ancient Hindu Mataram Kingdom reached their golden era between 8th and 10th century AD. Java had been trading with other countries since before 500 BC and in the 10th century, the area witnessed a boom in sea trade due to the movement of the Mataram Kingdom to East Java.

Already in the records of Chinese travelers of the fifth century it is mentioned that in tbe country of Poli, perhaps Bali, there were Hindu princes, and that the travellers were received by priests who danced around them blowing conch-shells. Bali was already a colony of the Central Javanese kingdom of Mataram, the earliest recorded ruler of which was, according to Stutterheim, King Sandjaya or Sanjaya (AD 732) of the Sailendra dynasty, who ruled also over southern Sumatra.

The Sailendras were Mahayanic Buddhists, and their highly developed art was like that of the great Gupta period of India. Sivaism was introduced towards the middle of the ninth century and, by degrees, the power of the Sailendras waned, but it was within this period, from the seventh to the ninth centuries, the golden age of Javanese art, that the finest monuments of Java were built, the Buddhist Borobudur and the Sivaist Lora Djongrang in Prambanan. Soon this great civilization disappeared mysteriously and Bali came under the rule of independent kings in Pedieng and Bedulu.

It would not be surprising if Prambanan and the vicinity was one time a center of culture and a capital city of an ancient kingdom. There are so many ancient remains and artifacts. It could be visualized that the building, houses and the Royal Palace (the Keraton) were made of wood, and only the temples were made of stones. That is why other remains were not found except the temples, which can hold for thousands of years. From the inscriptions that have been found, no clues were found of how political administration was exercised.

A temple was typically built by a king or person who has authority over a specific area with various purposes such as a worshipping place, a religious teaching center, monastery, and administration center. The description of Kalasan temple is stated in the Kalasan inscription, written in the Javanese year of 700 (778 AD). The Kalasan inscription is written in Sanskrit language and pranagari letter. The inscription describes that spiritual counselors of the Syailendra dynasty had advised King Tejapurnapana Panangkarana to build a scared building to the worship of Dewi Tara and a monastery for Buddhist monks.

In the 10th century AD, there was a big movement of the Mataram Kingdom from Central Java to East Java, though there is no clear explanation of why this movement took place. The movement of the Hindu Mataram Kingdom to East Java could be due to economic and political reasons. Central Java was indeed agricultural region, but the building of many temples which used heavy stones consumed much labor, and their fields may have been left unattended, causing economic chaos. East Java, especially the area along Brantas River (a big river), had the potential to be a center of trade with foreign countries, besides the agricultural potential. Politically, Central Java was more vulnerable to any attack from outside.

A volcanic explosion (maybe Mount Merapi, North of Yogyakarta ) was probably the main cause of the movement. The evidences for this is based on the fact that there were many temples buried by lava and thick volcanic ash, for example the Sambisari Temple and Payak waterbed. For example, Kedulan temple is about 12 miles (20 km) south of Merapi's summit and 4 miles (7 km) northeast of Yogyakarta. The temple was built during the Mataram Hindu Kingdom in the 9th century. The temple was discovered in 1994 and is being excavated. The temple is buried under at least seven lahar deposits. Fluvial deposits alternate with the lahars. No primary or pyroclastic deposits are present. The youngest lahar was deposited in the 16th century. The basal unit is fluvial and overlain by two lahar deposits.

A high proportion of the 175,000 human deaths due to volcanic eruption over the past two centuries world-wide occurred on the island of Java. There are 129 volcanoes on Java, and the most active of these is Gunung Merapi ‘‘the Fire Mountain’’ in Central Java. Historical records showthat Merapi has had at least 13 major eruptions with human casualties since 1006. However, since all but one of these recorded eruptions took place in the last one-third of this period (viz., since 1672), the poorer records from earlier times are probably disguising a much higher toll.

Mataram continued prosperous trade with China & Arabs. Mataram challenged Srivijaya’s dominance in 1006, but was decisively defeated. Rajendra Chola’s warfare with & defeat of Srivijaya in 1026 allowed Airlangga, a Balinese prince, to restore Mataram’s political power. Airlangga divided his kingdom between his two sons in 1042. The two kingdoms were Janggala and Kediri. Kediri was dominant and flourished in trade with India and the Mediterranean during early 13th Century. Ken Angrok conquered Janggala and then Kediri to establish the Singhasari 1222. Under King Kertanagara, Singhasari dominated both the Malacca & Sunda Straits until the Mongol invasion in 1292. Kertanagara was killed by a dissident vassal in the face of Kublai Khan’s threatened invasion. His heir, Vijaya, fled to Majapahit. In a twist of fate, the Mongols assisted him in overthrowing the usurper.

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Page last modified: 18-04-2012 19:22:46 ZULU