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Indonesia History - Singasari Kingdom - 1222-1292

Some temples in East Java, especially around Malang, have a close historical connection to the Singasari Kingdom. The Singasari dynasty descended from Ken Dedes and her two husbands, Tunggul Ametung an akuwu (chief of an area comparable to present day Subdistrict) of Tumapel and Ken Arok, a commoner who killed Tunggul Ametung and seized his power and wife.

The history of Singasari Kingdom has given birth to a legend of Kris (Javanese double-edged dagger) Mpu Gandring that is highly popular among the people of East Java. Legend has it that Ken Arok was born out of an affair between a woman from Panawijen village named Ken Endog and Brahma. Shortly after his birth, baby Ken Arok was abandoned by his mother in a cemetery, and then was found and brought home by an experienced thief. From his stepfather, Ken Arok learned many things, such as murder, gambling and robbery. Young Ken Arok became the meanest bandit around Tumapel and people were afraid of him. One day, Ken Arok met a Brahmin priest called Dang Hyang Lohgawe and the priest advised him to leave his walk of life. Following the advice of the priest, Ken Arok quit being a criminal and became a Tumapel soldier.

The then chief of Tumapel, an area within Kediri Kingdom, was Tunggul Ametung, who married Ken Dedes, the daughter of Mpu Purwa who lived in Panawijen village. A son named Anusapati was born out of the marriage. One day Ken Dedes went home to see her father. As she stepped down from her imperial carriage, a strong wind blew open her under skirt. Ken Arok, who was on duty of escorting the carriage, briefly saw the thighs of Tunggul Ametung’s wife. To the eyes of Ken Arok, the thighs produced a sparkling light. The scene lingered on the mind of Ken Arok. He then asked Mpu Parwa about what he had seen. The master explained that the light was an omen that Ken Dedes was predestined to be a woman who would descend kings on the island of Java.

Ken Arok then ordered a Kris from a Kris master (mpu) in Tumapel named Mpu Gandring. It takes long to forge, shape, and follow the necessary rituals to make a reliably powerful Kris. Because the completion of his Kris was dragging on, Ken Arok became very angry. He snatched the unfinished Kris and stabbed it to the body of its maker. Dying, Mpu Gandring cast a curse upon Ken Arok that he too would meet the same fate to be killed by the same Kris and that the Kris would take seven lives. Ken Arok lent Mpu Gandring Kris to his colleague, Kebo Ijo, who liked to show off. Kebo Ijo showed the Kris to his fellow soldiers and bragged that the Kris was his. After it became a common knowledge that the Kris was Kebo Ijo’s, Ken Arok stole and used it to stab Tunggul Ametung. As it was expected, people, who were under the impression that the Kris belonged to Kebo Ijo, accused him for the murder while Ken Arok walked freely and took over Tunggul Ametung’s place as the chief and married Ken Dedes.

Soon after he became the chief, Ken Arok conquered Kediri Kingdom, which was under the reign of King Kertajaya (1191-1222). Upon defeating Kediri Kingdom, Ken Arok declared the establishment of Singasari Kingdom and made himself its first king entitled Rajasa Bathara Sang Amurwabhumi. Ken Arok had a son named Mahisa Wongateleng from his marriage to Dari Ken Dedes, and another son named Tohjaya from his marriage to Ken Umang. Then, Mpu Gandring’s curse started to happen. Anusupati killed Ken Arok and took over his throne, Tohjaya came up and killed Anusupati and claimed the throne. In turn, Ranggawuni, Anusupati’s son, killed Tohjaya and came to reign. Ranggawuni was addressed Jayawisnuwardhana and ruled Singasari from 1227 until 1268. Jayawisnuwardhana was succeeded by his son, Joko Dolog, who was called Kertanegara (1268-1292).

Kertanegara was the last of Singasari kings. He was overthrown by Jayakatwang, the king of Kediri. Jayakatwang, however, was defeated by Kertanegara’s son-in-law, Raden Wijaya, who was the descendant of Mahisa Wongateleng and King Udayana from Bali. Later, Raden Wijaya established a new kingdom named Majapahit and ruled the kingdom from an area called Tarik (Trowulan).

Singasari Temple is located at Candi Renggo village, Singosari Subdistrict, about 9 km from Malang city. The temple is also called Cungkup temple or Tower temple, meaning that this temple is the highest, at least compared to the other temples in the compound. Today, however, it is only Singasari temple left in Singasari area, while the other temples have gone without a trace. There is no certain time when this temple was built, but archaeologists estimate that the temple was built around 13th century to commemorate King Kertanagara of Singosari Kingdom.

Kidal Temple was built in 1248 AD, following a 'Cradha' funeral ceremony for King Anusapati of Singasari Kingdom. The temple was constructed as King Anusapati’s dharma in order the he received glorification as Shiva Mahadewa. Built during transitional period of Central Java kingdoms’ heyday to East Java kingdoms, Kidal Temple shares the characteristics of Central Java temple and East Java temple.

Jago Temple was built between 1268 and 1280 AD, as a tribute to the 4th King of Singasari Sri Jaya Wisnuwardhana. Although the temple built during the ruling of Singasari Kingdom, the two books mentioned that in 1359 AD Jago Temple was one of the places most frequently visited by King Hayam Wuruk of the Majapahit Empire. The connection between Jago Temple and Singasari Kingdom can also be traced from lotus carvings, which ramble upwards from their stems and decorate the statues’ pedestals. Such lotus motif was highly popular during Singasari Kingdom.

Verse 56 of Negarakertagama mentions that Jawi Temple was built by the last king of Singasari Kingdom, Kertanegara, as a worship shrine for Shiva-Buddhist followers. King Kartanegara was a Shiva-Buddhist follower. While being a worship shrine, Jawi Temple is also a place where Kertanegara ashes are kept. This is rather strange because Jawi Temple is located quite distant away from the center of Singasari Kingdom. It is probably because of the fact that the people in the area were so loyal to their king and many of them were Shiva-Buddhist followers. The assumption is founded on a reality that as Raden Wijaya, Kertanegara’s son-in-law, fled after Kertanegara was dethroned by King Jayakatwang from Gelang-gelang (Kediri); he had once hidden in this area before taking refuge to Madura.

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Page last modified: 03-04-2012 19:28:06 ZULU