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Indonesia History - Sultanate of Demak (1403-1518 / 1475-1548)

Demak / Damak is a historic town on the road to Kudus and Surabaya, 25 km from Semarang. Demak, the chief town of a regency famous in the ancient Javanese history, lies 13 miles north-east of Samarang. Situated in a cool and luxuriant valley, here was founded a dynasty of Musulman princes, fervent propagandists of Islam, whose turbulent proselytism made them for a time the moral rulers of Central Java.

Demak Raden Patah established the Sultanate of Demak in 1403, the first Muslim principality on Java. One of them a very holy but also a very ambitious man Raden Patah, built, it is said, the city mosque, which is celebrated throughout Java, and was completed in 1468.

From Demak issued, in the latter half of the fifteenth century, the religious and political movement which banded together the petty Musulman princes of the north coast of Java for the purpose of annihilating the great Indo-Javanese kingdom of Madjapahit. In 1478, Madjapahit, the capital of the great Javanese feudal empire of the Hindus, fell and the Hindu supremacy was at the beginning of the end. A son of the last Rajah of Madjapahit by a discarded wife struck the final blow. Raden Patah, son or grandson, so it was said, of the Sultan of Madjapahit, wished at one blow to avenge an injury done to his mother and to secure the triumph of Islam.

A convert to the Mahometan faith, he became the avenger of his mother's wrongs, and rebelling against the authority of his father, defeated him decisively in battle and set up his own former fiefdom of Demak as an independent Mahometan state. Demak grew steadily in power and importance and ultimately became the empire of Mataram, the precursor of the native "principalities" of present-day Java. At the time of the fall of Madjapahit its Rajah claimed as vassals a majority of the rulers or chiefs of the neighbouring islands to the east, but the allegiance of these was hardly more than formal, and in a very few years Mahometan Sultans had replaced the Hindu Rajahs throughout all the Insulinde, and Mahometanism had become the religion of all the natives of the Archipelago, with the exception of the wild tribes and a few Hindus who had remained true to their faith and taken refuge in the forests and mountains.

Two centuries later the Dutch laid hands upon the warlike petty princes and their territory. In 1845 the city mosque had to be rebuilt; but care was taken to preserve in the new structure some sculptured columns, venerable relics of the old - the tombs of several of the sultans are to be seen near at hand. Further decimated in 1848 by a terrible famine, by the end of the 19th Century Demak lingered rather than lived.

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Page last modified: 18-04-2012 19:22:41 ZULU