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Medang Kingdom

Medang i Bhumi Mataram


The Medang Kingdom during the Central Java and Eastern Java periods
Capital Central Java: Mdaη i Bhumi Mataram (precisely unknown, suggested somewhere in Prambanan Plain), later moved to Mamrati and Poh Pitu

East Java: Mdaη i Tamwlang and Mdaη i Watugaluh (near modern Jombang), later moved to Mdaη i Wwatan (near modern Madiun)

Languages Old Javanese, Sanskrit
Religion Kejawen, Hinduism, Buddhism, Animism
Government Monarchy
 •  732—760 Sri Sanjaya
 •  985—1006 Dharmawangsa
 •  Sanjaya established the kingdom (Canggal inscription) 732
 •  Dharmawangsa defeat to Wurawari and Srivijaya 1006
Currency Masa and Tahil (native gold and silver coins)

The Medang or Mataram Kingdom was a Javanese HinduBuddhist kingdom that flourished between the 8th and 10th centuries. It was based in Central Java, and later in East Java. Established by King Sanjaya, the kingdom was ruled by the Sailendra dynasty.

During most of its history, the kingdom seems to rely heavily on agricultural pursuit, especially extensive rice farming, and later also benefited from the maritime trade. According to foreign sources and archaeological findings, the kingdom seems to be well populated and quite prosperous. The kingdom had developed a complex society,[1] they had a well developed culture and had achieved a degree of sophistication and refined civilisation.

In the period between the late 8th century to the mid 9th century, the kingdom saw the blossoming of classical Javanese art and architecture, testified by the rapid growth of temple construction dotted the landscape of its heartland in Mataram (Kedu and Kewu Plain). The most notable temples constructed in Medang Mataram are Kalasan, Sewu, Borobudur and Prambanan temples. By 850, the kingdom had become the dominant power in Java and later of its history, was a serious rival to the hegemonic Srivijaya Empire.


  • Historiography 1
  • Kingdom's name 2
  • History 3
    • Formation and growth 3.1
    • Golden age 3.2
      • The great builder 3.2.1
      • The great conqueror 3.2.2
      • The pacifist ruler 3.2.3
      • The divide 3.2.4
      • The relative peace 3.2.5
    • Moving eastward 3.3
      • Establishing the eastern country 3.3.1
      • Expansion to Bali 3.3.2
    • Collapse 3.4
  • The Dynasty 4
    • The dual dynasties theory 4.1
    • The single dynasty theory 4.2
  • Government and economy 5
    • The capital 5.1
    • Administration 5.2
    • Economy 5.3
  • Culture and society 6
    • Society 6.1
    • Religion 6.2
    • Art and Architecture 6.3
    • Literature 6.4
  • Relations with regional powers 7
  • Legacy 8
  • List of rulers 9
    • Central Java period 9.1
    • East Java period 9.2
  • See also 10
  • References 11
    • General 11.1
    • Notes 11.2
  • External links 12


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A lithograph of Tjandi Sewoe ruins near Prambanan, circa 1859.

In the early 19th century, the discovery of numerous ruins of great monuments — such as Borobudur, Sewu and Prambanan — dominated the landscape of Kedu and Kewu Plain in Yogyakarta and Central Java, has caught the attention of some historians and scholars in colonial Dutch East Indies.[2] This has spurred the archaeological studies to uncover the history of this remarkable ancient civilisation.

The history of Mataram area as the of capital of Central Javanese Medang kingdom, is also part of the historical Yawadvipa or Bhumijava (the land of Java), and the classical Javanese civilisation. The Indians collectively called them as Yawadvipa, the Khmer refer to them as Chvea, the Chinese called them as Shepo, Chopo or Chao-wa, the Arabs called them as Jawi or Jawah, and Srivijayan refer to them as Bhumijava. The native Javanese most often refer to their lands and country simply as Jawi (Java), while the name of their nagara (country) is often based on their capital. The only foreign source mentioning Medang was found from the Philippines inscription, dated 822 saka (900).[3]

There is no comprehensive written records have survived in Java except numbers of prasasti (inscriptions) written on stones or copper plates. These inscriptions most often recorded the political and religious deeds of the rulers. The most common theme mentioned in inscriptions is the establishment of Sima (taxed rice cultivation land recognised through royal edict), and sometimes some portion or the whole of tax collected from this Sima land is appointed to fund the construction and maintenance of religious building. Nevertheless, some local legends and historical records, written on lontar — most often dated from later period — might also provides data and source to reconstruct the historical event.

Therefore, the current knowledge of the historical Javanese civilisation is derived primarily from:

  • Archaeological excavation, reconstruction and investigation of ancient structures, especially candi (temple), and also the discovery of ancient relics, such as Wonoboyo hoard.
  • Stone inscriptions, most common are mentioning about the foundation and funding of temples. Which report on the political and religious deeds of the kings, or stating their lineage. The most notable are the Canggal, Kalasan, Shivagrha and Balitung charter.
  • Bas reliefs in a series of temple walls with depictions of life in the palace, village, temple, ship, marketplace and also the everyday lives of the population. The most notable are the bas reliefs found on Borobudur and Prambanan temple.
  • Native manuscripts, mentioning about the story of kings, their deeds and exploits, that somehow corrugated with accounts mentioned in stone inscriptions. The notable example is the Carita Parahyangan.
  • Reports and chronicles of foreign diplomats, traders and travellers, mainly from Chinese, Indian, and Arab sources.

Kingdom's name

Initially the kingdom identified only through its location Yawadvipa (Java island) as mentioned in Canggal inscription (732). The inscription mentioned Rakai Mataram Sang Ratu Sanjaya (King Sanjaya, the Rakai (lord) of Mataram). The earlier historians such as Soekmono, identify this kingdom as Mataram, a historic geographical name to identify the plain south of Mount Merapi in central Java, roughly corresponds to modern Yogyakarta, Sleman and Bantul Regency. This is based on the locations where large numbers of candi were discovered in and around Prambanan Plain.

The name Medang appear later in East Javanese inscriptions such as Anjukladang inscription (937) and Minto Stone (982), Paradah inscription and some inscriptions discovered in Surabaya. As the result, historians tends to identify the Eastern Java period (929—1006) of this kingdom as Medang to differ it with its earlier Central Java period of Mataram (732—929). However, by examining the phrase in Anjukladang inscription mentioning: "Kita prasiddha mangrakpa kadatwan rahyang ta i Mdaŋ i Bhûmi Matarâm" suggests that the name Mdaŋ (read: Mdang or Medang) was already used earlier in Central Java period. The phrase "Mdaŋ i Bhûmi Matarâm" literary means "Medang in the land of Mataram", which means the kingdom name is Medang with its capital in Mataram.[4] The court moved several times after Mataram (reign of Sanjaya) to Mamrati or Amrati (reign of Rakai Pikatan), Poh Pitu (reign of Balitung), again to Bhumi Mataram (reign of Dyah Wawa), Tamwlang (reign of Sindok), Watugaluh (reign of Sindok), and last to Wwatan (reign of Dharmawangsa Teguh).

The name "Mataram" reappeared again later in the 14th century as one of Majapahit's province. Later in 16th century appeared the Islamic Mataram Sultanate located in the same area in Yogyakarta vicinity. As the result earlier historian also named this kingdom as Hindu Mataram or Ancient Mataram to differ it with later Islamic Mataram Sultanate.


Formation and growth

Canggal inscription (732), created by King Sanjaya.

The earliest account of the Medang Mataram Kingdom is in the Canggal inscription, dated 732, discovered within the compound of Gunung Wukir temple in Canggal village, southwest of the town of Magelang. This inscription, written in Sanskrit using the Pallava script, tells of the erection of a lingga (a symbol of Shiva) on the hill in the Kunjarakunja area, located on a noble island called Yawadwipa (Java) which was blessed with abundance of rice and gold. The establishment of lingga was under the order of Rakai Mataram Sang Ratu Sanjaya (King Sanjaya Rakai (lord) of Mataram). This inscription tells that Yawadwipa was ruled by King Sanna, whose long reign was marked by wisdom and virtue. After Sanna died, the kingdom fell into disunity. Sanjaya, the son of Sannaha (Sanna's sister) ascended to the throne. He conquered the areas around his kingdom, and his wise reign blessed his land with peace and prosperity for all of his subjects.[5][6]:87

It seems that Sanjaya come to power circa 717 CE, that was the starting year of Sanjaya chronicle used in King Daksa's inscription far later in early 10th-century.[7] According to Canggal inscription, Sanjaya established a new kingdom in Southern Central Java. And yet it seems to be the continuation of earlier polity ruled by King Sanna, Sanjaya's uncle. This earlier polity are linked to the earlier temple structures in Dieng Plateau, in northern part of Central Java, which is the oldest surviving structure found in Central Java. The earlier kingdom linked as the predecessor of Medang Mataram kingdom is Kalingga, located somewhere in Central Java northern coast.

The story of Sanna and Sanjaya are also described in the Carita Parahyangan, a book from a later period composed around late 16th-century, which mainly describes the history of Pasundan (the Sunda Kingdom). This book mentions that Sanna was defeated by Purbasora, King of Galuh, and retreated to Mount Merapi. Later, Sanjaya reclaimed Sanna's kingdom and ruled West Java, Central Java, East Java, and Bali. He also battled the Malayu and Keling (against their king, Sang Srivijaya). Although the manuscript seems to be romanticised, vague and not providing certain details on the period, nevertheless the almost exact name and theme of the story with historical Canggal inscription seems to confirm that the manuscript did based or inspired from the historical event.

Golden age

The period between the reign of King Panangkaran to King Balitung (span between 760—910) that roughly lasted for 150 years, marked the apogee of Javanese classic civilisation. This period witnessed the blossoming of Javanese art and architecture, as numbers of majestic temples and monuments were erected and dominated the skyline of Kedu and Kewu Plain. Most notable of these temples are Sewu, Borobudur and Prambanan temple. The Sailendras are known as the ardent temple builder.[6]:89–90

King Sanjaya was a Shivaist, and yet his successor Panangkaran was a Mahayana Buddhist.[6]:89 This shift of faith, from Shivaist Sanjaya to Buddhist Panangkaran has raised problematic questions among scholars; whether there were two competing royal families that dominated the political landscapes in Central Java, that each are patrons of either Shivaist Hindu or Mahayana Buddhism. Or more recently suggested theory, that there were only one dynasty — the Sailendras — and there was only the shift or split of royal patronage in favour to Hinduism or Buddhism.

The great builder

The construction of Kalasan temple was mentioned in Kalasan inscription, under the auspices of King Panangkaran.

Panangkaran (r. 760—780) was an enthusiastic developer, he was credited for at least five major temple projects conducted and started during his reign. According to the Kalasan inscription, dated 778 and written in the Pranagari script in Sanskrit, the Kalasan temple was erected by the will of Guru Sang Raja Sailendravamçatilaka (the teacher of the jewel of Sailendra family), who persuaded Panangkaran (Sanjaya's successor) to construct a holy building for the goddess (boddhisattvadevi) Tara and build a vihara (monastery) for Buddhist monks from the Sailendra realm. Panangkaran also awarded Kalaça village to a sangha (Buddhist monastic community).[8] The temple connected to this inscription is the Kalasan temple that housed the image of Tara, and the nearby Sari temple that was probably functioned as the monastery.

Panangkaran also responsible for the construction of Abhayagiri Vihara, connected to the today site of Ratu Boko. This hilltop compound was actually not a religious structure; consist of series of gates, ramparts, fortified walls, dry moats, walled enclosure, terraces and building bases. This site displays attributes of an occupation or settlement site, although its precise functions is unknown.[9] This led to a suggestion that this compound probably was served as the palace. Initially probably it was intended as a secluded hilltop Buddhist monastery, as mentioned in the Abhayagiri Vihara inscription. However, later it seems to be converted to become a fortified palace or a citadel, which evidence in the remnant of defensive structures.[10]

King Panangkaran probably also responsible to the conception and laid the foundation for the construction of grand Manjusrigrha temple, as mentioned in Manjusrigrha inscription dated 792. The king never saw the completion of this grand temple complex, as it finished in 792, long after his death probably around 780. This massive temple complex with total of 249 structures was the grandest of its time, and probably served as the official state's temple that conducted important stately religious ceremonies.

The great conqueror

The construction of Manjusrigrha temple was mentioned in Manjusrigrha inscription, under the auspices of King Panangkaran and completed during Dharanindra reign.

There are some reports that naval Javanese raiders invaded Tran-nam in 767, Champa in 774, and Champa again in 787.[11] The successor of Panangkaran was Dharanindra (r. 780—800) or commonly known as King Indra. He was mentioned in Kelurak inscription (dated 782) in his formal reign name Sri Sanggrama Dhananjaya. In this inscription he was hailed as Wairiwarawiramardana or "the slayer of courageous enemies". The similar title also found in Ligor B inscription discovered in Southern Thailand Malay Peninsula; Sarwwarimadawimathana, which suggest it referred to the same person. Dharanindra seems to be a valiant and warlike character, as he embarked on military naval expedition overseas and has brought Sailendras' control on Ligor in Malay Peninsula.[6]:91–92

King Indra seems to continue the builder tradition of his predecessor. He continued the construction of Manjusrigrha temple (Sewu complex), and according to the Karangtengah inscription (dated 824) responsible for the construction of Venuvana temple, connected to Mendut or probably Ngawen temple. He was also probably responsible for the conception and initiation of the construction of Borobudur and Pawon temple.

Dharanindra ascends as the Maharaja of Srivijaya. The nature of Sailendras' close relations with the neighbouring Srivijayan empire based on Sumatra is quite uncertain and complicated. It seems that in earlier times, Sailendra family was belongs within Srivijayan mandala sphere of influence. And for later period of time Sailendras' monarch rose to become the head of Srivijayan mandala. The shift that rendered Sailendras in return to become the ruler of Srivijaya was unclear. Was it led by military campaign by Dharanindra against Srivijaya in Sumatra, or more likely formed by close alliance and kinship between the house of Sailendra and the Maharaja of Srivijaya.

The pacifist ruler

Borobudur, one of the monument constructed during Medang Mataram kingdom.

Dharanindra's successor was Samaragrawira (r. 800—819), mentioned in Nalanda inscription (dated 860) as the father of Balaputradewa, and the son of Śailendravamsatilaka (the jewel of Śailendra family) with stylised name Śrīviravairimathana (the slayer of enemy hero), which refer to Dharanindra.[6]:92 Unlike his predecessor the expansive warlike Dharanindra, Samaragrawira seems to be a pacifist, enjoying a peaceful prosperity of interior Java in Kedu Plain, and more interested on completing the Borobudur project. He appointed the Khmer prince Jayavarman as the governor of Indrapura in the Mekong delta under Sailendran rule. This decision was proven as a mistake, as Jayavarman later would revolted, moved his capital further inland north from Tonle Sap to Mahendraparvata, severed the link and proclaimed Cambodian independence from Java in 802. Samaragrawira was mentioned as the king of Java that married Tārā, daughter of Dharmasetu.[6]:108 He was mentioned as his other name Rakai Warak in Mantyasih inscription.

Earlier historians such as N.J. Krom, and Coedes, tend to equate Samaragrawira and Samaratungga as the same person.[6]:92 However, later historians such as Slamet Muljana equate Samaratungga with Rakai Garung, mentioned in Mantyasih inscription as fifth monarch of Mataram kingdom. Which means Samaratungga was the successor of Samaragrawira.

Samaratungga (r. 819—838) was credited for the completion of massive stone mandala, the grand monument of Borobudur (completed in 825). Samaratungga just like Samaragrawira, seems to be deeply influenced by peaceful Mahayana Buddhist beliefs and strive to become a pacifist and a benevolent ruler. His successor was Princess Pramodhawardhani that betrothed to Shivaite Rakai Pikatan, son of the influential Rakai Patapan, a landlord in Central Java. The political move that seems as an effort to secure peace and Sailendran rule on Java by reconciling the Mahayana Buddhist with Shivaist Hindus.

The rule of Shivaist Rakai Pikatan (r. 838—850) and his Buddhist queen consort Pramodhawardhani marked the return of the Medang Mataram court favour to Shivaist Hindu,[6]:108 instead of Mahayana Buddhism favoured by previous king Samaratungga. This is evident in the construction of grand Shivagrha temple compound in the Mataram capital, located only few hundred meters south from Manjusrigrha temple compound. Nevertheless, the inter-religious relations during Pikatan's reign seems to promote tolerance in the spirit of reconciliation. Their reign is credited to the construction and expansion of at least two of perwara temple and stupa in Plaosan complex, located east from Sewu (Manjustrigrha) temple. Plaosan temple with twin main temples is probably built and dated from earlier period, probably started by Panangkaran, Samaragrawira or Samaratungga, but completed during Pikatan-Pramodhawardhani's reign.

The divide

Ratu Boko, a fortified hill, probably referred in Shivagrha inscription as the location of a battle.

Balaputra however, opposed the rule of Pikatan and Pramodhawardhani. The relations between Balaputra and Pramodhawardhani is interpreted differently by some historians. Older theory according to Bosch and De Casparis holds that Balaputra was the son of Samaratungga, which means he was the younger brother of Pramodhawardhani. Later historians such as Muljana on the other hand, argued that Balaputra was the son of Samaragrawira and the younger brother of Samaratungga, which means he was the uncle of Pramodhawardhani.[12]

It is not known weather Balaputra was expelled from Central Java because of succession dispute with Pikatan, or was he already ruled in Suvarnadvipa (Sumatra). Either ways, it seems that Balaputra eventually ruled the Sumatran branch of Sailendra dynasty and enthroned in Srivijayan capital of Palembang. Historians argued that this was because Balaputra's mother — Tara, the queen consort of King Samaragrawira was the princess of Srivijaya, this rendered Balaputra as the heir of Srivijayan throne. Balaputra the Maharaja of Srivijaya later stated his claim as the rightful heir of Sailendra dynasty from Java, as proclaimed in Nalanda inscription dated 860.[6]:108

The Shivagrha inscription (dated 856) mentioned about a war challenging Pikatan's reign, the inscription however did not mention who was the enemy that challenged Pikatan's authority. The earlier historians suggests that it was Balaputradewa that rose against Pikatan, however later historians suggests it was another enemy, argued by that time Balaputra already ruled in Srivijaya. The Shivagrha inscription only mentioned that the battle was happened in a fortress on a hill protected by bulk of stone walls, this fortress hill is identified with Ratu Boko archaeological site. The eldest children of Pikatan and Pramodhawardhani was a princess named Rakai Gurunwangi Dyah Saladu. Eventually the revolt was successfully defeated by Pikatan's youngest son named Dyah Lokapala or Rakai Kayuwangi. As the reward for his bravery, the people and many of Pikatan's state advisors urged that Lokapala should be named as Pikatan's successors instead of Gurunwangi.

This revolt seems succeed to took over the capital in Mataram for certain period. After defeating the usurper, Pikatan found that this bloodshed has made the capital in Mataram inauspicious, thus he moved the karaton (court) to Mamrati or Amrati located somewhere in Kedu Plain, northwest from Mataram.

Later Pikatan decided to abdicated his throne in favour of his youngest son Dyah Lokapala (r. 850—890). Rakai Pikatan retired, renounce worldly affairs and become a hermit named Sang Prabhu Jatiningrat. The event also marked with the consecrated ceremony of Shiva image in Prambanan main temple. Boechari suggests that the enemy that challenged Pikatan was Rakai Walaing pu Kumbhayoni, a powerful Shivaist landlord and also the branch of the ruling dynasty as he claimed as the descendant of a king that ruled Java.[13]

The relative peace

Prambanan temple compound originally consists of hundreds of temples, built and expanded in the period between the reign of Pikatan and Balitung

The Sajiwan Buddhist temple located not far south from Prambanan probably built during the end of Pikatan reign and completed under Rakai Kayuwangi (King Lokapala). The temple is dedicated to Nini Haji Rakryan Sanjiwana, linked to Sri Kahulunnan, another name of queen Pramodhawardhani. This temple probably was a mortuary temple dedicated as pedharmaan (dedication) for the deceased queen mother.

The Medang Mataram kings after Pikatan; from Lokapala, Watuhumalang (r. 890—898) and Balitung are the patrons of Shivaist Hindu, "after the decline of the power of the Buddhist Sailendras in central Java."[6]:125–127 Their reign seems to enjoyed a relative peace. The grand Shivagrha temple compound are continuously expanded and completed with hundreds of perwara (complementary) temples surrounding the main three prasada (tower) of Trimurti Hindu Gods. It is probably during their reign that some Hindu temples are constructed in the area, such as Sambisari, Barong, Ijo, Kedulan, Kimpulan, Kadisoka, Gebang and Merak temple. Barong and Ijo temples in particular are interesting, for they are built on the hill and has different layout compared to earlier temples. Sewu and Prambanan temples are arranged in concentric mandala layout. Barong and Ijo temples however, are arranged in completely different way; the main temple is located in further back of the compound on the most higher ground, while the perwara complementary temples are built in front of the main temple on the lower ground, the layout corresponds to the uneven topography of the site. This style of temple layout is most likely the predecessor and will be continued in the later East Javanese temple architecture.

King Pikatan, Lokapala, and Watuhumalang ruled from their court in Mamrati, they are known as Amrati Kings. The exact location of Mamrati is unknown, suggested somewhere in Kedu Plain, located northwest from Mataram. Our current knowledge of the kings that reign the Medang Mataram kingdom is much owed to Mantyasih inscription, created by King Balitung (r. 898—910) that seek ancestor as far as King Sanjaya. King Balitung moved his capital from Amrati to Poh Pitu. Again the exact location of this capital is unknown, probably also located within Kedu Plain.

The name Mataram appears for the first time during the reign of Balitung. Daksha ruled over the centre and the east portion of Java from Jogjakarta.[6]:127 King Daksa (r. 910—919) and King Tulodong (r. 919—924) also ruled from Poh Pitu. The next monarch, King Wawa (r. 924—929) returned the capital back from Poh Pitu to Mataram. Although the kingdom also enjoyed relative peace and prosperity, after King Balitung, it seems that the construction of grand temples are decreased in both quality and quantity.

Moving eastward

Sambisari temple buried five metres under volcanic debris of Mount Merapi.

Around the year 929, the centre of the kingdom was shifted from Central Java to East Java by Mpu Sindok,[6]:128 who established the Isyana Dynasty. The exact cause of the move is still uncertain. To answer this question some historians has proposed the causes; from natural disaster, epidemic break-out, politics and power struggle, to religious or economic motives.

According to van Bemmelen's theory, which was supported by Prof. Buchori; a severe eruption of Mount Merapi volcano probably has caused the move.[14] Historians suggest that, some time during the reign of King Wawa of Mataram (924—929), Merapi volcano erupted and devastated the kingdom's capital in Mataram. The historic massive volcano eruption is popularly known as Pralaya Mataram (the death of Mataram). The evidence for this eruption can be seen in several temples that were virtually buried under Merapi's lahar and volcanic debris, such as the Sambisari, Morangan, Kedulan, Kadisoka and Kimpulan temples.

Archeologist Agus Aris Munandar proposed a hypothesis, that the move was caused by a religious motives. He mentions that the incessant eruptions of Mount Merapi has caused the kingdom to move.[14] Pointing out that in ancient Javanese beliefs, Merapi was considered as the Mahameru for the people in the ancient Mataram. According to Hindu teachings, the Mahameru peak symbolises the centre of the universe, the sacred realm where the gods live. Since their Mahameru in Central Java continued to erupt, they decided to move, but they still looked for another Mahameru. As East Java was still part of Mataram territory, it is possible that some of the people informed the Central Java kingdom that there was another Mahameru in the east. He suggests that the new sacred mountain was Mount Penanggungan in East Java, which resembles Mahameru.[14]

Another hypothesis proposed by N.J. Krom says that the demise was caused by an epidemic break-out, forcing people to seek a new place to live.[14] On the other hand, B. Schrieke says the move was caused by economic reasons; the vigorous temple construction boom during the era of Sailendran kings has put a tremendous economic burden upon the peasant. People were suffering as they were forced to build grand temples by the kings, instead of working their farms. Slowly they moved to the east to avoid the kings' orders.[14]

A power struggle is also proposed as the cause of the move. Coedes suggested that the move to East Java was probably in response to the Buddhist Sailendras.[6]:79,90 This theory is inline with the one proposed by J.G. de Casparis which suggests, that the shift of capital city eastward was to avoid a Srivijaya invasion from Sumatra.[14]

However, it was most likely motivated by economic reasons. De Casparis then expands his theory, saying that the location of the kingdom in Central Java was less accessible than East Java. The Brantas river valley was considered to be a strategic location, as the river provides easy access to reach ports on East Java's north coast and Java Sea, strategic for the control of maritime trade routes to the eastern parts of archipelago, being especially vital for control of the Maluku spice trade. This is in contrast with Mataram's Kedu and Kewu Plain that relatively isolated from the north coast of Central Java. Despite its fertility, ideal for rice agricultural kingdom, the Mataram Plain is quite isolated, its northern borders are protected by natural barrier of Merapi, Merbabu, Sumbing, Sundoro, Dieng and Ungaran volcanoes. Ideal for inward-looking agricultural polity, but insufficient to develop a maritime trading kingdom.[14]

The recent studies suggest, that the move eastward was not an abrupt event. During the Mataram period in Central Java, the kingdom most likely already expanded eastward and established settlements along Brantas river in East Java. It was more likely that the move was done in gradual manner over long period. The cause of the move was also motivated from multiple factors; either natural, economy or politics. The Sanggurah inscription or popularly known as the "Minto Stone", dated to 982 — found in Malang, East Java in early 19th century — mentions the name of a Javanese king, Sri Maharaja Rakai Pangkaja Dyah Wawa Sri Wijayalokanamottungga (King Wawa Wijayaloka[15]), who then ruled the Malang area. This suggests that even during the reign of King Wawa, the Malang region in East Java already belongs within the realm of Medang Kingdom. The inscription contains elements about the shift of power that consequently took place to East Java.[16]

Whatever the true reasons behind the move of political centre from Central to East Java, this event marked the end of an era profoundly. Indeed, the temple-building activity has decreased since the era of King Balitung in scale, quality and quantity, and yet the Eastern Java period of Medang kingdom leave no tangible traces of any temple structure comparable to those of the previous Central Javanese Sailendra era. It seems that the kingdom no longer has the intention and the resource to embark on a grand scale construction project.

Establishing the eastern country

According to Turyan inscription (dated 929), Sindok moved the capital to Tamwlang and later moved it again to Watugaluh. Historian identify those names with the Tambelang and Megaluh area near modern Jombang, East Java. Although Sindok establishes a new dynasty, the Isyana dynasty named after his daughter, Sindok seems to be closely related to the royal house of Medang Mataram, thus he can be viewed as the continuation of a long line of Javanese Kings lineage stretched from King Sanjaya. During his reign Sindok created quite a numbers of inscriptions, most are related to the establishment of Sima lands; these inscriptions are among others; Linggasutan (929), Gulung-Gulung (929), Cunggrang (929), Jru-Jru (930), Waharu (931), Sumbut (931), Wulig (935), and Anjukladang (937). Most of these inscription mentioned about the establishment of Sima or Swatantra lands. This signify that Sindok seems to consolidated his authority over East Java as collections of villages are declared as Sima lands, which means the settlements have developed wet rice cultivation and can be taxed and swore allegiance as part of Sindok's kingdom.

The Anjukladang inscription dated from 937 in particular is interesting, because it stated the Sima status is awarded to Anjukladang village and a temple is erected in recognition of their service on repelling the invading forces from Malayu. The temple mentioned here is probably the Candi Lor made of bricks which is now in ruins, located in Candirejo village in Nganjuk Regency. The mentioning of invading Malayu forces refer to the old name of Sumatran Malayu Kingdom, which probably means Srivijaya instead. This means the relations between East Javanese Medang kingdom with Srivijaya has badly deteriorated to the state of hostility.

Expansion to Bali

Sindok was successed by his daughter Isanatungavijaya.[6]:129 According to Gedangan inscription (dated 950)̠, Queen Isyana married to Sri Lokapala, a nobleman from Bali. She later successed by her son Makutawangsawardhana circa 985. According to Pucangan inscription (dated 1041), King Makutawangsawardhana has a daughter named Mahendradatta, Makutawangsawardhana would be replaced by his son Dharmawangsa Tguh circa 990s.

A later king, Dharmawangsa, moved the capital again to Wwatan, identified as the Wotan area near modern Madiun. Dharmawangsa's sister, Mahendradatta later would be betrothed to a Balinese king Udayana Warmadewa. This report indicated that somehow Bali has been absorbed into the Medang Kingdom's mandala sphere of influence, probably as vassal. In literature development, King Dharmawangsa also ordered the translation of the Mahabharata into Old Javanese in 996.


Ancient Javanese vessel depicted in Borobudur. In 990 King Dharmawangsa launched a naval attack against Srivijaya in Sumatra, the hostility between two kingdoms has led to the collapse of Medang kingdom.

In the late 10th century, the rivalry between the Sumatran Srivijaya and Javanese Mataram became more hostile.[6]:130 The animosity was probably caused by the Srivijayan effort to reclaim Sailendra lands in Java, as Balaputra and his offspring — a new dynasty of Srivijaya maharajas — belonged to the Sailendra dynasty, or by Medang aspirations to challenge Srivijaya dominance as the regional power. Previously the Anjukladang inscription dated from 937 mentioned about infiltration attack from Malayu which refer to a Srivijayan attack.

In 990, Dharmawangsa launched a naval invasion of Srivijaya[6]:130 and unsuccessfully attempted to capture Palembang. Dharmawangsa's invasion caused the Srivijaya to request protection from China.[6]:141 In 1006, Srivijaya managed to repelled the Medang invaders and liberated Palembang. This attack has opened the eyes of Srivijayan Maharaja of how dangerous Javanese Medang Kingdom could be, and further contemplate, patiently laid a plan and effort to destroy his nemesis, the Javanese Medang Kingdom.

In retaliation, in 1016-1017, Srivijaya forces assisted Haji (king) Wurawari of Lwaram to revolt, attacked and destroyed the Medang Palace, killing Dharmawangsa and most of the royal family.[6]:130 This sudden and unexpected attack took place during the wedding ceremony of Dharmawangsa's daughter, which rendered the court unprepared and shocked.

This calamity was recorded in Javanese account as the pralaya (the debacle) the death of the Mataram kingdom.[6]:144 With the death of Dharmawangsa and the fall of the capital, under military pressure from Srivijaya, the kingdom finally collapsed and fell to chaos. There was further unrest and violence several years after the kingdom's demise.

Airlangga, a son of King Udayana Warmadewa of Bali and Queen Mahendradatta,[6]:129 also a nephew of slain King Dharmawangsa, managed to escape the destruction and went into exile. He later rallied popular support, reunited the remnants of the Medang Kingdom and re-established the kingdom (including Bali) under the name of Kingdom of Kahuripan in 1019. The Kingdom of Kahuripan can be considered as the successor state of Medang, and from this point on, the kingdom was known as Kahuripan,[6]:144–147 with its capital located near Brantas river estuarine, somewhere around modern Surabaya, Sidoarjo or Pasuruan in East Java.

The Dynasty

The dual dynasties theory

Bosch in his book "Srivijaya, de Sailendravamsa en de Sanjayavamsa" (1952) suggested that king Sanjaya was the progenitor of the Sanjaya Dynasty, and there was two dynasties that ruled Central Java; the Buddhist Sailendra and the Shivaist Sanjaya dynasty.[17] The inscription also states that Sanjaya was an ardent follower of Shaivism. From its founding in the early 8th century until 928, the kingdom was ruled by the Sanjaya dynasty. The first king was Sanjaya, who ruled in the Mataram region in the vicinity of modern Yogyakarta and Prambanan, and left the written records on the Canggal inscription. However, around the mid 8th century, the Sailendra dynasty emerged in Central Java and challenged Sanjaya domination in the region.

The prevailing historical interpretation holds that the Sailendra dynasty co-existed next to the Sanjaya dynasty in Central Java, and much of the period was characterised by peaceful co-operation. The Sailendra, with their strong connections to Srivijaya, managed to gain control of Central Java and become overlords of the Rakai (local Javanese lords), including the Sanjayas, thus making the Sanjaya kings of Mataram their vassals. Little is known about the kingdom due to the dominance of the Sailendra, who during this period constructed Borobudur, a Buddhist monument. Samaratungga, the monarch of the Sailendra, tried to secure the Sailendra position in Java, cementing an alliance with the Sanjayas by arranging the marriage of his daughter Pramodhawardhani with Pikatan.

Around the middle of the 9th century, relations between the Sanjaya and the Sailendra deteriorated. In 852, the Sanjaya ruler, Pikatan, defeated Balaputra, the offspring of the Sailendra monarch Samaratunga and the princess Tara. This ended the Sailendra presence in Java; Balaputra retreated to the Srivijayan capital in Sumatra, where he became the paramount ruler.[18] The victory of Pikatan was recorded in Shivagrha inscription dated 856, created by Rakai Kayuwangi, Pikatan's successor.

The single dynasty theory

The scene of the Javanese court depicted in Borobudur bas relief

However, this dual Sailendra—Sanjaya dynasties theory proposed by Bosch and De Casparis was opposed by some Indonesian historians in later period. An alternate theory, proposed by Poerbatjaraka, suggests there was only one kingdom and one dynasty, the kingdom called Medang, with the capital in the Mataram area (thus the name of the kingdom: "Medang i Bhumi Mataram"), and the ruling dynasty being the Sailendra.

This theory is supported with Boechari interpretation on Sojomerto inscription and Poerbatjaraka study on Carita Parahyangan manuscript, Poerbatjaraka holds that Sanjaya and all of his offspring belongs to the Sailendra family, which initially was Shivaist Hindu. However, according to Raja Sankhara inscription (now missing); Sanjaya's son, Panangkaran, converted to Mahāyāna Buddhism. And because of that conversion, the later series of Sailendra kings who ruled Medang become Mahāyāna Buddhists also and gave Buddhism royal patronage in Java until the end of Samaratungga's reign.[19] The Shivaist Hindus regained royal patronage with the reign of Pikatan, which lasted until the end of the Medang Kingdom. During the reign of Kings Pikatan and Balitung, the royal Hindu Trimurti temple of Prambanan was built and expanded in the vicinity of Yogyakarta.

Government and economy

The complex stratified ancient Javan society, with its refined aesthetic taste in art and culture, is evidenced through the various scenes in narrative bas-reliefs carved on various temples dated from the Medang era.

The capital

Prambanan prāsāda (towers) viewed from Ratu Boko hill, the area in Prambanan Plain was the location of the Mataram capital.

During this period the common concept of city, as it known in Europe, Middle East or China; as the urban concentration centre of politics, administration, religious and economic activities, was not quite established yet in ancient Java. The proper urban development as a city would took place later in 13th century Majapahit's Trowulan.

The capital itself is more likely refer to the Ratu Boko compound. The Javanese urban centre in this period did not recognise walled-city as it found in Chinese or Indian counterparts, the only walled, well-guarded and protected compound was the king's palace and temple compound. The nagara or capital itself was more of a collection of densely populated villages surrounding the pura (king's palace).

The religious activity centres, which refer to the location of where the temples stood, did not necessarily signify the administrative or economic centre as well. As according to inscriptions, numbers of lands has been awarded a Sima status with portion or the whole of its rice tax revenue was allocated to funding the construction and maintaining the temple. Nevertheless, it is quite possible that the Prambanan Plain with high concentration of temples located just few hundred meters away from each other — Sambisari, Kalasan, Sari, Sewu, Lumbung, Prambanan, Plaosan, Sajiwan, Banyunibo, Ratuboko, Barong and Ijo temples — was might be the location of the capital of Mataram. Other expert argued that the Prambanan area was indeed the religious centre of the kingdom, but was not the administrative centre, while suggesting other location in Muntilan as the possible political centre of the kingdom.[20]

Most of the time, the court of the Medang Kingdom was located in Mataram, possibly located somewhere in Muntilan or the Prambanan Plain near modern Yogyakarta. However, during the reign of Rakai Pikatan, the court was moved to Mamrati. Later, in the reign of Balitung, the court moved again, this time to Poh Pitu. Unlike Mataram, historians have been unable to pinpoint the possible locations of Mamrati and Poh Pitu, although most historians agree that both were located in the Kedu Plain, somewhere around the modern Magelang or Temanggung regencies. Later expert suggests that the area in Secang, on the upper Progo river valley in northern Magelang Regency — with relatively high temple density — was possibly the secondary political centre of the kingdom.[20] In later Eastern Java period, other centres were mentioned; such as Tamwlang and Watugaluh (near Jombang), also Wwatan (near Madiun).


The bas relief of 8th century Borobudur depict the scene in royal court.

During this period the administration level of Javanese polity was only consists of two levels; the central government level centred in king's court, and the wanua or village level took form of settlements scattered around within kingdom's realm. The palace where the King resided was mentioned as kadatwan or karaton, the court was the centre of kingdom's administration. The wanua or village is more likely took shape of an "island" filled with housings and orchards in the middle of vast rice paddies, this village layout still can be found in modern Javanese desa.

The King was regarded as the paramount ruler or chakravartin, where the highest power and authority lies. He ruled the nagara or kadatwan which means the kingdom, from his puri (palace or walled compound). Under the king, there are state officials that serve to forward the king's laws and orders. They are using the title of Rakai or Samget. The Rakais ruled an administrative unit called watak that formed from the collection of several villages or wanua. Rakai can be considered as regional landlord or the landed gentry, that rule a large collection of villages. The rakais transmit the king's order to the Rama or village leaders that rules their own domain called karaman or watak. As the kingdom grew larger and complex, entering the 10th century during the reign of Balitung, series of state officials are added to add hierarchy levels.[21]

Most of the inscriptions dated from Medang Mataram period are related to the establishment of sima lands. This signify the formation and expansion of Javanese agricultural villages in the region during this period. Either by opening a forest or converting a ladang (dry rice cultivation) to sawah (wet rice cultivation). A sima is an arable wet rice agricultural land with rice surpluses available for taxation, and officially recognised through royal edict. Most of these sima lands are ruled by regional rakai or samget (landed gentry) in their realm. By acquiring prestigious sima status from the king, a watak regional unit held a higher prestige compared to non-sima settlements, yet this also means acknowledging the kingdom's overlordship over their land and swore their allegiance to the king. The Rakais that rule the land are granted a royal permission to collect tax, yet some parts of these tax should be regularly paid to the king's court (central government in the capital). In some instance, some of these sima inscription stated that this sima land has become a tax-free land, in exchange that the rice harvest surpluses collected from this land are used to construct or maintain a religious building. This means the rakai that traditionally ruled this lands no longer has the right to collect the tax, or at least reducing their tax earnings.

Other than their administrative and military-defense function, the king and the royal family is also known as the patron of arts and also religious piousness. The king, the royal family and the kingdom's officials had the authority to launch public projects, such as irrigation works or temple construction. The royal art and religious patronage can be seen in sponsoring temples constructions. The kingdom left behind several temples and monuments. The most notable ones are Borobudur, Prambanan, Sewu, and the Plaosan temple compound.


The bas-relief in 8th century Borobudur depicting rice agriculture in ancient Java

The common people of Medang mostly made a living in agriculture, especially as rice farmers, however, some may have pursued other careers, such as hunter, trader, artisan, weaponsmith, sailor, soldier, dancer, musician, food or drink vendor, etc. Rich portrayals of daily life in 9th century Java can be seen in many temple bas-reliefs. Rice cultivation had become the base for the kingdom's economy where the villages throughout the realm relied on their annual rice yield to pay taxes to the court. Exploiting the fertile volcanic soil of Central Java and the intensive wet rice cultivation (sawah) enabled the population to grow significantly, which contributed to the availability of labour and workforce for the state's public projects. Certain villages and lands were given the status as sima lands awarded through royal edict written in inscriptions. The rice yields from sima lands usually were allocated for the maintenance of certain religious buildings.

Earliest evidence of a currency system in Java. Javanese gold mas or tahil ingots, circa the 9th century.

The economic activity was also not solely centred in a single marketplace in the capital city. It is most likely that the marketplace was rotated in daily basis within a week among participating villages, in a Javanese system called pasaran. This system still can be found in rural Javanese villages, before most are turned into a permanent marketplace as it is commonly found today. The economic trading practice in these marketplace are most likely done in barter as well as using money, as during this period, Javanese economy has been partly monetised.

The bas-reliefs from temples of this period, especially from Borobudur and Prambanan describe occupations and careers other than agricultural pursuit; such as soldiers, government officials, court servants, massage therapists, travelling musicians and dancing troupe, food and drink sellers, logistics courier, sailors, merchants, even thugs and robbers are depicted in everyday life of 9th century Java. These occupations requires economic system that employs currency. The Wonoboyo hoard, golden artefacts discovered in 1990, revealed gold coins in shape similar to corn seeds, which suggests that 9th century Javan economy is partly monetised. On the surface of the gold coins engraved with a script "ta", a short form of "tail" or "tahil" a unit of currency in ancient Java.

Culture and society


A nobleman accompanied by his entourages and servants, a bas-relief of Borobudur.
A Buddhist hermit meditating in secluded forest, Borobudur bas-relief.

A complex and stratified society of ancient Javanese people and their social order can be seen through studies on the rich portrayal in bas-reliefs from this period, as well as inscription studies. The kingdom had developed a complex society; which characterised by heterogeneity of their society, inequality of social stratification, and the formation of national administrative institution in their kingdom.[1] The ancient Javanese did recognise the Hindu catur varna or caste social classes; Brahmana (priests), Ksatriya (kings, warlords and nobles), Vaisya (traders and artisans), and Sudra (servants and slaves). Nevertheless, the social stratification system in ancient Java slightly differ from those of India, as it less rigid.[22]

Pigeaud divides ancient Javanese society into four classes: the ruling class, religious authority, commoners, and slaves.[23] While de Casparis suggest; although the ancient Javanese society recognise caste differences, their rules and implementations was less rigid compared to those caste system in India. De Casparis divides them into three groups:

  1. The commoners that formed the majority of kingdom's population.
  2. The king with his royal family, including those nobles, landlords and the member of elite ruling class that depends on the king's court and his dynasty. Can be commonly called "the palace/court people".
  3. The religious figures and religious authorities. The priests class; brahmins and monks, includes the lower rank servants employed in temples compound and monasteries.[24]

Based on the study of the styles and types of clothing and jewelries worn by people depicted in bas-reliefs from the temple — especially Borobudur reliefs — the ancient Javanese society roughly can be divided into:[25]

  1. The nobles, the king and the royal families, landlords, nobles and those that related to ruling elites. They wore luxurious clothing of kain long clothes wrapped around their hips to the ankle, waistband, and sash either wore around their hips as sampur, or wore around their body hanging from left shoulder to the hip. Adorned with intricate golden jewelries such as jamang (forehead ornaments), makuta (crown), earrings, kelat bahu (armlet), necklace, upavita (body ornament of golden chains wore across the chest), bracelets, rings, ankle bracelet. The gods and divinities also portrayed in similar fashion as nobles, although they are described as having prabhamandala (divine halo) around their head.
  2. The royal servants or lower-ranked nobles, they are king's servants, entourages or royal attendants. They occupied positions as dayang-dayang (female royal attendants), guard or state officials. They wore long cloth around their hips to the ankle, and wore jewelries and ornaments too, such as earrings, necklace and bracelets, although not as complete and luxurious as those worn by the king and the nobles.
  3. The priests, the brahmins, Buddhist monks, or those religious figures that employed in temples or monastery. They usually wore robe or cloak called sinhel. Buddhist monks usually portrayed as bald men wore robe with open right shoulder, while brahmins are usually depicted as bearded men wearing turban wrapped around their head.
  4. The commoners, the majority of the people, mostly describes as villagers. They wore simple clothing of short cloth wore around their hips, sometimes the lower end is tied upward to create a short pants-like loincloth. Usually they wore no jewelries or ornaments, however sometimes they are described as wearing a few simple ornaments, such as necklace, bracelets, or clothes rope wore as waistband.


The statue of Dhyani Buddha Vairocana, Avalokitesvara, and Vajrapani inside the Mendut temple

Hinduism and Buddhism are the two religions adhered by the rulers and people of the kingdom. Nevertheless, the commoners' religious practices was probably still mixed with native shamanism and indigenous pre-Dharmic beliefs. Since the beginning of its formation, the Medang Mataram kings seemed to favour Shivaist Hinduism, such as the construction of linga in Gunung Wukir Hindu temple as mentioned in Canggal inscription by king Sanjaya. However, during the reign of Panangkaran, Mahayana Buddhism began to blossomed and gain court favour. The Kalasan, Sari, Sewu, Mendut, Pawon and the magnificent Borobudur temples testify the Buddhist renaissance in Central Java. The court patronage on Buddhism spanned from the reign of Panangkaran to Samaratungga. During the reign of Pikatan, Shivaist Hinduism began to regain court's favour, signified by the construction of grand Shivagrha (Prambanan).

Shiva statue in main chamber of Prambanan.

The kingdom recognised the religious authority of priest class, the brahmins. Buddhism was also well represented through the sangha Buddhist monastic community, consists of Buddhist monks living in viharas such as Sari and Plaosan and gaining court patronage. These Hindu and Buddhist religious authorities conducted state's and regional religious rituals and ceremonies in the temples. The ruling class of ksatriya royal family also indulged in spiritualism. Some monarch seems to immerse themselves in spiritualism and religion. For example, King Panangkaran seems to be deeply influenced by Mahayana Buddhism, and even strive to become a hermit during his later days. Numbers of other kings such as Samaragrawira and Samaratungga was also deeply influenced by Buddhism and strive to become a benevolent leaders. Rakai Pikatan also abdicated and renounced worldly affairs during his old days and become a rishi hermit named Sang Prabhu Jatiningrat.

The period between the reign of King Panangkaran to the reign of King Balitung (late 8th century to the early 10th century) saw a fervent temple construction in the kingdom. This was probably motivated either by religious zeal, kingdom's immense wealth and resources or social-political reasons. Some historians such as Munoz suggest, that this ardent temple construction projects was actually a religious-political tool to control the regional Rakai landlords, to prevent them from rebelling against the king.[26] During this time, each of regional watak are ruled by Rakai landlords that nurturing their own dynasty. By appointing the Rakais' sima land to fund the construction and maintenance of a candi religious building, the Maharaja depriving the Rakais' ability to collect large sum of tax, that can be potentially misused to fund some army that might rose to challenge the Maharaja's authority. The Rakais might be willingly or reluctantly compliant to the king's will, for refusing to construct religious building might harm their reputation, and cast them not only as the enemy of the king, but also as the enemy of gods or Buddha.

Art and Architecture

The Wonoboyo hoard displays the immense wealth and artistic achievement of the Medang kingdom.

Other than examining bas-reliefs carved on the temple's walls, the study of ancient Javanese society is also conducted through archaeological relics. The Wonoboyo hoard golden artefacts attest to the wealth, art, and culture as well as the aesthetic achievement of the Medang Kingdom. The artefacts show the intricate artwork and technical mastery of the ancient Javanese goldsmith. The hoard was estimated to date from the reign of King Balitung.[27] The treasure has been identified as belonging to a noble or a member of the royal family.[28]

The earliest temple in the Southern Central Java Mataram region was the Hindu Shivaist Gunung Wukir temple, linked to Canggal inscription (732 CE) built by King Sanjaya. Almost 50 years later the oldest Buddhist temple was built in Prambanan region, the Buddhist Kalasan temple, linked to Kalasan inscription (778 CE) and King Panangkaran. From this time, the kingdom saw exuberant temple construction projects, such as Sari, Manjusrigrha, Lumbung, Ngawen, Mendut, Pawon and peaked in the construction of Borobudur, the massive stone mandala, that took shape of a mountain temple pinnacled with stupas that completed circa 825 CE.

The magnificent 9th century Hindu temple of Prambanan, Yogyakarta, was a major Hindu monument in the kingdom of Medang.

The monumental Hindu temple of Prambanan in the vicinity of Yogyakarta — initially built during the reign of King Pikatan (838—850), and expanded continuously through the reign of Lokapala (850—890) to Balitung (899–911) — is a fine example of ancient Medang Mataram art and architecture. The description of a grand temple compound dedicated for lord Shiva, and the public project to shift the course of the river near the temple (Opak river) to run straight along western wall of temple compound was also mentioned in Shivagrha inscription. The grand temple complex was dedicated to the Trimurti, the three highest gods in the Hindu pantheon (Shiva, Brahma, Vishnu). It was the largest Hindu temple ever built in Indonesia, evidence of the immense wealth and cultural achievement of the kingdom.

Other Hindu temples dated from Medang Mataram Kingdom era are: Sambisari, Gebang, Barong, Ijo, and Morangan. Although the Shivaist regain the favour, Buddhist remain under royal patronage. The Sewu temple dedicated for Manjusri according to Kelurak inscription was probably initially built by Panangkaran, but later expanded and completed during Rakai Pikatan's rule, whom married to a Buddhist princess Pramodhawardhani, daughter of Samaratungga. Most of their subjects retained their old religion; Shivaist and Buddhist seems to co-exist in harmony. The Buddhist temple of Plaosan, Banyunibo and Sajiwan were built during the reign of King Pikatan and Queen Pramodhawardhani, probably in the spirit of religious reconciliation after the succession disputes between Pikatan-Pramodhawardhani against Balaputra.


Bas relief in Prambanan depicting a scene taken from Ramayana. The translation of Indian epic into Javanese Kakawin Ramayana took place during Medang Mataram kingdom.

From the 9th to mid 10th centuries, the Medang Kingdom witnessed the blossoming of art, culture and literature, mainly through the translation of Hindu-Buddhist sacred texts and the transmission and adaptation of Hindu-Buddhist ideas into Old Javanese text and visual bas-reliefs rendering. The bas-relief carved on each sides of Mendut temple stairs and also on the base of Sojiwan temple for example, narrating the popular Jataka Buddhist tales, the stories that tell about the previous lives of the Buddha, in both human and animal form. The Borobudur bas-relief particularly, contains the most complete rendering of Buddhist sacred texts. Ranged from Karmavibhanga (the law of karma), Lalitavistara (the story of the Buddha), the tale of Manohara, Jataka and Jatakamala, Avadana (collection of virtuous deeds) and Gandavyuha (Sudhana's quest for the ultimate truth).

The bas-relief narration of the Hindu epic Ramayana and also was carved on the wall of Prambanan temple's Shiva and Brahma temples, while the stories of Krishna taken from Bhagavata Purana was carved on Vishnu temple. During this period, the Kakawin Ramayana, an old Javanese rendering was written. This Kakawin Ramayana, also called the Yogesvara Ramayana, is attributed to the scribe Yogesvara circa the 9th century CE, who was employed in the court of the Medang in Central Java. It has 2774 stanzas in the manipravala style, a mixture of Sanskrit and archaic Javanese prose. The most influential version of the Ramayana is the Ravanavadham of Bhatti, popularly known as Bhattikavya. The Javanese Ramayana differs markedly from the original Hindu.

Relations with regional powers

Medang kingdom had an exceptionally intense relations with the regional hegemon Srivijaya of Sumatra. In earlier period, the relations was close and intimate, as Sailendran kings of Java has formed an alliance with Maharaja of Srivijaya and the two royal houses seems to be merged. In later period however, the relations was deteriorated to warfare, as Dharmawangsa launched failed attempt to capture Palembang, and Srivijaya well-crafted retaliation ensued. In its eastern boundary, the Medang kingdom seems to subjugate the neighboring Bali, and pulled the island into its sphere of influence.

The Kaladi inscription (c. 909 CE), mentioned Kmir (Khmer people of Khmer kingdom) together with Campa (Champa) and Rman (Mon) as foreigners from mainland Southeast Asia that frequently came to Java to trade. The inscription suggests a maritime trade network has been established between kingdoms in mainland Southeast Asia and Java.[29]

The name of the Medang Kingdom was written in the Laguna Copperplate Inscription of the Philippine's Kingdom of Tondo, dated 822 saka (900 CE), discovered in Manila, Philippines. The discovery of the inscriptions, written in the Kawi script in a variety of Old Malay containing numerous loanwords from Sanskrit and a few non-Malay vocabulary elements whose origin is ambiguous between Old Javanese and Old Tagalog, suggests that the people or officials of the Medang Kingdom had embarked on inter-insular trade and foreign relations in regions as far away as the Philippines, and that connections between ancient kingdoms in Indonesia and the Philippines existed.[30]


National Vesak ceremony in Borobudur, the Hindu-Buddhist temples dated from Mataram Kingdom are especially important for pilgrimage and ceremony for Indonesian Buddhist and Hindus.

Celebrated as the golden age of ancient Indonesian civilisation — more precisely classic Javanese civilisation — the era of Medang i Bhumi Mataram kingdom has left an everlasting mark and legacy in Indonesian culture and history; their monuments. The grand and magnificent Borobudur and Prambanan in particular, has become the source of national pride, not only for local Javanese but also for the whole of Indonesians.[31] It is probably in the same fashion as how Khmer people of Cambodia took pride in their Angkorian legacy. These monuments today has become the nation's major attraction; Borobudur is the single most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia.[32]

Never before — and again — that Indonesia saw such vigorous passion for development and temple construction, which demonstrate such technological mastery, labour and resource management, aesthetics and art refinement, also architectural achievement, other than this era. The period between the late 8th century to the late 9th century, between the reign of Panangkaran to Balitung, has left numbers of impressive religious monuments; among others are Manjusrigrha, Bhumisambharabudhara and Shivagrha.

The Medang Mataram era is hailed as the classical period of Javanese civilisation; for during this period the Javanese culture, art and architecture was blossoming and developed further, consolidated and mixed their indigenous elements with dharmic influences. By incorporating Hindu-Buddhist frame of reference and elements into their culture, art and architecture, and by Sanskritization their language, Javanese has formulating their own Hindu-Buddhist Javanese style and developing an ingenious civilisation. This Javanese style of Sailendran art, either in sculpture and architecture, in return would influenced regional arts, particularly the Srivijayan art in Sumatra and Southern Thailand Malay Peninsula.

The Javanese Ramayana Ballet performance in Prambanan open air stage. The Mataram Kingdom era has left a profound impact in Javanese culture.

The Khmer art and architecture during the formative early Angkor era also believed to being influenced by Javanese art and architecture; the striking similarity of the Bakong temple in Cambodia to Borobudur, strongly suggests that Bakong was inspired by Borobudur's design. There must had been exchanges of travellers, if not mission, between Kambuja and Java. Transmitting to Cambodia not only ideas, but also technical and architectural details, including arched gateways in corbelling method.[33]

It was also during this period that numbers of dharmic scriptures either Hindu or Buddhist, has made their way from India into Javanese culture. For example, the tales of Buddhist Jatakas and Lalitavistara, also Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata were adopted into Javanese version. These tales and epics would further shaped the Javanese culture and performing arts, such as Javanese dances and wayang art.

List of rulers

The ruler of Medang Kingdom.[6]:88–89,91,92,108,126–130[34]

Central Java period

Period of reign Personal name Rakai (Javanese title) Abhiseka (stylised) name Mentioned in inscription Year
732—760 Sanjaya Mataram Canggal
760—780 Pancapana Panangkaran Dharmatungga? Kalasan 778
780—800 Dharanindra Panunggalan Sanggramadhananjaya


Ligor B


c 787

800—819 Samaragrawira Warak Nalanda c 860
819—838 Samaratungga Garung Pengging




838—850 Jatiningrat Pikatan Shivagrha

Tulang air



850—890 Lokapala Kayuwangi

Gurun Wangi


Wuatan Tija
Wanua Tengah
Munggu Antan



890—898 Dewendra Limus


Poh Dulur

Kewikuan Panunggalan



898—910 Balitung Watukura Sri Iswarakesawotawatungga Mantyasih 907
910—919 Daksa Hino Sri Maharaja Daksottama Bahubajra Pratipaksaksaya Uttunggawijaya Taji Gunung 910
919—924 Tulodong Layang Sajanasanata Nuragatunggadewa Lintakan 919
924—929 Wawa Sumba


Sri Wijayalokanamottungga Sanggurah 982

East Java period

Period of reign Personal name Rakai (Javanese title) Abhiseka (stylised) name Mentioned in inscription Year
929—947 Sindok Hino Sri Maharaja Isyana Wikramadharmottunggadewa Turyan




947—985 Sri Isyana Tunggawijaya (queen regnant) Gedangan




985—990 Sri Makutawangsawarddhana Pucangan 1041
990—1006 Wijayamreta Wardhana Sri Maharaja Isyana Dharmawangsa Teguh Anantawikramottunggadewa Pucangan 1041

See also



  • Soekmono, R, Drs., Pengantar Sejarah Kebudayaan Indonesia 2, 2nd ed. Penerbit Kanisius, Yogyakarta, 1973, 5th reprint edition in 1988


  1. ^ a b Rahardjo, Supratikno (2002). Peradaban Jawa, Dinamika Pranata Politik, Agama, dan Ekonomi Jawa Kuno (in Indonesian). Komuntas Bambu, Jakarta. p. 35.  
  2. ^  
  3. ^ Antoon, Postma. "The Laguna Copper-Plate Inscription: Text and Commentary". Loyola Heights, Quezon City, the Philippines: Philippine Studies, Ateneo de Manila University. p. 186. Retrieved 24 June 2014. 
  4. ^ Slamet Muljana. Menuju Puncak Kemegahan (in Indonesian). LKiS. p. 84. Retrieved 3 March 2014. 
  5. ^ Drs. R. Soekmono,. Pengantar Sejarah Kebudayaan Indonesia 2, 2nd ed. (1973, 5th reprint edition in 1988 ed.). Yogyakarta: Penerbit Kanisius. p. 40. 
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External links

  • Early History of Java
  • Sailendra

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