An Age of Empires – The Mysterious Move to East Java

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Rakai Pikatan commemorated his victory by erecting the splendid temple complex at Prambanan,

Which can be considered a Hindu counterpart of Buddhist Borobudur. Both are terraced an ancestor sanctuaries, highly elaborate versions of those constructed by Indonesian rulers in prehistoric times.

A succession of Hindu kings ruled in central Java, then suddenly the capital was transferred to east java around 930 A.D. No satisfactory explanation has been given for this move, though a number of factors might account for it.

As mentioned before, the Sailendran kings, once installed at Sriwijaya, were successful in shutting off the vital overseas trade from Java’s north coast, and may even have been threatening to re-invade central Java. An eruption of Mt. Merapi at about this time may also have closed the roads to the north coastal ports and covered much of central Java in volcanic ash. A partially completed temple has been unearthed at Sambisar, near Prambanan, from under five metres of volcanic debris. Then, too there is the possibility of epidemics and of mass migrations to the more fertile lands of East Java.

Whatever the reason for the move, and eastern javanese empire prospered in the 10th Century and actually attacked and occupied Sriwijaya for two years 990-1 A.D. Sriwijaya retaliated a quarter of a century later with a huge seaborne force that destroyed the Javanese capital, killed the ruler King Dharmawangsa, and splintered the realm into numerous petty fiefdoms. It took nearly 20 years for the next great king, Airlangga, to fully restore the empire.

Airlangga was King Dharmawangsa’s nephew and he succeded to the throne in 1019 after the Sriwijayan forces had departed. With the help of loyal followers and advisors he reconquered the realm and restored its prosperity. He is best known, though, as a patron of the arts and as an ascete. Under his rule the Indian classics were translated from Sanskrit into Javanese, thus marking the flowering of indigenous Javanese arts.

Shrotly before his death in 1049, Airlangga changed his name and became an ascetic without, however, abdicating. To appease the ambitions of his two sons he then divided his empire into two equal halves, Kediri and Janggala(or Daha and Koripan). Kediri became the more powerful of the two, and it is remembered now as the source of numerous works of Old Javanese literature – mainly adaptations of the Indian epics in a Javanese poetic form known as the kekawin.

–> Read Also : An Age of Empires – Singasari dan Majapahit

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