Later Javanese rulers, ancient and modern, have always looked upon this kingdom as their spiritual and political forerunner. Majapahit reached its zenith in the middle of the 14th Century under the rule of Wijaya’s grandson Hayam Wuruk and his brillian prime minister Patih Gajah Mada.
Knowledge of Majapahit comes partly from stone inscriptions found among hundreds of temple ruins discovered in the vicinity of the capital, but mainly from a panegyric poepwritten by the court poet Prapanca following the death of Gajah Mada in 1365.This next, known as the Negarakertagama, records all kinds of interesting details about the court and the royal family.
One of the most important passages concerns an oath taken by Gajah Mada (the so-called sumpah palapa) to bring all the major islands of the archipelago (the Nusantara or ‘other islands’), under Majapahit’s control. This is said to have been accomplished by Gajah Mada, but historians feel that the subjugation of Nusantara actually involved a kind of trading federation with Majapahit as the dominant partner.
Nevertheless, the trading ports of Sumatera as well as the Malay peninsula, Borneo, Sulawesi, Maluku and Bali all seem to have acknowledged Majapahit’s sovereignty. Not until the end of the 19th Century was a comparable attempt made to unify these disprate areas under a single banner.
Majapahit’s decline set in almost immediately after Hayam Wuruk’s death in 1389. In a vain attempt to forestall the inevitable sibling conflict, Hayam Wuruk had divided his kingdom between his son and his daughter. However, a smouldering struggle for supremacy erupted in 1429, Majapahit had by this time lost control of thewestern Java Sea and the straits to a new Islamic power located at Malacca.
Toward the endof the 15th Century, Majapahit and Kediri were conquered by the new Islamicstate of Demak on Java’s north coast, and it is said that the entire Hindu – Javanese aristocracy then fled to Bali.
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