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The Majapahit kingdom

Majapahit was an archipelagic empire based on the island of Java from 1293 to around 1500. Majapahit reached its peak of glory during the era of Hayam Wuruk, whose reign from 1350 to 1389 marked by the conquest of kingdoms in Maritime Southeast Asia (including present day Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, East Timor, and the Philippines).


Legacy of the Majapahit kingdom
A kingdom that ruled vast areas in Southeast Asia

In sum, Majapahit was the largest empire ever to form in Southeast Asia. Although its political power beyond the core area in east Java was diffuse, constituting mainly ceremonial recognition of suzerainty, Majapahit society developed a high degree of sophistication in both commercial and artistic activities. Its capital was inhabited by a cosmopolitan population among whom literature and art flourished.

For Indonesians in later centuries, Majapahit became a symbol of past greatness. The Islamic sultanates of Demak, Pajang, and Mataram sought to establish their legitimacy in relation to the Majapahit. The Demak claimed a line of succession through Kertabumi, as its founder, Raden Patah, in court chronicles was said to be the son of Kertabumi with Putri Cina, a Chinese princess, who had been sent away before her son was born.

Sultan Agung's conquest of Wirasaba in 1615, led by the sultan himself, may have had such importance as it was the location of the Majapahit capital. Central Javanese palaces have traditions and genealogy that attempt to prove links back to the Majapahit royal lines - usually in the form of a grave as a vital link in Java - where legitimacy is enhanced by such a connection. Bali in particular was heavily influenced by Majapahit and the Balinese consider themselves to be the true heirs of the kingdom.

Modern Indonesian nationalists, including those of the early 20th century Indonesian National Revival, have invoked the Majapahit Empire. The memory of its greatness remains in Indonesia, and is sometimes seen as a precedent for the current political boundaries of the Republic. Many of modern Indonesian national symbols derived from Majapahit Hindu-Buddhist elements.

The Indonesian national flag "Sang Merah Putih" ("Red and White") or sometimes called "Dwiwarna" ("The bicolor"), derived from the Majapahit royal color. The Indonesian Navy flag of red and white stripes also has a Majapahit origin. The Indonesian national motto, "Bhinneka Tunggal Ika", is a quotation from an Old Javanese poem "Kakawin Sutasoma", written by a Majapahit poet, Mpu Tantular.

The Indonesian coat of arms, Garuda Pancasila, also derives from Javanese Hindu elements. The statue and relief of Garuda have been found in many temples in Java such as Prambanan from the ancient Mataram era, and the Panataran as well as the Sukuh temple dated from the Majapahit era. The notable statue of Garuda is the statue of the king Airlangga depicted as Vishnu riding Garuda.

In its propaganda from the 1920s, the Communist Party of Indonesia presented its vision of a classless society as a reincarnation of a romanticized Majapahit. It was invoked by Sukarno for nation building and by the New Order as an expression of state expansion and consolidation. Like Majapahit, the modern state of Indonesia covers vast territory and is politically centred on Java.

Majapahit had a momentous and lasting influence on Indonesian architecture. The descriptions of the architecture of the capital's pavilions (pendopo) in the Nagarakertagama invoke the Javanese Kraton and also the Balinese temples and compounds of today.

Palapa, the series of communication satellites owned by Telkom, an Indonesian telecommunication company, has been named after Sumpah Palapa, the famous oath taken by Gajah Mada. Gajah Mada swore that he would not taste any spice as long as he had not succeeded in unifying Nusantara (Indonesian archipelago). This ancient oath of unification signifies the Palapa satellite as the modern means to unify the Indonesian archipelago by way of telecommunication. The name was chosen by president Suharto, and the program was started in February 1975.

During the last half year of 2008, the Indonesian government sponsored a massive exploration on the site that is believed to be the place where the palace of Majapahit once stood. Jero Wacik, the Indonesian Minister of Culture and Tourism stated that the Majapahit Park would be built on the site and completed as early as 2009, in order to prevent further damage caused by home-made brick industries that develop on the surrounding area.

Nevertheless, the project leaves a huge attention to some historians, since constructing the park's foundation will inevitably damage the site itself. Ancient bricks which are historically valuable were found scattered on the site. The government then argued that the method they were applying were less destructive since digging method were used instead of drilling.


All text in this article is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License
Last revised on October 28, 2009
    
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