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History of Lombok
The island of Lombok through the times

There is little known about life on Lombok in the prehistory. As well as most other languages that are spoken in the archipelago, the Sasak-language belongs to the Austronesian language-family. The Austronesians, which originated from mainland Asia, started to move toward the Philippines, Indonesia and the islands in the Pacific around 5,000 BC.

A chronicle from the 14th century from the big East-Javanese principality Majapahit names Lombok as a part of it. The only copy of the chronicle, the Negarakertagama, was found in the village Pagutan, just outside Mataram at the end of the 19th century. In that time there were a lot of local rulers, which each ruled over an area the size of several villages. Every once in a while one of them, which often called themselves raja, succeeded to get control over a larger area, but it never took a long time before it fell apart once again.

Islam was introduced from Java in the first part of the 16th century by Sunan Giri or Pangeran Sangopati or by both. Pangeran Sangopari was known as Pedanda Bau Rau on Bali, and as Tuan Haji Semeru on Sumbawa. These first Muslims preached a synthetic version of Islam, colored by local ancestral believes and Hinduism. Early messages tell us that the mosque which can still be seen in Bayan, is the oldest an most important of Lombok.

In the 17th century the island came under cultural and religious influence of Sulawesi. The Islamic principality Makassar, connected with the nearby Bima on Sumbawa, has some political influence over eastern Lombok.

Arrival of the Balinese

During the pre-Islamic time, the Balinese principality Klungklung (in Southeastern Bali) has a big influence on Lombok. Though it were the Balinese from Karangasem (in Northeastern Bali) which formed the first external power which - not long after the introduction of Islam - occupied western Lombok.

The conquerors were supported by Banjar Getas, patih (Prime Minister) of the Sasak-principality Pejanggiq, which wanted vengeance after the king of the area had sent him abroad to tempt his wife, as is told. After the Balinese victory Banjar Getas was awarded with area and wealth. Later the Balinese turned against his heir and son, which was beaten in the first Praya War.

The east of Lombok was protected from attacks from the west by a dense forest, which existed until the beginning of the 20th century. In 1678 the Balinese succeeded to get through the wilderness. With the help of several unsatisfied Sasak-aristocrats they destroyed the royal court of Selaparang. It would take another 150 years before the Balinese had something to say in East-Lombok as well. They introduced the technique of wet-rice agriculture, but that was about all cultural influence they had on the Sasak, which maintained their Islamic religion.

Between 1775 and 1838 the Balinese argued among themselves, which caused the Sasak-aristocrats to regain a certain independence in the eastern part of the island again. In 1838 the Balinese of Mataram fought and won from the nearby Cakranegara, which killed suicide all together, named puputan.
Picture: Kangkung
The Balinese from Mataram gained power in eastern Lombok, and made an end to the independence of the Sasakadel and the villages in the east. The farmers of Eastern Lombok became slaves. Used to their old autonomy they revolted in 1855, 1871 and 1891, which caused them to be killed by the Balinese, supported by the Sasak in the western part of the island.

The Balinese raja of Lombok became very rich because he demanded soil-tax and he ruled the trade. Between 1850 and 1890 the cities of Mataram and Cakra got big royal palaces, public fountains and main streets with lighting. Old reports tell us that the raja os Lombok was the most wealthy local ruler of the Indonesian archipelago. This, together withe information about tin deposits (which proved false later) was enough to draw the attention of the Dutch.

Dutch on Lombok

The Dutch, which were trading with the area since the 17th century, had signed a treaty with the Balinese in which they declared they wouldn't occupy Lombok. They did do it anyway in 1894, they said there was a Sasak revolt.

The Dutch army was defeated though it was equipped with modern European weapons. More than a hundred Dutch soldiers were hilled, among them the lower commander Van Hamm. The Dutch could not stand any loss and returned with reinforcements.

Mataram was burned down to the ground. After that the Dutch went towards the last Balinese stronghold, Cakranegara. The crown prince, Anak Agung Ketut, was killed and the old raja was banned to Batabia. But the Balinese were no easy targets and many rather died in puputan than to subject to the Dutch. Hundreds of Dutch were killed as well. The survivors were rewarded gratefully when they looted the treasury of the raja. This room which measured three times five meters was covered with a layer of 60 cm golden coins. A smaller room was filled with more golden coins, gemstones and several ornaments which were unreplacable.

The Sasak, which had asked for Dutch intervention, remarked that they were ruled by their new masters, and that they were much more rude than the Balinese. The taxes were higher and the male population was forced to construct roads. The Dutch rule meant unknown economical exploitation of most of the farmers. Many were forced away from their soils and were forced to beg to survive.

The Dutch also ruled indirectly over Lombok, through Balinese and Sasak-aristocrats, which had to give the biggest part of their income to the colonial power. Nevertheless they succeeded in gathering a huge diversity of possessions.

Due to forced labor the Dutch built a series of nine dams, which helped increasing rice production dramatically. De population however, grew that fast that the daily rice consumption descended: from 400 grams in 1900 to 300 grams in 1940. The Balinese rajas demanded 50 per cent of the harvest as a tax, towards 1940, the Dutch demanded 80 per cent, and this was just one of many taxes. During the Japanese occupation the population even got worse, when the Sasak were confronted with starvation and terror.

After the declaration of independence by the Indonesians in 1945, Lombok was a part of the Dutch controlled state of East Indonesia. In 1949, after the Dutch had lost sovereignty, Lombok became a part of the Lesser Sunda Islands Province. In 1951, the province Nusa Tenggara Barat was created, with as capital Mataram. Nowadays Lombok is decided into three kabupaten: West, Central and East, with the capitals Mataram, Praya and Selong.

Last revised on December 14, 2009
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