Period of Hindu Kingdoms
well-organized kingdoms with a high degree of civilization
were ruled by indigenous kings who had adopted the
Hindu or Buddhist religion. This explains why this
period in history is called the Period of Hindu Kingdoms.
It lasted from ancient times to the 16th Century AD.
Because the culture and civilization, which emanated
from the Hindu and Buddhist religions, were synchronized
with the local cultural elements, the period was also
referred to as the Hindu- Indonesian period.
Indian culture and customs were introduced, such as
the system of government in a monarchy, the ancestry
system, the organization of military troops, literature,
music and dances, architecture, religious practices
and rituals, and even the division of laborers into
castes or varnas. The Hindu literary works known as
Vedas and the "Mahabharata" and "Ramayana"
epics were also introduced through the wayang, or
shadow-play performance, which is still very popular
in many parts of present day Indonesia.
The first Indian Buddhists arrived in Indonesia between
the 1st and 2nd Centuries AD. They brought with them
Buddhism in its two sects, Hinayana and Mahayana.
The latter became more advanced in the 8th Century
AD. With the spread of Buddhism to China many Chinese
pilgrims sailed to India through the Strait of Malacca.
On there way, some stopped and temporarily stayed
in Indonesia to learn more about Buddhism. In 144
AD a Chinese Buddhist saint, Fa Hsien, was caught
in a storm and landed in Java-Dwipa, or Java Island,
where he stayed for five months. The northern part
of the island was then ruled by an Indonesian Hindu
King named Kudungga. Kutai, on the island of Borneo,
was successively ruled by the Hindu kings Devawarman,
Aswawarman and Mulawarman.
When the Greek explorer and geographer, Ptolemy of
Alexandria, wrote on Indonesia, he named either the
island of Java or Sumatra "abadiou". His
chronicles described Java as a country with a good
system of government and advanced agriculture, navigation
and astronomy. There was even mention of the "batik"
printing process of cloth that the people already
knew. They also made metal ware, used the metric system
and printed coins.
Chinese chronicles of 132 AD described the existence
of diplomatic regions between Java-Dwipa and China.
Ink and paper had already been in use in China since
the 2nd Century AD. Around 502 AD Chinese annals mentioned
the existence of the Buddhist Kingdom, Kanto Lim in
South Sumatra, presumably in the neighborhood of present-day
Palembang. It was ruled by king Gautama Subhadra,
and later by his son Pyrawarman of Vinyawarman who
established diplomatic relations with China. Because
of a spelling or pronunciation difficulty, what the
Chinese called "Kanto Li" was probably Crivijaya,
a mighty Buddhist kingdom. On his way to India, the
Chinese Buddhist pilgrim, I Tsing, visited Crivijaya
in 671 AD to study the Sanskrit language. He returned
18 years later; in 689 AD Crivijaya was then the center
of Buddhist learning and had many well-known philosophy
scholars like Sakyakirti, Dharmapala and Vajabudhi.
The kingdom had diplomatic relations with the south
Indian kingdom of Nalanda. The Crivijaya mission built
a school on its premises where Indians could learn
the art of molding bronze statues and broaden their
knowledge of the Buddhist philosophy. With the spread
of Buddhism, Crivijaya's influence reached out to
many other parts of the archipelago.
Another known Buddhist kingdom was Cailendra in Central
Java. It was ruled by the kings of Cailendra Dynasty.
During their rule (750-850 AD) the famous Buddhist
temple, Borobudur, was built. In 772 AD other Buddhist
temple were also build. They include the Mendut, Kalasan
and Pawon temples. All of these temples are now preserved
as tourist objects near the city of Yogyakarta. The
Cailendra kingdom was also known for its commercial
and naval power, and its flourishing arts and culture.
A guide to team singing, known as the Chandra Cha-ana,
was first written in 778 AD. One of the Pallawa language-stone
inscriptions of 732 AD mentioned the name of King
Sanjaya, who was later identified as the king of Mataram,
a kingdom that replaced Cailendra in Central Java.
The Prambanan temple, which was dedicated to Lord
Civa, was started in 856 AD and completed in 900 AD
by King Daksa. Earlier Civa temples were built in
675 AD on the Dieng mountain range, southwest of Medang
Kamolan, the capital of the Mataram Kingdom. In West
Java were the kingdoms of Galuh, Kanoman, Kuningan
and Pajajaran. The latter was founded by King Purana
with Pakuan as its capital. It replaced the kingdom
of Galuh. The kingdoms of Taruma Negara, Kawali and
Parahyangan Sunda came later.
At the end of the 13th Century, the Crivijaya Empire
began to fall as a result of severance by its vassal
states and frequent attacks by the south Indian kingdom
of Chola and by the Majapahit Kingdom. In the end,
Crivijaya was completely conquered by Majapahit with
the support of King Aditiawarman of the Melayu kingdom.
Earlier, Majapahit had conquered the kingdom of Jambi
in East Sumatra and, by moving its expansion along
the rivers; it finally annexed the kingdom of Pagar
Ruyung in West Sumatra. Thus, all of Sumatra came
under Majapahit's rule. Meanwhile, for unknown reasons,
the mighty kingdoms of Central Java disappeared from
historic records and new prosperous kingdom emerged
in East Java. King Balitung, who ruled between 820
and 832 AD, succeeded in uniting the Central and East
Java kingdoms. The disappearance of records was presumably
caused by a natural disaster or an epidemic.
At the end of the 10th Century (911-1007 AD) the powerful
kingdom of Singasari emerged in East Java under King
Dharmawangsa. He codified laws and translated into
Javanese the "Mahabharata" epic and its
basic philosophy, as exposed in the Bhisma Parva scripture.
He also ordered the 12 translations of the Hindu holy
book, the Bhagavat Gita.
Meanwhile, the island of Bali was ruled by King Airlangga,
known as a wise and strong ruler. He had water-works
built along the Brantas River that are still in use
today. Before his death in 1409 AD he divided his
kingdom into the kingdoms of Janggala and Daha or
Kediri. These were to be ruled by his two sons. Under
Airlangga's rule literary works flourished. The Panji
novels written during this period are still popular
today. They are even taught in the art faculties of
the universities in Thailand, Kampuchea and Malaysia.
King Jayabaya of Kediri 1135-1157 wrote a book in
which he foretold the downfall of Indonesia. Subsequently,
so he wrote, the country would be ruled by a white
race, to be followed by a yellow race. His prediction
turned out to be Dutch colonial rule and the Japanese
occupation of the country during World War. However,
Jayabaya also predicted that Indonesia would ultimately
regain her independence. During the golden period
of the Kediri Kingdom many other literary works were
produced, including the Javanese version of the Mahabharata
by Mpu (saint) Sedah and his brother Mpu Panuluh.
This work was published in 1157.
The kingdoms of East Java were later succeeded by
the Majapahit Kingdom, first ruled by Prince Wiiaya
who was also known as King Kartarajasa. The Moghul
emperor, Kubilai Khan attempted to invade Majapahit.
His troops, however, were defeated and driven back
to their ships. As Majapahit grew to become a powerful
empire, it conquered the kingdom of Crivijaya in South
Sumatra. As mentioned earlier, this kingdom has once
been attacked by the Indian kingdom of Chola. Under
King Hayam Wuruk the Majapahit Empire became the most
powerful kingdom in the history of Indonesia. It had
dependencies in territories beyond the borders of
the present archipelago, such as Champa in North Vietnam,
Kampuchea and the Philippines (1331-1364).
King Hayam Wuruk, with his able premier Gajah Mada,
succeeded in gradually uniting the whole archipelago
under the name of Dwipantara. During this golden period
of Majapahit many literary works were produced. Among
them was "Negara Kertagama," by the famous
author Prapancha (1335-1380). Parts of the book described
the diplomatic and economic ties between Majapahit
and numerous Southeast Asian countries including Myanmar,
Thailand, Tonkin, Annam, Kampuchea and even India
and China. Other works in Kawi, the old Javanese language,
were "Pararaton," "Arjuna Wiwaha,"
"Ramayana," and "Sarasa Muschaya."
These works were later translated into modern European
languages for educational purposes.