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Kingdom of Medang

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Kingdom of Medang

This article is about the Hindu Kingdom (8th to 10th centuries CE). For other uses, see Mataram Kingdom.
Medang i Bhumi Mataram


The Medang Kingdom during the Central Java and Eastern Java periods
Capital Central Java: Mdaη i Bhumi Mataram (precisely unknown, suggested somewhere in Prambanan Plain), later moved to Mamrati and Poh Pitu

East Java: Mdaη i Tamwlang and Mdaη i Watugaluh (near modern Jombang), later moved to Mdaη i Wwatan (near modern Madiun)

Languages Old Javanese, Sanskrit
Religion Kejawen, Hinduism, Buddhism, Animism
Government Monarchy
 -  732—760 Sri Sanjaya
 -  985—1006 Dharmawangsa
 -  Sri Sanjaya established Sanjaya Dynasty (Canggal Inscription) 752
 -  Dharmawangsa defeat to Wurawari and Srivijaya 1006
Currency Masa and Tahil (native gold and silver coins)

The Medang or Mataram Kingdom was a HinduBuddhist kingdom that flourished between the 8th and 10th centuries CE. It was based in Central Java, and later in East Java. Established by King Sanjaya, the founder of the Sanjaya dynasty, the kingdom was ruled by the Sailendra and Sanjaya families. By 850, the kingdom had become the dominant power in Java and was a serious rival to the hegemonic Srivijaya Empire.

Origin and formation

The earliest account of the Medang Kingdom is in the Canggal inscription, dated 732, discovered in Canggal village, southwest of the town of Magelang. This inscription, written in Sanskrit using the Pallava script, tells of the erection of a lingga (a symbol of Shiva) on the hill in the Kunjarakunja area, located on a noble island called Yawadwipa (Java) which was blessed with abundance of rice and gold. This inscription tells that Yawadwipa was ruled by King Sanna, whose long reign was marked by wisdom and virtue. After Sanna died, the kingdom fell into disunity. Sanjaya, the son of Sannaha (Sanna's sister) ascended to the throne. He conquered the areas around his kingdom, and his wise reign blessed his land with peace and prosperity for all of his subjects.[1]

Sanna and Sanjaya are also described in the Carita Parahyangan, a book from a later period which mainly describes the history of Pasundan (the Sunda Kingdom). This book mentions that Sanna was defeated by Purbasora, King of Galuh, and retreated to Mount Merapi. Later, Sanjaya reclaimed Sanna's kingdom and ruled West Java, Central Java, East Java, and Bali. He also battled the Malayu and Keling (against their king, Sang Srivijaya).

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The dual dynasties theory

Main article: Sanjaya Dynasty

Bosch in his book "Srivijaya, de Sailendravamsa en de Sanjayavamsa" (1952) suggested that king Sanjaya was the progenitor of the Sanjaya Dynasty, and there was two dynasties that ruled Central Java; the Buddhist Sailendra and the Shivaist Sanjaya dynasty.[2] The inscription also states that Sanjaya was an ardent follower of Shaivism. From its founding in the early 8th century until 928, the kingdom was ruled by the Sanjaya dynasty. The first king was Sanjaya, who ruled in the Mataram region in the vicinity of modern Yogyakarta and Prambanan, and left the written records on the Canggal inscription. However, around the mid 8th century, the Sailendra dynasty emerged in Central Java and challenged Sanjaya domination in the region.

According to the Kalasan inscription, dated 778 CE and written in the Pranagari script in Sanskrit, the Kalasan temple was erected by the will of Guru Sang Raja Sailendravamçatilaka (the Jewel of the Sailendra family), who persuaded Panangkaran (Sanjaya's successor) to construct a holy building for the goddess (boddhisattvadevi) Tara and build a vihara (monastery) for Buddhist monks from the Sailendra realm. Panangkaran also awarded Kalaça village to a sangha (Buddhist monastic community).[3]

The prevailing historical interpretation holds that the Sailendra dynasty co-existed next to the Sanjaya dynasty in Central Java, and much of the period was characterized by peaceful cooperation. The Sailendra, with their strong connections to Srivijaya, managed to gain control of Central Java and become overlords of the Rakai (local Javanese lords), including the Sanjayas, thus making the Sanjaya kings of Mataram their vassals. Little is known about the kingdom due to the dominance of the Sailendra, who during this period constructed Borobudur, a Buddhist monument. Samaratungga, the monarch of the Sailendra, tried to secure the Sailendra position in Java, cementing an alliance with the Sanjayas by arranging the marriage of his daughter Pramodhawardhani with Pikatan.

Around the middle of the 9th century, relations between the Sanjaya and the Sailendra deteriorated. In 852, the Sanjaya ruler, Pikatan, defeated Balaputra, the offspring of the Sailendra monarch Samaratunga and the princess Tara. This ended the Sailendra presence in Java; Balaputra retreated to the Srivijayan capital in Sumatra, where he became the paramount ruler.[4] The Balaputra defeat and the victory of Pikatan was recorded in Shivagrha inscription dated 856, edicted by Rakai Kayuwangi, Pikatan's successor.

The single dynasty theory

Main article: Sailendra Dynasty

However, this dual Sailendra—Sanjaya dynasties theory proposed by Bosch and De Casparis was opposed by some Indonesian historians in later period. An alternate theory, proposed by Poerbatjaraka, suggests there was only one kingdom and one dynasty, the kingdom called Medang, with the capital in the Mataram area (thus the name of the kingdom: "Medang i Bhumi Mataram"), and the ruling dynasty being the Sailendra.

This theory is supported with Boechari interpretation on Sojomerto inscription and Poerbatjaraka study on Carita Parahyangan manuscript, Poerbatjaraka holds that Sanjaya and all of his offspring belongs to the Sailendra family, which initially was Shivaist Hindu. However, according to Raja Sankhara inscription (now missing); Sanjaya's son, Panangkaran, converted to Mahāyāna Buddhism. And because of that conversion, the later series of Sailendra kings who ruled Medang become Mahāyāna Buddhists also and gave Buddhism royal patronage in Java until the end of Samaratungga's reign.[5] The Shivaist Hindus regained royal patronage with the reign of Pikatan, which lasted until the end of the Medang Kingdom. During the reign of Kings Pikatan and Balitung, the royal Hindu Trimurti temple of Prambanan was built and expanded in the vicinity of Yogyakarta.

The capital

Most of the time, the court of the Medang Kingdom was located in Mataram, somewhere on the Prambanan Plain near modern Yogyakarta and Prambanan. However, during the reign of Rakai Pikatan, the court was moved to Mamrati. Later, in the reign of Balitung, the court moved again, this time to Poh Pitu. Unlike Mataram, historians have been unable to pinpoint the exact locations of Mamrati and Poh Pitu, although most historians agree that both were located in the Kedu Plain, somewhere around the modern Magelang or Temanggung regencies. Later, during the reign of Wawa, the court was moved back to the Mataram area.

Government and economy

The complex stratified ancient Javan society, with its refined aesthetic taste in art and culture, is evidenced through the various scenes in narrative bas-reliefs carved on various temples dated from the Medang era.


The common people of Medang mostly made a living in agriculture, especially as rice farmers, however, some may have pursued other careers, such as hunter, trader, artisan, weaponsmith, sailor, soldier, dancer, musician, food or drink vendor, etc. Rich portrayals of daily life in 9th century Java can be seen in many temple bas-reliefs. Rice cultivation had become the base for the kingdom's economy where the villages throughout the realm relied on their annual rice yield to pay taxes to the court. Exploiting the fertile volcanic soil of Central Java and the intensive wet rice cultivation (sawah) enabled the population to grow significantly, which contributed to the availability of labor and workforce for the state's public projects. Certain villages and lands were given the status as sima (tax free) lands awarded through royal edict written in inscriptions. The rice yields from sima lands usually were allocated for the maintenance of certain religious buildings.

The bas-reliefs from temples of this period, especially from Borobudur and Prambanan describe occupations and careers other than agricultural pursuit; such as soldiers, government officials, court servants, massage therapists, travelling musicians and dancing troupe, food and drink sellers, logistics courier, sailors, merchants, even thugs and robbers are depicted in everyday life of 9th century Java. These occupations requires economy system that employs currency. The Wonoboyo hoard, golden artifacts discovered in 1990, revealed gold coins in shape similar to corn seeds, which suggests that 9th century Javan economy is partly monetized. On the surface of the gold coins engraved with a script "ta", a short form of "tail" or "tahil" a unit of currency in ancient Java.


The King was regarded as the paramount ruler or chakravartin, where the highest power and authority lies. The king, the royal family and the kingdom's officials had the authority to launch public projects, such as irrigation works or temple construction. The kingdom left behind several temples and monuments. The most notable ones are Prambanan, Sewu, and the Plaosan temple compound. The palace where the King resided was mentioned as kadatwan or keraton, the court was the center of kingdom's administration. Throughout its history, the center of Medang kingdom was mostly situated in and around Prambanan Plain, named as Mataram, however during the reign of other kings, the capital may shifted to other places. Several other courts and capital cities were mentioned, such as Mamrati (Amrati) and Poh Pitu, location unknown but probably somewhere in Kedu Plain. In later Eastern Java period, other centers were mentioned; such as Tamwlang and Watugaluh (near Jombang), also Wwatan (near Madiun).


The Wonoboyo hoard golden artifacts also attest to the wealth, art, and culture as well as the aesthetic achievement of the Medang Kingdom. The artifacts show the intricate artwork and technical mastery of the ancient Javanese goldsmith. The hoard was estimated to date from the reign of King Balitung.[6] The treasure has been identified as belonging to a noble or a member of the royal family.[7]


Since the beginning of its formation, the Medang Mataram kings seemed to favour Shivaist Hinduism, such as the construction of Gunung Wukir Hindu temple as mentioned in Canggal inscription by king Sanjaya. However during the reign of Panangkaran and the rise of Sailendras influence, Mahayana Buddhism began to blossomed and gain court favour. The Kalasan, Sari, Mendut, Pawon and the magnificent Borobudur and Sewu temples testify the Buddhist renaissance in Central Java. The court patronage on Buddhism spanned from the reign of Panangkaran to Samaratungga. During the reign of Pikatan, Shivaist Hinduism began to regain court's favour, signified by the construction of grand Shivagrha (Prambanan).

Art and Architecture

The monumental Hindu temple of Prambanan in the vicinity of Yogyakarta — initially built during the reign of King Pikatan (838—850), and expanded continuously through the reign of Lokapala (850—890) to Balitung (899–911) — is a fine example of ancient Medang Mataram art and architecture. The description of a grand temple compound dedicated for lord Shiva, and the public project to shift the course of the river near the temple (Opak river) to run straight along western wall of temple compound was also mentioned in Shivagrha inscription. The grand temple complex was dedicated to the Trimurti, the three highest gods in the Hindu pantheon (Shiva, Brahma, Vishnu). It was the largest Hindu temple ever built in Indonesia, evidence of the immense wealth and cultural achievement of the kingdom.

Other Hindu temples dated from Medang Mataram Kingdom era are: Sambisari, Gebang, Barong, Ijo, and Morangan. Although the Shivaist regain the favour, buddhist remain under royal patronage. The Sewu temple dedicated for Manjusri according to Kelurak inscription was probably initially built by Panangkaran, but later expanded and completed during Rakai Pikatan's rule, whom married to a Buddhist princess Pramodhawardhani, daughter of Samaratungga. Most of their subjects retained their old religion; Shivaist and Buddhist seems to co-exist in harmony. The buddhist temple of Plaosan, Banyunibo and Sajiwan were built during the reign of King Pikatan and Queen Pramodhawardhani, probably in the spirit of religious reconciliation after the battle of succession between Pikatan-Pramodhawardhani against Balaputra.


From the 9th to mid 10th centuries, the Medang Kingdom witnessed the blossoming of art, culture and literature, mainly through the translation of Hindu-Buddhist sacred texts and the transmission and adaptation of Hindu-Buddhist ideas. The bas-relief narration of the Hindu epic Ramayana was carved on the wall of Prambanan Temple. During this period, the Kakawin Ramayana, an old Javanese rendering was written. This Kakawin Ramayana, also called the Yogesvara Ramayana, is attributed to the scribe Yogesvara circa the 9th century CE, who was employed in the court of the Medang in Central Java. It has 2774 stanzas in the manipravala style, a mixture of Sanskrit and archaic Javanese prose. The most influential version of the Ramayana is the Ravanavadham of Bhatti, popularly known as Bhattikavya. The Javanese Ramayana differs markedly from the original Hindu.

The name of the Medang Kingdom was written in the Laguna Copperplate Inscription, dated 822 saka (900 CE), discovered in Manila, Philippines. The discovery of the inscriptions, written in the Kawi script in a variety of Old Malay containing numerous loanwords from Sanskrit and a few non-Malay vocabulary elements whose origin is ambiguous between Old Javanese and Old Tagalog, suggests that the people or officials of the Medang Kingdom had embarked on inter-insular trade and foreign relations in regions as far away as the Philippines, and that connections between ancient kingdoms in Indonesia and the Philippines existed.

Moving eastward

Around the year 929, the centre of the kingdom was shifted from Central Java to East Java by Mpu Sindok, who established the Isyana Dynasty. The exact cause of the move is still uncertain; however, a severe eruption of Mount Merapi volcano or a power struggle probably caused the move. Historians suggest that, some time during the reign of King Wawa of Mataram (924—929), Merapi volcano erupted and devastated the kingdom's capital in Mataram. The historic massive volcano eruption is popularly known as Pralaya Mataram (the death of Mataram). The evidence for this eruption can be seen in several temples that were virtually buried under Merapi's lahar and volcanic debris, such as the Sambisari, Morangan, Kedulan, and Pustakasala temples.

Another theory suggests that the shift of capital city eastward was to avoid a Srivijaya invasion, or was motivated by economic reasons. The Brantas river valley was considered to be a strategic location for the control of maritime trade routes to the eastern parts of archipelago, being especially vital for control of the Maluku spice trade.

Sindok moved the capital to Tamwlang and later moved it again to Watugaluh. Historian identify those names with the Tambelang and Megaluh area near modern Jombang, East Java. A later king, Dharmawangsa, moved the capital again to Wwatan, identified as the Wotan area near modern Madiun. Dharmawangsa also ordered the translation of the Mahabharata into Old Javanese in 996.


In the late 10th century, the rivalry between the Sumatran Srivijaya and Javanese Medang became more hostile. The animosity was probably caused by the Srivijayan effort to reclaim Sailendra lands in Java, as Balaputra and his offspring — a new dynasty of Srivijaya maharajas — belonged to the Sailendra dynasty, or by Medang aspirations to challenge Srivijaya dominance as the regional power.

In 990, Dharmawangsa launched a naval invasion of Srivijaya and unsuccessfully attempted to capture Palembang. Dharmawangsa's invasion caused the Maharaja of Srivijaya, Chulamaniwarmadewa to request protection from China. In 1006, Srivijaya managed to repelled the Medang invaders. In retaliation, Srivijaya forces assisted Haji (king) Wurawari of Lwaram to revolt, and attacked and destroyed the Medang Palace, killing Dharmawangsa and most of the royal family. With the death of Dharmawangsa and the fall of the capital, under military pressure from Srivijaya, the kingdom finally collapsed. There was further unrest and violence several years after the kingdom's demise.

Airlangga, a son of Udayana of Bali, also a nephew of Dharmawangsa, managed to escape capture and went into exile. He later reunited the remnants of the Medang Kingdom and re-established the kingdom (including Bali) under the name of Kingdom of Kahuripan. In 1045, Airlangga abdicated his throne to resume the life of an ascetic. He divided the kingdom between his two sons, Janggala and Panjalu (Kediri) and from this point on, the kingdom was known as Kediri.

List of rulers

The ruler of Medang Kingdom[8] [9]

Central Java period

Period of reign Personal name Rakai (Javanese title) Abhiseka (stylized) name Mentioned in inscription Year
732—760 Sanjaya Mataram Canggal
760—780 Pancapana Panangkaran Dharmatungga? Kalasan 778
780—800 Dharanindra Panunggalan Sanggramadhananjaya


Ligor B


c 787

800—819 Samaragrawira Warak Nalanda c 860
819—838 Samaratungga Garung Pengging




838—850 Jatiningrat Pikatan Shivagrha

Tulang air



850—890 Lokapala Kayuwangi

Gurun Wangi


Wuatan Tija
Wanua Tengah
Munggu Antan



890—898 Dewendra Limus


Poh Dulur

Kewikuan Panunggalan



898—910 Balitung Watukura Sri Iswarakesawotawatungga Mantyasih 907
910—919 Daksa Hino Sri Maharaja Daksottama Bahubajra Pratipaksaksaya Uttunggawijaya Taji Gunung 910
919—924 Tulodong Layang Sajanasanata Nuragatunggadewa Lintakan 919
924—929 Wawa Sumba


Sri Wijayalokanamottungga Sanggurah 982

East Java period

Period of reign Personal name Rakai (Javanese title) Abhiseka (stylized) name Mentioned in inscription Year
929—947 Sindok Hino Sri Maharaja Isyana Wikramadharmottunggadewa Turyan




947—985 Sri Isyana Tunggawijaya (queen regnant) Gedangan




985—990 Sri Makutawangsawarddhana Pucangan 1041
990—1006 Wijayamreta Wardhana Sri Maharaja Isyana Dharmawangsa Teguh Anantawikramottunggadewa Pucangan 1041

See also

Indonesia portal
  • List of monarchs of Java
  • Medang Kamulan



  • Soekmono, R, Drs., Pengantar Sejarah Kebudayaan Indonesia 2, 2nd ed. Penerbit Kanisius, Yogyakarta, 1973, 5th reprint edition in 1988


External links

  • Early History of Java
  • Sailendra

fr:Royaume de Mataram#Le premier Mataram

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