Majapahit In Decline


Following the death of King Hayam Wuruk in 1389, the kingdom of Majapahit began to experience a decline. On the one hand, there had not been found a charismatic military leader to replace Gajah Mada, who had died in 1364. On the other, there arose a dispute over royal succession. When the Chinese envoy Cheng Ho landed in Java in the early years of the 15th century, he found two leaders engaged in war. The western part of the kingdom was in the hands of Wikramawardhana (Bhre Tumapel), who had married Kusumawardhani, Hayam Wuruk's daughter from his principal queen. The east, however, was ruled by Bhre Wirabhumi, son of Hayam Wuruk by a concubine. Wikramawardhana eventually emerged the victor, yet the civil war had seriously weakened the country's stability.

It was during the 15th century, too, that Majapahit came under the influence of Islam. Legend has it that King Brawijaya married a princess of Champa (Vietnam), who converted him to the new religion. The tomb of the princess, dated A.D. 1448, can be found in the village of Trowulan. A further legend claims that the first sultan of Demak, Raden Patah, was a son of Brawijaya by a Chinese princess.

More certain information comes from China. On Cheng Ho's third mission to Java, in 1413-1415, he was accompanied by a chronicler named Ma Huan, who described in some detail the inhabitants of Majapahit. They consisted for the most part, he said, of the native population who were still 'heathen' and 'lived with their dogs'. Yet there were also a large number of Muslims from the west, who lived and worked in the city, as well as a Chinese community, the majority of whom had embraced the religion of Islam.

On the death of Wikramawardhana in 1429, the throne was taken over by his daughter Suhita, who is recognized as the last direct blood descendant of Raden Wijaya to rule in Majapahit. During her reign, which lasted until 1447, the kingdom appears to have experienced a revival of archaic Indonesian themes in the fields of art and religion., evidence of which can be seen in the remains of the terraced monuments on Mt Penanggungan and Mt Lawu, constructed during the 15th century. Since Suhita left no children, the throne went to her closest relative, a step-brother named Dyah Kertawijaya, whose period of rule lasted for just four years. After Kertawijaya the sequence of events becomes rather uncertain. According to the Pararaton, Rajasawardhana reigned for two years following Kertawijaya, after which there was a three year 'king less' period. Between 1456 and 1466 power was in the hands of Bhre Wengker (Hyang Purwawisesa), followed by Suraprabhawa (Bhre Pandan Salas). This last king was ejected from his palace at Tumapel by a relative, Bhre Kertabhumi, in 1468. From there he was forced to move his centre of power to Daha (Kediri), from where he ruled until his death in 1474.

The son of Suraprabhawa, named Bhatara Prabhu Girindrawardhana Dyah Ranawijaya, was the last known king of Majapahit, possibly ruling until around 1520, when the capital was finally overrun by the forces of Demak.


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