The following article includes selected material from Borobudur: Pyramid of the Cosmic Buddha by Caesar Voûte and Mark Long

We do not know the precise reason or reasons behind the relocation of the Javanese kraton during the years 742 to 756. Some scholars believe it was in response to the rise in prominence of a competing royal house that referred to itself as the Śailendra — Sanskrit for ‘Lord of the Mountain.’ The rulers of Fun-nan on the Asian mainland had used the very same title during an earlier stage of the region’s development. This trading empire had flourished along the southern coast of modern-day Cambodia and South Vietnam until the middle of the sixth century. Fu-Nan is the Chinese transliteration of the Khmer word for mountain (phnom). Therefore, each successive ruler of Fu-Nan had likewise been ‘Lord of the Mountain.’ Early on, some western historians thought that the Śailendra dynasty might even have originated in Fu-Nan. However, no further evidence has ever been discovered to support this hypothesis. It is far more likely that the title ‘Lord of the Mountain’ merely reflects the widespread belief that local monarchs had descended, both literally and figuratively, from sacred mountains in the neighborhood.

Lords of the Mountain

The first Javanese inscription to mention the Śailendra commemorates the founding of a Buddhist temple in the village of Kalasa. It is generally believed that the Kalasa of the inscription is none other than the village of Kalasan on the Northwest side modern-day Yogyakarta, which has the remains of a Buddhist temple in its neighborhood. Composed in 782, the Candi Kalasan inscription invokes the blessings of the Buddhist goddess Tārā—the patron saint of sailors, merchants and other travelers. “May She, who seeing the world immersed in the ocean of existence, may She, the only guiding star of the world, grant your desires…” [20]

According to Buddhist legend, Tārā was born from a tear that Avalokiteshvara had shed while pondering the miseries confronted by all living creatures. Seated on a lotus blossom, the goddess rose out of the center of the tear-lake that had formed on the bodhisattva’s face. Her name is based on the Sanskrit root tar, which means ‘to sail across.’ Among other things, the name Tārā can mean ‘star.’ Her name must have evoked a mental image that doubtlessly was particularly comforting to the merchants and sailors who were compelled to brave unforgiving waters that could become perilous without warning. [21]

Some scholars believe that Panamkarana had built Candi Kalasan under the orders of a Śailendra monarch, while others hold that Panamkarana himself had been a member of the Śailendra dynasty. The ongoing debate is centered on different interpretations of the following lines from the Kalasa inscription: “The royal preceptor of the Śailendras having…Maharaja dyah Panchapana Panamkarana built the splendid temple of Tārā….When 700 years of the Saka era had elapsed (782 CE) Maharaja built the temple of Tārā in deference to the (Śailendra-)Guru. He donated the village named Kalasa to the Sangha, having made the village officials…and other notable persons as witnesses. In accord with the noble traditions to be observed by kings of the Śailendra dynasty, the mighty king gave this ample donation which is immeasurable.” [22]

Professor Yutaka Iwamoto of Soka University argues that the best interpretation would render the Maharaja Panamkarana and the inscription’s unnamed Śailendra king as being members of two distinct dynasties. “The erector of the Kalasan inscription, calling himself rajasimha, ‘the lion of kings,’ calls not only three desadhyakmas as witnesses to his own donation, but also requests future kings of the Śailendra dynasty to properly maintain the monastery constructed by his own hands. These three high officials, mentioned thrice in the inscription, are unquestionably government officials, of the Śailendra dynasty. If majaraja Panamkarana were identified with some unnamed king, glorified in the inscription as ‘an ornament of the Śailendra dynasty” (Śailendravamsatilaka), it would be impossible to elucidate the state of affairs on that occasion; that is, why the sovereign of the Śailendra dynasty should grant a village to a monastery constructed by himself, taking his subjects as witnesses to his donation. If we appreciate the passages of the Kalasan inscription without any presupposition, the state of affairs would be as follows: Śrī Majārāja Rakai Panangkarana, the second king of the Mataram kingdom, was obliged to submit to the Śailendra dynasty as a result of its advance to Central Java…. Then, as a token of his submission to the Śailendra dynasty, he was forced on the orders of the preceptor of the Śailendra king to build a temple to the goddess Tārā and a monastery for Buddhist monks within his territory, though himself a follower of Hinduism, and to grant a village for the maintenance of these sanctuaries. While these buildings were under construction, three government officials of the Śailendra dynasty must have been supervising the construction work under the command of the sovereign’s preceptor.” [23]

The name Śrī Majārāja Rakai Panankaran appears in the Mantyasih inscription (907), which presents a list of Javanese kings that begins with Rakai Mataram, which undoubtedly refers to King Sañjaya of the Candi Canggal inscription (732). The Wanua Tengah III inscription (908) unearthed in 1983 presents an even longer list of kings that also includes a number of reigns cut short by revolts and coup d’etats. It even describes an eight-year hiatus between monarchs during which the kingdom had been without a ruler. One compelling reason for invalidating the identification of the Maharaja Panamkarana as an ‘ornament of the Śailendra’ is the fact that two known dates from the reign of the Śailendra monarch Samaratungga (792 and 824) span the respective reigns of both Rakai Panamkarana and his successor Rakai Panaraban.

Table 1. Wanua Tengah III & Mantyasih Inscriptions [24]

Wanua Tengah III (908)Mantyasih (907)
Rahyangta i Hara (Sañjaya? 732)Rakai Mataram (Ratu Sañjaya)
Rakai Panankaran (746-784)Rakai Panangkaran
Rakai Panaraban (784-803)Rakai Panunggalan
Rakai Warak Dyah Manara (803-827)Rakai Warak
Dyah Gula (827-828)-
Rake Garung (828-847)Rakai Garung
Rake Pikatan (847-855)Rakai Pikatan
Rake Kayuwangi Dyah Lokapala (855-885)Rakai Kayuwangi
Dyah Tagwas (885)-
Rake Panumwangan Dyah Dewendra (885-887)-
Rake Bhadra (887-887)-
Period without a king (887-894)-
Rake Wungkai Humalang Dyah Jbang (894-898)Rakai Waluhumalang
Rake Watukura Dyah Balitung (898-)Rakai Watukura

Roy Jordaan believes that the longer list of kings that appears in the Wanua Tengah III inscription is nevertheless incomplete. According to his theory, the composer of the Wanua Tengah III inscription had excluded the names of kings who were not members of Java’s landed gentry. The Śailendra inscriptions never incorporate the term Rakai (or Rake) — an indigenous Javanese title for a class of landed gentry — as part of the monarch’s name. Jordaan also notes that the establishment in Central Java of a Buddhist dynasty was accompanied by the appearance of a new script that modern epigraphers call Early Nagari and the introduction of silver Sandalwood-Flower coins bearing Early Nagari script, not to mention the sudden blossoming of Mahayana Buddhist art and architecture. He views that as evidence of the Śailendra’s foreign origin. “In contrast, the departure of the Śailendras from Java was followed by such developments as the fall of Buddhism from royal favor…, the change from Sanskrit to Old Javanese, the shift from silver coinage to an indigenous gold currency. In my estimation, the impact of the Śailendras’ departure was so great as to be a major factor in the art-historical break that can be discerned in the temple art of Java….” [25]

It also is curious that none of the rulers listed in either of the inscriptions cited above had ever made a reference, either directly or indirectly, to having had Śailendra ancestors. “If the Śailendras really were a Javanese royal family, it stands to reason that at least some of the central Javanese kings from the second half of the ninth century…would have tried to legitimize their position by tracing their descent to this illustrious family…. The ‘persistence’ or rather the continuation of the dynastical name in Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula is a significant fact which raises a number of questions, even though some can only be answered tentatively.” [26]

The Mahārāja of Zabag

The unearthing of the Stone of Ligor on the Malay Peninsula demonstrates that the Śailendra dynasty had played a wider role than merely serving as the provincial rulers of a Central Javanese kingdom. The inscription’s discovery in the vicinity of the modern Thai city of Nakorn Si Thammarat also supports the proposition that the dynasty had at one time been a major naval power in the region. Nevertheless, the correct method of reading of the Stone of Ligor has been hotly debated for the past 80 years. This is because this controversial stele actually presents two separate Sanskrit texts. Side ‘A’ commemorates the founding at Chaiya of three Buddhist temples by the Maharaja of Śrivijaya in 775, while side ‘B’ celebrates the victories of a Śailendra ‘King of Kings’ (rājadirāja) who the inscription’s composer describes as “resplendent like the sun due to his own might.” However, the text of side ‘B’ comes to an abrupt end in middle of the exposition of the text and for unknown reasons it was never finished, which has led to endless rounds of speculation that shall not be repeated here.

The proclaimed might of the Śailendra may not have been merely an idle boast. Discovered along the coast of central Vietnam, three inscriptions from Champa describe a series of skirmishes that took place in the years 774 and 787. Arriving by ship, the attackers were “…ferocious, pitiless, dark-skinned invaders…whose food was more horrible than that of vampires.” They displayed a furious nature that the composer compares to that of Yama — the Hindu god of the dead. After stealing Champa’s sacred lingam, the invaders “…set fire to the abode of the god, just as the armed crowds of daityas (‘demons’) formerly did in heaven.” The second inscription refers to the “multitudes of vicious cannibals who had come from other countries by means of ships,” while the third attributes the sacking of the Bhadradhipatisvara — Champa’s holiest temple — to a Javanese army that had arrived in ships.

The Javanese also appear to have exercised authority over portions of Cambodia. According to the 11th century stele of Sdok Kak Thom, the suzerainty of the Javanese over the Khmer people ended in the year 802. Angkor’s founding monarch King Jayavarman II declared his kingdom’s independence by means of a ritual performance that was held at his capital Mahendraparvata, which was located on top of the holy Kulen mountain range that overlooks the plains of Angkor to the South. “Then there came from Janapada a Brahmana, Hiranyadama by name, who was proficient in the art of magic, because his majesty Parameshvara [Jayavarman II] had invited him to perform a supplementary ceremony so as to make it impossible for this country of Kambuja to become dependent on Java (and) to realize that only the master of the inner surface (i.e., His Majesty Parameshvara) become a sovereign ruler.” [27]

The ritual performance on top of Mount Kulen had involved the installation of a cult object called the Devaraja (‘King of the Gods’). The Khmer inscriptional record indicates that the prince who would later be crowned as King Jayavarman II had returned to central Cambodia from ‘Jaba,’ a location that the historian George Coedès identified with Java Island, though other locations have been suggested by later historians. Jayavarman II “invited Brahmana Hiranyadama to conduct a ceremony (vidhi) which should prevent the land of Kambuja from ever being dependent (ayatta) on Java, and to bring about instead that there should only be one single ‘Lord of the lower earth’…. According to the Aitreya-brahmana, the mahabhisheka or great coronation rite of Indra was for great kingship, for suzerainty, for supremacy, for pre-eminence.” [28]

Beginning in the mid-ninth century, the written reports of various Arab traders began to refer to a maritime empire variously known as Zabag, Djawaga or Djaba, which was located in the islands of the Southern Sea somewhere between China and India. The Arab writer Ibn Khordadzbeh was the first to mention this kingdom. Other reports soon followed that placed the capital of Djaba on an island beyond which no further lands existed and which had a volcano in its neighborhood. Later testimonials from the early tenth century give latitude and longitude coordinates for the capital of Djaba that suggest it had been located on the Malay Peninsula. However, many of these reports contain excerpts from even earlier source materials. Therefore, it remains possible that the name Djaba initially applied to Java Island and then continued to be used in later accounts to refer to a new capital that had been relocated to the Malay Peninsula following the Śailendra exodus from Central Java in the ninth century.

The Arab trader Sulayman (851) has left us a detailed account of a legend about a fateful encounter between a young Cambodian prince and the Maharaja of Zabag that presents a classic lesson in the Law of Karma—the Buddhist doctrine of cause and effect.

It is recorded in the annals of the kingdom of Zabag that in years gone by the country of the Khmer (Cambodia) came into the hands of a young ruler who possessed a hasty temper. One day as he was seated with his councilor the conversation turned upon the empire of the Maharaja, of its splendor, the number of its subjects, and of the number of islands subordinate to it.

“I have one desire that I would like to satisfy,” said the Khmer ruler in a fit of jealousy.

“What is that desire, O King,” inquired his faithful councilor.

“I wish to see the head of the King of Zabag before me on a plate,” remarked the monarch,

“I do not wish, O King, that my sovereign should express such a desire,” answered the minister. “The Khmer people and Zabag have never manifested hatred towards one another, either in words or in acts. Zabag has never done us any harm. What the King has said should not be repeated.”

Angered by this sage advice, the Khmer ruler raised his voice and repeated his desire so that all of the generals and nobles who were present at court could hear him. Word of the young ruler’s impetuous outburst passed from mouth to mouth until it finally arrived at the court of the Maharaja of Zabag.

Upon hearing the words of the Khmer ruler repeated, the Maharaja ordered his councilor to prepare a thousand ships for departure. When the fleet was ready, the Maharaja himself went aboard and announced to the crowd on shore that he would be making a pleasure trip amongst his islands. Once at sea, however, the Maharaja order the armada to proceed to the capital of the Khmer ruler, where his troops took the Khmers by surprise, seized the city, and surrounded the palace. After the Khmer ruler had been captured, he was brought before the Maharaja of Zabag.

“What caused you to form a desire which was not in your power to satisfy, which would not have given you happiness if you had realized it, and would not even have been justified if it had been easily realizable?” inquired the Maharaja of Zabag.

Since the Khmer king had nothing to say in return, the Maharaja of Zabag continued. “You have manifested the desire to see before you my head on a plate. If you also had wished to seize my country and my kingdom or even only to ravage a part of it, I would have done the same to you. But since you have only expressed the first of these desires, I am going to apply to you the treatment you wished to apply to me, and I will then return to my country without taking anything belonging to the Khmer, either of great or small value.”

After the Maharaja had arrived back in his own kingdom, he seated himself on a throne which overlooked a lake and he had the platter containing the Khmer ruler’s head placed before him. He commanded for that head to be washed and embalmed, placed in a jar and then sent to the successor of the Khmer king, together with a note which explained that the act had been performed for reasons of personal revenge, and that the Maharaja drew no glory from his victory.

When the news of these events reached the kings of India and China, the Maharaja rose in their estimation. From that time onward the kings of the land of the Khmers turned their faces in the direction of the Maharaja’s country every morning and bowed down to the ground in homage to him. [29]

Lokesh Chandra believes that the previously mentioned coronation ceremony for Jayavarman II had included elements that were intended to be a direct response to the beheading of his Khmer predecessor. “This coronation was for invincible security and uninterrupted stability of the kingdom, further fortified by the four Agamic rites ending in shirascheda “beheading.” Decapitation of the enemy king was a critical issue for the survival of the Cambodian state, and personally for Jayavarman II. The Javanese had beheaded the king of the Khmers and carried away his head to Java. The young Jayavarman II was taken away to the court of the Javanese Maharaja as a hostage. On return, he was chosen to be King by the ministers of the beheaded monarch. The shirascheda (beheading) rites conducted at the instance of Jayavarman II were to avenge the beheading of his predecessor as well as to preempt its recurrence.” [30]

The Rise and Fall of the Śailendra on Java

Beginning in the closing decades of the eighth century, the Śailendra monarchs appear to have embarked upon an ambitious temple-building program that not only featured the construction of a large number of entirely new religious foundations but also involved major renovation and modification efforts at previously existing sites such as Candi Sewu. Historians generally credit the dynasty with having patronized the construction of more than a dozen Buddhist temples and monasteries within the short period of just 50 years, several of which are among the finest examples of Hindu-Buddhist architecture that the world has ever known. The temple ruins that visitors see today are merely the skeletal remains of spires, balustrades and walls that originally were coated with stucco and perhaps painted in brilliant colors or even gilded with gold. In the interior of these magnificent buildings were numerous statues hewn out of stone as well as those that were cast in precious metals. Treasure hunters in search of easy riches undoubtedly melted down these priceless images long ago. However, a large number of beautifully carved stone images remain in their original places for visitors to see today. When these temples were still living religious institutions, many would have been surrounded by a large number of auxiliary buildings made of wood, including monastic quarters as well as guesthouses for visitors. The temples themselves would also have been the focus of a considerable amount of activity, both secular and religious, on specific days of the year when the monks conducted their religious ceremonies.

The Śailendra renewed the kingdom’s temple designs periodically through the addition of new architectural elements and images. This practice should come as no surprise for the renewal of stūpas and other Buddhist religious foundations has long been a common practice throughout the region. Just as it is the case today, each Śailendra generation must have considered the renovation and modification of sacred structures to be a highly effective means for accumulating spiritual merit. The many renovations that took place during their years in power on Java may also have been the result of the frequent arrival of new religious doctrines from abroad. The inscriptions of Central Java also present ample evidence of how easy it had been for the Śailendra to bring important foreign visitors to Java by ship.

The last time that an inscription specifically mentions a Śailendra monarch was in the year 824. Their decline and fall from power took place soon thereafter and may have coincided with the death of King Samaratungga, who is mentioned in both the Ratu Boko (792) and Kayumwungan (824) inscriptions. [31] Whatever its cause, the demise of the Śailendra dynasty on Java appears to have had little effect on Old Mataram’s temple construction boom. The next ruler of Old Mataram that we may infer had been associated with a Buddhist temple is the Hindu monarch Rakai Gurung (828-847). Due to the lengthy duration of his reign, Jordaan believes that Gurung may have played a major role in the building of Candi Prambanan (also known as Loro Jonggrang) which is located to the South of Candi Sewu on the eastern side of modern-day Yogyakarta. Two short inscriptions bearing the name of Gurung’s immediate successor Rakai Pikatan (847-855) were found at Candi Plaosan.

The first solid indication that scholars have found to indicate that the Śailendra had continued to be a powerful force in the region following the dynasty’s exit from Java comes from a copperplate inscription that dates from the middle of the ninth century. Discovered in India at the site of Nalanda, it describes the founding of a monks’ abode there by the Śailendra monarch Balaputra. “I have caused to be built a monastery at Nalanda granted by this edict toward the income for the blessed Lord Buddha, the abode of all the leading virtues like the prajna-paramita, for the offerings, oblations, shelter, garments, alms, beds, the requisites of the sick like medicines, etc., in respect of the Bodhisattvas installed there and the Community of Buddhist monks from the Four Quarters, comprising the eight classes of great personages, for writing…Buddhist texts and for the upkeep and repair of the monastery….” [32]

Nalanda was renown throughout Asia as an unparalleled center of higher learning. When the Chinese monk Hsuan-tsang visited Nalanda in the sixth century he was dazzled by its vast scope and its splendor. “In India there were thousands of monasteries, but none surpassed this one in magnificence and sublimity. There were many courtyards…precious terraces spread like stars and jade pavilions that spiraled upward like mountain peaks. The temples were in the mist and the shrine halls stood high above the clouds…. Streams of blue water wound through the garden, green lotus flowers sparkled among the blossoms of sandal trees…. The beams of the monks’ dwellings were carved in animal designs and were painted with all the colors of the rainbow, while the pillars were decorated with exquisite engravings. Their plinths were made of jade and the rafters were adorned with paintings. The ridges of the buildings stood high under the sunshine and the eaves were connected by ropes with decorative flags. Always present were ten thousand monks, including hosts and guests, who studied both the Mahayana teachings and the doctrines of the eighteen Hinayana Schools, as well as worldly books, such as the Vedas and other classics. They also studied logic, grammar, medicine and mathematics…. More than one hundred teaching classes were held in the monastery every day, and the students studied hard without wasting a single moment…. As all the monks were men of virtue, the atmosphere in the monastery was naturally grave and dignified….Out of respect for them, the king donated the revenue of more than 100 villages…each of which had two hundred families who daily offered several hundred tan of rice, butter and milk. Thus the students were provided with the four requisites (clothing, food, bedding and medicine) …without going out to beg for them. It was because of this support that they achieved so much in their learning.” [33]

Why would a Śailendra king wish to build a monastery in far away India? Political reasons were undoubtedly involved and it is tempting to speculate that Balaputra’s relationship with King Devapala might have been calculated to further his own political ambitions. However, it is also just as likely that the Śailendra monarch wanted to ensure that his own subjects would continue to be supported while studying at Nalanda. When I-Tsing visited Nalanda in the late seventh century, he noted that this Buddhist institution not only taught students from all over India, but also accepted a number of applicants who hailed from other lands. Nalanda served as a common meeting ground for foreign teachers from across Asia. Any new ideas that they brought to Nalanda were studied, appraised, tested and then disseminated by the institution’s international student body, thereby producing a two-way flow in which pilgrims from China, Java, Cambodia and elsewhere had actively participated. “It was the place where numerous pilgrims from abroad resided for many years in order to study under the guidance of illustrious scholars, to participate in the famous debating conferences and to possess…the things they desired most eagerly: manuscripts, relics and holy images. Enriched with these treasures they finally returned to the monasteries in their native countries, from whence…the streams of their wisdom spread far and wide.” [34]

The Nalanda inscription also provides us with a pedigree for the Śailendra king. Although the copperplate reports that Balaputra’s grandfather had been the king of Java, it does not set forth any claim to the Javanese throne on the part of Balaputra himself. The inscription simply identifies Balaputra as the king of Suvarnadvipa. “There was a king of Yavabhumi (Java) who was the ornament of the Śailendra dynasty, whose lotus-feet bloomed by the luster of the jewels in the row of trembling diadems, on the heads of all the princes, and who, as his name showed was the illustrious tormentor of the brave foes (Viravairimathana). His fame, incarnate, as it were, by setting its foot on the regions of (white) palaces, in white water lilies, in lotus plants, conches, moon, jasmine and snow and being incessantly sung in all the quarters, pervaded the whole universe.”

The next stanza refers to the ingenious methods that “crooked ones” may employ when striking others, perhaps a veiled reference to those responsible for the Śailendra decline on Java. “At the time when that king frowned in anger, the fortress of the enemies also broke down simultaneously with their hearts. Indeed the crooked in the world have got ways of moving which are very ingenious in striking others. He had a son who possessed prudence, prowess and good conduct, whose two feet fondled much with hundreds of diadems of mighty kings (bowing down). He was the foremost warrior in battlefields…. Tārā was the queen consort of that king and was the daughter of the great ruler Dharmasetu (Varmasetu) of the lunar race and resembled (the goddess) Tārā herself… [was born] from her by that king the illustrious Balaputra, who was expert at crushing the pride of all the rulers of the world, and before whose foot-stool the groups of princes bowed.” [35]

The rulers of Old Mataram gradually established a sphere of influence that eventually encompassed Sundanese West Java, Sumatra, Bali and the Malay Peninsula as far North as the trading center at Chaiya. Then for reasons that remain obscure, the Classic Age of Javanese Hindu-Buddhist civilization came to an abrupt and mysterious end. The last inscription of the Old Mataram period dates from the year 928. At some point between 928 and the opening years of the following century, Old Mataram’s reigning monarch must have transferred his political base to the eastern half of the island.

Archeologists and historians have tendered several hypotheses for explaining the transfer of Old Mataram’s royal seat of power to East Java, including a cataclysmic eruption of Mount Merapi. N. J. Krom attempted to explain the hiatus in temple building activities in Central Java that occurred around the year 930 by proposing that the area’s rulers had relocated to make the kingdom less vulnerable to an attack by the rulers of Srivijaya. However, Jordaan subsequently pointed out that the location of the new royal kraton in East Java was even more vulnerable to attack because of its river delta location along the coast. In contrast, both Schrieke and de Casparis have suggested that the king of Old Mataram may have relocated his kraton to enable the kingdom to take advantage of new international trading opportunities that were beginning to flourish between East Java and the eastern islands of the Indonesian archipelago. In addition, Schrieke believed that the depopulation of Central Java could be traced to the labor burdens that the excessive temple building activities of Old Mataram’s rulers had earlier placed upon the region’s inhabitants.

From a purely economic point of view, East Java was a much more suitable location for a maritime empire that was heavily involved in international trade. No deep-water harbors then existed along Java’s North Coast, which was and remains characterized by extremely shallow coastal waters as well as marshy mud flats. Moreover, the entire coastline has been continuously shifting northward over the course of the last 10,000 years due to rapid accretion by rivers carrying considerable sediment loads.

The coastline of the Jakarta Bay is known to have advanced several kilometers in precisely this manner since time of Central Java’s Classic Age, with a similar shift occurring further to the East in the neighborhood of the Javanese port city of Semarang. The Indonesian historians Budiman and Widodo recently proposed that the harbor of Bergota — at present more than 6 km distant from the coast — had formerly served as an important harbor for the Old Mataram Kingdom. The proposal concurs with Van Bemmelen’s earlier suggestion that the Ngarang river had served as the source of the sediment that ultimately led to the rapid accretion of the coastline in Semarang’s vicinity. During the Classic Age of Hindu-Javanese civilization, the harbor appears to have been located at the most northerly situated hill called Bergota in the southern sectors of Semarang town. This particular area is known today as Candi Lama (Old) and Candi Baru (New). [36]

Roy Jordaan has suggested the possibility that the Old Mataram kraton may have been located temporarily at the legendary capital of Medang Kamulan on Java’s northern seashore — back when the site was still an important harbor on the mouth of the river Lusi. In particular, he refers to a 1967 study by Soekmono that presents a geographical reconstruction of the northeastern area of Central Java that also suggests potential locations for Medang. Soekmono has placed it in the Grobogan district to the east of Semarang, where a number of small ‘Medang’ villages can still be found today (Medang, Medang Ramesan, Medang Kemit, Medang Kemulan and others), together with a river that also bears the same name.

Various researchers have attributed the decline of the Mataram state at least in part to the silting process that eventually led to the kingdom’s loss of its harbor facilities. Under these conditions the available harbors in East Java were the only suitable alternatives available that could have allowed the Javanese to maintain profitable trade relations with China. The opening of new harbors in East Java also would have furthered trading relations with the islands of the eastern archipelago, from whence came the spices and timber that both India and China so coveted, according to one eleventh century East Javanese inscription.

The loss of trade centers such as Bergota and Medang Kamulan put an end to the arrival of those who previously had greatly influenced the religious and cultural development of Central Java. For reasons that remain obscure, these pilgrims and missionaries, priests and gurus, did not simply book passage to the new harbors in East Java in conformance with shifting trade patterns. It appears that foreigners visited each succeeding capital in East Java with less frequency than the one before, which is one factor that helps to explain why Javanese interest in Buddhism entered its decline in the ninth and tenth centuries as well as why the highly Hinduized culture of Old Mataram eventually was followed by an East Javanese culture in which the island’s older indigenous culture played an increasingly important role. The arts and architecture of the later East Javanese kingdoms graphically display a preference for local Javanese traditions at the expense of the cultural influences of India.


[20] De Casparis, J.G. Prasasti Indonesia. Bandung: Nix (1956) [vol. II].
[21]  See Jordaan, Roy E.  “Tara and Nyai Lara Kidul: images of the divine feminine in Java.” Asian Folklore Studies, 56-2 (1997):285-331.
[22] See Chandra, Lokesh. Cultural Horizons of India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan (1995) [vol. IV].
[23]  Iwamoto, Yutaka. “The Śailendra Dynasty and Chandi Borobudur”. Soka University, Japan. Another compelling reason for invalidating the association of the Maharaja Panamkarana with the Shailendra is the fact that two dates from the reign of the Śailendra monarch Samaratungga-deva (792 and 824 CE) span the respective reigns of both Rake Panamkarana and his successor Rake Panaraban, according to the Wanua Tengah III inscription.
[24] Sundberg, Jeffrey. “The State of Old Mataram”.
[25] Jordaan, Roy E. “Why the Śailendras were not a Javanese Dynasty.” Paper presented at the symposium Non-Javanese, not yet Javanese, and un-Javanese: encounters and fissures in a civilization, Leiden University, 23-25 March 2004. See also Jordaan, Roy E. “Wanua Tengah III and the problem of the origin of the Sailendra dynasty.” International Conference on Indonesian Art, New Delhi, IGNCA, 4-6 March 2003.
[26] Ibid. p. 10. See also Jordaan, Roy E.  The Śailendras in Central Javanese History. Yogyakarta; Leiden: Penerbitan Universitas Sanata Dharma; KITLV Press (1996).
[27] “Master of the inner surface” (kamraten phdai karom) means that only an indigenous king, and insider (not an outsider) should be the sovereign of Cambodia. Chandra, Lokesh. “Devaraja in Cambodian History.” Indologica Taurinensia, XVII-XVIII (1991-1992):109-110.
[28] Ibid. pp. 104-106.
[29] After Malcom MacDonald’s version of the story as it appears in Angkor and the Khmers. Oxford University Press, Oxford – Singapore – New York, 1987. See also the summary provided in Coedes, George. Angkor: An Introduction. Oxford: University Press (1963):71-72.
[30] Chandra, Lokesh. “Devaraja in Cambodian History.” In Indologica Taurinensia, XVII-XVIII (1991-1992):109.
[31] Although the latter inscription describes King Samaratungga in the present tense, the French epigrapher Louis-Charles Damais believed that the Śailendra monarch had died prior to the inscription’s composition in 824 CE (Jeffrey Sundberg, personal communication).
[32] Sastri, Hirananda. Nalanda and Its Epigraphic Material. Calcutta: Government of India Press (1942):92-96 [Memoirs of the Archaeology Survey of India, No. 66]. See also Jordaan, Roy E. “Pala Chronology, the dating of the Nalanda inscription and the end of Sailendra rule in Java.” 8th International Conference of the European Association of Southeast Asian Archaeologists, 2-6 October, 2000.
[33] Hui-li. The Life of Hsuan-Tsang. Peking: The Chinese Buddhist Association (1959):106 – 109.
[34] I-Tsing. A Record of the Buddhist Religion as Practiced in India and the Malay Archipelago, p. 155.
[35] Sastri 1942:100-103.
[36] Ibid. pp. 92-96. See also Jordaan, Roy E. “Pala Chronology, the dating of the Nalanda inscription and the end of Sailendra rule in Java.” 8th International Conference of the European Association of Southeast Asian Archaeologists, 2-6 October, 2000.