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Brief Sketch of Javanese History Prior to the Eleventh Century, Part
The following article includes selected material from Borobudur: Pyramid of the Cosmic Buddha by Caesar Voûte and Mark Long ©2008. All Rights Reserved.
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
in response to the rise in prominence of a competing royal house that
to itself as the Śailendra — Sanskrit for ‘Lord
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
empire had flourished along the southern coast of modern-day
Lords of the Mountain
The first Javanese
inscription to mention the Śailendra commemorates
the founding of a Buddhist temple in the
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.” 
Professor Yutaka Iwamoto of
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 
Roy Jordaan believes that the
longer list of kings that appears in the
Wanua Tengah III inscription is nevertheless incomplete. According to
the composer of the Wanua Tengah III inscription had excluded the names
kings who were not members of Java’s landed gentry. The Śailendra
never incorporate the term Rakai (or Rake) — an
Javanese title for a class of landed gentry — as part of the monarch’s
Jordaan also notes that the establishment in
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
Javanese kings from the second half of the ninth century…would have
legitimize their position by tracing their descent to this illustrious
The ‘persistence’ or rather the continuation of the dynastical name in
The Mahārāja of Zabag
The unearthing of the Stone
Ligor on the
might of the Śailendra may not have been
merely an idle boast. Discovered
along the coast of central
The Javanese also appear to
have exercised authority over portions of
performance on top of
Beginning in the mid-ninth century, the
written reports of various Arab traders began to refer to a maritime
variously known as Zabag, Djawaga or Djaba, which was located in the
the Southern Sea somewhere between
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
“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
Lokesh Chandra believes that
the previously mentioned coronation
ceremony for Jayavarman II had included elements that were intended to
direct response to the beheading of his Khmer predecessor. “This
for invincible security and uninterrupted stability of the kingdom,
fortified by the four Agamic rites ending in shirascheda
Decapitation of the enemy king was a critical issue for the survival of
Cambodian state, and personally for Jayavarman II. The Javanese had
the king of the Khmers and carried away his head to Java. The young
II was taken away to the court of the Javanese Maharaja as a hostage.
return, he was chosen to be King by the ministers of the beheaded
shirascheda (beheading) rites conducted at the instance of Jayavarman
to avenge the beheading of his predecessor as well as to preempt its
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.
renewed the kingdom’s temple designs
periodically through the addition of new architectural elements and
This practice should come as no surprise for the renewal of stūpas and
Buddhist religious foundations has long been a common practice
region. Just as it is the case today, each Śailendra generation must
considered the renovation and modification of sacred structures to be a
effective means for accumulating spiritual merit. The many renovations
took place during their years in power on Java may also have been the
the frequent arrival of new religious doctrines from abroad. The inscriptions of
The last time that an
inscription specifically mentions a Śailendra
monarch was in the year 824. Their decline and fall from power took
thereafter and may have coincided with the death of King Samaratungga,
mentioned in both the Ratu Boko (792) and Kayumwungan (824)
cause, the demise of the Śailendra dynasty on Java appears to have had
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
Hindu monarch Rakai Gurung (828-847). Due to the lengthy duration of
Jordaan believes that Gurung may have played a major role in the
Candi Prambanan (also known as Loro Jonggrang) which is located to the
Candi Sewu on the eastern side of modern-day
The first solid indication
that scholars have found to indicate that the
Śailendra had continued to be a powerful force in the region following
dynasty’s exit from Java comes from a copperplate
the middle of the ninth century.
Nalanda was renown throughout
Why would a Śailendra king
wish to build a monastery in far away
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
for the Śailendra decline on Java. “At
the time when that king frowned in anger, the fortress of the enemies
broke down simultaneously with their hearts. Indeed the crooked in the
have got ways of moving which are very ingenious in striking others. He
son who possessed prudence, prowess and good conduct, whose two feet
much with hundreds of diadems of mighty kings (bowing down). He was the
foremost warrior in battlefields....
The rulers of Old Mataram
gradually established a sphere of influence
that eventually encompassed Sundanese West Java, Sumatra, Bali and the
and historians have tendered several
hypotheses for explaining the transfer of Old Mataram’s royal seat of
East Java, including a cataclysmic eruption of
From a purely economic point
Roy Jordaan has suggested the
possibility that the Old Mataram kraton
may have been located temporarily at the legendary capital of Medang
Java’s northern seashore — back when the site was still an important
the mouth of the river Lusi. In particular, he refers to a 1967 study
Soekmono that presents a geographical reconstruction of the
Various researchers have
attributed the decline of the Mataram state at
least in part to the silting process that eventually led to the
of its harbor facilities. Under these conditions the available harbors
Java were the only suitable alternatives available that could have
Javanese to maintain profitable trade relations with
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
cultural development of
 See Jordaan, Roy E. “Tara and Nyai Lara Kidul: images of the divine feminine in Java.” Asian Folklore Studies, 56-2 (1997):285-331.
 See Chandra, Lokesh. Cultural Horizons of India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan (1995) [vol. IV].
 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.
 Sundberg, Jeffrey. "The State of Old Mataram".
 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.
 Ibid. p. 10. See also Jordaan, Roy E. The Śailendras in Central Javanese History. Yogyakarta; Leiden: Penerbitan Universitas Sanata Dharma; KITLV Press (1996).
 “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.
 Ibid. pp. 104-106.
 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.
 Chandra, Lokesh. “Devaraja in Cambodian History.” In Indologica Taurinensia, XVII-XVIII (1991-1992):109.
 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).
 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.
 Hui-li. The Life of Hsuan-Tsang. Peking: The Chinese Buddhist Association (1959):106 - 109.
 I-Tsing. A Record of the Buddhist Religion as Practiced in India and the Malay Archipelago, p. 155.
 Sastri 1942:100-103.
 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.
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