Provinces Titles Rulers Relation to the King
Kahuripan (or Janggala, today Surabaya) Bhre Kahuripan Tribhuwanatunggadewi queen mother
Daha (former capital of Kediri) Bhre Daha Rajadewi Maharajasa aunt and also mother in-law
Tumapel (former capital of Singhasari) Bhre Tumapel Kertawardhana father
Wengker (today Ponorogo) Bhre Wengker Wijayarajasa uncle and also father in-law
Matahun (today Bojonegoro) Bhre Matahun Rajasawardhana husband of the duchess of Lasem, king’s cousin
Wirabhumi (Blambangan) Bhre Wirabhumi Bhre Wirabhumi1 son
Paguhan Bhre Paguhan Singhawardhana brother in-law
Kabalan Bhre Kabalan Kusumawardhani2 daughter
Pawanuan Bhre Pawanuan Surawardhani niece
Lasem (a coastal town in Central Java) Bhre Lasem Rajasaduhita Indudewi cousin
Pajang (today Surakarta) Bhre Pajang Rajasaduhita Iswari sister
Mataram (today Yogyakarta) Bhre Mataram Wikramawardhana2 nephew

1 Bhre Wirabhumi is actually the title: the Duke of Wirabhumi (Blambangan), the real name is unknown and he referred as Bhre Wirabhumi in Pararaton. He married to Nagawardhani, the king’s niece.

2 Kusumawardhani (king’s daughter) married to Wikramawardhana (king’s nephew), the couple become the heir.

When Majapahit entered the thalassocratic imperial phase during the administration of Gajah Mada, several overseas vassal states were included within the Majapahit sphere of influence, as the result the new larger territorial concept was defined:

  • Negara Agung, or the Grand State, the core kingdom. The traditional or initial area of Majapahit during its formation before entering the imperial phase. This includes the capital city and the surrounding areas where the king effectively exercises his government. This area covered the eastern half of Java, with all its provinces ruled by the Bhres (dukes), the king’s close relatives.
  • Mancanegara, areas surrounding Negara Agung. These areas are directly influenced by Javanese culture, and obliged to pay annual tributes. However these areas usually possess their own native rulers or kings, that might foster alliance or intermarried with the Majapahit royal family. Majapahit stationed their officials and officers in these places and regulate their foreign trade activities and collect taxes, yet they enjoyed substantial internal autonomy. This includes the rest of Java island, Madura, Bali, as well as Dharmasraya, Pagaruyung, Lampung and Palembang in Sumatra.
  • Nusantara, areas which do not reflect Javanese culture, but are included as colonies and they had to pay annual tribute. They enjoyed substantial autonomy and internal freedom, and Majapahit did not necessarily station their officials or military officers here; however, any challenges on Majapahit oversight might draw severe response. These areas such as the vassal kingdoms and colonies in Maluku, Lesser Sunda Islands, Sulawesi, Borneo, and Malay peninsula.

All of those three categories were within the sphere of influence of the Majapahit empire, however Majapahit also recognize the fourth realm that defines its foreign diplomatic relations:

  • Mitreka Satata, literary means “partners with common order”. It refer to independent foreign states that is considered as Majapahit’s equals, not the subject of Majapahit powers. According to Nagarakretagama canto 15, the foreign states are Syangkayodhyapura (Ayutthaya of Siam), Dharmmanagari (Nakhon Si Thammarat Kingdom), Marutma, Rajapura and Sinhanagari (kingdoms in Myanmar), Champa, Kamboja (Cambodia), and Yawana (Annam).[29] Mitreka Satata can be considered as Majapahit’s allies, since other foreign kingdoms in China and India was not included in this category, although Majapahit known has conducted foreign relations with these nations.

The model of political formations and power difussion from its core in Majapahit capital city that radiates through its overseas possessions, was later identified by historians as “mandala” model. The term mandala derived from Sanskrit “circle” to explain the typical ancient Southeast Asian polity that was defined by its centre rather than its boundaries, and it could be composed of numerous other tributary polities without undergoing administrative integration.[30] The territories belongs within Majapahit Mandala sphere of influence were those categorized as Mancanegara and Nusantara. These areas usually have their own indigenous rulers, enjoy substantial autonomy and have their own political institution intact without further integration into Majapahit administration. The same mandala model also applied on previous empires; Srivijaya and Angkor, and also Majapahit’s neighboring mandalas; Ayutthaya and Champa.

In later period, Majapahit’s hold on its overseas possessions began to waned. According to Wingun Pitu inscription (dated 1447) it was mentioned that Majapahit was consist of 14 provinces, that administrated by the ruler titled Bhre.[31] The provinces or vassal areas are:

  • Daha (former capital of Kediri)
  • Jagaraga
  • Kabalan


Pura Maospahit (“Majapahit Temple”) in Denpasar, Bali, demonstrate the typical Majapahit red brick architecture.

The Majapahit style minaret of Kudus Mosque.

In sum, Majapahit was the largest empire ever to form in Southeast Asia.[24] Although its political power beyond the core area in east Java was diffuse, constituting mainly ceremonial recognition of suzerainty, Majapahit society developed a high degree of sophistication in both commercial and artistic activities. Its capital was inhabited by a cosmopolitan population among whom literature and art flourished.[24]

Numbers of local legends and folklores in the region had mentioned about the Majapahit kingdom. Most of them mentioned about the incoming Javanese forces to their land, which was probably a local testament of the empire’s expansive nature that once dominating the archipelago. The legend of Minangkabau mentioned an invading foreign prince — associated with Javanese Majapahit kingdom — that being defeated on buffalo fight. Others than Javanese sources, some regional legends mentioning Majapahit kingdom or its general Gajah Mada, also can be found; from Aceh, Minangkabau, Palembang, Malay Peninsula, Sunda, Brunei, Bali to Sumbawa.

Several Javanese legends were originated or become popular during Majapahit period. The Panji cycles, the tale of Sri Tanjung, and the epic of Damarwulan, are popular tales in Javanese and Balinese literatures. The tales of Panji was dated from older period during Kediri kingdom, while the tale of Sri Tanjung and the epic of Damarwulan took place during Majapahit period. These tales has remain a popular theme in Javanese culture of later period during Mataram Sultanate, and often become the source of inspiration for wayang shadow puppet performance, ketoprak and topeng dance drama.

Majapahit had a momentous and lasting influence on Indonesian architecture. The descriptions of the architecture of the capital’s pavilions (pendopo) in the Nagarakertagama invoke the Javanese Kraton also the Balinese temples and palace compounds of today. The Majapahit architectural style that often employs terracotta and red brick had heavily influenced the architecture of Java and Bali in the later period. The Majapahit style candi bentar split gate, the kori or paduraksa towering red brick gate, and also pendopo pavilion has become ubiquitous in Javanese and Balinese architectural features, as evidence in Menara Kudus Mosque, Keraton Kasepuhan and Sunyaragi park in Cirebon, Mataram Sultanate royal cemetery in Kota Gede, Yogyakarta, and various palaces and temples in Bali.

The red brick Candi Bentar split gate of Keraton Kasepuhan in Cirebon reveal Majapahit architectural influences.

The vivid, rich and festive Balinese culture is considered as one of Majapahit legacy. The Javanese Hindu civilization since the era of Airlangga to the era of Majapahit kings has profoundly influenced and shaped the Balinese culture and history.[32] The ancient links and Majapahit legacy is observable in many ways; architecture, literature, religious rituals, dance-drama and artforms. The aesthetics and style of bas-reliefs in Majapahit East Javanese temples were preserved and copied in Balinese temples. It is also due to the fact that after the fall of the empire, many Majapahit nobles, artisans and priests has took refuge either in the interior mountainous region of East Java or across the narrow strait to Bali. Large numbers of Majapahit manuscripts, such as Nagarakretagama, Sutasoma, Pararaton and Tantu Pagelaran, were being well-kept in royal libraries of Bali and Lombok, and provides the glimpse and valuable historical records on Majapahit. The Majapahit Hindu-Javanese culture has shaped the culture of Bali, that led to popular expression; “without Java there is no Bali”. Yet in return, Bali is credited as the last stronghold to safeguard and preserved the ancient Hindu Javanese civilization.

In weaponry, the Majapahit expansion is believed to be responsible for the widespread use of the keris dagger in Southeast Asia; from Java, Bali, Sumatra, Malaysia, Brunei, Southern Thailand, to the Philippines. Although it has been suggested that the keris, and native daggers similar to it, predate Majapahit, nevertheless the empire expansion contributed to its popularity and diffussion in the region.

For Indonesians in later centuries, Majapahit became a symbol of past greatness. The Islamic sultanates of Demak, Pajang, and Mataram sought to establish their legitimacy in relation to the Majapahit.[33] The Demak claimed a line of succession through Kertabumi, as its founder, Raden Patah, in court chronicles was said to be the son of Kertabumi with Putri Cina, a Chinese princess, who had been sent away before her son was born.[22] Sultan Agung‘s conquest of Wirasaba (present day Mojoagung) in 1615 — during that time just a small town without significant strategic and economic value — led by the sultan himself, may probably have had such symbolic importance as it was the location of the former Majapahit capital.[34] Central Javanese palaces have traditions and genealogy that attempt to prove links back to the Majapahit royal lines — usually in the form of a grave as a vital link in Java — where legitimacy is enhanced by such a connection.[citation needed] Bali in particular was heavily influenced by Majapahit and the Balinese consider themselves to be the true heirs of the kingdom.[25]

The high reliefs of Gajah Mada and Majapahit history depicted in Monas, has become the source of Indonesian national pride of past greatness.

Modern Indonesian nationalists, including those of the early 20th century Indonesian National Revival, have invoked the Majapahit Empire. The memory of its greatness remains in Indonesia, and is sometimes seen as a precedent for the current political boundaries of the Republic.[4] Many of modern Indonesian national symbols derived from Majapahit Hindu-Buddhist elements. The Indonesian national flag “Sang Merah Putih” (“Red and White”) or sometimes called “Dwiwarna” (“The bicolor”), derived from the Majapahit royal color. The Indonesian Navy flag of red and white stripes also has a Majapahit origin. The Indonesian national motto, “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika“, is a quotation from an Old Javanese poem “Kakawin Sutasoma”, written by a Majapahit poet, Mpu Tantular.[35]

The Indonesian coat of arms, Garuda Pancasila, also derives from Javanese Hindu elements.[36] The statue and relief of Garuda have been found in many temples in Java such as Prambanan from the ancient Mataram era, and the Panataran as well as the Sukuh temple dated from the Majapahit era. The notable statue of Garuda is the statue of the king Airlangga depicted as Vishnu riding Garuda.

In its propaganda from the 1920s, the Communist Party of Indonesia presented its vision of a classless society as a reincarnation of a romanticized Majapahit.[37] It was invoked by Sukarno for nation building and by the New Order as an expression of state expansion and consolidation.[38] Like Majapahit, the modern state of Indonesia covers vast territory and is politically centred on Java.

Palapa, the series of communication satellites owned by Telkom, an Indonesian telecommunication company, has been named after Sumpah Palapa, the famous oath taken by Gajah Mada. Gajah Mada swore that he would not taste any spice as long as he had not succeeded in unifying Nusantara (Indonesian archipelago). This ancient oath of unification signifies the Palapa satellite as the modern means to unify the Indonesian archipelago by way of telecommunication. The name was chosen by president Suharto, and the program was started in February 1975.

During the last half year of 2008, the Indonesian government sponsored a massive exploration on the site that is believed to be the place where the palace of Majapahit once stood. Jero Wacik, the Indonesian Minister of Culture and Tourism stated that the Majapahit Park would be built on the site and completed as early as 2009, in order to prevent further damage caused by home-made brick industries that develop on the surrounding area.[39] Nevertheless, the project leaves a huge attention to some historians, since constructing the park’s foundation in Segaran site located in south side of Trowulan Museum will inevitably damage the site itself. Ancient bricks which are historically valuable were found scattered on the site. The government then argued that the method they were applying were less destructive since digging method were used instead of drilling.[40]

List of rulers

Genealogy diagram of Rajasa dynasty, the royal family of Singhasari and Majapahit. Rulers are highlighted with period of reign.

The rulers of Majapahit was the dynastic continuity of the Singhasari kings, which started by Sri Ranggah Rajasa, the founder of Rajasa dynasty in late 13th century.

  1. Raden Wijaya, styled Kertarajasa Jayawardhana (1294–1309)
  2. Kalagamet, styled Jayanagara (1309–1328)
  3. Sri Gitarja, styled Tribhuwana Wijayatunggadewi (1328–1350)
  4. Hayam Wuruk, styled Sri Rajasanagara (1350–1389)
  5. Wikramawardhana (1389–1429)
  6. Suhita (1429–1447)
  7. Kertawijaya, styled Brawijaya I (1447–1451)
  8. Rajasawardhana, born Bhre Pamotan, styled Brawijaya II (1451–1453)
  9. Interregnum (1453–1456)
  10. Bhre Wengker, Purwawisesa or Girishawardhana, styled Brawijaya III (1456–1466)
  11. Singhawikramawardhana, Pandanalas, or Suraprabhawa, styled Brawijaya IV (1466–1468 or 1478[8])
  12. Kertabumi, styled Brawijaya V (1468–1478)
  13. Girindrawardhana, styled Brawijaya VI (1478–1527)

Majapahit in popular culture

Celebrated as ‘the golden era of the archipelago’, the Majapahit empire has inspired many writers and artists (and continues to do so) to create their works based on this era, or to describe and mention it. The impact of the Majapahit theme on popular culture can be seen in the following:

  1. Sandyakalaning Majapahit (1933), or Twilight/Sunset in Majapahit is an historical romance that took place during the fall of Majapahit empire, written by Sanusi Pane.
  2. Panji Koming (since 1979), a weekly comic strip by Dwi Koendoro published in the Sunday edition of Kompas, telling the everyday life of Panji Koming, a common Majapahit citizen. Although it took place in the Majapahit era, the comic strip serves as witty satire and criticism of modern Indonesian society. From a political, social, cultural and current point of view, Indonesia is described as the ‘reincarnation‘ of the Majapahit empire. The current Indonesian president is often portrayed as a Majapahit monarch or prime minister.
  3. Saur Sepuh (1987–1991), a radio drama and film by Niki Kosasih. Begun as a popular radio drama program in the late 1980s, Saur Sepuh is based on 15th century Java, centered around the story about a fictional hero named Brama Kumbara, the king of Madangkara, a fictional kingdom neighbour of the Pajajaran. In several stories the Paregreg war is described, that is to say the civil war of Majapahit between Wikramawardhana and Bhre Wirabhumi. This part has been made into a single feature film entitled ‘Saur Sepuh’ as well.
  4. Tutur Tinular, a radio drama and film by S Tidjab. Tutur Tinular is a martial art historical epic fictional story with the Majapahit era serving as the background of the story. The story also involved a romance between the hero named Arya Kamandanu and his Chinese lover Mei Shin.
  5. Wali Songo, the film tells the story of nine Muslim saints (‘wali’) who spread Islam to Java. The story took place near the end of the Majapahit era and the formation of Demak. It describes the decaying Majapahit empire where royals are fighting each other for power, while commoners are suffering.
  6. Senopati Pamungkas (1986, reprinted in 2003), a novel by Arswendo Atmowiloto that is also a martial art-historical epic fiction. It took place in the late Singhasari period and formation of Majapahit. This novel describes the saga, royal intrigue, and romance of the formation of the Majapahit kingdom as well as the adventure of the main character, a commoner named Upasara Wulung and his forbidden love affair with princess Gayatri Rajapatni, whom later becomes the consort of Raden Wijaya, the first king of Majapahit.
  7. Imperium Majapahit, a comic book series by Jan Mintaraga, published by Elexmedia Komputindo. This series tells the history of Majapahit from its formation until the decline.
  8. Puteri Gunung Ledang (2004), a Malaysian epic film based on a traditional Malay legend. This film recounts the love story between Gusti Putri Retno Dumilah, a Majapahit Princess, and Hang Tuah, a Malaccan admiral.
  9. Gajah Mada, a pentalogy written by Langit Kresna Hariadi, about fictionalized detail of Gajah Mada‘s life from Kuti rebellion until Bubat War.
  10. Dyah Pitaloka (2007), a novel written by Hermawan Aksan, about the fictionalized detailed lifestory of Sundanese Princess Dyah Pitaloka Citraresmi, focussed around the Bubat War. The novel virtually took the same context and was inspired by Kidung Sundayana.

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