Majapahit

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Majapahit

 

(Mojopahit), Indonesian empire that had its center on the island of Java (1293 to about 1520).

The Majapahit period was the era of greatest centralization in medieval Indonesia. Basing themselves in the densely populated, economically highly developed regions of central and eastern Java and the trading towns along the northern Java coast, the Majapahit rulers gradually created a vast island empire, uniting most of the feudal states of Indonesia. The empire’s founder, Vijaya (Kertaradjasa), began by recovering the territories of the Javanese state of Singhasari; he was a descendant of the dynasty that had ruled there. At the same time Vijaya expanded and strengthened the international political and economic ties of the Javanese state established by his predecessors.

Vijaya and his son Djajanagara, having unified the Javanese lands while following a broad pan-Indonesian policy, often faced rebellions by the Javanese feudal lords (the revolts of Rangga Lawe in 1295, Sora in 1298-1300, Nambi in 1309-16, and Koeti in 1319). In the course of the struggle to centralize the state, Gadjah Mada (Gajah Mada) came to the fore. He was an energetic politician and talented diplomat who gradually became the de facto ruler of Majapahit, holding the post of mapatih (chief minister) from 1331 on.

After the suppression of the last feudal rebellions (1331), Majapahit became a centralized state. State ownership of the land was strengthened, the main administrative departments of the feudal state were reformed, and the taxation of the communal peasantry (who were under strict governmental control) was put into better order. A clear system of land allotments to the feudal lords in state service was worked out, and a new code of laws was introduced.

The island of Bali was made part of Majapahit, all of Java was unified, and many of the more highly developed areas of Sumatra, Madura, Sumbawa, Kalimantan, and Sulawesi were annexed, as well as a number of regions in the Moluccas and the Malay Peninsula. The consolidation of Indonesian territory was accompanied by an intermingling of Buddhism with Shivaism and of both with local beliefs.

Javanese culture reached its zenith in the 14th century: the historical narrative poem Nagarakertagama was created, the construction of temples was expanded, and art flourished. The decline of Majapahit began in the mid-15th century when it lost most of its territorial possessions and thereby control of the trade routes to the Spice Islands, the Moluccas. The Vijaya dynasty ruled until 1451, but the final period was full of internecine wars. In 1478 a coalition of Muslim trading principalities that had arisen in northern Java succeeded in seizing the Majapahit capital. The last contemporary reference to Majapahit dates to the year 1516; by about 1520 it had evidently been permanently broken up into a number of principalities.

D. V. DEOPIK

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