Srivijaya (3rd to 14th century)
Sailendra (8th & 9th centuries)
Kingdom of Mataram (752–1045)
The rise of Muslim states
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Dutch East Indies (1800–1942)
The emergence of Indonesia
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Transition to the New Order (1965–1966)
The New Order (1966-1998)
Reformation Era (1998–present)
Majapahit was an Indianized kingdom based in eastern Java from 1293 to around 1500. Its greatest ruler was Hayam Wuruk, whose reign from 1350 to 1389 marked the empire’s peak when it dominated other kingdoms in the southern Malay Peninsula, Borneo, Sumatra, Bali, and the Philippines.
The Majapahit empire was the last of the major Hindu empires of the Malay archipelago and is considered one of the greatest states in Indonesian history. Its influence extended to states on Sumatra, the Malay Peninsula, Kalimantan and eastern Indonesia, though the extent of its influence is the subject of debate.
Extent of Majapahit influence based on the Nagarakertagama; the accuracy of such Javanese depictions is disputed.Little physical evidence of Majapahit remains, and its detailed history is not very clear. The main sources that are used by historians are: the Pararaton (‘Book of Kings’) written in Kawi language and Nagarakertagama in Old Javanese. Pararaton is mostly about Ken Arok (the founder of Singhasari) but includes a number of shorter narrative fragments about the formation of Majapahit. Nagarakertagama, on the other hand, is an old Javanese epic poem written during the Majapahit golden age under the reign of Hayam Wuruk after which events are not so clear. In addition, there are some inscriptions in Old Javanese and Chinese records.
The accuracy of all of the Javanese sources is in dispute. There is no doubt that they incorporate some non-historical, mythological elements, and some scholars such as C. C. Berg consider the entire corpus to be not a record of the past, but a supernatural means by which the future can be determined. However, most scholars do not accept this view, as the basic outline corresponds with Chinese records that could not share this intention. The list of rulers and the nature of the state, in particular, seem rather certain.
The statue of Harihara, the god combination of Shiva and Vishnu. It was the mortuary deified potrayal of Kertarajasa. Originally located at Candi Simping, Blitar and the statue is now preserved at National Museum of Indonesia.After defeating Srivijaya in Sumatra in 1290, Singhasari became the most powerful kingdom in the area. Kublai Khan, the ruler of the Chinese Yuan Dynasty, challenged Singhasari by sending emissaries demanding tribute. Kertanegara, the last ruler of Singhasari, refused to pay the tribute. In 1293, Kublai Khan sent a massive expedition of 1,000 ships to Java.
By that time, Jayakatwang, the Adipati (Duke) of Kediri, a vassal state of Singhasari, had usurped and killed Kertanagara. After being pardoned by Jayakatwang with the aid of Madura’s regent, Arya Wiraraja; Raden Wijaya, Kertanegara’s son-in-law, was given the land of Tarik when he opened the vast timberland and built a new village. When Mongolian Yuan army sent by Kublai Khan arrived, Wijaya allied himself with the army to fight against Jayakatwang. Once Jayakatwang was destroyed, Raden Wijaya forced his allies to withdraw from Java by launching a surprise attack. Yuan’s army had to withdraw in confusion as they were in hostile territory. It was also their last chance to catch the monsoon winds home; otherwise, they would have had to wait for another six months on a hostile island.
In AD 1293, Raden Wijaya founded a stronghold. The capital was named Majapahit, from maja (a fruit name) and pahit (or bitter). His formal name was Kertarajasa Jayawarddhana. The new kingdom faced challenges. Some of Kertarajasa’s most trusted men, including Ranggalawe, Sora, and Nambi rebelled against him, though unsuccessfully. It was suspected that the mahapati (equal with prime minister) Halayudha set the conspiracy to overthrow all of the king’s opponents, to gain the highest position in the government. However, after following the death of the last rebel Kuti, Halayudha was captured and jailed for his tricks, and then sentenced to death. Wijaya himself died in AD 1309.
Wijaya’s son and successor, Jayanegara was notorious for immorality. One of his sinful acts was taking his own step-sisters as wives. He was entitled Kala Gemet, or “weak villain”. In AD 1328, Jayanegara was murdered by his doctor. His stepmother, Gayatri Rajapatni, was supposed to replace him, but Rajapatni retired from court to become a bhiksuni (a female Buddhist monk) in a monastery. Rajapatni appointed her daughter, Tribhuwana Wijayatunggadewi, or known in her formal name as Tribhuwannottungadewi Jayawishnuwardhani, as the queen of Majapahit under Rajapatni’s auspices. During Tribhuwana’s rule, the Majapahit kingdom grew much larger and became famous in the area. Tribhuwana ruled Majapahit until the death of her mother in AD 1350. She was succeeded by her son, Hayam Wuruk.
Pair of door guardians from a temple, Eastern Java, 14th century (Museum of Asian Art, San Francisco)Hayam Wuruk, also known as Rajasanagara, ruled Majapahit in AD 1350–1389. During his period, Majapahit attained its peak with the help of his prime minister, Gajah Mada. Under Gajah Mada’s command (AD 1313–1364), Majapahit conquered more territories. In 1377, a few years after Gajah Mada’s death, Majapahit sent a punitive naval attack against Palembang, contributing to the end of the Srivijayan kingdom. Gajah Mada’s other renowned general was Adityawarman, known for his conquest in Minangkabau.
According to the book of Nagarakertagama pupuh (canto) XIII and XIV mentioned several states in Sumatra, Malay Peninsula, Borneo, Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara islands, Maluku, Papua, and some parts of Phillippines islands as under Majapahit realm of power. This source mentioned of Majapahit expansions has marked the greatest extent of Majapahit empire.
The Nagarakertagama, written in 1365 depict a sophisticated court with refined taste in art and literature, and a complex system of religious rituals. The poet describes Majapahit as the centre of a huge mandala extending from New Guinea and Maluku to Sumatra and Malay Peninsula. Local traditions in many parts of Indonesia retain accounts in more or less legendary from 14th century Majapahit’s power. Majapahit’s direct administration did not extend beyond east Java and Bali, but chalenges to Majapahit’s claim to overlordship in outer islands drew forceful responses. 
The nature of the Majapahit empire and its extent is subject to debate. It may have had limited or entirely notional influence over some of the tributary states in included Sumatra, the Malay Peninsula, Kalimantan and eastern Indonesia over which of authority was claimed in the Nagarakertagama. Geographical and economic constraints suggest that rather than a regular centralised authority, the outer states were most likely to have been connected mainly by trade connections, which was probably a royal monopoly. It also claimed relationships with Champa, Cambodia, Siam, southern Burma, and Vietnam, and even sent missions to China.
Although the Majapahit rulers extended their power over other islands and destroyed neighboring kingdoms, their focus seems to have been on controlling and gaining a larger share of the commercial trade that passed through the archipelago. About the time Majapahit was founded, Muslim traders and proselytizers began entering the area.
Following Hayam Wuruk’s death AD 1389, Majapahit power entered a period of decline with conflict over succession. Hayam Wuruk was succeeded by the crown princess Kusumawardhani, who married a relative, Prince Wikramawardhana. Hayam Wuruk also had a son from his previous marriage, crown prince Wirabhumi, who also claimed the throne. A civil war, called Paregreg, is thought to have occurred from 1405 to 1406, of which Wikramawardhana was victorious and Wirabhumi was caught and decapitated. Wikramawardhana ruled to 1426 AD and was succeeded by his daughter Suhita, who ruled from 1426 to 1447 AD. She was the second child of Wikramawarddhana by a concubine who was the daughter of Wirabhumi.
In 1447, Suhita died and was succeeded by Kertawijaya, her brother. He ruled until 1451 AD. After Kertawijaya died, Bhre Pamotan became a king with formal name Rajasawardhana and ruled at Kahuripan. He died in 1453 AD. A three year kingless period was possibly the result of a succession crisis. Girisawardhana, son of Kertawijaya, came to power 1456. He died in 1466 AD and was succeeded by Singhawikramawardhana. In 1468 AD Prince Kertabhumi rebelled against Singhawikramawardhana promoting himself king of Majapahit.
Singhawikramawardhana moved the Kingdom’s capital to Daha and continued his rule until he was succeeded by his son Ranawijaya in 1474 AD. In 1478 AD he defeated Kertabhumi and reunited Majapahit as one Kingdom. Ranawijaya ruled from 1474 AD to 1519 AD with the formal name Girindrawardhana. Nevertheless, Majapahit’s power had declined through these family conflicts and the growing power of the north-coastal kingdoms in Java.
Majapahit found itself unable to control the rising power of the Sultanate of Malacca. Dates for the end of the Majapahit Empire range from 1478 (that is, 1400 Saka, the ends of centuries being considered a time when changes of dynasty or courts normally ended) to 1527. The year is marked among Javanese today with candra sengkala “sirna ilang kertaning bumi” (the wealth of earth disappeared and diminished) (sirna = 0, ilang = 0, kerta = 4, bumi = 1). After series of battles with the Sultanate of Demak, the last remaining courtsmen of Majapahit were forced to withdraw eastward to Kediri; it is unclear whether they were still under the rule of the Majapahit dynasty. This small state was finally extinguished at the hands of the Demak in 1527. A large number of courtiers, artisans, priests, and members of the royalty moved east to the island of Bali; however, the crown and the seat of government moved to Demak under the leadership of Pengeran, later Sultan Fatah. The Muslim emerging forces defeated the local Majapahit kingdom in the early 16th century.
Wringin Lawang, the 5.5 meter tall split gate made from red brick. Located at Jatipasar, Trowulan, Mojokerto, East Java. It is believed that this structure was the gate of an important compound in Majapahit capital.”Of all the buildings, none lack pillars, bearing fine carvings and coloured” [Within the wall compounds] “there were elegant pavilions roofed with aren fibre, like the scene in a painting… The petals of the katangga were sprinkled over the roofs for they had fallen in the wind. The roofs were like maidens with flowers arranged in their hair, delighting those who saw them”.
— Description of the Majapahit capital from the Old Javanese epic poem Nagarakertagama.
The main event of the administrative calendar took place on the first day of the month of Caitra (March-April) when representatives from all territories paying tax or tribute to Majapahit came to the capital to pay court. Majapahit’s territories were roughly divided into three types: the palace and its vicinity; the areas of east Java and Bali which were directly administrated by officials appointed by the king; and the outer dependencies which enjoyed substantial internal autonomy. 
The capital (Trowulan) was grand and known for its great annual festivities. Buddhism, Shaivism, and Vaishnavism were all practiced, and the king was regarded as the incarnation of the three. The Nagarakertagama does not mention Islam, but there were certainly Muslim courtiers by this time.
Although brick had been used in the candi of Indonesia’s classical age, it was Majapahit architects of the 14th and 15th centuries who mastered it. Making use of a vine sap and palm sugar mortar, their temples had a strong geometric quality.
Majapahit Terracotta Piggy Bank, 14-15 century AD Trowulan, East Java. (Collection of National Museum of Indonesia, Jakarta)In sum, Majapahit was the largest empire ever to form in Southeast Asia. Although its political power beyond the core area in east Java was diffuse, constituting mainly ceremonial recognition of suzerainity, 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. 
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. 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. Sultan Agung’s conquest of Wirasaba in 1615, led by the sultan himself, may have had such importance as it was the location of the Majapahit capital. Central Javanese palaces have traditions and silsilah 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.  Bali in particular was heavily influenced by Majapahit and they consider themselves to be the true heirs of the kingdom.
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. 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.It was invoked by Sukarno for nation building and by the New Order as an expression of state expansion and consolidation. Like Majapahit, the modern state of Indonesia covers vast territory and is politically centred on Java.
Majapahit had a momentous and lasting influence on Indonesian architecture. The descriptions of the architecture of the capital’s pavilions (pendopo) in the Nagarakertagama (see the quotation above) invokes the Javanese Kraton and also the Balinese temples and compounds of today.
List of rulers
Genealogical diagram of Majapahit Royal Family. Rulers are highlithed and completed with period of reign.  ::
Raden Wijaya, styled Kertarajasa Jayawardhana (1294 – 1309)
Kalagamet, styled Jayanagara (1309 – 1328)
Sri Gitarja, styled Tribhuwana Wijayatunggadewi (1328 – 1350)
Hayam Wuruk, styled Sri Rajasanagara (1350 – 1389)
Wikramawardhana (1389 – 1429)
Suhita (1429 – 1447)
Kertawijaya, styled Brawijaya I (1447 – 1451)
Rajasawardhana, born Bhre Pamotan, styled Brawijaya II (1451 – 1453)
Bhre Wengker, Purwawisesa or Girishawardhana, styled Brawijaya III (1456 – 1466)
Singhawikramawardhana, Pandanalas, or Suraprabhawa, styled Brawijaya IV (1466 – 1468 or 1478)
Kertabumi, styled Brawijaya V (1468 – 1478)
Girindrawardhana, styled Brawijaya VI (1478 – 1498)
Majapahit in popular culture
Dubbed as ‘the golden era of the archipelago’, Majapahit empire has and still continue to inspired many writers and artists to create their works based on, described, or mentioned this era. The impact of Majapahit theme in popular culture are:
Saur Sepuh, radio drama and film. Begin as the popular radio drama program in late 80’s, Saur Sepuh is based on 15th century Java, centered around the story about fictional hero; Brama Kumbara, the king of Madangkara, a fictional kingdom neighbour of Pajajaran. On several story describe the Paregreg war, the civil war of Majapahit between Wikramawardhana against Bhre Wirabhumi. This part the become the single film titled the same ‘Saur Sepuh’.
Tutur Tinular, radio drama and film. Tutur Tinular is a martial art historical epic fictional story with Majapahit era as the background of the story. The story also involved romance between hero named Arya Kamandanu, and his chinese lover Mei Shin.
Senopati Pamungkas, a novel by Arswendo Atmowiloto. Also a martial art-historical epic fiction. Took place in late Singhasari period and formation of Majapahit. This novel describe the saga, royal intrigue, and romance of the formation of Majapahit kingdom, also the adventure of main character, a commoner named Upasara Wulung and his forbidden love with princess Gayatri Rajapatni, later she become the consort of Raden Wijaya, the first king of Majapahit.
Imperium Majapahit, comic book series by Jan Mintaraga, Published by Elexmedia Komputindo. This series is describe the Majapahit from the formation until the decline.
Puteri Gunung Ledang, a Malaysian epic film based on traditional Malay Legend. Screened in 2004, this film telling the lovestory between Gusti Putri Retno Dumilah, a Majapahit Princess, and Hang Tuah, a Malaccan admiral.