The Nagarakretagama or Nagarakrtagama, also known as Desawarnana, is an Old Javanese eulogy to Hayam Wuruk, a Javanese king and the monarch of the Majapahit Empire. It was written as a kakawin by Mpu Prapanca in 1365 (or 1287 Saka year).[1] The Nagarakretagama contains detailed descriptions of the Majapahit Empire during its greatest extent. The poem affirms the importance of Hindu-Buddhism in the Majapahit empire by describing temples and palaces and several ceremonial observances.


The manuscript

In 1894, the Dutch East Indies launched a military expedition against the Cakranegara royal house of Lombok. That year, the Dutch took the manuscript as part of the valuable Lombok treasure, war-booty from the destroyed palace of Mataram-Cakranagara in Lombok.[2][3] The first western scholar to study the manuscript was J. L. A. Brandes, a Dutch philologist. He accompanied the KNIL expedition to Lombok in 1894, and is credited for saving the valuable manuscripts collection of the Lombok royal library from being burnt in the chaos of the battle. A generation of Dutch scholars participated in translating the poem.[1]

Much of its historical value was due to its having been the product of priestly activities directed at enhancing the magical powers of the ruler at the time.[4] The manuscript is written in lontar leafs. It was held in the library of Leiden University in the Netherlands, with inventory code number L Or 5.023. After its translation in the early 20th century, the Nagarakretagama became an inspiration and foundation of the Indonesian independence movement.[5]

In 1973 during the state visit of Queen Juliana to Indonesia, she returned the manuscript to Indonesia. Today it is held by the National Library of Indonesia, with inventory code number NB 9. In May 2008 UNESCO recognized the significance of the Nagarakretagama by naming it to "The Memory of the World - Regional Register for Asia/Pacific".[6]

Descriptions of the Majapahit realm

The extent of Majapahit according to Nagarakretagama.

Historians have examined the poem for what it reveals of political history. In the canto 13 to 14, the poet Prapanca named several states within today's Indonesian borders. This suggested that those areas were within Majapahit spheres of influence. Prapanca said the states were subsumed by Majapahit or were vassal states.[citation needed]

In Canto 13, several lands on Sumatra are mentioned, and some possibly correspond to contemporary areas: Jambi, Palembang, Teba (Muara Tebo), and Dharmasraya. Also mentioned are Kandis, Kahwas, Minangkabau, Siak, Rokan, Kampar and Pane, Kampe, Haru and Mandailing. Tamiyang (Aceh Tamiang Regency), negara Perlak (Peureulak) and Padang Lawas (Gayo Lues Regency), are noted in the west, together with Samudra (Samudra Pasai) and Lamuri, Batan (Bintan), Lampung, and Barus. Also listed are the states of Tanjungnegara (believed to be on Borneo): Kapuas Katingan, Sampit, Kota Lingga, Kota Waringin, Sambas, and Lawas.

In Canto 14 more lands are noted: Kadandangan, Landa, Samadang, Tirem, Sedu (Sarawak), Barune (Brunei), Kalka, Saludung (Manila), Solot (Sulu), Pasir Barito, Sawaku, Tabalung, and Tanjung Kutei. In Hujung Medini (Malay Peninsula), Pahang is mentioned first. Next Langkasuka, Saimwang, Kelantan and Trengganu, Johor, Paka, Muar, Dungun, Tumasik (where Singapore is today), Kelang (Klang Valley) and Kedah, Jerai (Gunung Jerai), Kanjapiniran, all are united.

Also in Canto 14 are territories east of Java: Badahulu and Lo Gajah (part of today's Bali). Gurun and Sukun, Taliwang, Sapi island and Dompo, Sang Hyang Api, Bima. Seram, Hutan Kadali (Buru island). Gurun island, and Lombok Merah. Together with prosperous Sasak are already ruled. Bantayan with Luwu. Further east are Udamakatraya (Sangir and Talaud). Also mentioned are Makassar, Buton, Banggai, Kunir, Galiao with Selayar, Sumba, Solot, Muar. Also Wanda(n) (Banda island), Ambon or Maluku islands,Kai-islands(Ewab Ohoi-Ewur Mas-Il Larvul-Ngabal-istiadat), Wanin, Seran, Timor and other islands.

Accounts of ceremonies

all the multitude of the artisans there, making plaited bamboo-work, fashioning the sthana singha (lion-throne) in the wanguntur (main court-yard), setting aside those who carved wawans (carriers) for food, bukubukuran (all kinds of tower-like structures) and figures and things of that kind. Took part also the smiths of dadaps (embossed coverings) of gold and silver, all of them bestirring themselves the more in their respective customary occupations.

Canto 63, stanza 4.[7]

At the waxing moon, on the twelfth night, they invited there that swah (soul), sutra (sacred texts) recital was performed and homa (fire offering) worship, on the other hand also parίshrama (amphidromy); they were (only considered) complete at the arrival of the swah (soul) again (on earth). The honoured holy puspa (flower effigy) was worked on with yoga (concentration); in the night was performed the eminent pratistha (placing) ceremony.

Canto 64, stanza 5.[8]

In the poem, Prapanca recounted Hayam Wuruk's religious observances in the Candi Singhasari, in which he entered the sanctuary and performed the puspa ceremony for his great-grandfather Kertanegara. After the visit, he went to Kagenengan to perform worship to the founder of the Singhasari kingdom, Rajasa.[9]

Prapanca told details of the sraddha ceremony, performed to honour the soul of a deceased. He described specifically the ceremony for the Queen Grandmother Gayatri's soul, the Rajapatni, who had died twelve years earlier. In the canto 63, stanza 4, Prapanca narrated the preparation of the ceremony by the court artisans. During the ceremony, lion thrones were erected, where priests placed a flower effigy (puspa) symbolizing the soul of the Queen Grandmother. The descent of the soul to earth and its final placement in the puspa were narrated in canto 64, stanza 5.

The ceremony lasted for seven days. Colorful pageants crowded the main courtyard. The whole ceremony was performed to please the Rajapatni's soul in hopes that her favor would shine on the reign of her descendants. The posthumous ceremony continued and the king ordered the repair of the Kamal Pundak sanctuary to enact a new holy shrine (candi) for the Queen Grandmother, deified as the Prajnaparamita.[9]

Characters and practices

One of the religious practices of the Majapahit royal family was the "royal walkabout". They visited cornerstones of the empire and paid homage to the ancestors of the king. The poem also describes the death of Hayam Wuruk's most trusted regent, Gajah Mada.[1]

The Queen Grandmother Rajapatni had a special place in Prapanca's poem. In one stance, the poem describes the Queen Grandmother as chattra ning rat wisesa (the eminent protector of the world).[10] Rajapatni was the progenitor of the Majapahit kingdom, because she was the daughter of Kertanegara, the last king of the Singhasari kingdom, and she was also the wife of Raden Wijaya, the founder of Majapahit. Thus she was seen as the protector of the world. The Queen Grandmother is said in the poem to embody the Pramabhagavati; Bhagavati is another name of Prajnaparamita (the Goddess of Wisdom in Mahayana).

The poem portrays Kertanegara as a staunch Buddhist, described as "submissive at the Feet of the Illustrious Shakya-Lion".[11] Upon his death, the poem describes the deification of Kertanegara in three forms: a splendid Jina, an Ardhanarishvara,[note 2] and an imposing Shiva-Buddha.[note 1][9] Particularly for the Shiva-Buddha deity, Prapanca praises him as "the honoured Illustrious Protector of Mountains, Protector of the protectorless. He is surely, Ruler over the rulers of the world."[12] The Shiva-Buddha deity is neither Shiva nor Buddha, but the Lord of the Mountains, or the Supreme God of the Realm.[13] This religious belief is indigenous to the Javanese people who combined the gods of two religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, into the same God, the oneness of the dharma, as is written in the Kakawin Sutasoma (see Bhinneka Tunggal Ika). When Kertanegara was deified as Shiva-Buddha, he symbolized the collective powers of the God of the Realm.[9]

See also


1 Note that Shiva-Buddha is a mixture of Buddhism and Hinduism; no such image exists in India. In India, there is no deceased king in the guise of a god; he exists only in Indonesia. Hindu and Buddhist images are intertwined in many old inscriptions and candi (temples or shrines).
2 Stutterheim believes that an ardhanari sculpture, now located in Berlin, is a posthumous image of Kertanegara.[14] The image is half Shiva and half Visnu, symbolizing the unity of the two gods, the unity of the kingdom, and the oneness of the dharma.


  1. ^ a b c Myron Malkiel-Jirmounsky (May 1939). "The Study of The Artistic Antiquities of Dutch India". Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies (Harvard-Yenching Institute) 4 (1): 59–68. doi:10.2307/2717905. JSTOR 2717905. 
  2. ^ Wahyu Ernawati: "Chapter 8: The Lombok Treasure", in Colonial collections Revisited: Pieter ter Keurs (editor) Vol. 152, CNWS publications. Issue 36 of Mededelingen van het Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde, Leiden. CNWS Publications, 2007. ISBN 9789057891526. 296 pages. pp. 186-203
  3. ^ Tony Day and Craig J. Reynolds (February 2000). "Cosmologies, Truth Regimes, and the State in Southeast Asia". Modern Asian Studies (Cambridge University Press) 34 (1): 1–55. doi:10.1017/S0026749X00003589. JSTOR 313111. 
  4. ^ D.G.E. Hall (1956). "Problems of Indonesian Historiography". Pacific Affairs 38 (3/4): 353–359. doi:10.2307/2754037. JSTOR 2754037. 
  5. ^ Guan, Kwa Chong; Hanns Maull, Gerald Segal, Jusuf Wanandi (eds.) (1998). "The Historical Setting," Europe and the Asia Pacific. NY: Routledge. p. 6. ISBN 0415181763. 
  6. ^ ""Negarakertagama Diakui sebagai Memori Dunia" (Negarakertagama Acknowledged as The Memory of the World)". Jakarta. May 24, 2008. 
  7. ^ Pigeaud (1960), p. 73.
  8. ^ Pigeaud (1960), p. 74.
  9. ^ a b c d Nancy Dowling (1992). "Javanization of Indian Art". Indonesia 54 (54): 117–138. doi:10.2307/3351167. JSTOR 3351167. [dead link]
  10. ^ Willem F. Stutterheim (1938). "Note on Saktism in Java". Acta Orientalia 17: 148. 
  11. ^ Pigeaud (1960), p. 49.
  12. ^ Pigeaud (1960), p. 3.
  13. ^ Mpu Tantular (1977). Arjunawiwaha: A Kakawin of Mpu Tantular. 1. trans. by S. Supomo. The Hague: Nijhoff. p. 80. 
  14. ^ Willem F. Stutterheim (1952). Het Hinduism in de Archipel. Jakarta: Wolters. 


  • Short detail: - Theodore Pigeaud (1960). Java in the 14th Century. The Hague: Nijhoff. 
  • Full details: - Pigeaud, Theodore G. Th. (1960–1963), Java in the 14th century : a study in cultural history - the Nagara-Kertagama by Rakawi, Prapanca of Majapahit, 1365 A.D., with notes, translations, commentaries and a glossary, by Theodore G. Th. Pigeaud ; illustrated with drawings by Th. P. Galestin, 3rd ed. rev. and enlarged by some contemporaneous texts. The Hague : Nijhoff, 1960-1963. (five volumes)
  • Volumes
  • v.1. Javanese texts in transcription.
  • v.2. Notes on the texts and the translations.
  • v.3. Translations.
  • v.4. Commentaries and recapitulation.
  • v.5. Glossary, general index

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