Kertanegara of Singhasari

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Mortuary temple (Candi Singhasari) of Kertanegara

Kertanegara of Singasari (full name Sri Maharajadiraja Sri Kertanegara Wikrama Dharmatunggadewa)[1] (died 1292), was the last and most important ruler of the Singhasari kingdom of Java, reigning from 1268 to 1292. Under his rule Javanese trade and power developed considerably, reaching the far corners of the Indonesian archipelago.


Kertanegara was the fifth ruler of Singasari and was the son of the previous king, Wisnuwardhana (r. 1248–1268). He effectively held power from 1254 and officially succeeded his father when the latter died in 1268.[2] The Singasari dynasty had come to power in Java following the overthrow of the previous Kingdom of Kediri by Ken Arok, the first Singhasari ruler in 1222.

Kertanegara was a follower of a mystical Tantric syncretism of Hinduism and Buddhism, and presented himself as the divine god-king incarnation of Siwa and Buddha.[3] Kertanegara celebrated many religious festivals and commissioned sculptures and metal plaques during his reign.


Amoghapasa statue presented by Kertanegara of Singhasari to Malayu Dharmasraya Kingdom in Sumatra

Singhasari reached the height of its power during Kertanegara's rule, which saw the dramatic expansion of Javanese power in Maritime Southeast Asia. He extended Javanese involvement in the lucrative spice trade with the Moluccas. He also put down rebellions in Java by Cayaraja in 1270 and Mahisa in 1280.[1][3]

Kertanegara was the first Javanese ruler with territorial ambitions that extended beyond the island of Java. In 1284, he subjected nearby Bali to vassalage. Kertanagara managed to form an alliance with Champa, another dominant state in Southeast Asia.[4]

Late in his reign, the Pamalayu expedition succeeded in gaining control of the Melayu Kingdom in eastern Sumatra, and possibly also gained control over the Sunda kingdom and hegemony over the Strait of Malacca.[3] Other areas in Madura and Borneo also offered their submission to Kertanegara.[1]

Conflict with the Mongol[edit]

Following the conquest of the Song Dynasty in China, the Mongol Yuan dynasty sought to extend its power in Southeast Asia. In 1289 Kubilai Khan, Genghis' grandson sent his own ambassadors to Java to ask for tribute. Kertanegara took grave offense to the request and arrested the envoys. He branded their faces, cut their ears and sent them back to China with disfigured faces.[4]

Knowing that the Mongol would send a military expedition to punish him, Kertanegara tried to solidify his power. Around 1290 the Singasari ruler launched the Pamalayu expedition to Sumatra, in order to conquer the Malay kingdom of Jambi in the south, one of successor states to Sriwijaya. Jambi was one of the first Indonesian polities where Islam had established its presence, and it already entertained cordial relationships with Yuan China.

Kubilai Khan ordered that a strong punitive naval expedition be launched against the remote equatorial islands in order to punish Kertanegara.

Rebellion of Jayakatwang[edit]

In the meantime Kertanegara had dominated all of Java, but before the Mongol fleet came, a dramatic political change occurred. Jayakatwang, prince of Kediri and one of Singhasari's most powerful vassals, rebelled against his overlord.

With the bulk of the Javanese army in campaign overseas and Singasari's defence weakened, Jayakatwang seized his chance and launched a coup against Kertanegara.[4] He launched a diversionary attack to northern Java, where his troops drew the remaining Singhasari troops left on the island. With Singasari defenseless he attacked the capital city.[5]

Kertanegara was killed along with many courtiers in his palace in Singosari in May or June 1292. He was apparently killed while drunk on palm wine in a religious Tantric Buddhist ceremony, and buried with a mortuary temple at Candi Singhasari. Jayakatwang then declared himself ruler of Java and king of the restored Kediri.[2]

Among the few surviving relatives of Kertanegara was his son-in-law, Raden Wijaya, who fled to Madura where he was sheltered by its regent, Arya Wiraraja.[5] Following pleas from Wiraraja, Jayakatwang forgave Wijaya, who in return submitted himself to Jayakatwang. Jayakatwang gave Wijaya land in the Tarik forest in the Brantas delta, where he built a village that was later called Majapahit.


Raden Wijaya used the oncoming Mongol troops to overthrow Jayakatwang. Wijaya then betrayed his Mongol allies, who were exhausted after the war,[4] drove them from Java and established Majapahit as one of the greatest empires to arise from within the area covered by the modern territory of Indonesia.

Kertanegara had no male heir,[3] but through his daughter Rajapatni Gayatri, who married Raden Wijaya, Kertanegara became the ancestor of Rajasa dynasty, the ruling dynasty of Majapahit. His daughter Gayatri and his granddaughter Tribhuwana Wijayatunggadewi would become reigning queens of Majapahit.[2] His great-grandson Hayam Wuruk became the greatest king of Majapahit, which under his rule became one of the greatest empires in Nusantara.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Southeast Asia: a historical encyclopedia, from Angkor Wat to East Timor, Volume 2. ABC-CLIO. 2004. ISBN 978-1-57607-770-2. ISBN 1-57607-770-5. 
  2. ^ a b c Coedès, George (1968). The Indianized states of Southeast Asia. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-0368-1. ISBN 0-8248-0368-X. 
  3. ^ a b c d Kinney, Ann R.; Marijke J. Klokke; Lydia Kieven (2003). Worshiping Siva and Buddha: the temple art of East Java. 0824827791, 9780824827793: University of Hawaii Press. 
  4. ^ a b c d Rossabi, Morris (1989). Khubilai Khan: his life and times. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-06740-0. ISBN 0-520-06740-1. 
  5. ^ a b Irapta, Angelina Chavez; Cecilio Dioneda Duka (2005). Introduction to Asia: history, culture, and civilization. Rex Bookstore, Inc. ISBN 978-971-233987-5. ISBN 971-23-3987-4. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Ruler of Java
Succeeded by