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Expansion of Singhasari during the reign of Kertanegara
Capital Tumapel, later called Kutaraja Singhasari (modern outskirt Malang)
Languages Old Javanese, Sanskrit
Religion Kejawen, Hinduism, Buddhism, Animism
Government Monarchy
 -  1182–1227 Ken Arok
 -  1268–1292 Kertanegara
 -  Coronation of Ken Arok 1222
 -  invasion by Jayakatwang of Kediri 1292
Currency Native gold and silver coins

Singhasari was a Javanese Hindu-Buddhist kingdom located in east Java between 1222 and 1292 (today Indonesia). The kingdom succeeded the Kingdom of Kediri as the dominant kingdom in eastern Java.


Singhasari (alternate spelling: Singosari) was mentioned in several Javanese manuscripts, including Pararaton. According to tradition, the name was given by Ken Arok during the foundation of the new kingdom to replace its old name, Tumapel, located in a fertile highland valley which today corresponds to the area in and around Malang city. It derived from sanskrit word singha which means "lion" and sari or saree which in Old Javanese could means either "essence" or "to sleep". Thus Singhasari could means "the essence of lion" or "sleeping lion". Although lion is not an endemic animal of Java, the depiction of lion as symbolism can be found in Javanese culture, especially attributed to the influence of Hindu-Buddhist symbolism.


The serene beauty of Prajnaparamita statue found near Singhasari temple is believed to be the portrayal statue of Queen Ken Dedes, wife of Ken Arok (the collection of National Museum of Indonesia).
See also: Ken Arok

Singhasari was founded by Ken Arok (1182-1227/1247), whose story is a popular folktale in Central and East Java. Most of Ken Arok's life story and also the early history of Singhasari was taken from the Pararaton account, which also incorporates some mythical aspects. Ken Arok was an orphan born of a mother named Ken Endok and an unknown father (some tales stated he was a son of god Brahma) in Kediri kingdom’s territory.

Ken Arok rose from being a servant of Tunggul Ametung, a regional ruler in Tumapel (present day Malang) to becoming ruler of Java from Kediri. He is considered the founder of the Rajasa dynasty of both the Singhasari and later the Majapahit line of monarchs.[1] Following his death, he was succeeded by his sons Anusapati and Panji Tohjaya.


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In the year 1275, the ambitious king Kertanegara, the fifth ruler of Singhasari, launched a peaceful naval campaign northward towards the weak remains of the Srivijaya in response to continuous Ceylon pirate raids and Chola kingdom's invasion from India which conquered Srivijaya’s Kedah in 1025. The strongest of these Malaya kingdoms was Jambi, which captured the Srivijaya capital in 1088, then the Dharmasraya kingdom, and the Temasek kingdom of Singapore, and then remaining territories.

The expedition is named the Pamalayu expedition was led by Admiral Mahesa Anabrang (a.k.a. Adwaya Brahman) to the Malaya region, and was also intended to secure the Malayan strait, the ‘Maritime Silk Road’ against potential Mongol invasion and ferocious sea pirates. These Malayan kingdoms then pledged allegiance to the king. King Kertanegara had long wished to surpass Srivijaya as a regional maritime empire, controlling sea trade routes from China to India.

The Pamalayu expedition from 1275 to 1292, from the time of Singhasari to Majapahit, is chronicled in the Javanese scroll Nagarakrtagama. Singhasari’s territory thus became Majapahit territory. In the year 1284, king Kertanegara made a hostile Pabali expedition to Bali, which integrated Bali into the Singhasari kingdom’s territory. The king also sent troops, expeditions and envoys to other nearby kingdoms such as the Sunda-Galuh kingdom, Pahang kingdom, Balakana kingdom (Kalimantan/Borneo), and Gurun kingdom (Maluku). He also established an alliance with the king of Champa (Vietnam).

King Kertanegara totally erased any Srivijayan influence from Java and Bali in 1290. However, the expansive campaigns exhausted most of the Kingdom’s military forces and in the future would stir a murderous plot against the unsuspecting King Kertanegara.

Conflict with the Mongol[edit]

A mandala of Amoghapāśa from the Singhasari period.

Indonesia is one of the few areas that thwarted invasion by the Mongol horde by repelling a Mongol force in 1293. As the center of the Malayan peninsula trade winds, the rising power, influence, and wealth of the Javanese Singhasari empire came to the attention of Kublai Khan of the Mongol Yuan dynasty based in China. Moreover, Singhasari had formed an alliance with Champa, another powerful state in the region. Both Java (Singhasari) and Champa were worried about Mongol expansion and raids against neighboring states, such as their raid of Bagan (Pagan) in Burma.

Kublai Khan then sent emissaries demanding submission and tribute from Java. In 1280, Kublai Khan sent the first emissary to King Kertanegara, demanding Singhasari’s submission and tribute to the great Khan. The demand was refused. The next year in 1281, the Khan sent another envoy, demanding the same, which was refused again. Eight years later, in 1289, the last envoy was sent to demand the same, and Kertanegara, refused to pay tribute.

In the audition throne room of the Singhasari court, King Kertanegara humiliated the Khan by cutting and scarring Meng Ki's face, one of the Mongols' envoys (some sources even state that the king cut the envoy's ear himself). The envoy returned to China with the answer—the scar—of the Javan king written on his face.

Enraged by this humiliation and the disgrace committed against his envoy and his patience, in late 1292 the great Kublai Khan sent a massive 1,000 war junks for a punitive expedition that would arrived off the coast of Tuban, Java in early 1293.

King Kertanegara, whose troops were now spread then and located elsewhere, did not realize that a coup was being prepared by the former Kediri royal lineage.

Fall of Singhasari[edit]

Singhasari temple built as a mortuary temple to honor Kertanegara, the last king of Singhasari.

In 1292, Duke Jayakatwang, a vassal king from the Kingdom of Daha (also known as Kediri or Gelang-gelang), prepared his army to conquer Singhasari and kill its king if possible, assisted by Arya Wiraraja, a regent from Sumenep on the island of Madura.

The Kediri (Gelang-gelang) army attacked Singhasari simultaneously from both north and south. The king only realized the invasion from the north and sent his son-in-law, Nararya Sanggramawijaya, famously known as Raden Wijaya, northward to vanquish the rebellion. The northern attack was put at bay, but the southern attackers successfully remained undetected until they reached and sacked the unprepared capital city of Kutaraja. Jayakatwang usurped and killed Kertanagara during the Tantra sacred ceremony, thus bring a tragic end to the Singhasari kingdom.

Having learned the of the fall of the Singhasari capital of Kutaraja due to Kediri's treachery, Raden Wijaya tried to defend Singhasari but failed. He and his three colleagues, Ranggalawe, Sora and Nambi, went to exile under the favor of the same regent (Bupati) Arya Wiraraja of Madura, Nambi's father, who then turned his back to Jayakatwang. With Arya Wiraraja's patronage, Raden Wijaya, pretending to submit to King Jayakatwang, won favor from the new monarch of Kediri, who granted him permission to open a new settlement north of mount Arjuna, the Tarik forest. In this wilderness, Wijaya found many bitter Maja fruits, so it was called Majapahit (literally meaning “bitter Maja”), the future capital of the empire.

The beginning of Majapahit empire[edit]

The land of Singhasari when at its peak during 1291

Early 1293, the Mongol naval forces arrived on the north coast of Java (near Tuban) and on the Brantas River mouth in order to flank what they thought was Singhasari. Raden Wijaya found the opportunity to use the unsuspecting Mongols to overthrow Jayakatwang. Raden Wijaya’s army allied with the Mongols in March 1293 and battle ensued between Mongol forces against Daha forces in the creek bed of Kali Mas river, a distributary of Brantas River, which was followed by the battle of Mongol forces against Daha forces that attacked the Majapahit regional army led by Raden Wijaya. The Mongols then stormed Daha and Jayakatwang finally surrendered and executed.

Once Jayakatwang had been destroyed, Raden Wijaya then turned his troops to launch a surprise attack inside and outside the Mongol army column, creating chaos and forcing his former Mongol allies to withdraw from the island of Java.

Panicked, the Mongol army was confused and found themselves surrounded by enemies. It was the last time for the monsoon sea-wind to depart north for home. They would otherwise have had to wait for another six months on a hostile island for the next sea-wind. The panicked Mongols thus hurriedly fled the battle, withdrew to their ships and headed back to China in their war jungs. Prince Wijaya successfully drove the Mongols forces to the sea to return home on May 31, 1293.

The victor, Prince Wijaya, son-in-law of Kertanegara, the last Singhasari king, then ascended the throne as Kertajasa Jayawardhana, the first king of the great Majapahit Empire, on November 12, 1293.

Rulers of Singhasari[edit]

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

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Saidihardjo, Dr. M. Pd., A.M, Sardiman, Drs., Sejarah untuk SMP, Tiga Serangkai, Solo, 1987, 4th reprint edition in 1990

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Southeast Asia: a historical encyclopedia. Books Google. Retrieved 2010-07-25.