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The Blambangan Kingdom was the last Javanese Hindu kingdom that flourished between the 13th and 18th centuries, based in the eastern corner of Java. The capital was at Banyuwangi. It had a long history of its own, developing contemporaneously with the largest Hindu kingdom in Java, Majapahit (1293–1527). At the time of the collapse of Majapahit in the late fifteenth century, Blambangan stood on its own as the one solitary Hindu state left in Java, controlling the larger part of Java’s Oosthoek.
The historical record and the study of Blambangan Kingdom is scarce, which contributed to the obscurity of its history. Contemporary Javanese mostly know the kingdom through its link to the popular epic folklore, the legend of Damarwulan and Menak Jingga. The fictional story which is set in Majapahit period, told that the rebellious King of Blambangan named Menak Jingga, desired the hand of Majapahit Queen Kencanawungu.
Formation and growth
During Majapahit period circa 13th century, the eastern realm was regarded as peripheral area of the Javanese kingdom, which centered in Trowulan, Majapahit and surrounding Brantas River basin, whereas eastern salient areas such as Lumajang were regarded as the outlying provinces.
The Majapahit kingdom was established in 1293 by Raden Wijaya with the help of cunning and able Arya Wiraraja, the Regent of Madura. As the reward of Wiraraja's support, in 1295, Raden Wijaya agreed to give the eastern salient of Java, which includes Blambangan areas with Lumajang as its capital.
The Nagarakretagama, composed in 1365, mentioned that the central part of eastern corner of Java wast visited by King Hayam Wuruk in his royal tour in 1359. The poem contains interesting information about the region.
The eastern realm become the vassal or as mancanagara (provinces) of Majapahit. However, it seems that the eastern realm steadily has grown quite independently. The eastern salient become the host of eastern court which rival Majapahit central authority. The rivalry erupted in Paregreg war (1404-1406), which was fought as the contest of succession between Western court led by Wikramawardhana, against Eastern court led by Bhre Wirabhumi. In 1406 the western troops led by Bhre Tumapel, the son of Wikramawardhana, penetrated the eastern palace and defeated Bhre Wirabhumi.
After the collapse of Majapahit in the late 15th century, Blambangan stood alone as the sole Javanese Hindu polity in Java. The kingdom subsequently was contested and harassed by successive of expansive Javanese Islamic states to the west, from Demak to Pajang and Mataram. On the eastern side across the strait, the Balinese courts of Gelgel and Mengwi, also has invested its political interest in the region, as the Balinese regarded Blambangan as a buffer state to ward off Islamic expansive influences.
In the first decades of the 16th century, Tomé Pires' informants reported that the "heathen" Blambangan kingdom was the most powerful Javanese kingdom east of Surabaya. At that time, the port of Panarukan was the commercial as well as the political center of the kingdom.
For almost three centuries, Blambangan was situated between two different political factions, the Islamic state of Mataram in the west, and various Hindu realms in Bali (Gelgel, Buleleng, and Mengwi) in the east. Both neighbouring powers simultaneously contested the territory of Blambangan to appease their own political and religious ambitions.
The Balinese used Blambangan as a buffer against the Islamic expansion initiated by Muslim Mataram from the west and also found it useful to bolster the economy of Bali which was heavily overshadowed by endemic warfare.
In the second half of the 16th century, a few Roman Catholic missionaries from Portuguese colony in Malacca arrived in East Java to try to convert the local people. They visited Panarukan and Blambangan, and reported that the port of Panarukan was contested between the Muslim rulers of Pasuruhan alied with Surabaya, against the "heathen" King of Blambangan.
The conquest of Blambangan by the forces of Sultan Agung of Mataram took place in 1639, which also the end of Panarukan's independence. With the lost of its important port, Panarukan, the center of Blambangan kingdom was receded to inland south to present day Blambangan area, with its port in Banyuwangi. In 1665, Tawang Alun II Danureja, the 8th king of Blambangan, opened the forest of Sudiamara and establishes a new capital in Macan Putih, Kabat subdistrict located about 10 kilometres from Banyuwangi.
Of the nine rulers who once ruled Blambangan, Tawang Alun II (1665-1691) is considered as one of the greatest kings of Blambangan. During his reign, Blambangan territory reached Jember, Lumajang, Situbondo and Bali. Blambangan society at that time lived peacefully and prosperous, after all time engaged in various warfare against the expansionist neighboring kingdoms to the west and east. The VOC archive mentioned the spectacular ngaben (cremation) ceremony of Tawang Alun II, that among his 400 wives, 271 of them performed suttee (self immolation).
In 1697, the Balinese Kingdom of Buleleng, sent its expedition to Blambangan, which established Balinese influence in the region.
In the early 18th century, the Dutch and British contested each other’s political and economic power in the region. Internal disputes about the succession at the court of Blambangan impaired the kingdom, making it vulnerable to foreign intervention.
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