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Sutawijaya, better known as Panembahan Senopati, formally styled Senopati ing Alaga Sayiddin Kalifatullah Tanah Jawi (1584–1601), was the founder of the Mataram Sultanate.[1]

Early life[edit]

Senopati was the son of Ki Ageng Pemanahan, a Javanese chief and retainer to Joko Tingkir, who reigned as Hadiwidjaja, Sultan of Pajang.[1]

According to Javanese tradition, the Senopati who was Joko Tingkir's foster son assassinated Arya Penangsang of Jipang-Panola, making him the last direct heir of the Sultans of Demak. His death established the legitimacy of the Sultanate of Pajang.[2]

Divine mandate[edit]

Traditional chronicle Babad Tanah Jawi alleges that Senopati, in his quest to become the supreme ruler of Java, had a spiritual alliance with Nyai Roro Kidul, the Javanese goddess of the Indian Ocean. The Babad, however derives Senopati's support from Muslim saint Sunan Kalijaga, who is considered to be one of the Wali Songo or 'Nine Apostles' of Islam in Java.[3]


During his reign, the kingdom adhered to Javanese traditions, although Islam had already been introduced to Java. The Javanese Muslim state of Pajang (and the ancient Hindu-Javanese kingdom of Mataram, still on the same site) got in trouble when Panembahan Senopati schemed to undermine the authority of the King of Pajang. Senopati had conquered the Mataram district himself and circa 1576 he conquered Pajang, imposed the new religion and established his own court. The Mataram ruler refused to embrace Islam. Many historiographical problems surrounded Senopati's reign. He concentrated his spiritual powers through meditation and asceticism. Senopati's reliance upon both Sunan Kalijaga and Nyai Loro Kidul in the chronicles' accounts nicely reflects the Mataram Dynasty's ambivalence towards Islam and indigenous Javanese beliefs. The straight line between Mount Merapi at the north and the southern sea, with the Mataram kingdom at the center, was a strong concept of cosmology among the Javanese.[4]

Senopati's grandson, Sultan Agung (the Great Sultan, 1613–1645), was described as a great Muslim ruler and was claimed as the greatest of Mataram's rulers, though both Senopati and Sultan Agung established a liaison with the Goddess of the Southern Ocean of Nyai Loro Kidul.[5]


  1. ^ a b Kraton Jogja: The History and Cultural Heritage. Karaton Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat. 2002. ISBN 9789799690609.
  2. ^ Ricklefs, M. C. (Merle Calvin) (1981), A history of modern Indonesia : c.1300 to the present, Macmillan ; Bloomington : Indiana University Press, ISBN 978-0-333-24380-0 - noting that Ricklefs states p.37 regarding this... Japanese legends say... - so this assertion is not historically verified
  3. ^ E. Jordaan, Roy (1984). "The Mystery of Nyai Lara Kidul, Goddess of the Southern Ocean". Archipel (in French). 28 (1): 99–116. doi:10.3406/arch.1984.1921.
  4. ^ Ricklefs 1981, p. 37 Many historiographical problems surround Senapati's reign. Most of it is known only from later Mataram chronicles... quoting C.C. Berg... Mataram chroniclers attempted to create false antecedents for... see also discussion on p.38/39 as to whether Senapati was an invention by Sultan Agung's chroniclers
  5. ^ Ricklefs, M.C. (1993) A History of Modern Indonesia since c. 1300. The Macmillan Press second edition. ISBN 0-333-57690-X

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