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Kadatuan Sriwijaya



The maximum extent of Srivijaya around 8th century with series of Srivijayan expeditions and conquest
Languages Old Malay, Sanskrit
Religion Mahayana Buddhism, animism and Hinduism
Government Monarchy
 •  Circa 683 Dapunta Hyang Sri Jayanasa
 •  Circa 775 Dharmasetu
 •  Circa 792 Samaratungga
 •  Circa 835 Balaputra
 •  Circa 988 Sri Culamanivarmadeva
 •  Dapunta Hyang's expedition and expansion, (Kedukan Bukit inscription) 650
 •  Singhasari conquest in 1288, Majapahit put an end to Srivijayan rebellion in 1377 1377
Currency Native gold and silver coins
Today part of  Brunei
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Srivijaya (also written Sri Vijaya, Indonesian/Malay: Sriwijaya, Thai: ศรีวิชัย rtgsSiwichai, Sanskrit: श्रीविजय, Śrīvijaya, known by the Chinese as Shih-li-fo-shih and San-fo-ch'i)[1]:131 was a dominant thalassocratic city-state based on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia, which influenced much of Southeast Asia.[2] Srivijaya was an important centre for the expansion of Buddhism from the 8th to the 12th century. In Sanskrit, śrī means "fortunate", "prosperous", or "happy" and vijaya means "victorious" or "excellence".[3]

The earliest evidence of its existence dates from the 7th century. A Tang Chinese monk, Yijing, wrote that he visited Srivijaya in 671 CE for 6 months.[4][5] The earliest known inscription in which the name Srivijaya appears also dates from the 7th century in the Kedukan Bukit inscription found near Palembang, Sumatra, dated 16 June 682 CE.[6] Between the late 7th and early 11th century, Srivijaya rose to become a hegemon in Southeast Asia. It was involved in close interactions — often rivalries — with the neighbouring Medang Kingdom, Khmer Empire and Champa. Srivijaya's main foreign interest was nurturing lucrative trade agreements with China which lasted from the Tang dynasty to the Song dynasty. Srivijaya had religious, cultural and trade links with the Buddhist Pala Empire of Bengal, as well as with the Islamic Caliphate in the Middle East. The kingdom ceased to exist in the 13th century due to various factors, including the expansion of the Javanese, Singhasari, and Majapahit empires.[2]

After Srivijaya fell, it was largely forgotten. It was not until 1918 that French historian George Coedès of the École française d'Extrême-Orient formally postulated its existence.[3] An aerial photograph taken in 1984 near Palembang (in what is now Sriwijaya Kingdom Archaeological Park) revealed the remnants of ancient man-made canals, moats, ponds, and artificial islands, suggesting the location of Srivijaya's urban centre. Several artefacts such as fragments of inscriptions, Buddhist statues, beads, pottery and Chinese ceramics were found, confirming that the area had, at one time, dense human habitation.[7] By 1993, Pierre-Yves Manguin had shown that the centre of Srivijaya was along the Musi River between Bukit Seguntang and Sabokingking (situated in what is now Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia).[3] However, in 2013, archaeological research led by the University of Indonesia discovered several religious and habitation sites at Muaro Jambi, suggesting that the initial centre of Srivijaya was located in Muaro Jambi Regency, Jambi on the Batang Hari River, rather than on the originally-proposed Musi river.[8]


Talang Tuwo inscription, discovered in Bukit Seguntang area, tell the establishment of sacred Śrīksetra park.

There had been no continuous knowledge of the history of Srivijaya even in Indonesia; its forgotten past has been resurrected by foreign scholars. Contemporary Indonesians, even those from the area of Palembang (around which the kingdom was based), had not heard of Srivijaya until the 1920s when the French scholar, George Coedès, published his discoveries and interpretations in the Dutch and Indonesian-language newspapers.[9] Coedès noted that the Chinese references to "Sanfoqi", previously read as "Sribhoja", and the inscriptions in Old Malay refer to the same empire.[10]

The historical records of Srivijaya were reconstructed from numbers of stone inscriptions, most of them written in Old Malay, such as the Kedukan Bukit, Talang Tuwo, Telaga Batu and Kota Kapur inscriptions.[1]:82–83 Srivijaya had become a symbol of early Sumatran importance as a great empire to balance Java's Majapahit in the east. In the 20th century, both empires were referred to by nationalistic intellectuals to argue for an Indonesian identity within an Indonesian state that had existed prior to the colonial state of the Dutch East Indies.[9]

Srivijaya, and by extension Sumatra, had been known by different names to different peoples. The Chinese called it Sanfoqi, and there was an even older kingdom of Kantoli which could be considered the predecessor of Srivijaya.[11][12] Sanskrit and Pali referred to it as Yavadesh and Javadeh, respectively.[11] The Arabs called it the Zabag Kingdom and the Khmer called it Melayu.[11] This is another reason why the discovery of Srivijaya was so difficult.[11] While some of these names are strongly reminiscent of the name of Java, there is a distinct possibility that they may have referred to Sumatra instead.[13]

Formation and growth[edit]

Candi Gumpung, a Buddhist temple at the Muaro Jambi Temple Compounds of the Melayu Kingdom, later integrated as one of Srivijaya's important urban centre.

Little physical evidence of Srivijaya remains.[14] According to the Kedukan Bukit inscription, dated 605 Saka (683 CE), the empire of Srivijaya was founded by Dapunta Hyang Sri Jayanasa. He had embarked on a sacred siddhayatra[15] journey, and led 20,000 troops and 312 people in boats with 1312 foot soldiers from Minanga Tamwan to Jambi and Palembang.

Although, according to this inscription, Srivijaya was first established in the vicinity of today's Palembang, it mentions that Dapunta Hyang Sri Jayanasa came from Minanga Tamwan. The exact location of Minanga Tamwan is still a subject of discussion. The Palembang theory as the place where Srivijaya was first established was presented by Coedes and supported by Pierre-Yves Manguin. Soekmono, on the other hand, argues that Palembang was not the capital of Srivijaya and suggests that the Kampar River system in Riau where the Muara Takus temple is located as Minanga Tamwan.[16] Another theory suggests that Dapunta Hyang came from the east coast of the Malay Peninsula, and that the Chaiya District was the centre of Srivijaya.[17]

Around the year 500 CE, the roots of the Srivijayan empire began to develop around present-day Palembang, Sumatra, (in modern Indonesia). The empire was organised in three main zones: the estuarine capital region centred on Palembang, the Musi River basin which served as hinterland and rival estuarine areas capable of forming rival power centres. The areas upstream of the Musi River were rich in various commodities valuable to Chinese traders.[18] The capital was administered directly by the ruler while the hinterland remained under its own local datus or tribal chiefs, who were organised into a network of alliances with the Srivijaya maharaja or king. Force was the dominant element in the empire's relations with rival river systems such as the Batang Hari River, centred in Jambi.

From the Sanskrit inscriptions, it is notable that Dapunta Hyang Sri Jayanasa launched a maritime conquest in 684 CE with 20,000 men in the siddhayatra journey to acquire wealth, power, and 'magical powers'.[19] Under the leadership of Dapunta Hyang Sri Jayanasa, the Melayu Kingdom became the first kingdom to be integrated into Srivijaya. This possibly occurred in the 680s CE. Melayu, also known as Jambi, was rich in gold and held in high esteem at the time. Srivijaya recognised that the submission of Melayu would increase its own prestige.[20]

According to the Kota Kapur inscription discovered on Bangka Island, the empire conquered most of southern Sumatra and the neighbouring island of Bangka, as far as Lampung. Also, according to the inscriptions, Dapunta Hyang Sri Jayanasa launched a military campaign against Java in the late 7th century, a period which coincided with the decline of Tarumanagara in West Java and the Kalingga Kingdom in Central Java. The empire thus grew to control the trade on the Strait of Malacca, the Sunda Strait, the South China Sea, the Java Sea, and the Karimata Strait.

Chinese records dating to the late 7th century mention two Sumatran kingdoms as well as three other kingdoms on Java as being part of Srivijaya. By the end of the 8th century, many western Javanese kingdoms, such as Tarumanagara and Kalingga, were within the Srivijayan sphere of influence. It has also been recorded that a Buddhist family related to Srivijaya dominated central Java at that time.[21] The family was probably the Sailendras.[22] The ruling lineage of Srivijaya intermarried with the Sailendras of Central Java and lived along the Javanese Sanjaya dynasty when the Srivijayan capital was located in Java.

During the same century, Langkasuka on the Malay Peninsula became part of Srivijaya.[23] Soon after this, Pan Pan and Trambralinga, which were located north of Langkasuka, came under Srivijayan influence. These kingdoms on the peninsula were major trading nations that transported goods across the peninsula's isthmus.

With the expansion into Java and the Malay Peninsula, Srivijaya controlled two major trade choke points in Southeast Asia. Some Srivijayan temple ruins are observable in Thailand and Cambodia.

The area of Chaiya District in Surat Thani Province, Thailand, was already inhabited in prehistoric times by Semang and Ethnic Malays. Founded in the 3rd century, Srivijaya dominated the Malay Peninsula and much of the island of Java from there until the 13th century. The city of Chaiya's name may be derived from the Malay name "Cahaya". However, some scholars believe that Chaiya probably comes from Sri Vijaya. It was a regional capital in the Srivijaya empire of the 5th to 13th century. Some Thai historians argue it was the capital of Srivijaya itself, but this is generally discounted.

The construction of the Borobudur completed under the reign of Samaratunga of Sailendra dynasty.

At some point in the 7th century, Cham ports in eastern Indochina started to attract traders. This diverted the flow of trade from Srivijaya. In an effort to divert the flow, the Srivijayan king or maharaja, Dharmasetu, launched various raids against the coastal cities of Indochina. The city of Indrapura by the Mekong was temporarily controlled from Palembang in the early 8th century.[22] The Srivijayans continued to dominate areas around present-day Cambodia until the Khmer King Jayavarman II, the founder of the Khmer Empire dynasty, severed the Srivijayan link later in the same century.[24] After Dharmasetu, Samaratungga became the next Maharaja of Srivijaya. He reigned as ruler from 792 to 835 CE. Unlike the expansionist Dharmasetu, Samaratungga did not indulge in military expansion but preferred to strengthen the Srivijayan hold of Java. He personally oversaw the construction of Borobudur; the temple was completed in 825 CE, during his reign.[25]

According for George Coedes, "in the second half of the ninth century Java and Sumatra were united under the rule of a Sailendra reigning in Java...its center at Palembang."[1]:92

Thalassocratic empire[edit]

Expansion of Srivijayan empire, started in Palembang in 7th century, expanding throughout Sumatra, Malay Peninsula, Java, Cambodia, and receded as Malayu Dharmasraya in the 13th century.

The Srivijayan empire was a coastal trading centre and was a thalassocracy. As such, its influence did not extend far beyond the coastal areas of the islands of Southeast Asia.

Srivijaya benefited from the lucrative maritime trade between China and India as well as trading in products such as Maluku spices within the Malay Archipelago. Serving as Southeast Asia's main entrepôt and gaining trade patronage by the Chinese court, Srivijaya was constantly managing its trade networks and, yet, always wary of potential rival ports of its neighbouring kingdoms. The necessity to maintain its trade monopoly had led the empire to launch naval military expeditions against rival ports in Southeast Asia and to absorb them into Srivijaya's sphere of influence. The port of Malayu in Jambi, Kota Kapur in Bangka island, Tarumanagara and the port of Sunda in West Java, Kalingga in Central Java, the port of Kedah and Chaiya in Malay peninsula are among the regional ports that were absorbed within Srivijayan sphere of influence. A series of Javan-Srivijaya raids on the ports of Champa and Cambodia was also part of its effort to maintain its monopoly in the region by sacking its rival ports.

The image of a Borobudur ship on bas relief

The maritime prowess was recorded in a Borobudur bas relief of Borobudur ship, the 8th century wooden double outrigger vehicles of Maritime Southeast Asia. The function of an outrigger is to stabilise the ship. The single or double outrigger canoe is the typical feature of the seafaring Austronesians vessels and the most likely type of vessel used for the voyages and explorations across Southeast Asia, Oceania, and Indian Ocean. The ships depicted at Borobudur most likely were the type of vessels used for inter-insular trades and naval campaigns by Sailendra and Srivijaya.

The Srivijayan empire exercised its influence mainly around the coastal areas of Southeast Asia, with the exception of contributing to the population of Madagascar 3,300 miles (8,000 kilometres) to the west.[26] The migration to Madagascar was estimated to have taken place 1,200 years ago around 830 CE. According to an extensive new mitochondrial DNA study, native Malagasy people today can likely trace their heritage back to the 30 founding mothers who sailed from Indonesia 1,200 years ago.[27] Malagasy contains loan words from Sanskrit, with all the local linguistic modifications via Javanese or Malay, hint that Madagascar may have been colonised by settlers from the Srivijaya.[28] At that time, Srivijaya was expanding its maritime trade network.[29]

Relations with regional powers[edit]

Avalokiteshvara from Bingin Jungut, Musi Rawas Regency, South Sumatra. Srivijayan art (c. 8th-9th century CE) bears a close resemblance to Central Java Sailendran art.

Although historical records and archaeological evidence are scarce, it appears that by the 7th century CE, Srivijaya had established suzerainty over large areas of Sumatra, western Java and much of the Malay Peninsula. Control of the Malacca and Sunda Straits meant it controlled both the spice route traffic and local trade, charging a toll on passing ships. Serving as an entrepôt for Chinese, Malay, and Indian markets, the port of Palembang, accessible from the coast by way of a river, accumulated great wealth. Envoys travelled to and from China frequently.

The Melayu Kingdom was the first rival power centre absorbed into the empire, and thus began the domination of the region through trade and conquest in the 7th through the 9th centuries CE. The Melayu Kingdom's gold mines up in the Batang Hari River hinterland were a crucial economic resource and may be the origin of the word Suvarnadvipa, the Sanskrit name for Sumatra. Srivijaya helped spread the Malay culture throughout Sumatra, the Malay Peninsula, and western Borneo. Its influence waned in the 11th century. It was then in frequent conflict with, and ultimately subjugated by, the Javanese kingdoms of Singhasari and, later, Majapahit.[30] This was not the first time the Srivijayans had a conflict with the Javanese. According to historian Paul Michel Munoz, the Javanese Sanjaya dynasty was a strong rival of Srivijaya in the 8th century when the Srivijayan capital was located in Java. The seat of the empire moved to Muaro Jambi in the last centuries of Srivijaya's existence.[citation needed]

The bronze torso statue of the bodhisattva Padmapani, 8th century CE Srivijayan art, Chaiya, Surat Thani, Southern Thailand. The statue demonstrate the Central Java (Sailendra) art influence.
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The Khmer Empire might also have been a tributary state in its early stages. The Khmer king, Jayavarman II, was mentioned to have spent years in the court of Sailendra in Java before returning to Cambodia to rule around 790 CE. Influenced by the Javanese culture of the Sailendran-Srivijayan mandala (and likely eager to copy the Javanese model in his court), he proclaimed Cambodian independence from Java and ruled as devaraja, establishing Khmer empire and starting the Angkor era.[31]

Some historians claim that Chaiya in Surat Thani Province in southern Thailand was, at least temporarily, the capital of Srivijaya, but this claim is widely disputed. However, Chaiya was probably a regional centre of the kingdom. The temple of Borom That in Chaiya contains a reconstructed pagoda in Srivijaya style.[32]

Wat Phra Boromathat Chaiya is highlighted by the pagoda in Srivijaya style, elaborately restored, and dating back to the 7th century CE. The Buddha relics are enshrined in the chedi or stupa. In the surrounding chapels are several Buddha statues in Srivijaya style, as it was labelled by Damrong Rajanubhab in his Collected Inscriptions of Siam, which is now attributed to Wat Hua Wiang in Chaiya. Dated to the year 697 of the Mahasakkarat era (775 CE), the inscriptions on a bai sema tells about the King of Srivijaya having erected three stupas at that site; which are possibly the ones at Wat Phra Borom That. However, it is also possible that the three stupas referred to are located at Wat Hua Wiang (Hua Wiang temple), Wat Lhong (Lhong temple) and Wat Kaew (Kaew temple) which are also found in Chaiya. After the fall of the Srivijaya, the area was divided into the cities (mueang) Chaiya, Thatong (now Kanchanadit) and Khirirat Nikhom.

Srivijaya also maintained close relations with the Pala Empire in Bengal. The Nalanda inscription, dated 860 CE, records that Maharaja Balaputra dedicated a monastery at the Nalanda university in the Pala territory.[1]:109 The relation between Srivijaya and the Chola dynasty of southern India was initially friendly during the reign of Raja Raja Chola I. In 1006 CE, a Srivijayan Maharaja from the Sailendra dynasty, king Maravijayattungavarman, constructed the Chudamani Vihara in the port town of Nagapattinam.[33] However, during the reign of Rajendra Chola I the relationship deteriorated as the Chola Dynasty started to attack Srivijayan cities.[34]

The reason for this sudden change in the relationship with the Chola kingdom is not really known. However, as some historians suggests, it would seem that the Khmer king, Suryavarman I of the Khmer Empire, had requested aid from Emperor Rajendra Chola I of the Chola dynasty against Tambralinga.[35] After learning of Suryavarman's alliance with Rajendra Chola, the Tambralinga kingdom requested aid from the Srivijaya king, Sangrama Vijayatungavarman.[35][36] This eventually led to the Chola Empire coming into conflict with the Srivijiya Empire. The conflict ended with a victory for the Chola and heavy losses for Srivijaya and the capture of Sangramavijayottungavarman in the Chola raid in 1025 CE.[1]:142–143[35][36] During the reign of Kulothunga Chola I, Srivijaya had sent an embassy to the Chola Dynasty.[37][38]

Arab writers of the 9th and 10th century, in their writings, considered the king of Al-Hind (India and to some extent might include Southeast Asia) as one of the 4 great kings in the world.[39][40] The ruler of the Rashtrakuta dynasty is described as the greatest king of Al-Hind (India). However, the reference to the kings of Al-Hind might have also included the kings of Java, Pagan Burma and the Khmer kings of Cambodia. They are, invariably, depicted by the Arabs writers as extremely powerful and being equipped with vast armies of men, horses and having tens of thousands of elephants.[39][40] They were also said to be in possession of vast treasures of gold and silver.[39][40]

Golden age[edit]

The graceful golden statue of Avalokiteśvara in Malayu-Srivijayan style, discovered at Rataukapastuo, Muarabulian, Jambi, Indonesia.

After trade disruption at Canton between 820 and 850 CE, the ruler of Jambi (Melayu Kingdom) was able to assert enough independence to send missions to China in 853 CE and 871 CE.[citation needed] The Melayu kingdom's independence coincided with the troubled times when the Sailendran Balaputradewa, was expelled from Java and, later, seized the throne of Srivijaya. The new maharaja was able to dispatch a tributary mission to China by 902 CE. Two years after that, the expiring Tang Dynasty conferred a title on a Srivijayan envoy.

In the first half of the 10th century, between the fall of Tang Dynasty and the rise of Song, there was brisk trading between the overseas world with the Fujian kingdom of Min and the rich Guangdong kingdom of Nan Han. Srivijaya undoubtedly benefited from this. Sometime around 903 CE, the Muslim writer Ibn Rustah was so impressed with the wealth of the Srivijayan ruler that he declared that one would not hear of a king who was richer, stronger or who had more revenue. The main urban centres of Srivijaya were then at Palembang (especially the Karanganyar site near Bukit Seguntang area), Muara Jambi and Kedah.

The migration to Madagascar accelerated in the 9th century when Srivijaya controlled much of the maritime trade in the Indian Ocean.[26]

In late 10th century, the rivalry between Srivijaya and the Javanese Medang kingdom became more intense and hostile. The animosity was probably caused by Srivijaya's effort to reclaim the Sailendra lands in Java or by Medang's aspiration to challenge Srivijaya domination in the region. In 990 CE, King Dharmawangsa launched a naval invasion against Srivijaya and unsuccessfully attempted to capture the capital Palembang. Dharmawangsa's invasion led the Maharaja of Srivijaya, Chulamaniwarmadewa to seek protection from China. In 1006 CE, Srivijaya's alliance proved its resilience by successfully repelling the Javanese invasion. In retaliation, Srivijaya assisted Haji (king) Wurawari of Lwaram to revolt, which led to the attack and destruction of the Medang palace. With the death of Dharmawangsa and the fall of the Medang capital, Srivijaya contributed to the collapse of Medang kingdom, leaving Eastern Java in further unrest, violence and, ultimately, desolation for several years to come.[1]:130,132,141,144

The influence of the empire reached Manila by the 10th century. A kingdom under its sphere of influence had already been established there.[41][42]

By the 12th century, the kingdom included parts of Sumatra, the Malay Peninsula, Western Java, Borneo and the Philippines, most notably the Sulu Archipelago and the Visayas islands (it is believed by some historians that the name 'Visayas' is derived from the empire).[43]

Srivijaya remained a formidable sea power until the 13th century.[2] According to George Coedes, at the end of the 13th century the empire "...had ceased to exist...caused by the simultaneous pressure on its two flanks of Siam and Java."[1]:204,243

Political administration[edit]

Telaga Batu inscription adorned with seven nāga heads on top, and a waterspout on the lower part to channel the water probably poured during ceremonial allegiance ritual.

The 7th century Telaga Batu inscription, discovered in Sabokingking, Palembang, testifies to the complexity and stratified titles of the Srivijayan state officials. These titles are mentioned: rājaputra (princes, lit: sons of king), kumārāmātya (ministers), bhūpati (regional rulers), senāpati (generals), nāyaka (local community leaders), pratyaya (nobles), hāji pratyaya (lesser kings), dandanayaka (judges), tuhā an vatak (workers inspectors), vuruh (workers), addhyāksi nījavarna (lower supervisors), vāsīkarana (blacksmiths/weapon makers), cātabhata (soldiers), adhikarana (officials), kāyastha (store workers), sthāpaka (artisans), puhāvam (ship captains), vaniyāga (traders), marsī hāji (king's servants), hulun hāji (king's slaves).[44]

During its formation, the empire was organised in three main zones — the estuarine capital region centred on Palembang, the Musi River basin which served as hinterland and source of valuable goods, and rival estuarine areas capable of forming rival power centres. These rival estuarine areas, through raids and conquests, were held under Srivijayan power, such as the Batanghari estuarine (Malayu in Jambi). Several strategic ports also included places like Bangka island (Kota Kapur), ports and kingdoms in Java (highly possible Tarumanagara and Kalingga), Kedah and Chaiya in Malay peninsula, and Lamuri and Panai in northern Sumatra. There are also reports mentioning the Java-Srivijayan raids on Southern Cambodia (Mekong estuarine) and ports of Champa.

After its expansion to the neighbouring states, the Srivijayan empire was formed as a collection of several Kadatuans (local principalities), which swore allegiance to the central ruling powerful Kadatuan ruled by the Srivijayan Maharaja. The political relations and system relating to its realms is described as a mandala model, typical of that of classical Southeast Asian Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms. It could be described as federation of kingdoms or vassalised polity under a centre of domination, namely the central Kadatuan Srivijaya. The polity was defined by its centre rather than its boundaries and it could be composed of numerous other tributary polities without undergoing further administrative integration.[45]

The relations between the central kadatuan and its member (subscribers) kadatuans were dynamic. As such, the status would shift over generations. In addition to coercive methods through raids and conquests and being bound by persumpahan (oath of allegiance), the royalties of each kadatuan often formed alliances through dynastic marriages. For example, a previously suzerained kadatuan over time might rise in prestige and power, so that eventually its ruler could lay claim to be the maharaja of the central kadatuan. The relationship between Srivijayan in Sumatra (descendants of Dapunta Hyang Sri Jayanasa) and Sailendras in Java exemplified this political dynamic.

Art and Culture[edit]

The Sriwijaya Museum in Srivijaya Archaeological Park
A bronze Maitreya statue from Komering, South Sumatra, 9th century Srivijayan art.

The Buddhist art and architecture of Sri Vijaya was influenced by the Indian art of the Gupta Empire and Pala Empire.[46] According to various historical sources, a complex and cosmopolitan society with a refined culture, deeply influenced by Vajrayana Buddhism, flourished in the Srivijayan capital. The 7th century Talang Tuwo inscription described Buddhist rituals and blessings at the auspicious event of establishing public park. The Kota Kapur Inscription mentions Srivijaya military dominance against Java. These inscriptions were in the Old Malay language, the language used by Srivijaya and also the ancestor of Malay and Indonesian language. Since the 7th century, the Old Malay language has been used in Nusantara (Malay-Indonesian archipelago), marked by these Srivijayan inscriptions and other inscriptions using old Malay language in the coastal areas of the archipelago, such as those discovered in Java. The trade contact carried by the traders at the time was the main vehicle to spread Malay language, since it was the language used amongst the traders. By then, Malay language become lingua franca and was spoken widely by most people in the archipelago.[47][48]

However, despite its economic, cultural and military prowess, Srivijaya left few archaeological remains in their heartlands in Sumatra, in contrast with Srivijayan episode in Central Java during the leadership of Sailendras that produced numerous monuments; such as the Kalasan, Sewu and Borobudur mandala. The Buddhist temples dated from Srivijayan era in Sumatra are Muaro Jambi, Muara Takus and Biaro Bahal.

Some Buddhist sculptures, such as Buddha Vairocana, Boddhisattva Avalokiteshvara and Maitreya, were discovered in numerous sites in Sumatra and Malay Peninsula. These archaeological findings such as stone statue of Buddha discovered in Bukit Seguntang, Palembang,[49] Avalokiteshvara from Bingin Jungut in Musi Rawas, bronze Maitreya statue of Komering, all discovered in South Sumatra. In Jambi, golden statue of Avalokiteshvara were discovered in Rataukapastuo, Muarabulian.[50] In Malay Peninsula the bronze statue of Avalokiteshvara of Bidor discovered in Perak Malaysia,[51] and Avalokiteshvara of Chaiya in Southern Thailand.[52] All of these statues demonstrated the same elegance and common style identified as "Srivijayan art" that reflects close resemblance — probably inspired — by both Indian Amaravati style and Javanese Sailendra art (c. 8th to 9th century).[53]


"...Many kings and chieftains in the islands of the Southern Ocean admire and believe (Buddhism), and their hearts are set on accumulating good actions. In the fortified city of Bhoga [Palembang, Srivijaya's capital] Buddhist priests number more than 1,000, whose minds are bent on learning and good practices. They investigate and study all the subjects that exist just as in the Middle Kingdom (Madhya-desa, India) ; the rules and ceremonies are not at all different. If a Chinese priest wishes to go to the West in order to hear (lectures) and read (the original), he had better stay here one or two years and practise the proper rules and then proceed to Central India."

— from I-tsing's A Record of Buddhist Practices Sent Home from the Southern Sea.[54]

Srivijaya and its kings were instrumental in the spread of Buddhism as they established it in places they conquered like Java, Malaya, and other lands.[55] People making pilgrimages were encouraged to spend time with the monks in the capital city of Palembang on their journey to India.[55]

A 2.77 metres tall statue of Buddha in Amaravati style, from Bukit Seguntang, Palembang, c. 7th—8th century.

A stronghold of Vajrayana Buddhism, Srivijaya attracted pilgrims and scholars from other parts of Asia. These included the Chinese monk I Ching, who made several lengthy visits to Sumatra on his way to study at Nalanda University in India in 671 and 695, and the 11th century Bengali Buddhist scholar Atisha, who played a major role in the development of Vajrayana Buddhism in Tibet. I Ching, also known as Yijing, and other monks of his time practised a pure version of Buddhism although the religion allowed for culture changes to be made.[56] He is also given credit for translating Buddhist text which has the most instructions on the discipline of the religion.[57] I Ching reports that the kingdom was home to more than a thousand Buddhist scholars; it was in Srivijaya that he wrote his memoir of Buddhism during his own lifetime. Travellers to these islands mentioned that gold coins were in use in the coastal areas but not inland. A notable Srivijayan and revered Buddhist scholar is Dharmakirti who taught Buddhist philosophy in Srivijaya and Nalanda. He was also the teacher of Atisha.

Economy and Commerce[edit]

Buddhist expansion from northern India to the rest of Asia, Srivijaya once served as a centre of Buddhist learning and expansion. This expansion followed trade routes of Silk Road inland and maritime route.

In the world of commerce, Srivijaya rose rapidly to be a far-flung empire controlling the two passages between India and China, namely the Sunda Strait from Palembang and the Malacca Strait from Kedah. Arab accounts state that the empire of the Srivijayan Maharaja was so vast that the swiftest vessel would not have been able to travel round all its islands within two years. The islands the accounts referred to produced camphor, aloes, sandal-wood, spices like cloves, nutmegs, cardamom and cubebs, as well as ivory, gold and tin, all of which equalled the wealth of the Maharaja to any king in India.[58]

Other than fostering the lucrative trade relations with India and China, Srivijaya also established commerce links with Arabia. In a highly plausible account, a messenger was sent by Maharaja Sri Indravarman to deliver a letter to Caliph Umar ibn AbdulAziz of Ummayad in 718 CE. The messenger later returned to Srivijaya with a Zanji (a black female slave from Zanj), a gift from the Caliph to the Maharaja. Later, a Chinese chronicle made a mention of Shih-li-t-'o-pa-mo (Sri Indravarman) and how the Maharaja of Shih-li-fo-shih had sent the Chinese Emperor a ts'engchi (Chinese spelling of the Arabic Zanji) as a gift in 724 CE.[59]


A Siamese painting depicting the Chola raid on Kedah.

The decline of Srivijaya was contributed by foreign piracy and raids that disrupted the trade and security in the region. Attracted to the wealth of Srivijaya, Rajendra Chola, the Chola king from Tamil Nadu in South India, launched naval raids on ports of Srivijaya and conquered Kadaram (modern Kedah) from Srivijaya in 1025 CE.[1]:142–143 The Cholas are known to have benefitted from both piracy and foreign trade. At times, the Chola seafaring led to outright plunder and conquest as far as Southeast Asia.[60] An inscription of King Rajendra states that he had captured the King of Kadaram, Sangrama-vijayottungga-varman, and plundered a large amount of treasures including the Vidhyadara-torana which was the jewelled 'war gate' of Srivijaya adorned with great splendour.[61] The Cholas continued a series of raids and conquests of parts of Sumatra and Malay Peninsula for the next 20 years. The expedition of Rajendra Chola I had such a lasting impression on the Malay people of the period that his name is even mentioned (in the corrupted form as Raja Chulan) in the medieval Malay chronicle, the Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals).[38][62][63][64] Even today the Chola rule is remembered in Malaysia as many Malaysian princes have names ending with Cholan or Chulan, one such was the Raja of Perak called Raja Chulan.[65][66] This event marked the demise of the Empire and a sharp turn for the control of the trade route. For the next century, Tamil trading companies from southern India dominated the Straits region, although the domination was weaker than the control of the Srivijayan Empire.[67]

King Rajendra Chola overseas expeditions against Srivijaya was a unique event in India's history and its otherwise peaceful relations with the states of Southeast Asia. The reasons of the naval expeditions are still a moot point as the source are silent about its exact causes. Nilakanta Sastri suggests that the attacks were probably caused by Srivijaya's attempts to throw obstacles in the way of the Chola trade with the East or, more probably, a simple desire on the part of King Rajendra Chola to extend his military victories to the countries that were well known so as to add lustre to his crown.[61] It gravely weakened the Srivijayan hegemony and enabled the formation of regional kingdoms like Kediri, which were based on intensive agriculture rather than coastal and long-distance trade. With the passing of time, the regional trading center shifted from the old Srivijayan capital of Palembang to another trade centre on the island of Sumatra, Jambi, which was the centre of Malayu.[67]

Ruins of the Wat Kaew in Chaiya, dating from Srivijayan times
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Between 1079 and 1088, Chinese records show that Srivijaya sent ambassadors from Jambi and Palembang.[68] In 1079 in particular, an ambassador from Jambi and Palembang each visited China. Jambi sent two more ambassadors to China in 1082 CE and 1088 CE .[68] This would suggest that the centre of Srivijaya frequently shifted between the two major cities during that period.[68] The Chola expeditions as well as the changing trade routes weakened Palembang, allowing Jambi to take the leadership of Srivijaya from the 11th century onwards.[69]

According to a Chinese source in the book of Chu-fan-chi[70] written around 1225 CE, Chou Ju-kua describe that in Southeast Asia archipelago there were two most powerful and richest kingdoms; Srivijaya and Java (Kediri). In Java, he found that the people followed two kinds of religions: Buddhism and the religion of Brahmins (Hinduism), while the people of Srivijaya followed Buddhism. He also described the people of Java as being brave, short-tempered and willing to fight. He noted that their favourite pastimes were cockfighting and pig fighting. The coin used as the currency then were made from a mixture of copper, silver, and tin.

The book of Chu-fan-chi states that Java was ruled by a maharaja and included the following "dependencies": Pai-hua-yuan (Pacitan), Ma-tung (Medang), Ta-pen (Tumapel, now Malang), Hi-ning (Dieng), Jung-ya-lu (Hujung Galuh, now Surabaya), Tung-ki (Jenggi, West Papua), Ta-kang (Sumba), Huang-ma-chu (Southwest Papua), Ma-li (Bali), Kulun (Gurun, identified as Gorong or Sorong in West Papua or an island in Nusa Tenggara), Tan-jung-wu-lo (Tanjungpura in Borneo), Ti-wu (Timor), Pingya-i (Banggai in Sulawesi), and Wu-nu-ku (Maluku).[1]:186–187 Additionally, Chou-Ju-Kua[71] said that Srivijaya "was still a great power at the beginning of the thirteenth century" with 15 colonies: Pong-fong (Pahang), Tong-ya-nong (Terengganu), Ling-ya-si-kia (Langkasuka), Kilan-tan (Kelantan), Fo-lo-an (Dungun, eastern part of Malay Peninsula, a town within state of Terengganu), Ji-lo-t'ing (Cherating), Ts'ien-mai (Semawe, Malay Peninsula), Pa-t'a (Sungai Paka, located in Terengganu of Malay Peninsula), Tan-ma-ling (Tambralinga, Ligor or Nakhon Si Thammarat, South Thailand), Kia-lo-hi (Grahi, (Krabi) northern part of Malay peninsula), Pa-lin-fong (Palembang), Sin-t'o (Sunda), Lan-wu-li (Lamuri at Aceh), Kien-pi (Jambi) and Si-lan (Cambodia or Ceylon (?)).[1]:183–184[32][72]

According to this source, in the early 13th century, Srivijaya still ruled Sumatra, the Malay peninsula, and western Java (Sunda). This suggests that the Indonesian archipelago was ruled by two great kingdoms, with the western part under Srivijaya's rule and the eastern part was under Kediri's domination.

In 1288, Singhasari empire, the successor of Kediri in Java, conquered Melayu states includes Palembang, Jambi as well as much of Srivijaya during the Pamalayu expedition.

In the year 1293, the Majapahit empire ruled much of Sumatra as the successor of Singhasari. Prince Adityawarman was given the power over Sumatera in 1347 by Tribhuwana Wijayatunggadewi, the third monarch of Majapahit. A rebellion broke out in 1377 and was quashed by Majapahit but it left the area of southern Sumatera in chaos and desolation.

In the following years, sedimentation on the Musi river estuary cut the kingdom's capital off from direct sea access. This strategic disadvantage crippled the trade in the kingdom's capital. As the decline continued, Islam made its way to the Aceh region of Sumatra, spreading through contacts with Arab and Indian traders. By the late 13th century, the kingdom of Pasai, in northern Sumatra, converted to Islam. At the same time, Srivijayan lands in Malay Peninsula (now Southern Thailand) was briefly a tributary state of the Khmer empire and later the Sukhothai kingdom[citation needed]. The last inscription, on which a crown prince, Ananggavarman, son of Adityawarman, is mentioned, dates from 1374.

Several attempts to revive Srivijaya were made by the fleeing princes of Srivijaya.[citation needed] In 1324, a prince of Srivijaya origin, Sri Maharaja Sang Utama Parameswara Batara Sri Tribuwana (Sang Nila Utama) founded the ancient Kingdom of Singapura (Temasek). He maintained control over Temasek for 48 years. He was recognised as ruler over Temasek by an envoy of the Chinese Emperor sometime around 1366. He was succeeded by his son Paduka Sri Pekerma Wira Diraja (1372–1386) and grandson, Paduka Seri Rana Wira Kerma (1386–1399). In 1401, the last ruler, Paduka Sri Maharaja Parameswara was expelled from Temasek by the forces from Majapahit or Ayutthaya. He later headed north and founded Sultanate of Malacca in 1402.[73] The Sultanate of Malacca succeeded Srivijaya Empire as a Malay political entity of the archipelago.[74][75]


Pagoda in Srivijaya style in Chaiya, Thailand

Although Srivijaya left few archaeological remains and was almost forgotten in the collective memory of the Malay people, the rediscovery of this ancient maritime empire by Coedès back in the 1920s raised the notion that it was possible for a widespread political entity to have thrived in Southeast Asia in the past.

The most important legacy of Srivijayan empire was probably its language. For centuries Srivijaya, through it expansion, economic power and military prowess was responsible for the widespread of Old Malay language throughout the Malay-Indonesian archipelago. It was the working language of the traders and was used in various ports and marketplaces in the region.[76] The language of Srivijayan had probably paved the way for the prominence of the present-day Malay and Indonesian language, to be the official language of Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore and as the unifying language of modern Indonesia.

According to the Malay Annals, the founder of Malacca Sultanate Parameswara claimed to be a member of the Palembang Srivijaya lineage. This shows that, even up to the 15th century, the prestige of Srivijaya still remained and was used as a source for political legitimacy in the region.

The gilded costume of South Sumatran Gending Sriwijaya dance invoked the splendor of Srivijaya empire.

Modern Indonesian nationalists have also invoked the name of Srivijaya along with Majapahit, as a source of pride in Indonesia's past greatness.[77] Srivijaya has become the focus of national pride and regional identity, especially for the people of Palembang, South Sumatra province, and the Malay people as a whole. For the people of Palembang, Srivijaya has also become a source of artistic inspiration for Gending Sriwijaya song and traditional dance.

The same situation also happened in southern Thailand, where Sevicha] (Thai: Srivijaya) dance was recreated in accordance with the art and culture of ancient Srivijaya. Today, the Srivijayan legacy is also celebrated and identified with Malay minority of Southern Thailand. In Thailand, the Srivijayan art was associated with Javanese art and architecture, which probably demonstrate the Sailendra influences over Java, Sumatra and the Peninsula. The examples of Srivijayan style temples are Phra Borom Mathat at Chaiya constructed in Javanese style made of brick and mortar (c. 9th – 10th century), Wat Kaew Pagoda at Chaiya, also of Javanese form and Wat Long Pagoda. The original Wat Mahathat at Nakhon Si Thammarat (a Srivijayan city) was subsequently encased by a larger Sri Lanka styled building.[78]

In Indonesia, Srivijaya is a street name in many cities and has become synonymous with Palembang and South Sumatra. Srivijaya University, established in 1960 in Palembang, was named after Srivijaya. Kodam Sriwijaya (a military commando area unit), PT Pupuk Sriwijaya (a fertiliser company), Sriwijaya Post (a Palembang-based newspaper), Sriwijaya Air (an airline), Gelora Sriwijaya Stadium, and Sriwijaya F.C. (Palembang football club) were also all named to honour this ancient maritime empire. On 11 November 2011, during the opening ceremony of 2011 Southeast Asian Games in Gelora Sriwijaya Stadium, Palembang, a colossal dance performance titled "Srivijaya the Golden Peninsula" was performed featuring Palembang traditional dances and also an actual sized replica of an ancient ship to describe the glory of the maritime empire.[79][80]

List of Rulers[edit]

Date King's name Capital Stone inscription or embassies to China and events
683 Dapunta Hyang Sri Jayanasa Srivijaya Kedukan Bukit (682), Talang Tuwo (684), and Kota Kapur inscriptions

Malayu conquest, Central Java conquest[1]:82–83

702 Indravarman




Embassies 702, 716, 724 to China[1]:83–84

Embassies to Caliph Muawiyah I and Caliph Umar bin Abdul Aziz

728 Rudra vikraman




Embassie 728, 742 to China[1]:84
No information for the period 742–775
775 Dharmasetu or Vishnu Java Nakhon Si Thammarat (Ligor),[1]:84 Vat Sema Muang
775 Dharanindra Java Ligor, started to build Borobudur in 770,

conquered South Cambodia

782 Samaragrawira Java Ligor, Arabian text (790), continued the construction of Borobudur
792 Samaratungga Java Karangtengah inscription (824), 802 lost Cambodia, 825 completion of Borobudur
835 Balaputradewa Srivijaya


Lost Central Java, moved to Srivijaya

Nalanda inscription (860)

No information for the period 835–960
960 Sri Udayadityavarman]

Si-li-Hu-ta-hsia-li-tan Shih-li Wu-yeh



Chinese Embassies 960, 962[1]:131
980 Haji




Chinese Embassies 980, 983[1]:132
988 Sri Chulamanivarmadeva




Chinese Embassies 988,992,1003,1004[1]:132,141

Javanese King Dharmawangsa attack of Srivijaya, building of temple for Chinese Emperor, Tanjore Inscription or Leiden Inscription (1044), building of temple at Nagapattinam with revenue from Rajaraja Chola I

1006, 1008 Sri Maravijayottungavarman




Constructed the Chudamani Vihara in Nagapattinam, India in 1006.[33]

Chinese Embassies 1008,1016[1]:141–142

1017 Sumatrabhumi Srivijaya


Embassy 1017
1025 Sangrama Vijayatunggavarman[1]:142 Srivijaya


Chola invasion of Srivijaya, captured by Rajendra Chola

Chola Inscription on the temple of Rajaraja, Tanjore

1028 Sri Deva Palembang


Chinese Embassy 1028[1]:143

Building of Tien Ching temple, Kuang Cho (Kanton) for Chinese Emperor

1078 Kulothunga Chola I




Embassy 1077[1]:148
No information for the period 1080–1155
1156 Rajaraja Chola II Palembang


Larger Leyden Plates
1183 Srimat Trailokyaraja Maulibhusana Warmadewa Jambi, Dharmasraya Kingdom Bronze Buddha Chaiya 1183[1]:179
No information for the period 1183–1275
1286 Srimat Tribhuwanaraja Mauli Warmadewa Jambi, Dharmasraya Kingdom Padang Roco inscription 1286, Pamalayu expedition 1275–1293



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Further references[edit]

  • D. G. E. Hall, A History of South-east Asia. London: Macmillan, 1955.
  • D. R. SarDesai. Southeast Asia: Past and Present. Boulder: Westview Press, 1997.
  • Lynda Norene Shaffer. Maritime Southeast Asia to 1500. London: ME Sharpe Armonk, 1996.
  • Stuart-Fox, Martin. A Short History of China and Southeast Asia: Tribute, Trade, and Influence. London: Allen and Unwin, 2003.
  • Munoz, Paul Michel (2006). Early Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago and the Malay Peninsula. Editions Didier Millet. ISBN 981-4155-67-5. 
  • Muljana, Slamet (2006). Sriwijaya. Yogyakarta: LKiS. ISBN 979-8451-62-7. 

External links[edit]