Sultan Agung of Mataram

Sultan Agung of Mataram

Sultan Agung of Mataram or Sultan Agung Anyokrokusumo or Sultan Agung Hanyokrokusumo ("Ha" and "A" is the same character in Javanese letter) was the Sultan of Mataram from 1613-1645. He was the constructor of the Karta Palace, and the Royal Graveyard of Imogiri.

Sultan Agung which means 'the Great Sultan', has attracted a substantial literature due to his legacy as a Javanese ruler, a fighter of Dutch colonialists (In the form of the Dutch East India Company), and his existence within a cultural framework where myth and magic are as intertwined with verifiable historical events and personages. Agung was responsible for the great expansion and lasting historical legacy of Mataram due to the extensive military conquests of his long reign.

Territorial conquests

He attacked Surabaya in 1614, and also Malang, south of Surabaya, and the eastern end of Java. In 1615, he conquered Wirasaba (present day Mojoagung, near Mojokerto). In 1616, Surabaya tried to attack Mataram but this army was crushed by Sultan Agung's forces in Siwalan, Pajang (near Surakarta). The coastal city of Lasem, near Rembang, was conquered in 1616, and Pasuruan, south-east of Surabaya, was taken in 1617. Tuban, one of the oldest and biggest cities on the coast of Java, was taken in 1619.

Surabaya was Mataram's most difficult enemy. Agung's grandfather, Senapati, had not felt strong enough to attack this powerful city, and his father, Seda ing Krapyak, attacked it to no avail. Sultan Agung weakened Surabaya by capturing Sukadana, Surabaya's ally in southwest Kalimantan, in 1622, and the island of Madura, another ally of Surabaya, in 1624 after a fierce battle. After five years of war Agung finally conquered Surabaya in a siege in 1625. With Surabaya brought into the empire, the Mataram kingdom encompassed all of central and eastern Java, and Madura, except for the west and east end of the island and its mountainous south (except for Mataram, of course). In the west Banten and the Dutch settlement in Batavia remained outside Agung's control. He tried in 1628-29 to drive the Dutch from Batavia, but failed. On August 27 1628 he led the Siege of Batavia, which was unsuccessful.


By 1625, Mataram was undisputed ruler of Java. Such a mighty feat of arms, however, did not deter Mataram’s former overlords from rebellion. Pajang rebelled in 1617, and Pati rebelled in 1627. After the capture of Surabaya in 1625, expansion stopped, while the empire was busied by rebellions. In 1630, Mataram crushed a rebellion in Tembayat (southeast of Klaten) and in 1631-36, Mataram had to suppress rebellion of Sumedang and Ukur in West Java. M. C. Ricklefs and H. J. De Graaf argued that these rebellions in the later part of Sultan Agung’s reign were mainly due to his inability to capture Batavia in 1628-29, which shattered his reputation of invincibility and inspired Mataram’s vassals to rebel. This argument seems untenable for two reasons. Rebellions against Sultan Agung already began as far back as 1617 and occurred in Pati even during his peak of invincibility after taking Surabaya in 1625. Secondly, and more importantly, the military failure to capture Batavia was not seen as political failure by Javanese point of viewFact|date=February 2007.

In 1645 Sultan Agung began building Imogiri, his burial place, about fifteen kilometers south of Yogyakarta. Imogiri remains the resting place of most of the royalty of Yogyakarta and Surakarta to this day. Agung died in the spring of 1646, leaving behind an empire that covered most of Java and stretched to its neighboring islands.


The development of the sacred dance bedhaya, and important developments in gamelan and wayang are attributed to the court of Sultan Agung. However, there is almost no historical evidence for the claims of high artistic achievement, and there is little information at all about the arts in the court. Some written evidence comes from a handful of mentions in Dutch accounts, which can be difficult to interpret. [Sumarsam. "Gamelan: Cultural Interaction and Musical Development in Central Java". Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995. Page 20.] However within the complex field of folklore that attributes Sultan Agung with various powers and activities - the field of achievements is much greater. Fact|date=February 2007

Sultan Agung is also attributed with the founding of the unique Javanese calendar - this established a uniquely calendar which is still in use.


Pilgrimage to his graveyard complex is considered to be significant to many Javanese pilgrims, who make considerable effort to go to Imogiri at appropriate times and days in the Javanese and Islamic calendars.

In the Sukarno era he was nominated and confirmed as a National Hero of Indonesia ("Pahlawan Nasional Indonesia").

However, Sultan Agung's legacy is elsewhere. The conquest of new territories led him to create an administrative structure to manage these territories [Bertrand, Romain, "Etat colonial, noblesse et nationalisme à Java", Paris, 2005] . He created "provinces" by appointing people as "adipati" at the head of territories called "kadipaten", particularly those territories in the western part of Java, where Mataram was facing Banten and Batavia, two places who resisted his wars of conquest. A "kabupaten" like Karawang, for instance, was created when Sultan Agung appointed prince Kertabumi as its first "adipati" in 1636. When the VOC took control of Mataram territories, it kept the "kadipaten" structure. Under the colonial administration of the Netherlands Indies, "adipati", now called "bupati", were called "regenten" and "kadipaten", now "kabupaten", "regentschapen". The title of a "bupati" consisted generally in a formal name, for instance "Sastradiningrat" in the case of Karawang, preceded by "Raden Aria Adipati", hence "Raden Aria Adipati Sastradiningrat" (shortened into R. A. A. Sastradiningrat). The word "adipati" survived in the colonial system.

The Dutch had grouped "kabupaten" into regions under a "resident", called "residenties". The Indonesian government kept the "kabupaten" but disbanded the "residenties" in the 1950's, resulting in "kabupaten" being administrative subdivisions directly under a province. The laws on regional autonomy promulgated in 1999 give a high degree of autonomy to the "kabupaten", not to the provinces. Sultan Agung's legacy is also recognised by modern Indonesia.


Further reading

* Pranata, "Sultan Agung Hanyokrokusumo", Jakarta: Yudha Gama (In Indonesian)

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