Singhasari was a kingdom located in east Java between 1222 and 1292.


Singhasari was founded by Ken Arok, whose story is a popular children's tale in Central and East Java. Ken Arok was an orphan who grew up in Kediri and a cunning thief. His reputation was such that Kertajaya of Kediri ordered the ruler of Tumapel, Tunggul Ametung to arrest him.

Tunggul Ametung had a beautiful wife, Ken Dedes whom he took by force. Ken Arok happened upon her by chance, and had a premonition that he had to have her as his wife at all costs. To accomplish this, Ken Arok went to a famous swordsmith Mpu Gandring and asked him to make a sacred Keris to use for this mission. The process of making a sacred sword involved performing rituals and took longer than Ken Arok had the patience for. In his anger he took the unfinished sword from Mpu Gandring and killed him with it. With his last breath, Mpu Gandring cursed Ken Arok and the next 7 generations of his descendants to death by the same saber.

Ken Arok made a show of his Kris, and one of his fellow courtman, Kebo Ijo became fascinated with the unique weapon, and asked Ken Arok to lend him the Kris. When Kebo Ijo had the Kris, Ken Arok secretly took the weapon, and managed to kill Tunggul Ametung and so blamed Kebo Ijo for the murder. The accused Kebo Ijo was soon killed by Ken Arok before making any denial. He presented himself as a jagoan, a champion of the people, took Ken Dedes as his wife and made himself ruler of Tumapel. At this time Ken Dedes was pregnant with Tunggul Ametung's child.

The ambition of Ken Arok did not stop in Tumapel. In 1222, at the battle of Ganter he defeated Kertajaya of Kediri and founded the new kingdom of Singhasari. Kediri became a fief under the kingdom of Singhasari.

Ken Arok was the first king of Singhasari, and true to the curse was killed by his stepson, Anusapati, son of Ken Dedes from Tunggul Ametung, using the keris of Mpu Gandring. Anusapati was killed in turn with the same cursed Keris. He was killed by Panji Tohjaya, son of Ken Arok and his concubine Ken Umang.

inghasari's expansive ambition

The ambitious king Kertanegara at the year 1275 launched a peaceful naval campaign northward towards the weak remains of the Srivijaya Empire caused by continuous Ceylon pirate fleet raids and Chola Kingdom invasion from India which conquered Srivijaya’s Kedah in 1025. The strongest of these Malaya kingdom being Jambi kingdom that took over the Srivijaya capital in 1088, then Dharmasraya kingdom, and Temasek kingdom of Singapore, and then remaining territories: the peaceful expedition is named Pamalayu expedition led by Admiral Mahesa Anabrang (a.k.a. Adwaya Brahman) to the Malaya region, also intended to secure the Malayan strait, the ‘Maritime Silk Road’ from the Mongol invasion potential and ferocious sea pirates. These Malayan kingdoms then pledge allegiance to the king. King Kertanegara has long wished to surpass Srivijaya as a regional maritime empire, controlling sea trade routes from China to India. However, the first Pamalayu Expedition itself didn’t end well after the fall of Singhasari kingdom but continued by its successor, the Majapahit Empire, who then by the second Pamalayu Expedition conquered more Malayan kingdoms by combining its vassal kingdoms’ forces such as Samudra kingdom and Pasai kingdom of the Aceh. The Pamalayu expedition lasted 1275 – 1292 from Singhasari to Majapahit reign is chronicled in the Javanese scroll Nagarakrtagama. Thus Singhasari’s territory would well become Majapahit’s territory.At the year 1284 King Kertanegara sent the hostile Pabali expedition to Bali, thus Bali became Singhasari kingdom’s territory at that time.The King also send troops, expeditions and envoys to other nearby kingdoms such as Sunda-Galuh Kingdom, Pahang Kingdom, Balakana Kingdom (Kalimantan), and Gurun Kingdom (Maluku). And with the king of Champa (Vietnam) he bound an alliance.

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

Fall of Singhasari

In Kertanegara's reign, Meng-ki, an ambassador sent by Mongol Khan, Kubilai Khan came to Singhasari and demanded submission. Kertanegara took the order as an insult and slashed the envoys' faces before allowing them to return to Khanbaliq with their left ear being cut. In preparation for the invasion threat from the powerful Emperor of Yuan Dynasty, Kertanegara sent a huge portion of his army to conquer Malay Peninsula to stop the Chinese Invasion from land. This expedition was called the Pamalayu expedition. In the mean time, Jayakatwang, one of his vassal, Lord of Kediri, a fief of Singhasari, rebelled and killed Kertanegara with a surprise attack during a holy festival of Tantrayana ritual. Raden Wijaya, one of Kertanegara's sons-in-law and also a descendant of Ken Arok, fled soon after Jayakatwang's victory. He escaped to Madura and with Madura's regency favor, Wijaya was granted a land at the Tarik village which then became the core of the future kingdom of Majapahit.

When the Mongol fleet arrived, Raden Wijaya manipulated them into fighting the usurper Jayakatwang. The Mongols didn't realize that they destroyed a different ruler. Before they realized what had happened, Wijaya attacked his exhausted former allies when they were feasting in victory, thus drove them from Java. The exhausted Mongols were not outnumbered, they were severely outwitted. It was also considered that the Mongol's retreat was due to the monsoon wind which came only at certain times of the year, and it was important for the fleet to return home when the wind arrived. Wijaya then founded the new kingdom of Majapahit.

Mongolia invasion of Java, the end of Singhasari kingdom and the beginning of Majapahit empire

Indonesia is one of only few a areas that thwarted the Mongol horde invasion, where a Mongol force was repelled in 1293.

As center of the Malayan peninsula tradewind, the rising power, influence, and wealth of the Javanese empire Singhasari came to the attention of Kublai Khan of the Mongol Yuan dynasty stationed in China. Moreover Singhasari has formed alliance with Champa of the Vietnam. Both Java (Singhasari) and Champa are cautious of Mongol expansion and raids to neighboring states, like the raid of Bagan (Pagan) in Burma by the Mongols. Kubilai Khan then sent emissaries demanding submission and tribute from Java. At 1280 Kubilai Khan send the first emissary to King Kertanegara, demanding Singhasari’s submission and tribute to the great Khan. He 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 King Kertanegara, last ruler of the Singhasari kingdom, refused to pay tribute. In the audition throne room of Singhasari court, King Kertanegara humiliated Khan by scarring and hurt Meng Ki's face, one of Mongol's envoy (some source even says the King cut the envoy's ear himself). The envoy return to China with the answer of Javan king written on his face; the scar.

Enraged by this humiliation and disgrace put upon his envoy and towards his very patient heart, in late 1292 the great Kublai Khan sent a massive 1,000 war jung ships for a punitive retaliation expedition which arrived off the coast of Tuban, Java in early 1293.

King Kertanegara, now his troops spread thin and located elsewhere, did not realize that a coup of former Kediri royal lineage is being prepared.In 1292, Duke Jayakatwang, a vassal king from the Kingdom of Daha (also known as Kediri or Gelang-gelang), with the aid of Arya Wiraraja a regent from Sumenep the island of Madura, prepares his Kediri army to conquer Singhasari and kill the great king if possible.

The Kediri (Gelang-gelang) army attack Singhasari from two directions, north and south. The king who only realize the northern invasion, sent Nararya Sanggramawijaya, famously known as Raden Wijaya (died 1309) his son in-law northward to vanquish the rebellion. The northern attack was put on bay, but the southern attack were successfully kept in stealth until they reach and sack the unprepared Kutaraja capital city. Jayakatwang had usurped and killed Kertanagara during the Tantra sacred ceremony, thus bring the tragic end of Singhasari kingdom.

Having learnt the fate of the Kutaraja Singhasari capital to Kediri's treachery, Raden Wijaya tried to defend Singhasari but failed. He and his three colleagues Ranggalawe, Sora and Nambi, went to exile in the favor of the same Regent (Bupati) Arya Wiraraja of Madura, Nambi's father, who then turned his back against King Jayakatwang. With Arya Wiraraja's patronage, Raden Wijaya, pretending to submit to King Jayakatwang, won favour from the new monarch of Kediri who grant him permission to open new settlement north of mount Arjuna, the Tarik forest. In this wilderness Wijaya find lots of bitter Maja fruit, so this place called Majapahit (literally means “bitter Maja”), a future capital of the empire. It is said that the bitterness of the fruit will satisfy a soldier’s thirst for water.

Early 1293, the Mongol naval forces arrived on Java north coast (near Tuban), and on the Brantas river mouth in order to flank what was thought of Singhasari. When Raden Wijaya found the opportunity to overthrow Jayakatwang by means of using the unsuspecting Mongols. Raden Wijaya’s army allied with the Tartars (Mongols) on the third month of 1293, battle is ensued between Mongol forces against Daha forces in the creek bed of Kali Mas river which was continued with the battle of Mongol forces against Daha forces that attacked Majapahit regional army led by Raden Wijaya. Successively, Mongols with their usual relentless tactics stormed Daha and Jayakatwang finally surrenders.

Once Jayakatwang was 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 Java island.

Panicked, the Mongol Army in confusion find themselves surrounded by enemies. It was the last time for the monsoon sea-wind to depart north for home, otherwise, they would have had to wait for another six months for the next sea-wind on a hostile island. So the panicked Mongols fled the battlescene, had no time to lose, withdraw to their ships and head back to China in their war jungs. Prince Wijaya successfully drove Mongols forces to the sea to their way home, May 31, 1293.

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

Rulers of Singhasari

* Ken Arok 1222 - 1227
* Anusapati 1227 - 1248
* Panji Tohjaya 1248
* Wisnuwardhana 1248 - 1268
* Kertanegara 1268 - 1292

Further reading

* Saidihardjo, Dr. M. Pd., A.M, Sardiman, Drs., "", Tiga Serangkai, Solo, 1987, 4th reprint edition in 1990

External links

* [ The Origins of Rajasa Dynasty]
* [ Beginnings to 1500: The Old Kingdoms and the Coming of Islam] , a timeline of Indonesian history until 1500 AD

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