5 Famous Hindu Kingdoms in Indonesia

Hinduism became one of the religions that developed rapidly in the archipelago in the past. This religion was brought by travelers from India named Maha Resi Agastya. This rishi in Java is known as Batara Guru or Dwipayana. The majority of Hindu teachings that developed in the archipelago at that time were Vaisnawa schools, namely a teaching that worshiped Lord Vishnu as the main deity.

According to the teachings of Hinduism, Vishnu or often also called Sri Vishnu and Nārāyana is a deity with the title of shtiti (preserver), whose job is to care for and protect all creations of Brahman (God Almighty). Vishnu in Vaishnava Hindu philosophy is seen as a holy spirit, as well as the supreme god.

The influence of Hinduism has reached the archipelago since the 1st century AD. The rapid development of Hinduism was followed by the establishment of many Hindu-style kingdoms at that time. Several kingdoms existed around the 4th century, namely the Kingdom of Kutai Martapura in East Kalimantan, Tarumanagara in West Java, the Kingdom of Kalingga on the North Coast of Central Java, and the Kingdom of Bedahulu in Gianyar.

The ancient Hindu kingdom in the archipelago that stands out is the Medang Kingdom because it is known for building the Prambanan Temple. Since then, Hinduism then spread along with Buddhism throughout the archipelago and reached its peak of influence in the 14th century.

The following is an explanation of the five Hindu kingdoms that once stood in the archipelago and had a major influence during their heyday.

1. Kingdom of Kutai Martapura

Yupa Inscription.

According to a study conducted by Muhammad Sarip (2021) in his book entitled The Kingdom of Martapura in Kutai Historical Literacy 400–1635 , the oldest Hindu kingdom in the archipelago is Martapura (not Martadipura) in Muara Kaman District, not Kutai Kertanegara (established in the 14th century). This is based on the Yupa Inscription or inscribed stone monument which was found in two stages, namely in 1879 and 1940.

Yupa numbered seven, the majority told about the prosperity of the Mulawarman period. Now, the seven Yupa stones are in the National Museum. The classic book entitled Surat Salasilah Raja Dalam Negeri Kutai Kertanegara with a thickness of 132 pages from 1849 is an authentic source for writing the history of the Kingdom of Kutai Kertanegara.

The book was written by Khatib Muhammad Thahir, a Banjar who became the clerk of the Kingdom of Kutai Kertanegara. This book is written in Jawi script (the text uses Arabic letters, while the language is Malay). This book can be a historical source by setting aside the fairy tale part, even though it is classified as literature mixed with exaltation mythology. The original manuscript of the book is currently kept in the State Library of Berlin, Germany.

The finding of the seven Yupa fruits became the beginning of the discovery of the oldest kingdom of the archipelago. Based on Sarip’s explanation, there are three famous names in the Kutai Martapura Kingdom which are mentioned in Yupa. First, Kundungga (not Kudungga) who was written by the Hindu brahmins at that time as the founding father of the kingdom, not the first king.

Second, Aswawarman son of Kundungga, the first king of Martapura. Third, Mulawarman son of Aswawarman, the famous king who brought the glory of Martapura to the point where he was able to donate 20,000 cows to the Brahmins. There is no further record of who will be Mulawarman’s successor.

However, Muhammad Fahmi (2016) through his research entitled The Kingdom of Kutai Kartanegara ing Martadipura and the Role of the King in the Development of Islam in the 17th and 18th Century Kutai Kingdom mentioned the rulers of the Kutai Martapura Kingdom, among others:

  • Maharaja Kundungga Posthumous Dewawarman;
  • Maharaja Aswawarman;
  • Maharaja Mulawarman;
  • Maharaja Sri Aswawarman;
  • Maharaja Marawijayawarman;
  • Maharaja Gajayanawarman;
  • Maharaja Tunggawarman;
  • Maharaja Jayanagawarman;
  • Maharaja Nalasingawarman;
  • Maharaja Nala Parana Tungga;
  • Maharaja Gadinggawarman Dewa;
  • Maharaja Indrawarman Dewa;
  • Maharaja Sanggawarman Dewa;
  • Maharaja Candrawarman;
  • Maharaja Prabu Mula Tungga Dewa;
  • Maharaja Nala Indra Dewa;
  • Maharaja Indra Mulyawarman Dewa;
  • Maharaja Sri Lanka Dewa;
  • Maharaja Guna Parana Dewa;
  • Maharaja Wijayavarman;
  • Maharaja Indra Mulya;
  • Maharaja Sri Aji Dewa;
  • Maharaja Mulia Putera;
  • Maharaja Nala Pandita;
  • Maharaja Indra Paruta Dewa;
  • Maharaja Dermasatia.

Furthermore, Salasilah Kutai then revealed the process of the collapse of the Martapura Kingdom with its last king, Dermasatia. Sarip discusses in a separate sub-chapter the expansion carried out by Kutai Kertanegara in 1635 when it was ruled by the 8th king, Aji Pangeran Sinum Panji Mendapa.

In short, there was a war for seven days and seven nights until the two kings stabbed each other, which resulted in the death of Dermasatia. Martapura’s defeat marked its downfall, as well as the annexation of territory by Kutai Kertanegara. Since then, the winning kingdom has completed its name as Kutai Kertanegara ing Martapura.

The Kutai Kingdom era actually ended in 1960, but since 2001 it has been revived as a form of historical and cultural preservation, without any governing authority. Somewhat different from before, the kingdom was named Kutai Kartanegara ing Martadipura. Kartanegara with “a” instead of “e”, Martadipura instead of Martapura.

Regarding this matter, Sarip did not escape reviewing it. Regarding Kartanegara, for him it is not so fatal because “Kartanegara” and “Kertanegara” have the same meaning. However, it is different with Martadipura, who cannot be justified because he changed his name by inserting unnecessary syllables.

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The name Martadipura as a change from the word Martapura only appeared in the 1980s. The Regent of Kutai for the 1965–1979 period, Ahmad Dahlan, revealed that the idea came from Drs. Anwar Soetoen, an official of the Level II District Government of Kutai.

Soetoen thought that between the words “marta” and “pura” it was necessary to insert the preposition “di” instead of “ing”. According to him, the preposition “di” has the same meaning as the word “ing” in Javanese Kawi. Dahlan revealed this case in his book about Salasilah Kutai , which was published in 1981.

Sarip in his book also discusses the misunderstanding of the name Kundungga to become Kudungga, which has taken root over the last few years. Equally important, Sarip’s work raises questions about the naming of the museum in Tenggarong which is called Mulawarman, not Aji Batara Agung Dewa Sakti as the founder of Kutai Kertanegara, even though this museum is a former palace of Kutai Kertanegara, not a witness to the history of Kutai Martapura.

Not to mention the addition of the Suwana Lembu statue that welcomes museum visitors which also has the potential to create assumptions that the animal is the mount of King Mulawaman. The Suwana ox is actually a mythological animal mounted by Aji Batara Agung Dewa Sakti.

2. The Kingdom of Tarumanagara

Tarumanagara or the Taruma Kingdom is a kingdom that once ruled in the western region of the island of Java in the 5th to 7th centuries AD. Tarumanagara is one of the oldest kingdoms in the archipelago which left historical records and artifacts around the kingdom’s location. These remains show that Tarumanagara was a Vaishnawa Hindu kingdom.

The word tarumagara comes from the words taruma and nagara . Nagara means kingdom or country, while taruma comes from the word “tarum” which is the name of the river that divides West Java, namely Ci Tarum. Archaeological findings located at the Ci Tarum estuary are extensive baths, namely the Batujaya Baths and the Cibuaya Baths, which are thought to be civilizations left over from the Kingdom of Tarumanagara.

Ciaruteun inscription.

One of the inscriptions used as a historical source for the existence of the Tarumanagara Kingdom is the Ciaruteun Inscription. The location of the inscription is in Ciaruteun Village, Cibungbulang District, Bogor Regency.

This inscription was discovered in the flow of the Ciaruteun River, Bogor in 1863 and is divided into two parts, namely the Ciaruteun A inscription written in Pallawa script and Sanskrit consisting of four lines of Indian poetry or anustubh rhythm (rhythm found in classical Vedic and Sanskrit poetry ) , and the Ciaruteun B Inscription which contains footprints and spider motifs whose meaning is unknown.

According to the caretaker of the Ciaruteun Inscription, the symbol contained in the inscription signifies the valiant and powerful King Purnawarman. This inscription is 2 meters long, 1.5 meters high, and weighs 8 tons.

The literal translation of this inscription is as follows.

First line: vikkrantasya vanipateh

Second line: srimatah purnnavarmmanah

Third row: tarumangarendrasya

Fourth line: visnor=iva padadvayam ||

Its meaning is as follows.

Here are a pair of (soles) feet, which are like (soles of the feet) of Lord Vishnu, are the soles of His Majesty Purnnawarman, the king of the country of Taruma (Tarumanagara), the bravest king in the world.

Based on the message contained in the Ciaruteun Inscription, it can be seen that this inscription was made in the 5th century and informs that at that time there was the Tarumanagara Kingdom, led by King Purnawarman who worshiped Lord Vishnu.

The Tarumanagara kingdom was influenced by Indian culture, as evidenced by the king’s name ending in -warman and footprints indicating the power of his era. In 1863, this inscription was washed away by a flood, so that the existing writing was reversed, then in 1903 this inscription was returned to its original place. It was only in 1981, this inscription was protected.

Another news source that proves the founding of the Tarumanagara Kingdom comes from Chinese news, in the form of travel notes of Fa-Hien (explorers from China) in book form with the title Fa-Kuo-Chi, which states that in the early 5th century AD there were many Brahmins and animists. in Ye-Po-Ti (the name for Javadwipa, but there are other opinions which state that Ye-Po-Ti is the White Way in Lampung).

In 414, Fa-Hien came to Java to make historical records of the To-lo-mo Kingdom (Tarumanagara Kingdom) and stopped at Ye-Po-Ti for 5 months. In addition, news from the Sui Dynasty wrote that To-lo-mo envoys had come from the south in 528 and 535.

News of the Tang Dynasty further wrote that To-lo-mo envoys had arrived in 666 and 669. Based on these news, it can be seen that the Tarumanagara Kingdom flourished between 400 – 600, which at that time was led by Purnawarman with jurisdiction over almost all of West Java .

As for the kings who once ruled the Kingdom of Tarumanagara, among others:

  • Jayasingawarman (358 382);
  • Dharmayavarman (382 395);
  • Purnawarman (395 434);
  • Wisnuwarman (434 455);
  • Indrawarman (455 515);
  • Chandravarman (515 535);
  • Suryawarman (535 561);
  • Kertawarman (561 628);
  • Sudhavarman (628 639);
  • Hariwangswarman (639 640);
  • Nagajayawarman (640 666);
  • Linggawarman (666 669).
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3. Former Kingdom

Samuan Tiga Temple is a relic of the Bedahulu Kingdom.

Since it was first founded, this kingdom was ruled by several royal families. However, the change from one royal family to another is not clearly stated in the inscriptions left behind. One of the famous kings was King Udayana from the Warmadewa Dynasty, who reigned between 989 1011.

When the Warmadewa Dynasty came to power, the first religion that developed in Bali was Buddhism. It was only in the following period that the Balinese embraced Hinduism. This kingdom is known to have been ruled by Singasari in the 10th century and Majapahit in the 14th century. When Majapahit expanded in 1347, this kingdom finally collapsed.

Some of the inscriptions left by the Bedahulu Kingdom include:

  • The inscription is dated 882 which contains the granting of permission to the monks to build a hermitage on Kintamani Hill, but this inscription does not mention the name of the king;
  • Inscriptions dated 896 and 911 mention the king’s palace at Singhamandawa. It is estimated that Singhamandawa is located between Kintamani (Lake Batur) and Sanur Beach (Blanjong), which is around Tampaksiring and Pejeng;
    The inscription is a kind of monument in the village of Blanjong, near Sanur, which dates to 914. The inscription mentions the reigning king named Raja Kesari Warmadewa.

4. Medan Kingdom

Early records of the Medang Kingdom are in the Canggal inscription (732), which was found in the Gunung Wukir Temple complex in Canggal Hamlet, southwest of Magelang Regency. This inscription is written in Sanskrit and uses the Pallawa script. The contents tell about the founding of Siwalingga (symbol of Shiva) in the area of ​​Kuñjarakuñjadeça (Kunjarakunja), which is located on an island called Yawadwipa (Javanese) which is blessed with lots of rice and gold.

The formation of the phallus was under the command of Sanjaya. This inscription tells that in the past Yawadwipa was ruled by King Sanna, who was wise, just in his actions, an officer in war, generous to his people. After Sanna’s death the country was in mourning, falling into divisions. Sanna’s successor was Sannaha’s son (his sister) whose name was Sanjaya. Sanjaya conquered the areas around his empire and his wise rule blessed his land with peace and prosperity for all his subjects.

The stories of Sanna, Sannaha and Sanjaya are also described in Carita Parahyangan, a text compiled around the end of the 16th century. Broadly speaking, the story from the Carita Parahyangan manuscript has characters in common with the Canggal Inscription.

Although the manuscript appears to be dramatized and does not provide specific details about the period, the name and story theme which are almost identical to the Canggal Inscription seem to confirm that the manuscript is based on historical events.

Prambanan temple.

The period of the reign of Rakai Panangkaran to Dyah Balitung (range between 760–910) which lasted 150 years, marked the peak of the glory of ancient Javanese civilization. During this period, ancient Javanese art and architecture emerged, as a number of magnificent temples and monuments were erected spanning the horizons of the Kedu plains and the Kewu plains. The most famous temples are Sewu and Prambanan temples.

5. Kalinga Kingdom

The Kalingga Kingdom or the Ho-ling Kingdom (according to Chinese sources) was a Hindu-Buddhist patterned kingdom that first appeared on the north coast of Central Java in the 6th century AD, together with the Kingdoms of Kutai and Tarumanagara.

The name Ho-ling is thought to have appeared in the 5th century (later called Keling) which is thought to be located in the north of Central Java. Information about the Kingdom of Ho-ling is obtained from records from China. In 752, the Ho-ling Kingdom became a colony of the Sriwijaya Kingdom because this kingdom was part of a trade network, along with the Malay Kingdom and the Tarumanagara Kingdom, which Srivijaya had previously conquered. The three kingdoms became strong competitors to the Sriwijaya trade network.

So, that’s information about the 5 Most Famous Hindu Kingdoms in Indonesia . The history of the Archipelago in the era of the Hindu-Buddhist Kingdom developed due to trade relations between the Archipelago and foreign countries, such as India, China and the Middle East. Since the arrival of Hinduism and Buddhism, the prehistoric people of the Archipelago who previously had animistic and dynamism beliefs turned to embrace Hinduism and Buddhism. 

  • The Founder of the Kutai Kingdom: History, Heyday, and Legacy
  • The Founder of the Majapahit Empire: History and the First King
  • The Founder of the Singasari Kingdom: Origins and a Brief History
  • History of the Founders of the Sriwijaya Kingdom and Their Lineages
  • History of the Kingdom of Sunda and its Legacy