Friday, 18 December 2015

The Mongol Invasion of Java in the Desawarnana

      The main sources for the Mongol invasion of Java are the Chinese ones, primarily the dynastic history of the Yuan. However, as I noted before, the attempted conquest made ripples in Europe, and of course there are several mentions in Indonesian sources, most (naturally enough) in Javanese. This includes a brief mention in canto 44 of the Desawarnana, the Old Javanese poem written by Mpu Prapanca in 1365 detailing the extent and history of Majapahit.
The surya Majapahit, the 'Majapahit sun', as it's known today. It seems to have functioned as one of the state emblems of Majapahit. h/t Gunawan Kartapranata.
      Here's the full text of the fourth stanza of canto 44 in Robson's translation:
Through the influence of his knowledge of the scriptures and the force of the King's efforts before,
It came about that there was a son of His Majesty's who defeated the enemy and restored the world.
His relationship was son-in-law, and Dyah Wijaya was the title by which people praised him -
Jointly with the Tatars he attacked King Jayakatwang and wiped him out completely.
(Robson 1995:57)
      Obviously this needs a bit of context. 'Dyah' Wijaya is Raden Wijaya, known after he became king as Kertarajasa Jayawardhana, founder of the state we now know as Majapahit; dyah just means 'prince'. The King to whom he was related was Kertanegara of Singasari, the East Javanese ruler whose imperial ambitions had offended the Mongols enough to make them want to invade. As the Mongols, the 'Tatars', were preparing to attack Java in 1292 CE, Kertanegara was deposed by Jayakatwang, a 'villain' (canto 44, stanza 1) who 'became blind and strayed from the path' (canto 44, stanza 3). He had been Kertanegara's vassal in Kediri, becoming ruler there in Śaka 'three-nine-Śangkaras' (Śaka 1193, or 1271 CE).

     Because Jayakatwang was now king ('Haji' in Javanese, a term that had nothing to do with Islamic pilgrimage) and the Mongols were angry at the King of Java, it was easy for Raden Wijaya to convince the Mongols to attack him. The interesting thing about Prapanca's text is that it doesn't refer to any kind of Mongol invasion at all; it makes it sound as if the 'wiping out' of Jayakatwang was a collaborative effort involving both Wijaya and the Tatars. The Chinese sources certainly don't agree with that.

      There's much more on the Mongol invasion in the Pararaton, a much later (early sixteenth century) text in Middle Javanese, and I'll certainly get around to putting part of the translation on here at some point. The trouble is that the translation is a bit poor, largely because the translator was a native speaker of Balinese who translated the book into English for an Indian publisher (Phalgunadi 1996). It's a worthwhile book to own, however, and it has some very useful lists of things found in the text (flora and fauna, &c).

    Incidentally: I have quite a few books from India, and aside from a few more typos than you'd find in books published in Britain and America (just a few, mind), they're all good, useful works. But they all smell the same - like a musty old library, I suppose because of the inks used. It's like Indian books are published on Bible paper in Victorian ink. It's something you have to get used to.

Phalgunadi, I. G. P. 1996. The Pararaton. New Delhi: Sundeep Prakashan.

Robson, S. 1995. Desawarnana. Leiden: Brill.

You might also like:

Java and the Mongols in European Sources

Eastern Indonesia in the Desawarnana

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