Kediri (historical kingdom)

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Kediri was an Indianized kingdom based in eastern Java from 1042 to around 1222. Kediri was established in 1045 when Airlangga (991 – 1049), who had built his kingdom, Kahuripan, out of the ruins of Medan after it was crushed by Sriwijaya, divided it into two kingdoms—Janggala (based on contemporary Malang) and Kediri—and abdicated in favor of his two sons to live the life of an ascetic. Two Chinese books Ling-wai-tai-ta, (1178) written by Chou K'u-fei, and Chu-fan-chi, written around 1200 by Chou-Ju-Kua, give invaluable accounts of the daily life, government, economy and people of the Kediri kingdom. The people adhered to two kinds of religions: Buddhism and the religions of Brahmins (Hinduism). Initially they relied mainly on rice cultivation and animal farming (cattle, boars, and poultry), but they later came to dominate the spice trade, collecting spice from their tributary states in the Spice Islands and selling them to merchants from India and Southeast Asia. The Kediri economy was partly monetized, and silver coin currency was issued by the royal court.

Despite the seeming lack of archaeological remains, the age of Kediri was one which saw much development in field of classical literature.[1] Several notable literary classics such as Mpu Sedah's Kakawin Bharatayuddha, Mpu Panuluh's Gatotkacasraya, and Mpu Dharmaja's Smaradahana were produced during this era, making the era of the Kediri kingdom a period of literary renaissance and high cultural refinement.


In 1045 Airlangga (991 – 1049) who had built his kingdom, Kahuripan, out of the ruins of Medan after it was crushed by Sriwijaya, divided it into two kingdoms, Janggala (based on contemporary Malang) and Kediri, and abdicated in favor of his sons to live the life of an ascetic. He died four years later. For fifty years after the abdication of Airlangga, the fate of the two kingdoms is unknown. Later, only Kediri left historical records, while Janggala seemed to have become non-existent or was perhaps already absorbed by Kediri.

The Reign of Kediri Kings

The first king of Kediri to leave historical records was Çri Jayawarşa Digjaya Çāstaprabhu (reigned 1104-1115). In an inscription dated 1104, just like Airlangga, he proclaimed himself an incarnation, or avatar, of Vishnu.

He was succeeded by Kameçwara (reigned 1115-1130). His formal stylized name was Çri Maharaja Rake Sirikan çri Kameçwara Sakalabhuwanatustikarana Sarwaniwaryyawiryya Parakrama Digjayottunggadewa. The Lancana (royal seal) of his reign was a skull with crescent moon called chandrakapala, the symbol of Shiva. During his reign Mpu Dharmaja wrote the book Smaradahana, in which the king was adored as the incarnation of Kamajaya, the god of love, and his capital city, Dahana (later called Daha), was the most beautiful city, admired throughout the known world. In this book, Kameçwara's wife, queen Çri Kirana, the princess of Janggala, was celebrated as a woman of extraordinary beauty, the incarnation of Kamaratih, goddess of love and passion. Kameçwara and Kirana later became known in Javanese literature as the main characters in the tales of Panji, which spread throughout Southeast Asia as far as Siam.

The successor of Kameçwara was Jayabhaya (reigned 1130-1160). His formal stylized name was Çri Maharaja çri Dharmmeçwara Madhusudanawataranindita Suhrtsingha Parakrama Digjayottunggadewa, and the Lancana (royal seal) of his reign was Narasingha. The name Jayabhaya was immortalized in mpu Sedah's Kakawin Bharatayuddha, a Javanese version of the Mahabharata written in 1157 and later perfected by Sedah's brother, mpu Panuluh. Mpu Panuluh was also the author of Hariwangsa and Gatotkacasraya. Jayabhaya's reign is considered as the golden age of Old Javanese literature. The Prelambang Joyoboyo, a prophetic book ascribed to Jayabhaya, is well known among Javanese for its prediction of a particular event that took place later in the history of Java. The book prophesied that the Indonesian Archipelago would be ruled by a white race for a long time, then by a yellow race for a short time, and then be glorious again. The Jayabhaya prophecies also mention the Ratu Adil, the Just Prince, a recurring popular figure in Javanese folklore. During Jayabhaya's reign, Ternate was a vassal state of Kediri.

Jayabhaya was succeeded by Sarwweçwara (reigned 1160-1170), followed by Aryyeçwara (reigned 1170-1180), who used Ganesha as his royal Lancana. The next monarch was King Gandra; his formal stylized name was Çri maharaja çri Kroncarryadipa Handabhuwanapalaka Parakramanindita Digjayottunggadewanama çri Gandra. An inscription from his reign (dated 1181) bears witness to the beginning of the adoption of animal names as the names of important officials, such as Kbo Salawah, Menjangan Puguh, Lembu Agra, Gajah Kuning, and Macan Putih. Among the high-ranking officials mentioned in this inscription, there is a title "Senapati Sarwwajala," or laksmana, a title reserved for a navy general, suggesting that Kediri had a naval fleet.

From 1190 to 1200, King Çrngga ruled Kediri, with the official name Çri maharaja çri Sarwweçwara Triwikramawataranindita Çrngga lancana Digwijayottunggadewa. He used a cangkha (winged shell) on crescent moon as his royal seal.

The last king of Kediri was Kertajaya (reigned 1200-1222). He used the same royal seal as Airlangga, Garudamukha. In 1222, as a result of his defeat in the battle of Ganter, he was forced to surrender his throne to Ken Arok and lose the sovereignty of his kingdom to the new kingdom of Singhasari. This event marked the end of the Kediri era, and the beginning of the Singhasari era.

Srivijaya and Kediri

In 1068, Virarajendra, the Chola king of Coromandel or Tamil Nadu, conquered Kedah from Srivijaya. Virarajendra’s records from his seventh year mention that he conquered Kadaram from Srivijaya on behalf of a king who had come to ask for help and protection and handed it over to him. The possible date for this occurrence is 1068 C.E. There is no further information to be gleaned from this inscription. As yet we have no knowledge of the Srivijaya king who asked for help or the details of this naval campaign. The Cholas continued a series of raids and conquests throughout what is now Indonesia and Malaysia for the next twenty years. Although the Chola invasion was ultimately unsuccessful, it gravely weakened the Srivijayan hegemony and enabled the formation of regional kingdoms, like Kediri, based on agriculture rather than trade. Later, Kediri managed to gain control of spice trade routes to eastern Spice Islands (Maluku).

In the Chinese book Chu-fan-chi, written around 1200, Chou-Ju-Kua relates that in the Southeast Asia archipelago there were two powerful and rich kingdoms: Srivijaya and Java (Kediri). In Java, he found that the people adhered to two kinds of religions: Buddhism and the religions of Brahmins (Hinduism). The people of Java were brave and short tempered, eager to put a fight. Their favorite pastimes were cockfighting and pig fighting. Their currency was made from a mixture of copper, silver, and tin.

The book Chu-fan-chi mentioned that Java was ruled by a maharaja, who ruled over several colonies: Pai-hua-yuan (Pacitan), Ma-tung (Medang), Ta-pen (Tumapel), Hi-ning (Dieng), Jung-ya-lu (Hujung Galuh), Tung-ki (Jenggi, West Papua), Ta-kang (Sumba), Huang-ma-chu (Southwest Papua), Ma-li (Bali), Kulun (Gurun, identified as Gorong or Sorong in 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).[2]

About Srivijaya, Chou-Ju-Kua reported that Kien-pi (Kampe, in northern Sumatra) had liberated themselves from Srivijaya through armed rebellion and crowned their own king. Some of Srivijaya's colonies on the Malay Peninsula had also freed themselves from Srivijaya, but Srivijaya remained the mightiest and wealthiest state in western part of the archipelago. Srivijaya's colonies were: Pong-fong (Pahang), Tong-ya-nong (Trengganu), Ling-ya-ssi-kia (Lengkasuka), Kilan-tan (Kelantan), Fo-lo-an (?), Ji-lo-t'ing (Jelutong), Ts'ien-mai (?), Pa-t'a (Batak), Tan-ma-ling (Tambralingga, Ligor), Kia-lo-hi (Grahi, northern part of Malay peninsula), Pa-lin-fong (Palembang), Sin-t'o (Sunda), Lan-wu-li (Lamuri at Aceh), and Si-lan (Sailan?). According to this source, early in the thirteenth century, Srivijaya still ruled Sumatra, the Malay peninsula, and western Java (Sunda). The book further described the port of Sunda (Sunda Kalapa) as being very good and in a strategic location, and the pepper from Sunda as being of the best quality. People worked in agriculture, and their houses were built on wooden piles (rumah panggung). However, the country was infested with robbers and thieves. This Chinese source from early thirteenth century suggests that the Indonesian archipelago was then ruled by two great kingdoms; the western part was under Srivijaya's rule, while the eastern part was under Kediri domination.


During the rule of Kediri, celebrated as an era of the blossoming of literature and culture, significant contributions were made in the field of Javanese classic literature. In addition to the literary works that have already been mentioned earlier, there were other important works, such as Lubdhaka and Wrtasancaya by Mpu Tanakung, Krisnayana written by Mpu Triguna, and Sumanasantaka by Mpu Monaguna.

Ling-wai-tai-ta, written by Chou K'u-fei in 1178, gives a glimpse of the everyday life of Kediri, its government and its people, that can not be found in any other sources.[3] According to Chou K'u-fei, the people of Kediri wore clothes which covered them down to their legs, and their hairstyles were loosely draped. Their houses were clean and well arranged, with floors made from green or yellow cut stones. Agriculture, animal farming, and trading flourished and received full attention from the government. He reported that silkworm farming and the production of silk and cotton clothes had already been adopted by Javanese. There was no physical punishment (jail or torture) for criminals. People who committed unlawful acts were forced to pay fines in gold, except for thieves and robbers who were directly punished with execution. According to their marital customs, the bride's family received some amount of gold as a bride price from the groom's family. The currency of Kediri was native silver coins. Instead of seeking medical treatment, people who were sick prayed to the gods or Buddha for health.

On the fifth month of the year, people traveled in boats on the river to celebrate the Water Festival. On the tenth month, an annual festival was held in the mountains, where people gathered to enjoy themselves and perform festival music with instruments such as flutes, drums, and wooden xylophones (an ancient form of gamelan).

According to he same account, the King wore silk garments, leather shoes and ornate golden jewelry. The king's hair was arranged up on his head. Every day, he received state officials who managed his kingdom. The shape of king's throne was square. After their audience, the state officials would bow three times to the king. If the king traveled outside the palace, he rode an elephant, accompanied by 500 to 700 soldiers and officials, while his subjects, the people of Kediri, prostrated themselves along the sides of the road until the king passed.


Initially, the Kediri economy relied mainly on agriculture, especially rice cultivation. Daha, the capital city of Kediri (thought to be at the same site as modern Kediri ) was located inland, near the fertile Brantas river valley. From the predecessor kingdom, Airlangga's Kahuripan, Kediri inherited irrigation systems, including Wringin Sapta Dam. According to a Chinese source, the main occupation of Kediri people was agriculture (rice cultivation), animal farming (cattle, boars, and poultry), and trading. The Kediri economy was partly monetized, and silver coin currency was issued by the royal court.

At a later period, the Kediri economy came to also rely on trade, especially the spice trade. Kediri had a naval fleet, which allowed them to control spice trade routes to the eastern islands. Kediri collected spices from tributaries in southern Kalimantan and the Maluku Islands, known to the West as the Spice Islands or Moluccas. Indian and Southeast Asian merchants, among others, then transported the spices to Mediterranean and Chinese markets by way of the Spice Route that linked a chain of ports from the Indian Ocean to southern China.

The Rulers of Kediri

  • Unknown ruler 1042 - 1104 (the era of twin kingdoms: Janggala and Kediri)
  • Çri Jayawarşa Digjaya Çāstaprabhu 1104 - 1115
  • Kameçwara 1115 - 1130
  • Jayabhaya 1130 - 1160
  • Sarwweçwara 1160 - 1170
  • Aryyeçwara 1170 - 1180
  • Gandra 1180 - 1190
  • Çrngga 1190 - 1200
  • Kertajaya 1200 - 1222


  1. Nigel Bullough, Historic East Java: Remains in Stone, Indonesian 50th independence day commemorative edition (Jakarta: ADLine Communications, 1995), 19.
  2. R. Soekmono, Pengantar Sejarah Kebudayaan Indonesia 2, 2nd ed. (Yogyakarta: Penerbit Kanisius, 1988), 60.
  3. Soekmono, 59.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Soekmono, R, Drs. 1973. Pengantar Sejarah Kebudayaan Indonesia 2, 2nd ed. Penerbit Kanisius, Yogyakarta.
  • Drakeley, Steven. 2005. The history of Indonesia. The Greenwood histories of the modern nations. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0313331146 ISBN 9780313331145
  • Gonda, J. 1976. Old javanese literature. Leiden: E.J. Brill.
  • Purwadi. 2007. History of Java local wisdom description since ancient Mataram to contemporary era. Jogjakarta: Tanah Air. ISBN 9792906053 ISBN 9789792906059
  • Raffles, Thomas Stamford and John Bastin. 1988. The history of Java. Oxford in Asia hardback reprints. Singapore [etc.]: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195889010 ISBN 9780195889017
  • Zoetmulder, P. J. 1974. Kalangwan a survey of old Javanese literature. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. ISBN 9024716748 ISBN 9789024716746
  • Zurbuchen, Mary S. 1976. Introduction to old Javanese language and literature.


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