Tracing Majapahit Kingdom
Let’s go back to the golden days of Majapahit Kingdom by visiting these cultural sites in Trowulan in East Java...
Hundreds of years ago, Indonesia was a superpower land named Nusantara where the soil was fertile and the people lived in prosperity. For 200 years the archipelago was ruled by the Majapahit Kingdom which was also known as Wilwatikta. Now, their artefacts and legends are scattered in several areas in Indonesia, including a village in East Java. It was a cloudy morning yet it didn’t stop me from visiting a village that once served as the capital city of the glorious Majapahit Kingdom.
The name of the village was Trowulan, located in Mojokerto area in East Java. Together with a friend, I enjoyed the sound of the birds chirping as I strolled around the village, hoping to trail the remaining sites of Majapahit.
Trowulan is an ancient site in the history of Indonesia. This area is home to many artefacts, epigraphs, temples and other archeological sites that become valid references or proof about a great kingdom in the past. Trowulan is the national’s precious heritage to trace the history of the Majapahit Kingdom that was first discovered in 1815 by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles during the Dutch colonization. Raffles then assigned a Dutch named Wardenaar to do a deeper research about this site. His discovery was published in a book by Raffles titled “History of Java” in 1817.
About a century later, a Dutch architect named Henri Maclaine Pont excavated a site in Trowulan. Pont tried to reconstruct the ancient city of Majapahit based on what was written in “Negarakertagama”, an ancient book that revealed the existence of Majapahit Kingdom. Later, Pont’s research was continued by hundreds of scientists and archeologists which led to various discoveries.
The Tikus Temple
We started trailing the Majapahit Kingdom by visiting the Tikus Temple which used to serve as a water temple and a symbol of Mount Mahameru, the God’s throne in the Hindu beliefs. Some experts say that the Tikus Temple was actually a spring where the royal family used to bathe, while others believe it was the source for irrigation in the village.
The Tikus Temple was found buried under the earth in 1914. Back then, there was a report from a villager about a rat (“tikus” in Indonesian) epidemic that came from a pile of soil. Villagers then dug that pile of soil and found a temple underneath it. That is why the villagers named this ancient water temple the Tikus Temple.
The Tikus Temple has a tower that is similar to that of temples in Bali, which makes researchers believe that this temple is sacred. The Tikus Temple is also unique because it stands three and a half meters underground. The temple is constructed of red bricks, just like the ancient “Negarakertagama” book stated; that all buildings in the Majapahit era are dominated by red bricks.
The Bajang Ratu Temple
We continued our journey to Gapura Bajang Ratu or the Bajang Ratu Temple, which was only a 10 to 15 minute walk from the Tikus Temple. The Bajang Ratu Temple is one of the iconic sites in Trowulan that is often reference to the lives of Majapahit Kingdom. According to Badan Pelestarian Peninggalan Purbakala (the Ancient Artifact Perseverance Organization), this site used to serve as an entrance gate to a sacred site where the second Majapahit King, Sri Maharaja Jayanegara, passed away in the year of 1250 Saka or 1328 Masehi. Others believe that the gate was one of the entrances to the capital city of Majapahit.
Bajang Ratu means the small (bajang) king (ratu), referring to the fact that the gate symbolizes how young King Jayanegara was when he sat on the throne. However, there is also a debate that said this gate has been used as the back gate to the kingdom even before the death of King Jayanegara, referring to a relief titled “Sri Tandjung” that is depicted with wings – the relief is believed to symbolize the art of letting go and the tradition of Trowulan villagers to enter the back door when attending a funeral ceremony.
The Wringin Lawang Temple
Our next visit was to the Wringin Lawang Temple, a gate with a precise design that makes it also known as the “split” temple. It was built in the 14th century when Majapahit was ruled by King Hayam Wuruk. And just like the Tikus Temple, the Wringin Lawang Temple is dominated by red bricks.
Legend has it that the name of Wringin Lawang was derived from a twin banyan trees that grew so big at the front of the temple that they seemed like an entrance. They are probably similar to the two banyan trees that stand in the middle of the North Alun-Alun, right at the front of the Keraton Royal Palace in Yogyakarta in Central Java.
The Brahu Temple
Our historical tour continued as we visited the Brahu Temple, the only Buddhist heritage from the Majapahit Kingdom in Trowulan. Constructed of red bricks, this temple was the symbol of living in harmony in the Majapahit era where most of its people believe in either Hindu or Buddha.
The name of Brahu is derived from Alasantan epigraph written in 861 Saka or 929 A.D. by Mpu Sindok, the first king of Medang Kingdom – a kingdom that was first established in the 8th century in Central Java before finally moved to East Java in the 10th century. The epigraph stated that there was a sacred building known as warahu or wanaru that later pronounced “Brahu”. As time went by and the Majapahit Kingdom ruled the land, the Brahu Temple was maintained and preserved by the villagers to keep a harmonious life between the two religions.
We spent the afternoon strolling around the last site, the replica of Majapahit Kampong in Bejijong Village, still in Trowulan. From the moment I set foot in this village, I felt as if I was traveling through a time tunnel to the glorious era of Nusantara during the Majapahit Kingdom. Here, Majapahit-style houses stand in line, decorated by a fence of red brick with crown engravings. Some of the houses serve as galleries displaying arts and crafts with the distinctive style of Majapahit. And we were lucky enough to meet a friendly villager who invited us in to see the interior of his house and offered us a cup of coffee.
Sitting at the villager’s terrace with a cup of coffee in my hand, I was mesmerized by the friendliness of the passersby and their big smiles. I could only imagine that this was probably a daily view during the Majapahit Kingdom as well. And come to think of it, I couldn’t stop wondering just how wonderful Nusantara was in the old days with fertile soil and prosperity for all its people. The king was well-known throughout the world and the villagers lived in harmony despite their differences in beliefs. Oh, how I wish for this country to be just as peaceful and glorious as in the golden days of Majapahit Kingdom.
Contributor : Reza Fitriyanto
Magazine issue > Beyond Bali