Fossilised remains of Homo erectus, popularly known as the "Java Man", suggest the Indonesian archipelago was inhabited two million to 500,000 years ago. Austronesian people, who form the majority of the modern population, were originally from Taiwan and arrived in Indonesia around 2000 BCE. From the 7th century CE, the powerful Srivijaya naval kingdom flourished bringing Hindu and Buddhist influences with it. The agricultural Buddhist Sailendra and Hindu Mataram dynasties subsequently thrived and declined in inland Java. The last significant non-Muslim kingdom, the Hindu Majapahit kingdom, flourished from the late 13th century, and its influence stretched over much of Indonesia. The earliest evidence of Islamised populations in Indonesia dates to the 13th century in northern Sumatra; other Indonesian areas gradually adopted Islam which became the dominant religion in Java and Sumatra by the end of the 16th century. For the most part, Islam overlaid and mixed with existing cultural and religious influences.
Geologically the area of modern Indonesia appeared sometime around the Pleistocene period, when it was still linked with the Asian mainland. The archipelago formed during the thaw after the latest ice age. Fossilised remains of Homo erectus, popularly known as the "Java Man", suggest the Indonesian archipelago was inhabited two million to 500,000 years ago. Homo sapiens reached the region by around 45,000 years ago. Recent discoveries on the island of Flores were dubbed "Flores Man" (Homo floresiensis), a miniature hominoid that grew only three feet tall, although whether this constitutes a separate species is still in dispute. Flores Man seems to have shared some islands with Java Man until only 10,000 years ago, when they became extinct.
Austronesian people form the majority of the modern population. They may have arrived in Indonesia around 2000 BCE. Dong Son culture spread to Indonesia bringing with it techniques of wet-field rice cultivation, ritual buffalo sacrifice, bronze casting, megalithic practises, and ikat weaving methods. Some of these practices remain in areas including the Batak areas of Sumatra, Toraja in Sulawesi, and several islands in Nusa Tenggara. Early Indonesians were animists who honoured the spirits of the dead as their souls or life force could still help the living.
Ideal agricultural conditions, and the mastering of wet-field rice cultivation as early as the 8th century BCE, allowed villages, towns, and small kingdoms to flourish by the 1st century CE. These kingdoms (little more than collections of villages subservient to petty chieftains) evolved with their own ethnic and tribal religions. Java's hot and even temperature, abundant rain and volcanic soil, was perfect for wet rice cultivation. Such agriculture required a well organised society in contrast to dry-field rice is a much simpler form of cultivation that doesn't require an elaborate social structure to support it.
References to the Dvipantara or Jawa Dwipa Hindu kingdom in Java and Sumatra appear in Sanskrit writings from 200 BC. The earliest archeological relic discovered in Indonesia is from the Ujung Kulon National Park, West Java, where an early Hindu statue of Ganesha from the 1st century AD was found on the summit of Mount Raksa in Panaitan Island. There is also archeological evidence of a kingdom in Sunda territory in West Java dating from the 2nd century, and according to Dr Tony Djubiantono, the head of Bandung Archeology Agency, Jiwa Temple in Batujaya, Karawang, West Java was also built around this time
A number of Hindu and Buddhist states flourished and then declined across Indonesia. By the time of the European Renaissance, Java and Sumatra had already seen over a millennium of civilization and two major empires. One such early kingdom was Tarumanagara, which flourished between 358 and 669 AD. Located in West Java close to modern-day Jakarta, its fifth-century king, Purnawarman, established the earliest known inscriptions in Java, the Ciaruteun inscription located near Bogor. On this monument, King Purnavarman inscribed his name and made an imprint of his footprints, as well as his elephant's footprints. The accompanying inscription reads, "Here are the footprints of King Purnavarman, the heroic conqueror of the world". This inscription is in Sanskrit and is still clear after 1500 years. Purnawarman apparently built a canal that changed the course of the Cakung River, and drained a coastal area for agriculture and settlement. In his stone inscriptions, Purnawarman associated himself with Vishnu, and Brahmins ritually secured the hydraulic project.
Three rough plinths dating from the beginning of the 4th century are found in Kutai, East Kalimantan, near Mahakam River. The plinths bear an inscription in the Pallava script of India reading "A gift to the Brahmin priests".
The political history of Indonesian archipelago during the seventh to 11th century was dominated by Srivijaya based in Sumatra, also Sailendra that dominated central Java and constructed Borobudur, the largest Buddhist monument in the world. In fourteenth and fifteen centuries the history is not well known due to scarcity of evidence. Two major states dominated this period; Majapahit in East Java, the greatest of the pre-Islamic Indonesian states, and Malacca on the west coast of the Malay Peninsula, arguably the greatest of the Muslim trading empires.
Prambanan in Java; built during the Sanjaya dynasty of Mataram, it is one of the largest Hindu temple complexes in south-east Asia.
Medang or previously known as Mataram was an Indianized kingdom based in Central Java around modern-day Yogyakarta between the 8th and 10th centuries. The centre of the kingdom was moved from Central Java to East Java by Mpu Sindok. The move may have been caused by an eruption of the volcano Mount Merapi, or a power struggle.
The first king of Mataram was Sri Sanjaya and left inscriptions in stone. The monumental Hindu temple of Prambanan in the vicinity of Yogyakarta was built by Daksa. Dharmawangsa ordered the translation of the Mahabharata into Old Javanese in 996.
The kingdom collapsed into chaos at the end of Dharmawangsa's reign under military pressure from Srivijaya. One of the last major kings of Mataram was Airlangga who reigned from 1016 until 1049. Airlangga was a son of Udayana of Bali and a relative of Dharmawangsa re-established the kingdom including Bali under the name of Kahuripan.
The empire of Srivijaya in Southeast Asia
Srivijaya was a ethnic Malay kingdom on Sumatra which influenced much of the Maritime Southeast Asia. From the 7th century CE, the powerful Srivijaya naval kingdom flourished as a result of trade and the influences of Hinduism and Buddhism that were imported with it. As early as the first century CE Indonesian vessels made trade voyages as far as Africa.
Srivijaya was centred in the coastal trading centre of present day Palembang. Srivijaya was not a "state" in the modern sense with defined boundaries and a centralized government to which the citizens own allegiance.Rather Srivijaya was a confederacy form of society centered on a royal heartland. It was a thalassocracy and did not extend its influence far beyond the coastal areas of the islands of Southeast Asia. Trade was the driving force of Srivijaya just as it is for most societies throughout history.
The Srivijayan navy controlled the trade that made its way through the Strait of Malacca.
Wringin Lawang, the split gate shows the red brick construction, and strong geometric lines of Majapahit architecture. Located at Jatipasar, Trowulan, East Java.
Despite a lack of historical evidence, it is known that Majapahit was the most dominant of Indonesia's pre-Islamic states.The Hindu Majapahit kingdom was founded in eastern Java in the late 13th century, and under Gajah Mada it experienced what is often referred to as a "Golden Age" in Indonesian history,when its influence extended to much of southern Malay Peninsula, Borneo, Sumatra, and Bali from about 1293 to around 1500.
The founder of the Majapahit Empire, Kertarajasa, was the son-in-law of the ruler of the Singhasari kingdom, also based in Java. After Singhasari drove Srivijaya out of Java in 1290, the rising power of Singhasari came to the attention of Kublai Khan in China and he sent emissaries demanding tribute. Kertanagara, ruler of the Singhasari kingdom, refused to pay tribute and the Khan sent a punitive expedition which arrived off the coast of Java in 1293. By that time, a rebel from Kediri, Jayakatwang, had killed Kertanagara. The Majapahit founder allied himself with the Mongols against Jayakatwang and, once the Singhasari kingdom was destroyed, turned and forced his Mongol allies to withdraw in confusion.
Gajah Mada, an ambitious Majapahit prime minister and regent from 1331 to 1364, extended the empire's rule to the surrounding islands. A few years after Gajah Madah's death, the Majapahit navy captured Palembang, putting an end to the Srivijayan kingdom. Although the Majapahit rulers extended their power over other islands and destroyed neighbouring kingdoms, their focus seems to have been on controlling and gaining a larger share of the commercial trade that passed through the archipelago. About the time Majapahit was founded, Muslim traders and proselytisers began entering the area. After its peak in the 14th century, Majapahit power began to decline and was unable to control the rising power of the Sultanate of Malacca. Dates for the end of the Majapahit Empire range from 1478 to 1520. A large number of courtiers, artisans, priests, and members of the royal family moved east to the island of Bali at the end of Majapahit power.
Although Muslim traders first traveled through South East Asia early in the Islamic era, the earliest evidence of Islamized populations in Indonesia dates to the 13th century in northern Sumatra. Although it is known that the spread of Islam began in the west of the archipelago, the fragmentary evidence does not suggest a rolling wave of conversion through adjacent areas; rather, it suggests the process was complicated and slow.The spread of Islam was driven by increasing trade links outside of the archipelago; in general, traders and the royalty of major kingdoms were the first to adopt the new religion.
Other Indonesian areas gradually adopted Islam, making it the dominant religion in Java and Sumatra by the end of the 16th century. For the most part, Islam overlaid and mixed with existing cultural and religious influences, which shaped the predominant form of Islam in Indonesia, particularly in Java.Only Bali retained a Hindu majority. In the eastern archipelago, both Christian and Islamic missionaries were active in the 16th and 17th centuries, and, currently, there are large communities of both religions on these islands.
Sultanate of Mataram
The cemetery compound of Mataram Sultans in Kota Gede, Yogyakarta.
The Sultanate of Mataram was the third Sultanate in Java, after the Sultanate of Demak Bintoro and the Sultanate of Pajang.
According to Javanese records, Kyai Gedhe Pamanahan became the ruler of the Mataram area in the 1570s with the support of the kingdom of Pajang to the east, near the current site of Surakarta (Solo). Pamanahan was often referred to as Kyai Gedhe Mataram after his ascension.
Pamanahan's son, Panembahan Senapati Ingalaga, replaced his father on the throne around 1584. Under Senapati the kingdom grew substantially through regular military campaigns against Mataram's neighbors. Shortly after his accession, for example, he conquered his father's patrons in Pajang.
The reign of Panembahan Seda ing Krapyak (c. 1601-1613), the son of Senapati, was dominated by further warfare, especially against powerful Surabaya, already a major center in East Java. The first contact between Mataram and the Dutch East India Company (VOC) occurred under Krapyak. Dutch activities at the time were limited to trading from limited coastal settlements, so their interactions with the inland Mataram kingdom were limited, although they did form an alliance against Surabaya in 1613. Krapyak died that year.
Krapyak was succeeded by his son, who is known simply as Sultan Agung ("Great Sultan") in Javanese records. Agung was responsible for the great expansion and lasting historical legacy of Mataram due to the extensive military conquests of his long reign from 1613 to 1646.
After years of war Agung finally conquered Surabaya. The city surrounded by land and sea and starved it into submission. With Surabaya brought into the empire, the Mataram kingdom encompassed all of central and eastern Java, and Madura; only in the west did Banten and the Dutch settlement in Batavia remain outside Agung's control. He tried repeatedly in the 1620s and 1630s to drive the Dutch from Batavia, but his armies had met their match, and he was forced to share control over Java.
In 1645 he began building Imogiri, his burial place, about fifteen kilometers south of Yogyakarta. Imogiri remains the resting place of most of the royalty of Yogyakarta and Surakarta to this day. Agung died in the spring of 1646, with his image of royal invincibility shattered by his losses to the Dutch, but he did leave behind an empire that covered most of Java and its neighboring islands.
Upon taking the throne, Agung's son Susuhunan Amangkurat I tried to bring long-term stability to Mataram's realm, murdering local leaders that were insufficiently deferential to him, and closing ports so he alone had control over trade with the Dutch.
By the mid-1670s dissatisfaction with the king fanned into open revolt. Raden Trunajaya, a prince from Madura, lead a revolt fortified by itinerant mercenaries from Makassar that captured the king's court at Mataram in mid-1677. The king escaped to the north coast with his eldest son, the future king Amangkurat II, leaving his younger son Pangeran Puger in Mataram. Apparently more interested in profit and revenge than in running a struggling empire, the rebel Trunajaya looted the court and withdrew to his stronghold in East Java leaving Puger in control of a weak court.
Amangkurat I died just after his expulsion, making Amangkurat II king in 1677. He too was nearly helpless, though, having fled without an army or treasury to build one. In an attempt to regain his kingdom, he made substantial concessions to the Dutch, who then went to war to reinstate him. For the Dutch, a stable Mataram empire that was deeply indebted to them would help ensure continued trade on favorable terms. They were willing to lend their military might to keep the kingdom together. Dutch forces first captured Trunajaya, then forced Puger to recognize the sovereignty of his elder brother Amangkurat II.
In 1524-25, Sunan Gunung Jati from Cirebon, together with the armies of Demak Sultanate, seized the port of Banten from the Sunda kingdom, and established The Sultanate of Banten. This was accompanied by Muslim preachers and the adoption of Islam amongst the local population. At its peak in the first half of the 17th century, the Sultanate lasted from 1526 to 1813 AD. The Sultanate left many archaeological remains and historical records.