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Malay history

Crivijaya Kingdom

A. History

The written history of Crivijaya Kingdom firstly appeared in the beginning of 20th century in a book entitled Le Royaume de Crivijaya in 1918 A.D. Actually, in 1913 A.D., Kern had shown to public about the existence of Kota Kapur inscription, an inscription from the era of Crivijaya Kingdom discovered in Bangka Island. Unfortunately, Kern, at the time, noticed that word Sriwijaya on the inscription is the name of king – as the word Sri used to be the nickname or honored title – but actually it is the name of kingdom.  

In 1896 A.D., Takakusu, a Japanese archaeologist, did translation It-sing, Nan-hai-chi-kuei-nai fa-chuan into English entitled A Record of the Buddhist Religion as Practised in India and the Malay Archipelago. Yet, there is no word Sriwijaya on this book, there was only Shih-li-fo-shih on it. Drawing a conclusion from the translation of Kota Kapur inscription and I-Tsing, which both of them contain Crivijaya and Shih-li-fo-shih, Coedes then states that Crivijaya was the name of a Kingdom in South Sumatra Province. Furthermore, the appropriate site of Crivijaya Kingdom was in Palembang based on the statement of Groeneveldt on his book entitled Notes on the Malay Archipelago and Malacca, Compiled from Chinese Source stating that the word San-fo-tsi means Palembang. Another reference from Beal in 1886 A.D. states that Shih-li-fo-shih was a place on the riverside of the Musi River, nearby Palembang City. Hence, recently, the historians argue that Palembang was the center of Crivijaya Kingdom.

Another source supporting the statement that Palembang was the center of Crivijaya Kingdom is Telaga Batu inscription. It is pentagonal stone with seven cobra snakes’ head above it and a small spurting-water called cerat beneath the inscription. Many archaeologists believed that the inscription was used in the inauguration of royal officials while uttering allegiant oath. In the ceremony, royal officials were asked for drinking the water spurting out from the inscription. Considering the importance of the inscription as the pivotal instrument in the inauguration process, the inscription was located in the center of village. The Inscription was discovered in 1918 A.D.; then the assumption came to appear that the center of Crivijaya Kingdom was in Palembang City.

The discovery of earthenware and ceramic appliances in Talang Kikim, Tanjung Rawa, Siguntang Hill and Kambang Unglen and likewise at the most part of Palembang city, made the assumption of Palembang City as the proper location of Crivijaya Kingdom became stronger. Such appliances were commonly found in the daily life of people at the time. Then, those will support the argument that there was an ancient settlement in Palembang at the time, noticed as Crivijaya Kingdom. Taking a view from the air of Palembang’s landscape, it will be clearly seen that the west of Palembang City shows some pool and canal. Those are regarded as the human-made, not shaped out naturally. The argument of Palembang as the center of Crivijaya Kingdom at the time becomes stronger.

As the center of Crivijaya Kingdom, the condition of Palembang at the time was just a rural area where the main materials for building houses were woods and bamboo. In contrast, many kingdoms in South East Asia, such as Thailand, Cambodia, and Myanmar, in fact, built their kingdoms in elegant shape. Therefore, the remain traces of Crivijaya Kingdom are totally hard to found as the flammable nature of woods. However, it is still open the possibilities that the remain traces of Crivijaya Kingdom will be found in swamp areas and river, not in the mainland of the city like Ujung Pluncu, Batanghari District, Jambi Province. Though some sacred buildings such as Gedingsuro, Angsoka Temple, and Siguntang Hill in Palembang used bricks and stones, the remain traces of those ancient buildings were only the foundations.

As the time goes by, other historical data dealing with the existence of Crivijaya Kingdom were found one after another. There are Karang Birahi Inscription (1904 A.D.), Telaga Batu Inscription (1918 A.D.), Kedukan Bukit Inscription (1920 A.D.), Talang Tua Inscription (1920 A.D.), and Boom Baru Inscription. Amongst those inscriptions, Kota Kapur Inscription was the oldest one (682 A.D.), telling the sacred journey of Dapunta Hyang together with two laksa (20.000 soldiers) with 200 cases of provision and also 1.213 walking soldiers, from Minahasa to Mukha-p. Having arrived at Mukha-p, Dapunta Hyang’s retinue then established a wanua (settlement) given the name Crivijaya.

Other sources coming from China and Arab made those above data stronger. A note on I-Tsing is the most frequently used sources to reveal the history of Crivijaya Kingdom. I-Tsing was a Chinese monk visiting and settling in Crivijaya in 671 A.D. for six months. On his note, it was more than a thousand monks in Crivijaya Kingdom in which there are similarities in the rule and ceremony of Buddhist monks in India. In Crivijaya, he learned Sanskrit Language before he moved to Nalanda, India. After a long term of learning Buddha in Nalanda, India, he went back to Crivijaya Kingdom to translate Buddhist manuscripts into Chinese. Based on another Chinese source, 988 A.D. was the last year of visit of Crivijaya’s envoy who frequently visited China.

In addition, a note from Arab says Crivijaya as Sribuza. Mas’udi, an Arabian historical expert wrote some important moments of Crivijaya Kingdom in 955 A.D. On his note, he described Crivijaya Kingdom as a prosperous Kingdom having numerous troops. The main commodities of Crivijaya Kingdom were mothball, eaglewood, sandalwood, nutmeg, cardamom, Gambier, and many more.

Taking a conclusion from those data above, we know that Crivijaya Kingdom was a great kingdom with vast territories and market relations even to Madagascar at the time. Other supporting sources like statues, stupika, and inscriptions affirm that Crivijaya Kingdom had a good relations and communications with merchants coming from China, India, and Arab. Such ability might be only done by great kingdom having enormous influence.

In the 11th century, Crivijaya Kingdom began deteriorating. In 1006 A.D., Crivijaya Kingdom was attacked by Dharmawangsa from East Java. Fortunately, they were capable of repelling Dharmawangsa by carrying out retaliatory attack. Moreover, in 1025 A.D., Crivijaya Kingdom suffered an all-out attack from Cola Kingdom. However, they couldn’t be defeated with ease. By the 13th century, Crivijaya still existed though the influence decreased gradually. 

B. Kings of the Kingdom

One of many ways to expand the influence of a kingdom was by conducting “marriage” into other kingdoms. Such concept was also conducted by Crivijaya Kingdom. Dapunta Hyang – holding the role since 664 A.D. – got married with Sobakancana, the second daughter of Tarumanegara King named Linggawarman. From the marriage, bore a son who later on be the next king of Crivijaya Kingdom, Dharma Setu. The daughter of Dharma Setu was married off to the son of Old Mataram Kingdom – the dynasty of Sailendra – namely Samaratungga. From the marriage with Samaratungga, bore Bala Putra Dewa who later on be the king of Crivijaya Kingdom during 833 A.D. to 856 A.D. Below the kings of Crivijaya Kingdom:

  1. Cri Indrawarman (Chinese News, 724 A.D.).
  2. Rudrawikrama (Chinese News, 728 A.D., 742 A.D.).
  3. Wishnu (Ligor Inscription, 775 A.D.).
  4. Maharaja (Arab News, 851 A.D.).
  5. Balaputradewa (Nalanda Inscription, 860 A.D.).
  6. Cri Udayadityawarman (Chinese News, 960 A.D.).
  7. Cri Udayaditya (Chinese News, 962 A.D.).
  8. Cri Cudamaniwarmadewa (Chinese News, 1003 A.D., Leiden Inscription, 1044 A.D.).
  9. Maraviyayatunggawarman (Leiden Insription, 1044 A.D.).
  10. Cri Sanggaramawijayatunggawarman (Chola Inscription, 1044 A.D.).

C. Kingdom Period

Crivijaya Kingdom existed during the 7th century to 13th century with the golden era on the tenure of Balaputra Dewa (833 A.D. – 856 A.D.). The kindom ceased to exist for the coming of Islam in Sumatra Island and the emergence of Singosari Kingdom and Majapahit Kingdom in Java Island.

D. Kingdom Territory

Crivijaya Kingdom’s territorial areas encompassed the entire west coast of Nusantara (Malay Archipelago). The decline of Fu-nan Kingdom was an important event in broadening the Crivijaya’s territories. Previously, Fu-nan Kingdom was the main power holding the power of world commerce in Malacca Straits. The armada of Crivijaya Kingdom also gave so much contribution to the expansion of Crivijaya’s territories. They conquered the traffic line of international commerce between India and China. As a consequence, they were able to widen their territory even to Java Island – another sources said to Brunei in Borneo Island (Kalimantan).

The effort of Crivijaya Kingdom in conquering Bumi Jawa (Java Island) is stated on Kota Kapur Inscription discovered by JK Van der Neulen in Bangka Island on December 1892 A.D. The obscured meaning of the word Bhuni Jawa on this inscription, based on many archaeologists, was assumed as Tarumanegara Kingdom, on the north coast of West Java. The physical evidences of Crivijaya’s territories can be found on some places where those inscriptions were found. Those areas are Lampung (Palas Pasemah Inscription), Jambi (Karang Berahi Inscription), Bangka (Kota Kapur Inscription) and Riau (Muara Takus Temple). Moreover, another source states that the territory of Crivijaya Kingdom even encompassed the Philippines.

E. Kingdom Structure

The supreme authority in Crivijaya Kingdom was held by a king. At least there were three requirements for becoming a king in Crivijaya Kingdom:

  1. Samraj, people’s sovereignty
  2. Indratvam, ruling like Indra deity, giving prosperity to the people
  3. Ekachattra, protecting the people. Eka means one, and chattra means umbrella.

The equalization of Crivijaya king to Indra deity showed the position of Crivijaya kings that was transcendent.  The lower position under the king has not been revealed yet while the assistant of the king was senapati who likewise worked as a war commander.

F. Socio-cultural Life

At least there were thousand monks in Crivijaya Kingdom based on the note of I-Tsing. In the first journey, I-Tsing settled in Crivijaya Kingdom for six months to learn Sanskrit Language before deepening his knowledge about Buddha in India. After coming back from Nalanda, India, I-Tsing began settling for the second time in Crivijaya for seven years during 688 A.D. – 695 A.D. During his settling in Crivijaya, he wrote two monumental works, Ta T’ang si-yu-ku-fa-kao-seng-shuan and Nan-hai-shi-kuei-nei-fa-chuan (A record of the Buddhist Religion as Practiced in India and the Malay Archipelago) that were finished in 692 A.D. From those evidences, we know that Crivijaya was not a significant Buddha study center at the time.

By the beginning of the 11th century, Crivijaya Kingdom was the center for study on Buddha Mahayana. In correlation with India, Crivijaya kings built a sacred Buddhist building in India. It was proven by the discovery of Dewapaladewa Inscription (9th century) in Nalanda – stating that Balaputradewa king from Suwarnadwipa (Crivijaya) built a monastery in Nalanda – and Raja Rajaraja I Inscription in (1044 A.D. and 1046 A.D.). The last one tells about Kataha King and Crivijaya Kingdom, Marawijayayottunggawarman who gave a village to Buddha as a present in Cudamaniwarna, Nagipattana, India.

In the case of international commerce, Crivijaya Kingdom had tide relationship with China, India, Arab, and Madagascar. It is proven by the finding of Chinese specie, from the Song Dynasty (960 A.D. – 1279 A.D.) until the Ming Dynasty (14th – 17th century). Grappling with the commodities of Crivijaya Kingdom, Arab News from Ibn al-Farikh (902 A.D.), Abu Zayd (916 A.D.) and Mas’udi (995 A.D.) state that Crivijaya’s commodities were nutmeg, pepper, areca nut, mothball, eaglewood, sandalwood, cardamom, Gambier, ivory, tin, gold, silver, sapan wood, spices and turtle. Those were either sold to foreign merchants or bartered for porcelain, cotton, and silk.

(NI/ter/04/05-08)

Source :

  1. Slamet Muljana, Sriwijaya, Yogyakarta: LkiS
  2. D.G.E. Hall, Sejarah Asia Tenggara. Surabaya: Usaha Nasional.
  3. Ensiklopedi Nasional Indonesia
  4. Tim Universitas Riau, Sejarah Riau, Yogyakarta: Adicita Karya Nusa
  5. Rakaryan Sukarjaputra, Kompas: 29 Juni 2001
  6. Wikipedia
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