This blog excerpted from Indonesia Survival kit to help anyone who wants to know a little about Indonesia


History of Indonesia – The Early Kingdoms: Srivijaya, Shailendra & Mataram

The Sumateran Buddhist kingdom of Srivijaya rose in the 7th century AD and while its power has been absurdly romanticized, it nevertheless maintained a substantial international trade – run by Tamils and Chinese. It was the first major Indonesian commercial seapower, able to control much of the trade in South-East Asia by virtue of its control of the Straits of Melaka between Sumatera and the Malay peninsula.

Merchants from Arabia, Persia and India brought goods to the coastal cities to exchange for both local products and goods from China and the spice islands. Silk, porcelain, Chinese rhubarb (peculiar for its medicinal properties) came from China in return for ivory, tortoise shell, rhinoceros horn, cloves, cardamom and pepper, as well as precious wood like ebony and camphor wood, perfumes, pearls, coral, camphor, amber and the dull reddish-white precious stone known as cornelian or chalcedony. Exports to Arabia included aloes for medicinal uses, camphor, sandalwood, ebony and sapanwood (from ehich a red dye is made), ivory, tin and spices. By the 13th century woolen and cotton cloth, as well as iron and rice were being imported by Sumatera.

Meanwhile, on Java, the Buddhist Shailendra and the Hindu Mataram dynasties flourished on the plains of Central Java between the 8th and 10th centuries. While Srivijaya’s trade brought it wealth, these land-based states had far greater manpower at their disposal and left magnificent remains, in particular the vast Buddhist monument of Borobudur and the huge Hindu temple complex of Prambanan.

Thus two types of states evolved in Indonesia. The first, typified by Srivijaya, were the mainly Sumateran coastal states-commercially oriented, their wealth derived from international trade, their cities highly cosmopolitan. In contrast, the inland kingdoms of Java, separated from the sea by volcanoes (like the kingdom of Mataram in the Solo River region), were agrarian cultures, bureaucratic, conservative, with a marked capacity to absorb and transform the Indian influences.

By the end of the 10th century, the centre of power had moved from Central to East Java where a series of kingdoms held sway until the rise of the Majapahit kingdom. This is the period when Hinduism and Buddhism were syncretised and when Javanese culture began to come into its own, finally spreading its influence to Bali. By the 12th century Srivijaya’s power seems to have declined and the empire broke up smaller kingdoms.

Blog Archive

Site Info


Welcome to Indonesia Archipelago Copyright © 2010 Blogger Template Sponsored by Trip and Travel Guide