The name Majapahit derives from local Javanese, meaning "bitter maja". German orientalist Berthold Laufer suggested that maja came from the Javanese name of Aegle marmelos, an Indonesian tree. The name originally referred to the area in and around Trowulan, the cradle of Majapahit, which was linked to the establishment of a village in Tarik timberland by Raden Wijaya. It was said that the workers clearing the Tarik timberland encountered some bael trees and consumed its bitter-tasting fruit that subsequently become the village's name. In ancient Java it is common to refer the kingdom with its capital's name. Majapahit (sometimes also spelled Mojopait) is also known by other names: Wilwatikta, although sometimes the natives refer to their kingdom as Bhumi Jawa or mandala Jawa instead.
Little physical evidence of Majapahit remains, and some details of the history are rather abstract. Nevertheless, local Javanese people did not forget Majapahit completely, as Mojopait is mentioned vaguely in Babad Tanah Jawi, a Javanese chronicle composed in the 18th century. Majapahit did produce physical evidence: the main ruins dating from the Majapahit period are clustered in the Trowulan area, which was the royal capital of the kingdom. The Trowulan archaeological site was discovered in the 19th century by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, Lieutenant-Governor of British Java of British East India Company from 1811 to 1816. He reported the existence of "ruins of temples.... scattered about the country for many miles", and referred to Trowulan as "this pride of Java".
By the early 20th century, Dutch colonial historians began to study old Javanese and Balinese literature to explore the past of their colony. Two primary sources were available to them: the Pararaton ('Book of Kings') manuscript was written in the Kawi language c. 1600, and Nagarakretagama (Desawarnaña) was composed in Old Javanese in 1365. Pararaton focuses on Ken Arok, the founder of Singhasari, but includes a number of shorter narrative fragments about the formation of Majapahit. The Nagarakretagama is an old Javanese epic poem written during the Majapahit golden age under the reign of Hayam Wuruk, after which some events are covered narratively. The Dutch acquired the manuscript in 1894 during their military expedition against the Cakranegara royal house of Lombok. There are also some inscriptions in Old Javanese and Chinese.
The Javanese sources incorporate some poetic mythological elements, and scholars such as C. C. Berg, an Indonesia-born Dutch naturalist, have considered the entire historical record to be not a record of the past, but a supernatural means by which the future can be determined. Most scholars do not accept this view, as the historical record corresponds with Chinese materials that could not have had similar intention. The list of rulers and details of the state structure show no sign of being invented.
The Chinese historical sources on Majapahit, mainly owed to Zheng He's account — a Ming dynasty admiral reports during his visit to Majapahit. Zheng He's translator Ma Huan wrote a detailed description of Majapahit and where the king of Java lived. The report was composed and collected in Yingyai Shenglan, which provides a valuable insight on the culture, customs, also various social and Economic aspects of Chao-Wa (Java) during Majapahit period.
The Trowulan archaeological area has become the center for the study of Majapahit history. The aerial and satellite imagery has revealed extensive network of canals criss-crossing the Majapahit capital. Recent archaeological findings from April 2011 indicate the Majapahit capital was much larger than previously believed after some artefacts were uncovered.
After defeating the Melayu Kingdom in Sumatra in 1290, Singhasari became the most powerful kingdom in the region. Kublai Khan, the Great Khan of the Mongol Empire and the Emperor of the Mongol Yuan Dynasty, challenged Singhasari by sending emissaries demanding tribute. Kertanegara, the last ruler of Singhasari, refused to pay the tribute, insulted the Mongol envoy, and challenged the Khan instead. In response, Kublai Khan sent a massive expedition of 1,000 ships to Java in 1293.
By that time, Jayakatwang, the Adipati (Duke) of Kediri, a vassal state of Singhasari, had usurped and killed Kertanagara. After being pardoned by Jayakatwang with the aid of Madura's regent, Arya Wiraraja; Raden Wijaya, Kertanegara's son-in-law, was given the land of Tarik timberland. He then opened the vast timberland and built a new village there. The village was named Majapahit, which was taken from the name of a fruit that had a bitter taste (maja is the fruit name and pahit means bitter). When the Mongolian Yuan army sent by Kublai Khan arrived, Wijaya allied himself with the army to fight against Jayakatwang. Once Jayakatwang was destroyed, Raden Wijaya forced his allies to withdraw from Java by launching a surprise attack. Yuan's army had to withdraw in confusion as they were in hostile territory. It was also their last chance to catch the monsoon winds home; otherwise, they would have had to wait for another six months.
In 1293, Raden Wijaya founded a stronghold with the capital Majapahit. The exact date used as the birth of the Majapahit kingdom is the day of his coronation, the 15th of Kartika month in the year 1215 using the Javanese çaka calendar, which equates to 10 November 1293. During his coronation he was given the formal name Kertarajasa Jayawardhana. King Kertarajasa took all four daughters of Kertanegara as his wives, his first wife and prime queen consort Tribhuwaneswari, and her sisters; Prajnaparamita, Narendraduhita, and Gayatri Rajapatni the youngest. He also took a Sumatran Malay Dharmasraya princess named Dara Petak as his wife. The new kingdom faced challenges. Some of Kertarajasa's most trusted men, including Ranggalawe, Sora, and Nambi rebelled against him, though unsuccessfully. It was suspected that the Mahapati (a title equal to prime minister) Halayudha set the conspiracy to overthrow all of his rivals in the court, led them to revolt against the king, while he himself gained king's favour and attained the highest position in the government. However, following the death of the last rebel Kuti, Halayudha's treachery was exposed, subsequently he was captured, jailed for his stratagems and then sentenced to death. Wijaya himself died in 1309.
According to tradition, Wijaya's son and successor, Jayanegara, was notorious for immorality. One of his distasteful acts was his desire to took his own stepsisters — Tribhuwana and Rajadewi, as wives. The practice of half siblings marriage is abhorred Javanese tradition, subsequently the council of royal elders speak strongly against king's wishes. It was not clear the motivation of Jayanegara's wish — it might be his way to ensure his throne legitimacy by preventing rivals from his half sisters' suitors. Although in Majapahit court in later period, the custom of marriage among cousins was quite common. In Pararaton, he was entitled as Kala Gemet, or "weak villain". Approximately during Jayanegara's reign, the Italian Friar Odoric of Pordenone visited the Majapahit court in Java.
In 1328, Jayanegara was murdered by his physician, Tanca, during a surgical operation. In tumult, Gajah Mada immediately killed Tanca. Since the slain king was childless, he left no successor. His stepmother, Gayatri Rajapatni — the most revered matriarch of Majapahit court, was supposed to took the helm. However, Rajapatni had retired from worldly affairs to become a Bhikkhuni. Rajapatni appointed her daughter, Tribhuwana Wijayatunggadewi, or known in her formal name as Tribhuwannottungadewi Jayawishnuwardhani, as the queen of Majapahit under Rajapatni's auspices. Tribhuwana appointed Gajah Mada as the Prime Minister in 1336. During his inauguration Gajah Mada declared his Sumpah Palapa, revealing his plan to expand Majapahit realm and building an empire.
During Tribhuwana’s rule, the Majapahit kingdom grew much larger and became famous in the area. Under the initiative of her able and ambitious prime minister, Gajah Mada, Majapahit sent its armada to conquer the neighbouring island of Bali. According to the Babad Arya Tabanan manuscript, in 1342 Majapahit forces led by Gajah Mada, assisted by his general Arya Damar, the regent of Palembang, landed in Bali. After seven months of battles, Majapahit forces defeated the Balinese king and captured the Balinese capital of Bedulu in 1343. After the conquest of Bali, Majapahit distributed the governing authority of Bali among Arya Damar's younger brothers, Arya Kenceng, Arya Kutawandira, Arya Sentong, and Arya Belog. Arya Kenceng led his brothers to govern Bali under Majapahit suzerainty, and he would become the progenitor of the Balinese kings of the Tabanan and Badung royal houses. Through this campaign, Majapahit planted a vassal dynasty that would rule the Bali Kingdom in the following centuries. Tribhuwana ruled Majapahit until the death of her mother in 1350. She abdicated the throne in favour of her son, Hayam Wuruk.
Hayam Wuruk, also known as Rajasanagara, ruled Majapahit in 1350–89. During this period, Majapahit attained its peak with the help of prime minister Gajah Mada. Under Gajah Mada's command (1313–64), Majapahit conquered more territories and became the regional power. According to the Nagarakretagama, canto XIII and XIV mentioned several states in Sumatra, Malay Peninsula, Borneo, Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara islands, Maluku, New Guinea, Mindanao, Sulu Archipelago and some parts of the Visayas islands as under Majapahit realm of power. This expansion marked the greatest extent of Majapahit, making it one of the most influential empires in the Indonesian history. It is considered as a commercial trading empire in the civilisation of Asia.
Along with launching naval and Military expeditions, the expansion of the Majapahit Empire also involved diplomacy and alliance. Hayam Wuruk decided, probably for political reasons, to take princess Citra Rashmi (Dyah Pitaloka) of neighbouring Sunda Kingdom as his consort. The Sundanese took this proposal as an alliance agreement. In 1357 the Sunda king and his royal family came to Majapahit to accompany and marry his daughter to Hayam Wuruk. However, Gajah Mada saw this event as an opportunity to demand Sunda's submission to Majapahit overlordship. The skirmish between the Sunda royal family and the Majapahit troops on Bubat square was inevitable. Despite courageous resistance, the royal family were overwhelmed and decimated. Almost the whole of the Sundanese royal party were killed. Tradition mentioned that the heartbroken princess committed suicide to defend the honour of her country. The Battle of Bubat, or the Pasunda Bubat tragedy, became the main theme of Kidung Sunda, also mentioned in Carita Parahyangan and Pararaton, however it was never mentioned in Nagarakretagama.
The Nagarakretagama, written in 1365, depicts a sophisticated court with refined taste in art and literature and a complex system of religious rituals. The poet describes Majapahit as the centre of a huge mandala extending from New Guinea and Maluku to Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula. Local traditions in many parts of Indonesia retain accounts of 14th-century Majapahit's power in more or less legendary form. The direct administration of Majapahit did not extend beyond east Java and Bali, but challenges to Majapahit's claim to overlordship in outer islands drew forceful responses.
In an effort to revive the fortune of Malayu in Sumatra, in the 1370s, a Malay ruler of Palembang sent an envoy to the court of the first emperor of the newly established Ming dynasty. He invited China to resume the tributary system, just like Srivijaya did several centuries earlier. Learning this diplomatic maneuver, immediately King Hayam Wuruk sent an envoy to Nanking, convinced the emperor that Malayu was their vassal, and was not an independent country. Subsequently in 1377—a few years after the death of Gajah Mada, Majapahit sent a punitive naval attack against a rebellion in Palembang, contributing to the end of Srivijayan successor kingdom. Gajah Mada's other renowned general was Adityawarman, known for his conquest in Minangkabau.
In the 14th century a Malay Kingdom of Singapura was established, and it promptly attracted a Majapahit navy that regarded it as Tumasik, a rebellious colony. Singapura was finally sacked by Majapahit in 1398. The last king, Sri Iskandar Shah, fled to the west coast of the Malay Peninsula to establish the Melaka Sultanate in 1400.
The nature of the Majapahit empire and its extent is subject to debate. It may have had limited or entirely notional influence over some of the tributary states, including Sumatra, the Malay Peninsula, Kalimantan, and eastern Indonesia, over which authority was claimed in the Nagarakretagama. Geographical and economic constraints suggest that rather than a regular centralised authority, the outer states were most likely to have been connected mainly by trade connections, which were probably a royal monopoly. It also claimed relationships with Champa, Cambodia, Siam, southern Burma, and Vietnam, and even sent missions to China.
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.
Following Hayam Wuruk's death in 1389, Majapahit power entered a period of decline with conflict over succession. Hayam Wuruk was succeeded by the crown princess Kusumawardhani, who married a relative, Prince Wikramawardhana. Hayam Wuruk also had a son from his previous marriage, crown prince Wirabhumi, who also claimed the throne. A civil war, called Paregreg, is thought to have occurred from 1405 to 1406. Wikramawardhana was victorious and Wirabhumi was caught and decapitated. The civil war weakened Majapahit's grip on its outer vassals and colonies.
During the reign of Wikramawardhana, a series of Ming armada naval expeditions led by Zheng He, a Muslim Chinese admiral, arrived in Java several times spanning the period from 1405 to 1433. By 1430, the expeditions had established Muslim Chinese and Arab communities in northern ports of Java such as Semarang, Demak, Tuban, and Ampel; thus Islam began to gain a foothold on the northern coast of Java.
Wikramawardhana ruled until 1426 and was succeeded by his daughter Suhita, who ruled from 1426 to 1447. She was the second child of Wikramawardhana by a concubine who was the daughter of Wirabhumi. In 1447, Suhita died and was succeeded by Kertawijaya, her brother. He ruled until 1451. After Kertawijaya died, Bhre Pamotan became a king with formal name Rajasawardhana and ruled at Kahuripan. He died in 1453. A three-year kingless period was possibly the result of a succession crisis. Girisawardhana, son of Kertawijaya, came to power in 1456. He died in 1466 and was succeeded by Singhawikramawardhana. In 1468 Prince Kertabhumi rebelled against Singhawikramawardhana, promoting himself king of Majapahit. Singhawikramawardhana moved the kingdom’s capital further inland to Daha (the former capital of Kediri Kingdom), effectively splitting Majapahit, under Bhre Kertabumi in Trowulan and Singhawikramawardhana in Daha. Singhawikramawardhana continued his rule until he was succeeded by his son Ranawijaya in 1474.
In the western part of the crumbling empire, Majapahit found itself unable to control the rising power of the Sultanate of Malacca that in the mid-15th century began to gain effective control of Malacca Strait and expand its influence to Sumatra. Several other former Majapahit vassals and colonies began to release themselves from Majapahit domination and suzerainty. But Kertabhumi managed to reverse this event, under his rule he allied Majapahit with Muslim merchants, giving them trading rights on the north coast of Java, with Demak as its centre and in return he asked for their loyalty to Majapahit. This policy boosted the Majapahit treasury and power but weakened Hindu-Buddhism as its main religion because Islam spread faster. Hindu-Buddhist followers' grievances later paved the way for Ranawijaya to defeat Kertabumi.
Dates for the end of the Majapahit Empire range from 1478 (that is, 1400 Saka, the ends of centuries being considered a time when changes of dynasty or courts normally ended) to 1517. Actually that was the year when a Ranawijaya army under general Udara (who later became vice-regent) breached Trowulan defences and killed Kertabumi in his palace, Demak sent reinforcements under Sunan Ngudung, who later died in battle and was replaced by Sunan Kudus, but they came too late to save Kertabumi although they managed to repel the Ranawijaya army. This event is mentioned in Trailokyapuri (Jiwu) and Petak inscription, where Ranawijaya claimed that he already defeated Kertabhumi and reunited Majapahit as one Kingdom. Ranawijaya ruled from 1474 to 1498 with the formal name Girindrawardhana, with Udara as his vice-regent. This event led to the war between the Sultanate of Demak and Daha, since Demak rulers were descendants of Kertabhumi.
In 1498, there was a turning point when Girindrawardhana was deposed by his vice regent, Udara. After this coup, the war between Demak and Daha receded, with some sources saying Raden Patah left Majapahit alone as his father had done before, while others said Udara agreed to become a vassal of Demak, even marrying Raden Patah's youngest daughter. But this delicate balance ended when Udara asked Portugal for help in Malacca and forced Demak to attack Malacca and Daha under Adipati Yunus to end this co-operation. A large number of courtiers, artisans, priests, and members of the royalty moved east to the island of Bali. The refugees probably fled to avoid Demak retribution for their support for Ranawijaya against Kertabhumi.
With the fall of Daha, crushed by Demak in 1517, the Muslim emerging forces finally defeated the remnants of the Majapahit kingdom in the early 16th century. Demak came under the leadership of Raden (later crowned as Sultan) Patah (Arabic name: Fatah), who was acknowledged as the legitimate successor of Majapahit. According to Babad Tanah Jawi and Demak tradition, the source of Patah's legitimacy was because their first sultan, Raden Patah, was the son of Majapahit king Brawijaya V with a Chinese concubine. Another argument supports Demak as the successor of Majapahit; the rising Demak sultanate was easily accepted as the nominal regional ruler, as Demak was the former Majapahit vassal and located near the former Majapahit realm in Eastern Java.
Demak established itself as the regional power and the first Islamic sultanate in Java. After the fall of Majapahit, the Hindu kingdoms in Java only remained in Blambangan on the eastern edge and Pajajaran in the western part. Gradually Hindu communities began to retreat to the mountain ranges in East Java and also to the neighbouring island of Bali. A small enclave of Hindu communities still remain in the Tengger mountain range.
The main event of the administrative calendar took place on the first day of the month of Caitra (March–April) when representatives from all territories paying tax or tribute to Majapahit came to the capital to pay court. Majapahit's territories were roughly divided into three types: the palace and its vicinity; the areas of east Java and Bali which were directly administered by officials appointed by the king; and the outer dependencies which enjoyed substantial internal autonomy.
The capital Trowulan, was grand and known for its great annual festivities. Buddhism, Shaivism, and Vaishnavism were all practised: the king was regarded as the incarnation of the three. The Nagarakretagama does not mention Islam, but there were certainly Muslim courtiers by this time.
The first European record about Majapahit came from the travel log of the Italian Mattiussi, a Franciscan monk. In his book: "Travels of Friar Odoric of Pordenone", he visited several places in today's Indonesia: Sumatra, Java, and Banjarmasin in Borneo, between 1318–1330. He was sent by the Pope to launch a mission into the Asian interiors. In 1318 he departed from Padua, crossed the Black Sea into Persia, all the way across Calcutta, Madras, and Sri Lanka. He then headed to Nicobar island all the way to Sumatra, before visiting Java and Banjarmasin. He returned to Italy by land through Vietnam, China, all the way through the silkroad to Europe in 1330.
In his book he mentioned that he visited Java without explaining the exact place he had visited. He said that king of Java ruled over seven other kings (vassals). He also mentioned that in this island was found a lot of clove, cubeb, nutmeg and many other spices. He mentioned that the King of Java had an impressive, grand, and luxurious palace. The stairs and palace interior were coated with gold and silver, and even the roofs were gilded. He also recorded that the kings of the Mongol had repeatedly tried to attack Java, but always ended up in failure and managed to be sent back to the mainland. The Javanese kingdom mentioned in this record is Majapahit, and the time of his visit is between 1318–1330 during the reign of Jayanegara.
In Yingyai Shenglan — a record about Zheng He's expedition (1405-1433) — Ma Huan describes the culture, customs, various social and economic aspects of Chao-Wa (Java) during Majapahit period. Ma Huan visited Java during Zheng He's 4th expedition in the 1413, during the reign of Majapahit king Wikramawardhana. He describes his travel to Majapahit capital, first he arrived to the port of Tu-pan (Tuban) where he saw large numbers of Chinese settlers migrated from Guangdong and Chou Chang. Then he sailed east to thriving new trading town of Ko-erh-hsi (Gresik), Su-pa-erh-ya (Surabaya), and then sailing inland into the river by smaller boat to southwest until reached the river port of Chang-ku (Changgu). Continued travel by land to southwest he arrived in Man-che-po-I (Majapahit), where the king stay. There are about 200 or 300 foreign families resides in this place, with seven or eight leaders to serve the king. The climate is constantly hot, like summer. He describes the king’s costumes; wearing a crown of gold leaves and flowers or sometimes without any headgear; bare-chested without wearing a robe, the bottom parts wears two sash of embroidered silk. Additional silk rope is looped around the waist as a belt, and the belt is inserted with one or two short blades, called pu-la-t'ou (belati or more precisely kris dagger), walking barefoot. When travelling outside, the king riding an elephant or an ox-drawn carriage.
Commoners’ clothing for men is without headgear and women arrange their hair as a bun secured with hairpin. They wore clothing on the upper body and wrapped unstitched fabrics around the bottom part, Men from a boy aged three to elders slipped pu-la-t'ou (dagger) in their belt. The dagger, made entirely of steel with intricate motifs smoothly drawn. The handles are made of gold, rhino’s horn or ivory carved with a depiction of human or demon, the carving works are exquisite and skilfully made.
Majapahit people, men and women, favoured their head. If someone was touched on his head, or if there is a misunderstanding or argument when drunk, they will instantly draw their knives and stab each other. When the one being stabbed was wounded and dead, the murderer will flee and hide for three days, then he will not lose his life. But if he was caught during the fight, he will instantly stabbed to death (execution by stabbing). The country of Majapahit knows no caning for major or minor punishment. They tied the guilty men on his hands in the back with rattan rope and paraded them, and then stabbed the offender in the back where there is a floating rib which resulted in instant death. Judicial executions of this kind were frequent.
Population of the country did not have a bed or chair to sit, and to eat they do not use a spoon or chopsticks. Men and women enjoy chewing betel nut mixed with, betel leaves, and white chalk made from ground mussels shells. They eat rice for meal, first they took a scoop of water and soak betel in their mouth, then wash their hands and sit down to make a circle; getting a plate of Rice soaked in butter (probably coconut milk) and gravy, and eat using hands to lift the rice and put it in their mouth. When receiving guests, they will offer the guests, not the tea, but with betel nut.
The population consisted of Muslim merchants from the west (Arab and Muslim Indians, but mostly those from Muslim states in Sumatra), Chinese (claimed to be descendants of Tang dynasty), and unrefined locals. The king held annual jousting tournaments. About the marriage rituals; the groom pays a visit to the house of the bride's family, the marriage union is consummated. Three days later, the groom escorts his bride back to his home, where the man’s family beat drums and brass gongs, blowing pipes made from coconut shells (senterewe), beating a drum made from bamboo tubes (probably a kind of bamboo gamelan or kolintang), and light fireworks. Escorted in front, behind, and around by men holding short blades and shields. While the bride is a matted-hair woman, with uncovered body and barefooted. She wraps herself in embroidered silk, wears a necklace around her neck adorned with gold beads, and bracelets on her wrist with ornaments of gold, silver and other precious ornaments. Family, friends and neighbours decorate a decorative boat with betel leaf, areca nut, reeds and flowers were sewn, and arrange a party to welcome the couple on such a festive occasion. When the groom arrives home, the gong and drum are sounded, they will drink wine (possibly arack or tuak) and play music. After a few days the festivities end.
About the burial rituals, the dead body was left on beach or empty land to be devoured by dogs (for lower-class), cremated, or committed into the waters (Javanese:larung). The upper-class performed suttee, a ritual suicide by widowed wives, concubines or female servants, through self immolation by throwing themselves into flaming cremation fire.
For the writing, they had known the alphabet using So-li (Chola - Coromandel/Southern India) letters. There is no paper or pen, they use Chiao-chang (kajang) or palm leaf (lontar), written by scraping it with a sharp knife. They also have a developed language system and grammar. The way the people talk in this country is very beautiful and soft.
In this record, Ma Huan also describes a musical troupes travelling during full moon nights. Numbers of people holding shoulders creating an unbroken line while singing and chanting in unison, while the families whose houses being visited would give them copper coins or gifts. He also describes a class of artisans that draws various images on paper and give a theatrical performance. The narrator tells the story of legends, tales and romance drawn upon a screen of rolled paper. This kind of performance is identified as wayang bébér, an art of story-telling that has survived for many centuries in Java.
The Pala school of art of the Indian Pala Empire influenced the art and architecture of Majapahit. Majapahit art was the continuation of East Javanese art, style and aesthetic developed since the 11th century during Kediri and Singhasari period. Unlike the earlier naturalistic, relaxed and flowing figures of classical Central Java style (Sailendra art c. 8th to 10th century), this east Javanese style are somehow demonstrate stiffer pose, stylised and rendered in wayang-like figures, such as those carved on east Javanese temple's bas-reliefs. The bas-reliefs projected rather flat from the background. This style was later preserved in Balinese art, especially in its classical paintings and Balinese wayang.
The statues of Hindu gods and Buddhist deities in Majapahit art were also the continuisation of its previous Singhasari art. The statues of East Javanese period tends to be stiffer and frontal-formal pose, compared to the statues of Central Javanese art (c. 9th century) that are more Indianized style, relaxed in tribhanga pose. The stiffer pose of Majapahit gods statues are probably in accordance to the statue's function as the deified portrayal self of the dead Majapahit monarch. The carving however, are richly decorated, especially with fine floral carving of lotus plants carved on the stela behind the statue. Examples of Majapahit statues are the Harihara statue from Simping temple, believed to be the deified portrayal of King Kertarajasa, the statue of Parwati believed to be the portrayal of Queen Tribhuwana, and statue of queen Suhita discovered at Jebuk, Kalangbret, Tulungagung, East Java.
Clay pottery and brick masonry are popular feature in Majapahit art and architecture. The Majapahit terracotta art also flourished in this period. Significant numbers of terracotta artefacts were discovered in Trowulan. The artefacts ranges from human and animal figurines, jars, vessels, water containers, piggy banks, bas reliefs, architectural ornaments, roof pinnacles, floor tiles, to pipes and roof tiles. One of the most interesting findings is Majapahit piggy bank. Several boar-shaped piggy banks has been discovered in Trowulan. It is probably the origin of Javanese-Indonesian word to refer for saving or money container. The word celengan in Javanese and Indonesian means both "savings" and "piggy bank". It was derived from the word celeng which means "wild boar", the suffix "-an" was added to denote its likeness. One important specimen is stored in National Museum of Indonesia, it has been reconstructed since this large piggy bank has been found broken to pieces.
Terracotta money boxes also has been found in different shapes, such as tubular or boxes, with slits to slip coins. Another important terracotta artefact is the head figurine of a man popularly thought to be the depiction of Gajah Mada, although it is not certain about who was depicted in these figurines.
In his book Yingyai Shenglan, Ma Huan also describes the Majapahit cities: most of them do not have walls surrounding the city or the suburbs. He describes the king's palace in Majapahit. The king’s residence is surrounded with thick red brick walls more than three chang high (about 30.5 feet or 9.3 metres), with length of more than 200 paces (340 yards or 310 metres) and on the wall there are two layers of gates, the palace is very well guarded and clean. The king's palace was a two storey building, each of them 3 or 4 chang high (9–14.5 metres or 30–48 feet). It had wooden plank floors and exposed mats made from rattan or reeds (presumably palm leaves), where people sat cross-legged. The roof was made of hardwood shingles (Javanese:sirap) laid as tiles.
The houses of commoners had thatched roofs (nipa palm leaves). Every family has a storage shed made of bricks, about 3 or 4 Ch'ih (48.9 inches or 124 centimetres) above the ground, where they kept the family property, and they lived on top of this building, to sit and sleep.
The Majapahit temple architecture follows the east Javanese styles, in contrast of earlier central Javanese style. This east Javanese temple style is also dated back from Kediri period c. 11th century. The shapes of Majapahit temples are tends to be slender and tall, with roof constructed from multiple parts of stepped sections formed a combined roof structure curved upward smoothly creating the perspective illussion that the temple is perceived taller than its actual height. The pinnacle of the temples are usually cube (mostly Hindu temples), sometimes dagoba cylindrical structures (Buddhist temples). Although some of temples dated from Majapahit period used andesite or sandstone, the red bricks is also a popular construction material.
Although brick had been used in the candi of Indonesia's classical age, it was Majapahit architects of the 14th and 15th centuries who mastered it. Making use of a vine sap and palm sugar mortar, their temples had a strong geometric quality. The example of Majapahit temples are Brahu temple in Trowulan, Pari in Sidoarjo, Jabung in Probolinggo, and Surawana temple near Kediri. Jabung temple was mentioned in Nagarakretagama as Bajrajinaparamitapura, despite some parts of its roof and pinnacles are now missing, it is one of the most well-preserved Majapahit temple architecture. Another example include Gunung Gangsir temple near Pasuruan. Some of the temples are dated from earlier period but renovated and expanded during Majapahit era, such as Penataran, the largest temple in East Java dated back to Kediri era. This temple was identified in Nagarakretagama as Palah temple and reported being visited by King Hayam Wuruk during his royal tour across East Java. Another notable temple of Eastern Javanese style is Jawi temple in Pandaan — also visited by King Hayam Wuruk, the temple was mentioned in Nagarakretagama as Jajawa, and was dedicated as mortuary temple for his great grandfather, King Kertanegara of Singhasari.
Some of typical architectural style are believed to be developed during Majapahit era; such as tall and slender roofed red brick gate commonly called as kori agung or paduraksa, and also split gate of candi bentar. The large split gate of Wringin Lawang located at Jatipasar, Trowulan, Mojokerto, East Java, is one of the oldest and the largest surviving candi bentar dated from Majapahit era. The candi bentar took shape of typical Majapahit temple structure—consists of three parts; foot, body and tall roof—evenly split into two mirroring structures to make a passage in the centre for people to walk through. This type of split gate has no doors and provides no real defensive purpose but narrowing the passage. It was probably only serve the ceremonial and aesthetic purpose, to create the sense of grandeur, before entering the next compound through tall roof paduraksa gate with enclosed door. The example of kori agung or paduraksa style gate is the elegant Bajang Ratu gate richly decorated with Kala demon, cyclops and also the bas-relief telling the story of Sri Tanjung. Those typical Majapahit architectural style has deeply influenced the Javanese and Balinese architecture of later period. The current prevalence of Majapahit style pendopo pavilion, candi bentar and paduraksa gates, was owed to the influence of Majapahit aesthetics on Javanese and Balinese architecture.
In later period near the fall of Majapahit, the art and architecture of Majapahit witnessed the revival of indigenous native Austronesian megalithic architectural elements, such as Sukuh and Cetho temples on western slopes of Mount Lawu. Unlike previous Majapahit temples that demonstrate typical Hindu architecture of high-rise towering structure, the shape of these temples are step pyramid, quite similar to Mesoamerican pyramids. The stepped pyramid structure called Punden Berundak (stepped mounds) is a common megalithic structure during Indonesian prehistoric era before the adoption of Hindu-Buddhist culture.
Also in Yingyai Shenglan, Ma Huan reported the Javanese Economy and market. Rice is harvested twice a year, and its grain is small. They also harvest white sesame and lentils, but there is no wheat. This land produces sapan wood (useful to produce red dye), diamond, sandalwood, incense, puyang pepper, cantharides (green beetles used for medicine), steel, turtles, tortoise shell, strange and rare birds; such as a large parrot as big as a hen, red and green parrots, five-colored parrots, (all of them can imitate the human voice), also guinea fowl, ' bird hanging upside down ', five-coloured pigeon, peacock, 'betel tree bird', pearl bird, and green pigeons. The beasts here are strange: there are white deer, white monkey, and various other animals. Pigs, goats, cattle, horses, poultries, and there are all types of ducks, however donkeys and geese are not found.
For the fruits, there are all kinds of bananas, coconut, sugarcane, pomegranate, lotus, mang-chi-shi (manggis or mangosteen), watermelon and lang Ch'a (langsat or lanzones). Mang-chi-shi – is something like a pomegranate, peel it like an orange, it has four lumps of white flesh, sweet and sour taste and very delicious. Lang-ch’a is a fruit similar to Loquat, but larger, contained three blocky white flesh with sweet and sour taste. Sugarcane has white stems, large and coarse, with roots reaching 3 chang (30 feet 7 inches). In addition, all types of squash and vegetables are there, just a shortage of peach, plum and leek.
Taxes and fines were paid in cash. Javanese economy had been partly monetised since the late 8th century, using gold and silver coins. Previously, the 9th-century Wonoboyo hoard discovered in Central Java shows that ancient Javan gold coins were seed-shaped, similar to corn, while the silver coins were similar to buttons. In about the year 1300, in the reign of Majapahit's first king, an important change took place: the indigenous coinage was completely replaced by imported Chinese copper cash. About 10,388 ancient Chinese coins weighing about 40 kg were even unearthed from the backyard of a local commoner in Sidoarjo in November 2008. Indonesian Ancient Relics Conservation Bureau (BP3) of East Java verified that those coins dated as early as Majapahit era. The reason for using foreign currency is not given in any source, but most scholars assume it was due to the increasing complexity of Javanese economy and a desire for a Currency system that used much smaller denominations suitable for use in everyday market transactions. This was a role for which gold and silver are not well suited. These kepeng Chinese coins were thin rounded copper coins with a square hole in the centre of it. The hole was meant to tie together the money in a string of coins. These small changes—the imported Chinese copper coins—enabled Majapahit further invention, a method of savings by using a slitted earthenware coin containers. These are commonly found in Majapahit ruins, the slit is the small opening to put the coins in. The most popular shape is boar-shaped celengan (piggy bank).
Some idea of scale of the internal economy can be gathered from scattered data in inscriptions. The Canggu inscriptions dated 1358 mentions 78 ferry crossings in the country (mandala Java). Majapahit inscriptions mention a large number of occupational specialities, ranging from gold and silver smiths to drink vendors and butchers. Although many of these occupations had existed in earlier times, the proportion of the population earning an income from non-agrarian pursuits seems to have become even greater during the Majapahit era.
The great prosperity of Majapahit was probably due to two factors. Firstly, the northeast lowlands of Java were suitable for rice cultivation, and during Majapahit's prime numerous irrigation projects were undertaken, some with government assistance. Secondly, Majapahit's ports on the north coast were probably significant stations along the route to obtain the spices of Maluku, and as the spices passed through Java they would have provided an important source of income for Majapahit.
The Nagarakretagama states that the fame of the ruler of Wilwatikta (a synonym for Majapahit) attracted foreign merchants from far and wide, including Indians, Khmers, Siamese, and Chinese among others. While in later period, Yingyai Shenglan mentioned that large numbers of Chinese traders and Muslim merchants from west (from Arab and India, but mostly from Muslim states in Sumatra and Malay peninsula) are settling in Majapahit port cities, such as Tuban, Gresik and Hujung Galuh (Surabaya). A special tax was levied against some foreigners, possibly those who had taken up semi-permanent residence in Java and conducted some type of enterprise other than foreign trade. The Majapahit Empire had trading links with Chinese Ming dynasty, Annam and Champa in today Vietnam, Cambodia, Siamese Ayutthayan, Burmese Martaban and the south Indian Vijayanagara Empire.
During the reign of Hayam Wuruk, Majapahit employed a well-organised bureaucratic structure for administrative purposes. The hierarchy and structure relatively remain intact and unchanged throughout Majapahit history. The king is the paramount ruler, as the chakravartin he is considered as the universal ruler and believed to be the living god on earth. The king holds the highest political authority and legitimacy.
During his daily administration, the king is assisted by bureaucratic state officials that also included the close relatives of the kings that hold certain esteemed titles. The royal order or edict usually transmitted from the king to the high officials well to their subordinates. The officials in Majapahit courts are:Rakryan Mahamantri Katrini, usually reserved for the king's heirRakryan Mantri ri Pakira-kiran, the board of ministers that conduct the daily administrationDharmmadhyaksa, the officials of laws, state laws as well as religious lawsDharmma-upapatti, the officials concerning religious affairs
Within the ministers of Rakryan Mantri ri Pakira-kiran there is the most important and the highest minister titled Rakryan Mapatih or Patih Hamangkubhumi. This position is analogous to prime minister, and together with king, they determine the important state policies, including war or peace. Among the Dharmmadhyaksa officials there is Dharmmadhyaksa ring Kasewan (State's highest Hindu Shivaist priest) and Dharmmadhyaksa ring Kasogatan (State's highest Buddhist priest), both are the religious laws authorities of each dharmic faiths.
There is also the board of advisors which consists of the elders within royal family called Bhattara Saptaprabhu. This council consists of seven influential elders—mostly directly related to the king. They are the Bhres (Duke or Duchess) acted as regional kings, the rulers of Majapahit provinces. This council congregate, offer advices, gave consideration to the king, and often formed an assembly to judge a certain important case in the court. Example of their office was, their sentence to temporarily suspend Mahamantri Gajah Mada, as a punishment since he was held responsible for the shamefully disastrous Bubat incident. The council also sentenced the execution of Raden Gajah (Narapati) for decapitating Bhre Wirabhumi in Paregreg war.
Majapahit recognise the hierarchy classifications of lands within its realm:
- Bhumi: the kingdom, ruled by the king
- Nagara: the province, ruled by the rajya (governor), or natha (lord), or bhre (prince or duke)
- Watek: the regency, administered by wiyasa,
- Kuwu: the district, administered by lurah,
- Wanua: the village, administered by thani,
- Kabuyutan: the hamlet or sanctuary place.
During its formation, Majapahit traditional realm only consists of lesser vassal kingdoms (provinces) in eastern and central Java. This region is ruled by provincial kings called Paduka Bhattara with the title Bhre. This title is the highest position below the monarch and similar to duke or duchess. Usually this position reserved for the close relatives of the king. Their duty is to administer their own provinces, collect taxes, send annual tributes to the capital, and manage the defences of their borders.
During the reign of Hayam Wuruk (1350– 1389) there were 12 provinces of Majapahit, administered by king's close relatives:
When Majapahit entered the thalassocratic imperial phase during the administration of Gajah Mada, several overseas vassal states were included within the Majapahit sphere of influence, as the result the new larger territorial concept was defined:Negara Agung, or the Grand State, the core kingdom. The traditional or initial area of Majapahit during its formation before entering the imperial phase. This includes the capital city and the surrounding areas where the king effectively exercises his government. The area in and around royal capital of Trowulan, port of Canggu and sections of Brantas River valley near the capital, also mountainous areas south and southeast of capital, all the way to Pananggungan and Arjuno-Welirang peaks, are the core realm of the kingdom. The Brantas river valley corridor, connecting Majapahit Trowulan area to Canggu and estuarine areas in Kahuripan (Sidoarjo) and Hujung Galuh port (Surabaya) are considered as parts of Negara Agung.Mancanegara, areas surrounding Negara Agung — traditionally refer to Majapahit provinces in East and Central Java. This area covered the eastern half of Java, with all its provinces ruled by the Bhres (dukes), the king's close relatives. These areas are directly influenced by Javanese Majapahit court culture, and obliged to pay annual tributes. These areas usually possess their own rulers that might be directly related, foster an alliance or intermarried with the Majapahit royal family. Majapahit stationed their officials and officers in these places and regulate their foreign trade activities and collect taxes, yet they enjoyed substantial internal autonomy. This includes the rest of Java island, Madura and Bali. However, in later period, overseas provinces which has developed culture reflected or comparable to those of Java, or possess significant trading importance, are also considered as mancanegara. Either the province has their own native rulers subject (vassal) to the king, or a regent appointed and sent by the king to rule the region. This realm includes Dharmasraya, Pagaruyung, Lampung and Palembang in Sumatra.Nusantara, areas which do not reflect Javanese culture, but are included as colonies and they had to pay annual tribute. They had their native polity intact, enjoyed substantial autonomy and internal freedom, and Majapahit did not necessarily station their officials or Military officers here; however, any challenges on Majapahit oversight might draw severe response. These areas such as the vassal kingdoms and colonies in Malay peninsula, Borneo, Lesser Sunda Islands, Sulawesi and Maluku.
Nagarakretagama mentioned more than 80 places in the archipelago described as the vassal states. In Canto 13, several lands on Sumatra are mentioned, and some possibly correspond to contemporary areas: Jambi, Palembang, Teba (Muaro Tebo), and Dharmasraya. Also mentioned are Kandis, Kahwas, Minangkabau, Siak, Rokan, Kampar and Pane, Kampe, Haru (coastal North Sumatra, today around Medan) and Mandailing. Tamiyang (Aceh Tamiang Regency), negara Perlak (Peureulak) and Padang Lawas, are noted in the west, together with Samudra (Samudra Pasai) and Lamuri, Batan (Bintan), Lampung, and Barus. Also listed are the states of Tanjungnegara (believed to be on Borneo): Kapuas Katingan, Sampit, Kota Lingga, Kota Waringin, Sambas, and Lawas.
In Nagarakretagama Canto 14 more lands are noted: Kadandangan, Landa, Samadang, Tirem, Sedu (Sarawak), Barune (Brunei), Kalka, Saludung (Manila), Solot (Sulu), Pasir, Barito, Sawaku, Tabalung, and Tanjung Kutei. In Hujung Medini (Malay Peninsula), Pahang is mentioned first. Next Langkasuka, Saimwang, Kelantan and Trengganu, Johor, Paka, Muar, Dungun, Tumasik (where Singapore is today), Kelang (Klang Valley) and Kedah, Jerai (Gunung Jerai), Kanjapiniran, all are united.
Also in Canto 14 are territories east of Java: Badahulu and Lo Gajah (part of today's Bali). Gurun and Sukun, Taliwang, Sapi (Sape town, east end of Sumbawa island, by the Sape Strait) and Dompo, Sang Hyang Api, Bima. Hutan Kadali (Buru island). Gurun island, and Lombok Merah. Together with prosperous Sasak (central, north and east Lombok) are already ruled. Bantayan with Luwu. Further east are Udamakatraya (Sangir and Talaud). Also mentioned are Makassar, Buton, Banggai, Kunir, Galiao with Selayar, Sumba, Solot, Muar. Also Wanda(n) (Banda island), Ambon or Maluku islands, Kai-islands, Wanin (Onin peninsula, today Fakfak Regency, West Papua), Seran, Timor and other islands.
The true nature of Majapahit suzerainty is still a subject of study and even has sparked controversy. Nagarakretagama describes Majapahit as the center of a huge mandala consists of 98 tributaries stretching from Sumatra to New Guinea. Some scholars has discounted this claim as merely a sphere of limited influence, or even just a statement of geographical knowledge. Scholars, such as historian Hasan Djafar, argued that Nusantara should be translated as "other islands", which denotes that they are beyond Majapahit sovereignty. He argued that Majapahit territory was confined only in East and Central Java.
Nevertheless, the Javanese overseas prestige and influence during the lifetime of Hayam Wuruk was undoubtedly considerable. Majapahit fleets must have periodically visited many places in the archipleago to acquire formal submission, or the splendour of Majapahit court might has attracted regional rulers to sent tribute, without any intention to submit to Majapahit's order.
All of those three categories—the Negara Agung, Mancanegara and Nusantara, were within the sphere of influence of the Majapahit empire, however Majapahit also recognise the fourth realm that defines its foreign diplomatic relations:Mitreka Satata, literally means "partners with common order". It refer to independent foreign states that is considered as Majapahit's equals, not the subject of Majapahit powers. According to Nagarakretagama canto 15, the foreign states are Syangkayodhyapura (Ayutthaya of Siam), Dharmmanagari (Negara Sri Dharmaraja) in southern Thailand, Rajapura (Ratchaburi) and Singhanagari (Singora or modern Songkla), Marutma (Martaban or Mottama, modern Southern Myanmar), Champa (today Southern Vietnam), Kamboja (Cambodia), and Yawana (Annam). Mitreka Satata can be considered as Majapahit's allies, since other foreign kingdoms in China and India was not included in this category, although Majapahit known has conducted foreign relations with these nations.
The model of political formations and power difussion from its core in Majapahit capital city that radiates through its overseas possessions, was later identified by historians as "mandala" model. The term mandala derived from Sanskrit "circle" to explain the typical ancient Southeast Asian polity that was defined by its centre rather than its boundaries, and it could be composed of numerous other tributary polities without undergoing administrative integration. The territories belongs within Majapahit Mandala sphere of influence were those categorised as Mancanegara and Nusantara. These areas usually have their own indigenous rulers, enjoy substantial autonomy and have their own political institution intact without further integration into Majapahit administration. The same mandala model also applied to previous empires; Srivijaya and Angkor, and also Majapahit's neighbouring mandalas; Ayutthaya and Champa.
In later period, Majapahit's hold on its overseas possessions began to wane. According to Wingun Pitu inscription (dated 1447) it was mentioned that Majapahit consist of 14 provinces, that administrated by the ruler titled Bhre. The provinces or vassal areas are:
Majapahit was the largest empire ever to form in Southeast Asia. Although its political power beyond the core area in east Java was diffuse, constituting mainly ceremonial recognition of suzerainty, Majapahit society developed a high degree of sophistication in both commercial and artistic activities. Its capital was inhabited by a cosmopolitan population among whom literature and art flourished.
Numbers of local legends and folklores in the region had mentioned about the Majapahit kingdom. Most of them mentioned about the incoming Javanese forces to their land, which was probably a local testament of the empire's expansive nature that once dominating the archipelago. The legend of Minangkabau mentioned an invading foreign prince — associated with Javanese Majapahit kingdom — being defeated in a buffalo fight. Other than Javanese sources, some regional legends mentioning Majapahit kingdom or its general Gajah Mada, also can be found; from Aceh, Minangkabau, Palembang, Malay Peninsula, Sunda, Brunei, Bali to Sumbawa.
Several Javanese legends were originated or become popular during Majapahit period. The Panji cycles, the tale of Sri Tanjung, and the epic of Damarwulan, are popular tales in Javanese and Balinese literatures. The tales of Panji was dated from older period during Kediri kingdom, while the tale of Sri Tanjung and the epic of Damarwulan took place during Majapahit period. These tales remained a popular theme in Javanese culture of later period during Mataram Sultanate, and often became the source of inspiration for wayang shadow puppet performance, ketoprak and topeng dance drama.
Majapahit had a momentous and lasting influence on Indonesian architecture. The descriptions of the architecture of the capital's pavilions (pendopo) in the Nagarakretagama evoke the Javanese Kraton also the Balinese temples and palace compounds of today. The Majapahit architectural style that often employs terracotta and red brick heavily influenced the architecture of Java and Bali in the later period. The Majapahit style candi bentar split gate, the kori or paduraksa towering red brick gate, and also pendopo pavilion have become ubiquitous in Javanese and Balinese architectural features, as seen in Menara Kudus Mosque, Keraton Kasepuhan and Sunyaragi park in Cirebon, Mataram Sultanate royal cemetery in Kota Gede, Yogyakarta, and various palaces and temples in Bali.
The vivid, rich and festive Balinese culture is considered as one of Majapahit legacy. The Javanese Hindu civilisation since the era of Airlangga to the era of Majapahit kings has profoundly influenced and shaped the Balinese culture and history. The ancient links and Majapahit legacy is observable in many ways; architecture, literature, religious rituals, dance-drama and artforms. The aesthetics and style of bas-reliefs in Majapahit East Javanese temples were preserved and copied in Balinese temples. It is also due to the fact that after the fall of the empire, many Majapahit nobles, artisans and priests had taken refuge either in the interior mountainous region of East Java or across the narrow strait to Bali. Indeed, in some ways the Kingdom of Bali was the successor of Majapahit. Large numbers of Majapahit manuscripts, such as Nagarakretagama, Sutasoma, Pararaton and Tantu Pagelaran, were being well-kept in royal libraries of Bali and Lombok, and provides the glimpse and valuable historical records on Majapahit. The Majapahit Hindu-Javanese culture has shaped the culture of Bali, that led to popular expression; "without Java there is no Bali". Yet in return, Bali is credited as the last stronghold to safeguard and preserve the ancient Hindu Javanese civilisation.
In weaponry, the Majapahit expansion is believed to be responsible for the widespread use of the keris dagger in Southeast Asia; from Java, Bali, Sumatra, Malaysia, Brunei, Southern Thailand, to the Philippines. Although it has been suggested that the keris, and native daggers similar to it, predate Majapahit, nevertheless the empire expansion contributed to its popularity and diffussion in the region around the year 1492.
For Indonesians in later centuries, Majapahit became a symbol of past greatness. The Islamic sultanates of Demak, Pajang, and Mataram sought to establish their legitimacy in relation to the Majapahit. The Demak claimed a line of succession through Kertabumi, as its founder Raden Patah, in court chronicles was said to be the son of Kertabumi with Putri Cina, a Chinese princess, who had been sent away before her son was born. Sultan Agung's conquest of Wirasaba (present day Mojoagung) in 1615—during that time just a small town without significant strategic and economic value—led by the sultan himself, may probably have had such symbolic importance as it was the location of the former Majapahit capital. Central Javanese palaces have traditions and genealogy that attempt to prove links back to the Majapahit royal lines—usually in the form of a grave as a vital link in Java — where legitimacy is enhanced by such a connection. Bali in particular was heavily influenced by Majapahit and the Balinese consider themselves to be the true heirs of the kingdom.
Modern Indonesian nationalists, including those of the early 20th-century Indonesian National Revival, have invoked the Majapahit Empire. Indonesian founding fathers—especially Sukarno and Mohammad Yamin, built a historical construct around Majapahit to argue for the ancient unified realm, as a predecessor of modern Indonesia. The memory of its greatness remains in Indonesia, and is sometimes seen as a precedent for the current political boundaries of the Republic. Many of modern Indonesian national symbols derived from Majapahit Hindu-Buddhist elements. The Indonesian national flag "Sang Merah Putih" ("Red and White") or sometimes called "Dwiwarna" ("The bicolor"), derived from the Majapahit royal colour. The Indonesian Navy flag of red and white stripes also has a Majapahit origin. The Indonesian national motto, "Bhinneka Tunggal Ika", is a quotation from an Old Javanese poem "kakawin Sutasoma", written by a Majapahit poet, Mpu Tantular.
The Indonesian coat of arms, Garuda Pancasila, also derives from Javanese Hindu elements. The statue and relief of Garuda have been found in many temples in Java such as Prambanan from the ancient Mataram era, and the Panataran as well as the Sukuh temple dated from the Majapahit era. The notable statue of Garuda is the statue of the king Airlangga depicted as Vishnu riding Garuda.
In its propaganda from the 1920s, the Communist Party of Indonesia presented its vision of a classless society as a reincarnation of a romanticised Majapahit. It was invoked by Sukarno for nation building and by the New Order as an expression of state expansion and consolidation. Like Majapahit, the modern state of Indonesia covers vast territory and is politically centred on Java.
Palapa, the series of communication satellites owned by Telkom, an Indonesian telecommunication company, was named after Sumpah Palapa, the famous oath taken by Gajah Mada, who swore that he would not taste any spice as long as he had not succeeded in unifying Nusantara (Indonesian archipelago). This ancient oath of unification signifies the Palapa satellite as the modern means to unify the Indonesian archipelago by way of telecommunication. The name was chosen by president Suharto, and the program was started in February 1975.
During the last half year of 2008, the Indonesian government sponsored a massive exploration on the site that is believed to be the place where the palace of Majapahit once stood. Jero Wacik, the Indonesian Minister of Culture and Tourism stated that the Majapahit Park would be built on the site and completed as early as 2009, to prevent further damage caused by home-made brick industries that developed in the surrounding area. Nevertheless, the project leaves a huge attention to some historians, since constructing the park's foundation in Segaran site located in south side of Trowulan Museum will inevitably damage the site itself. Ancient bricks which are historically valuable were found scattered on the site. The government then argued that the method they were applying were less destructive since digging method were used instead of drilling.
The rulers of Majapahit was the dynastic continuity of the Singhasari kings, which started by Sri Ranggah Rajasa, the founder of Rajasa dynasty in the late 13th century.
- Raden Wijaya, styled Krirtarajasa Jayavardhana (1294–1309)
- Kalagamet, styled Jayanagara (1309–1328)
- Sri Gitarja, styled Tribhuwana Wijayatunggadewi (1328–1350)
- Hayam Wuruk, styled Sri Rajasanagara (1350–1389), Majapahit Golden Age
- Wikramawardhana styled Bhra Hyang Wisesa Aji Wikrama, (1389–1429), Majapahit civil war Paregreg war, success defeating Bhre Wirabhumi
- Ratu (queen) Suhita (1429–1447)
- Kritavijaya, styled Brawijaya I (1447–1451)
- Rajasavardhana, born Bhre Pamotan, styled Brawijaya II (1451–1453)
- Interregnum (1453–1456)
- Bhre Wengker, Purvavisesha or Girishawardhana, styled Brawijaya III (1456–1466)
- Singhavikramavardhana, Pandanalas, or Suraprabhawa, styled Brawijaya IV (1466–1468 or 1478)
- Bhre Kertabhumi, styled Brawijaya V (1468–1478)
- Girindrawardhana, styled Brawijaya VI (1478–1489)
- Prabu Udara, styled Brawijaya VII (1489–1517)
Celebrated as 'the golden era of the archipelago', the Majapahit empire has inspired many writers and artists (and continues to do so) to create their works based on this era, or to describe and mention it. The impact of the Majapahit theme on popular culture can be seen in the following:
- Sandyakalaning Majapahit (1933), or Twilight/Sunset in Majapahit is an historical romance that took place during the fall of Majapahit empire, written by Sanusi Pane.
- Panji Koming (since 1979), a weekly comic strip by Dwi Koendoro published in the Sunday edition of Kompas, telling the everyday life of Panji Koming, a common Majapahit citizen. Although it took place in the Majapahit era, the comic strip serves as witty satire and criticism of modern Indonesian society. From a political, social, cultural and current point of view, Indonesia is described as the 'reincarnation' of the Majapahit empire. The current Indonesian president is often portrayed as a Majapahit monarch or prime minister.
- Saur Sepuh (1987–1991), a radio drama and film by Niki Kosasih. Begun as a popular radio drama program in the late 1980s, Saur Sepuh is based on 15th-century Java, centred around the story about a fictional hero named Brama Kumbara, the king of Madangkara, a fictional kingdom neighbour of the Pajajaran. In several stories the Paregreg war is described, that is to say the civil war of Majapahit between Wikramawardhana and Bhre Wirabhumi. This part has been made into a single feature film entitled 'Saur Sepuh' as well.
- Tutur Tinular, a radio drama and film by S Tidjab. Tutur Tinular is a martial art historical epic fictional story with the Majapahit era serving as the background of the story. The story also involved a romance between the hero named Arya Kamandanu and his Chinese lover Mei Shin.
- Wali Songo, the film tells the story of nine Muslim saints ('wali') who spread Islam to Java. The story took place near the end of the Majapahit era and the formation of Demak. It describes the decaying Majapahit empire where royals are fighting each other for power, while commoners are suffering.
- Senopati Pamungkas (1986, reprinted in 2003), a novel by Arswendo Atmowiloto that is also a martial art-historical epic fiction. It took place in the late Singhasari period and formation of Majapahit. This novel describes the saga, royal intrigue, and romance of the formation of the Majapahit kingdom as well as the adventure of the main character, a commoner named Upasara Wulung and his forbidden love affair with princess Gayatri Rajapatni, whom later becomes the consort of Raden Wijaya, the first king of Majapahit.
- Imperium Majapahit, a comic book series by Jan Mintaraga, published by Elexmedia Komputindo. This series tells the history of Majapahit from its formation until the decline.
- Puteri Gunung Ledang (2004), a Malaysian epic film based on a traditional Malay legend. This film recounts the love story between Gusti Putri Retno Dumilah, a Majapahit Princess, and Hang Tuah, a Malaccan admiral.
- Gajah Mada, a pentalogy written by Langit Kresna Hariadi, about fictionalised detail of Gajah Mada's life from Kuti rebellion until Bubat War.
- Dyah Pitaloka (2007), a novel written by Hermawan Aksan, about the fictionalised detailed lifestory of Sundanese Princess Dyah Pitaloka Citraresmi, focussed around the Bubat War. The novel virtually took the same context and was inspired by Kidung Sundayana.
- Jung Jawa (2009), an anthology of short stories written by Rendra Fatrisna Kurniawan, about the fictionalised detailed life story of people on nusantara, published by Babel Publishing.
- Civilization 5: Brave New World (2013), Gajah Mada appeared as one of the leaders of a great civilisation in the second expansion of the Civilization 5 game. He's the leader of the Indonesian civilisation, with the emblem of the Indonesian empire being the Surya Majapahit, although in the game, the empire is known as the Indonesian empire instead of Majapahit.
- Age of Empires II, in the expansion pack Rise of the Rajas, Gajah Mada appears in a campaign, detailing his rise and then fall after the Pasunda Bubat tragedy.