home > the history of bali > javanese influence > majapahit conquest >

The Decline of the Majapahit -
  Majapahit Conquest

The fall of the Singosari Empire after Kertanagara's 1292 assassination was followed by the rise of the new dynasty of Majapahit. Gajah Mada, the grand vizier or patih of King Radjasanegara, was sent to Bali in 1343 to conquer the semidemonic king of the Balinese Pejeng dynasty, Dalem Bedulu, who refused to recognize Majapahit supremacy.

A haunting myth tells of how the demon-king exchanged his human head for that of a wild boar, and how Gajah Mada tricked him so he could see the pig-head. The effect was devastating-Bedulu literally burned up in anger.

After Gajah Mada conquered Bali, East Javanese influences spread from purely political and religious spheres into the arts and architecture. Bali became a colony of a mighty empire-Indonesia's greatest-which encompassed nearly the entire archipelago.

The Javanese court chronicler, Prapanca, relates how all the "vile, long-haired Balinese princes were wiped out. Now all the barbarian Balinese customs are consistent with Javanese ones". This, of course, was not true, as elements of Old Balinese culture-prestige stratification, endogamous patrilineages, a developed witch-cult, and tight-knit irrigation societies-survive intact to the present day.

A young Brahman nobleman, Mpu Kapakisan, was appointed as the king of Bali by Gajah Mada, and a colony of Javanese settlers was dispatched. The Balinese frequently revolted against the mighty Majapahit, but the uprisings were put down in memorable battles. Military figures (aryas) became rulers of Bali, and to them the present Balinese aristocracy 'Wong Majapahit' traces its origins.

The first four vassal rulers under the Javanese resided at a royal court in Samprangan near Gianyar. During Hayam Wuruk's rule in the late 14th century a dissenting vassal, I Dewa Ketut Tegal Besung, fell out with his elder brother-he'd married his sister to a horse-and established a princely court in Gelgel near Klungkung.

Bali was conquered at the peak of Majapahit's artistic flowering, and thus Gelgel soon became an artistic power center, exerting a powerful influence over Bali's subsequent cultural development. Hinduistic concepts filtered down to the villagers via the electrifying medium of the shadow play.

Historically speaking, Bali today is still a fossil of Java during Majapahit's golden age, a living museum of many elements of the old Indo-Javanese civilization. Through it's isolation Bali kept its culture whole.

Copyright 2012, Bali-Island.com Indonesia