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The Majapahit era.
In 1289 Kertanagara maltreated Kublai Khan's envoy, who had been sent to demand the Javanese king's submission. The Mongol emperor organized a punitive expedition in 1292, but Kertanagara had been killed by a Kadiri rebel, Jayakatwang, before the invaders landed. Jayakatwang in his turn was quickly overthrown by Kertanagara's son-in-law, later known as Kertarajasa, who used the Mongols to his own advantage and then forced them to withdraw in confusion. The capital city was now established at Majapahit. For some years the new ruler and his son, who regarded themselves as successors of Kertanagara, had to suppress rebellions in Java; not until 1319 was Majapahit's authority firmly established in Java with the assistance of the renowned soldier Gajah Mada. Gajah Mada was the chief officer of state during the reign of Kertanagara's daughter (c. 1329-50), and in these years Javanese influence was restored in Bali, Sumatra, and Borneo. Kertanagara's great-grandson, Hayam Wuruk, became king in 1350 under the name of Rajasanagara.

Hayam Wuruk's reign (1350-89) is remembered in the archipelago as the most glorious period in Javanese history. Prapańca's poem, the Nagarakertagama, written in 1365 and surviving in a manuscript found in Lombok at the end of the 19th century, provides a rare glimpse of the kingdom from a contemporary point of view. The poem, originally called the Desha warnana, or "The Description of the Country," describes itself as a "literary temple" and endeavours to show how royal divinity permeates the world, cleansing it of impurities and enabling all to fulfill their obligations to the gods and therefore to the holy land--the now undivided kingdom of Java. The poem resembles an act of worship rather than a chronicle. The poet does not conceal his intention of venerating the king, and, in the tradition of Javanese poetry, he may have begun it under the stimulus of pious meditation intended to bring him into contact with divine influences embodied in the king.

The core territories of Hayam Wuruk's polity were probably considerably more extensive than those of his predecessors. Important territorial rulers, bound to the royal family by marriage, were brought under surveillance by incorporation in the court administration. A network of royal religious foundations was focused on the capital. But the question remains whether a genuinely more centralized and enduring structure of government was introduced or whether the unity of the realm and the ruler's authority still depended on the ruler's personal prestige. Prapańca, at least, does not ascribe to him an unrealistic degree of authority, even though his poem is an undisguised representation of the attributes of royal divinity and effects of divine rule in Java. Subordinate officials traveled around the kingdom, asserting the royal authority in such matters as taxes and the control of religious foundations. A sign of the king's prestige was his decision to undertake a land survey to ensure that his subjects' privileges were being maintained. In the absence of an elaborate system of administration, the authority of the government was strengthened by the ubiquity of its representatives, and no one set a more strenuous example than the king himself. According to Prapańca, "the prince was not for long in the royal residence," and much of the poem is an account of royal progresses. In this way Hayam Wuruk was able to assert his influence in restless areas, enforce homage from territorial lords, reassure village elders by his visits, verify land rights, collect tribute, worship at Mahayana, Shaivite, and ancient Javanese holy sites, and visit holy men in the countryside for his own spiritual enlightenment. His indefatigable traveling, at least in the earlier years of his reign, meant that many of his subjects had the opportunity of coming into the presence of one whom they regarded as the receptacle of divinity.

One of the most interesting sections of the Nagaraker-tagama concerns the annual New Year ceremony, when the purifying powers of the king were reinforced by the administration of holy water. The ceremony, attended by scholarly Indian visitors, enables the poet to assert that the only famous countries were Java and India because both contained many religious experts. At no time in the year was the king's religious role more emphatically recognized than at the New Year, when the notables of the kingdom, the envoys of vassals, and village leaders came to Majapahit to pay homage and be reminded of their duties. The ceremony ended with speeches to the visitors on the need to keep the peace and maintain the rice fields. The king explained that only when the capital was supported by the countryside was it safe from attack by "foreign islands." 

Since the poem venerates the king, it is not surprising that more than 80 places in the archipelago are described as vassal territories and that the mainland kingdoms, with the exception of Vietnam, are said to be protected by the king. Prapańca, believing that the king's glory extends in all directions, delineates in detail the actual limits of relevant space from a 14th-century Javanese point of view. No fewer than 25 places in Sumatra are mentioned, and the Spice Islands, whose product was a source of royal wealth, are well represented. On the other hand, northern Celebes (Sulawesi) and the Philippines are not mentioned.

During Hayam Wuruk's lifetime Javanese overseas prestige was undoubtedly considerable, though the king demanded no more than homage and tribute from his more important vassals, such as the ruler of Malayu in Sumatra. In 1377, when a new Malayu ruler dared to seek investiture from the founder of the Ming dynasty in China, Hayam Wuruk's envoys in Nanking convinced the emperor that Malayu was not an independent country. Javanese influence in the archipelago, however, depended on the ruler's authority in Java itself. When Hayam Wuruk died in 1389, the Palembang ruler in southeastern Sumatra saw his opportunity for repudiating his vassal status. He had noted the Ming dynasty's restoration of the long-abandoned tributary trading system and its prohibition of Chinese voyages to Southeast Asia and supposed that foreign traders would again need the sort of entrepôt facilities in western Indonesia that Shrivijaya-Palembang had provided centuries earlier. He may even have announced himself as a bodhisattva and heir of the maharajas of Shrivijaya. The Javanese expelled him from Palembang, whence he fled to Singapore and then to Malacca on the Malay Peninsula.

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