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The bas relief of 8th century Borobudur depict a King and Queen with their subjects, the scene is based on Sailendran royal court.

Sailendra (Sanskrit:शैलेन्द्र Lord of the Mountain) or officially Sailendravamça (Sanskrit: Sailendra dynasty) is the name of an influential Indonesian dynasty that emerged in 8th century Java.

The Sailendras were active promoters of Mahayana Buddhism and covered the Kedu Plain of Central Java with Buddhist monuments, including the world famous Borobudur.1

The Sailendras are considered to be a thalassocracy and ruled the maritime Southeast Asia, however they also relied on agriculture pursuits through intensive rice cultivation on the Kedu Plain of Central Java. The dynasty appeared to be the ruling family of both Medang Kingdom of Central Java for some period and Srivijaya in Sumatra.

The inscriptions edicted by Sailendras uses three languages; old Malay, old Javanese and Sanskrit, written either in Kawi script or pre-nagari script. The use of old Malay has sparked the speculation of Sumatran origin or Srivijayan connection of this family, on the other hand the use of old Javanese suggested their firm political establishment on Java. The use of Sanskrit usually signify the official nature and religious significance of the event written on the inscription.

Primary sources

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The Sojomerto inscription (c. 725) discovered in Batang Regency, Central Java, mentioned the name Dapunta Selendra and Selendranamah. The name 'Selendra' was another spelling of Sailendra, suggested that Dapunta Selendra was the progenitor of Sailendra family in Central Java.2 The inscription is Shivaist in nature, which suggests that the family was probably initially Hindu Shivaist before convert to Mahayana Buddhism.

The earliest dated inscription in Indonesia in which clearly mentioned the dynastic name of Sailendra as Sailendravamçatilaka appears is the Kalasan inscription (778) of central Java, which commemorates the establishment of a Buddhist shrine for the Buddhist goddess Tara corresponds to candi Kalasan.3

The name also appears in several other inscriptions like the Kelurak inscription (782) and the Karangtengah inscription (824). Outside Indonesia, the name Sailendra is to be found in the Ligor inscription (775) on the Malay peninsula and Nalanda inscription (860) in India.3


Although the rise of the Sailendra's occurred in Kedu Plain in the Javanese heartland, their origin has been the subject of discussion.4 Apart from Java itself; an earlier homeland in Sumatra, India or Cambodia has been suggested. Latest studies apparently in favour of native origin of the dynasty. Despite its connections with Srivijaya in Sumatra and Thai-Malay Peninsula, the Sailendras were more likely of Javanese origin.5


According to Majumdar, an Indian scholar, Sailendra dynasty that established themself in Indonesian archipleago, either the one that ruled Srivijaya or the ruler of Medang (Java) was originated from Kalinga (Eastern India).6 This opinion also shared by Nilakanta Sastri and Moens. Moens further describes; Sailendra was originated in India and established themself in Palembang before the arrival of Dapunta Hyang. In 683, Sailendra family moved to Java because being pushed by Dapunta Hyang and his troops.7


In 1934, the French scholar Coedes proposed a relation with the Funan kingdom in Cambodia. Coedes believed that the Funanese rulers used similar sounding 'mountainlord' titles, but several Cambodia specialists have discounted this. They hold there is no historical evidence for such titles in the Funan period.8


Other scholars hold that the expansion of Buddhist kingdom of Srivijaya was involved in the rise of the dynasty in Java.9 Supporters of this connection emphasize the shared Mahayana patronage; the intermarriages and the Ligor inscription. Also the fact that some of Sailendra's inscriptions were written in old Malay, which suggested Srivijaya or Sumatran connections. The name 'Selendra' was first mentioned in Sojomerto inscription (725 CE) as "Dapunta Selendra". Dapunta Selendra is suggested as the ancestor of Sailendras. The title Dapunta is similar to those of Srivijayan King Dapunta Hyang Sri Jayanasa, and the inscription — although discovered in Central Java north coast — was written in old Malay, which suggested the Sumatran origin or Srivijayan connection to this family.


Another theory suggested that Sailendra was a native Javanese dynasty, and Sanjaya dynasty was actually a branch of the Sailendra, since Sri Sanjaya and his offsprings belongs to the Sailendra family that were initially the Shivaist ruler of Mataram Kingdom.10 The association of Sailendra with Mahayana Buddhism began after the conversion of Panaraban or Panangkaran to Buddhism. This theory is based on Carita Parahyangan that tells of the ailing King Sanjaya ordering his son, Rakai Panaraban or Panangkaran, to convert to Buddhism, because their Shivaistic faith was feared by the people, in favour to the more pacifist Buddhist faith. The conversion of Panangkaran to Buddhism also corresponds to Raja Sankhara inscription that tells of a king named Sankhara (identified as Panangkaran) converting to Buddhism, because his Shivaism faith was feared by the people and him chosing the more benevolent Buddhist faith. Unfortunately the Raja Sankhara inscription is now missing.

Sailendras in Java

Borobudur, the largest Buddhist structure in the world.

The Sailendra rulers maintained cordial relations, including marriage alliances with the Srivijaya kingdom in Sumatra. For instance, Samaratungga married Dewi Tara, a daughter of Srivijayan maharaja Dharmasetu. The mutual alliance between the two kingdoms ensured that Srivijaya had no need to fear the emergence of a Javanese rival and that the Sailendra had access to the international market.

Karangtengah inscription dated 824 mentioned about king Samaratungga. His daughter named Pramodhawardhani has inaugurated a Jinalaya, a sacred buddhist sanctuary. The inscription also mentioned a sacred buddhist building called Venuvana to place the cremated ashes of King Indra. The Tri Tepusan inscription dated 842 mentioned about the sima (tax free) lands awarded by Çrī Kahulunan (Pramodhawardhani, daughter of Samaratungga) to ensure the funding and maintenance of a Kamūlān called Bhūmisambhāra.11 Kamūlān itself from the word mula which means 'the place of origin', a sacred building to honor the ancestors. These findings suggested that either the ancestors of the Sailendras were originated from Central Java, or as the sign that Sailendra have established their holds on Java. Casparis suggested that Bhūmi Sambhāra Bhudhāra which in Sanskrit means "The mountain of combined virtues of the ten stages of Boddhisattvahood", was the original name of Borobudur.12

The received version holds that the Sailendra dynasty existed next to the Sanjaya dynasty in Java. Much of the period was characterized by peaceful co-existence and cooperation but towards the middle of the 9th century relations had deteriorated. Around 852 the Sanjaya ruler Pikatan had defeated Balaputra, the offspring of the Sailendra monarch Samaratunga and princess Tara. This ended the Sailendra presence in Java and Balaputra retreated to the Srivijaya kingdom in Sumatra, where he became the paramount ruler.13

Sailendras in Sumatra

After 824, there are no more references to the Sailendra house in the Javanese ephigraphic record. Around 860 the name re-appears in the Nalanda inscription in India. According to the text, the king Devapaladeva of Bengala (Pala Empire) had granted 'Balaputra, the king of Suvarna-dvipa' (Sumatra) the revenues of 5 villages to a Buddhist monastery near Bodh Gaya. Balaputra was styled a descendant from the Sailendra dynasty and grandson of the king of Java.14

From Sumatra, the Sailendras also maintained overseas relations with the Chola kingdom in Southern India, as shown by several south Indian inscriptions. An 11th-century inscription mentioned the grant of revenues to a local Buddhist sanctuary, built in 1005 by the king of the Srivijaya. In spite the relations were initially fairly cordial, hostilities had broken out in 1025.15 Rajendra Chola I the Emperor of the Chola dynasty conquered some territories of the Sailendra Dynasty in the 11th century.16 The devastation caused by Chola invasion of Srivijaya in 1025, marked the end of Sailendra family as the ruling dynasty in Sumatra. The last king of Sailendra dynasty — the Maharaja Sangramavijayottunggavarman — was imprisoned and taken as hostage. Nevertheless, amity was re-established between the two states, before the end of the 11th century. In 1090 a new charter was granted to the old Buddhist sanctuary, it is the last known inscription with a reference to the Sailendras. With the absence of legitimate successor, Sailendra dynasty seems ceased to rule. Other family within Srivijaya mandala took over the throne, a new Maharaja named Sri Deva according to Chinese source establishing new dynasty to rule Srivijaya. He sent an embassy to the court of China in 1028 CE.

Sailendras in Bali

Sri Kesari Warmadewa was said to be a Buddhist king of the Sailendra Dynasty, leading a military expedition,17 to establishing a Mahayana Buddhist government in Bali.18 In 914, he left a record of his endeavour in the Belanjong pillar in Sanur in Bali. According to this inscription Warmadewa dynasty was probably the branch of Sailendras that rule Bali.

List of Sailendran rulers

Traditionally the Sailendra period was viewed to span from 8th to 9th century confined only in Central Java, from the era of Panangkaran to Samaratungga. However the recent interpretation suggests the longer period of Sailendra family might existed, from mid 7th century (edict of Sojomerto inscription) to early 11th century (the fall of Sailendran dynasty of Srivijaya under Chola invasion). For certain period, Sailendras ruled both Central Java and Sumatra. Their alliance and intermarriage with Srivijayan ruling family resulted with the merging of two royal houses, with Sailendran finally emerge as the ruling family of both Srivijaya and Medang Mataram (Central Java).

Some historians tried to reconstruct the order and list of Sailendra rulers, although there is some disagreement on the list. Boechari tried to reconstruct the early stage of Sailendra based on Sojomerto inscription, while other historians such as Slamet Muljana and Poerbatjaraka tried to reconstruct the list of Sailendran king in middle and later period with their connections to Sanjaya and Srivijaya, based on inscriptions and Carita Parahyangan manuscript. However there is some confusion occurred, because the Sailendra seems to rule many kingdoms; Kalingga, Medang and later Srivijaya. As the result name of the same kings often overlapped and seens to rule these kingdoms simultaneously. The questionmark (?) signify doubt or speculation because of the scarcity of available valid sources.

Date King's or ruler's name Capital Stone inscription and source of historical account Event
c. 650 Santanu ? Sojomerto inscription (c. 670—700) The Shivaist old Malay-speaking family began to settle in coastal Central Java, suggested of Sumatran origin (?) or native Javanese family under Srivijayan influences (vassal)
c. 674 Dapunta Selendra Batang (Central Java north coast) Sojomerto inscription (c. 670—700) Establishing ruling family, the first time the name 'Selendra' (Sailendra) was mentioned
674—703 Shima (?) Kalingga, somewhere between Pekalongan and Jepara Carita Parahyangan, Chinese account on Hwi-ning visits to Ho-ling kingdom (664) and the reign of queen Hsi-mo (674) Ruling the kingdom of Kalingga
703—710 Mandimiñak (?) ? Carita Parahyangan
710—717 Sanna ? Canggal inscription (732), Carita Parahyangan Sanna ruled Java, but after his death the kingdom fell to chaotic disunity by usurper or foreign invasion
717—760 Sanjaya Mataram, Central Java Canggal inscription (732), Carita Parahyangan Sanjaya, the nephew of Sanna restore the order and ascend to throne, some early historian took this event as the establishment of new Sanjaya Dynasty, while other hold that this only the continuation of Sailendras
760—775 Rakai Panangkaran Mataram, Central Java Raja Sankhara inscription, Kalasan inscription (778), Carita Parahyangan Rakai Panangkaran converted from Shivaism to Mahayana Buddhism, construction of Kalasan temple
775—800 Dharanindra Mataram, Central Java Kelurak inscription (782), Ligor B inscription (c. 787) Also ruled Srivijaya in Sumatra, construction of Manjusrigrha temple, started the construction of Borobudur (c. 770), Java ruled Ligor and Southern Cambodia (Chenla) (c.790)
800—812 Samaragrawira Mataram, Central Java Ligor B inscription (c. 787) Also ruled Srivijaya, lost Cambodia (802)
812—833 Samaratungga Mataram, Central Java Karangtengah inscription (824) Also ruled Srivijaya, completion of Borobudur (825)
833—856 Pramodhawardhani co-reign with her husband Rakai Pikatan Mamrati, Central Java Shivagrha inscription (856) Defeated and expelled Balaputra to Srivijaya (Sumatra). Construction of Prambanan and Plaosan temple. The successors of Pikatan, the series of Medang kings from Lokapala (850—890) to Wawa (924—929) could be considered as the continuation of Sailendra lineage, although King Balitung (898—910) in Mantyasih inscription (907) sought ancestor only as far as Sanjaya, thus enforced the Sanjaya dynasty theory.
833—850 Balaputradewa Srivijaya, South Sumatra Shivagrha inscription (856), Nalanda inscription (860) Defeated by Pikatan-Pramodhawardhani, expelled from Central Java, took refuge in Sumatra and rule Srivijaya, claim as the legitimate successor of Sailendra dynasty from Java
c. 960 Çri Udayadityavarman Srivijaya, South Sumatra Embassies to China (960 and 962) Sending embassies, tribute and trade mission to China
c. 980 Haji (Hia-Tche) Srivijaya, South Sumatra Embassies to China (980–983) Sending embassies, tribute and trade mission to China
c. 988 Sri Culamanivarmadeva Srivijaya, South Sumatra Embassies to China (988-992-1003), Tanjore Inscription or Leiden Inscription (1044) Sending embassies, tribute and trade mission to China, Javanese King Dharmawangsa invasion on Srivijaya, building of temple for Chinese Emperor, gift of village by Raja-raja I
c. 1008 Sri Maravijayottungga Srivijaya, South Sumatra Embassies to China (1008) Sending embassies, tribute and trade mission to China (1008)
c. 1017 Sumatrabhumi Srivijaya, South Sumatra Embassies to China (1017) Sending embassies, tribute and trade mission to China (1017)
c. 1025 Sangramavijayottungga Srivijaya, South Sumatra Chola Inscription on the temple of Rajaraja, Tanjore Chola raid on Srivijaya, the capital captured by Rajendra Chola

See also


  1. ^ "Patrons of Buddhism, the Sailendras during the height of their power in central Java constructed impressive monuments and temple complexes, the best known of which is the Borobudur on the Kedu Plain" (quoted from Hall 1985:109).
  2. ^ Boechari (1966). "Preliminary report on the discovery of an Old Malay inscription at Sojomerto". MISI III: 241–251. 
  3. ^ a b Hall(1985:110)
  4. ^ Roy E. Jordaan (2006). "Why the Sailendras were not a Javanese dynasty". Indonesia and the Malay World 34 (98): 3–22. doi:10.1080/13639810600650711. 
  5. ^ Zakharov, Anton A (August 2012). "The Sailendras Reconsidered". Singapore: The Nalanda-Srivijaya Centre Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. p. 27. Retrieved 2013-10-30. 
  6. ^ Majumdar, 1933: 121-141
  7. ^ Moens, 1937: 317-487
  8. ^ (Jacques 1979; Vickery 2003-2004)
  9. ^ e.g. Munoz (2006:139)
  10. ^ (Poerbatjaraka, 1958: 254-264)
  11. ^ Drs. R. Soekmono, (1973, 5th reprint edition in 1988). Pengantar Sejarah Kebudayaan Indonesia 2, 2nd ed. Yogyakarta: Penerbit Kanisius. p. 46. 
  12. ^ Walubi. "Borobudur : Candi Berbukit Kebajikan". 
  13. ^ " De Casparis proposed that in 856 Balaputra was defeated by Pikatan, whereupon Balaputra retreated to Srivijaya, the country of his mother, to become the first Sailandra ruler of Srivijaya. Thus in the late 9th century Srivijaya was ruled by a Buddhist Sailendra ruler, while Java was ruled by Pikatan and his successors who patronized Siva" (cf. De Casparis, 1956; Hall, 1985:111).
  14. ^ Hall (1985:109)
  15. ^ Hall (1985:200)
  16. ^ Indian Civilization and Culture by Suhas Chatterjee p.499
  17. ^ Bali handbook with Lombok and the Eastern Isles by Liz Capaldi, Joshua Eliot p.98 [1]
  18. ^ Bali & Lombok Lesley Reader, Lucy Ridout p.156


  • De Casparis, J.G. de (1956). Prasasti Indonesia II : Selected inscriptions from the 7th to the 9th centuries AD. Bandung: Masu Baru, 1956
  • Kenneth Perry Landon (1969). Southeast Asia. Crossroad of Religions. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-46840-2. 
  • Briggs, Lawrence Palmer (1951). "[Review of] South East Asia. Crossroad of Religions by K.P. Landon". The Far Eastern Quarterly 9 (3): 271–277. 
  • G. Coedes (1934). "On the origins of the Sailendras of Indonesia". Journal of the Greater India society I: 61–70. 
  • K.R. Hall (1985). Maritime Trade and State Development in Early South East Asia. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0-8248-0959-9. 
  • Claude Jacques (1979). "'Funan', 'Zhenla '. The Reality Concealed by These Chinese Views of IndoChina". In R.B. Smith and W. Watson. Early South East Asia. Essays in Archaeology, History and Historical Geography. New York/Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press. pp. 371–389. 
  • M. Vickery (2003–2004). "Funan reviewed: Deconstructing the Ancients". Bulletin de l' Ecole Francaise d' Extreme Orient: 101–143. 
  • Paul Michel Munoz (2006). Early Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago and the Malay Peninsula. Editions Didier Millet. ISBN 981-4155-67-5. 

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