Not much remains of the once powerful 13th century East Java kingdom of Singosari. An unfinished temple and two giant statues that once stood guard in front of the palace are the only traces left of this great kingdom.
The kingdom of Singosari was founded in 1222 by a commoner by the name of Ken Arok, who managed to marry the beautiful princess Ken Dedes of Janggala after murdering her husband. Ken Arok later attacked neighbouring Kediri and thus united the two realms that were split by King Airlangga in 1049 as inheritance to his two sons.
Singosari succeeded in developing the rich agricultural hinterland along the Brantas river basin, as well as the lucrative maritime trade along the Java Sea. In 1275 and 1291 king Kartanegara attacked the maritime kingdom of Crivijaya in South Sumatra and gained control over the maritime trade in the Java and Sumatra seas. He was, however, killed by one of his vassals, Jayakatwang in 1293.
In its heyday Singosari was so powerful that the mighty Mongol emperor Kublai Khan deemed it important to send a fleet and a special emissary to the court of Singosari to demand that King Kertanegara personally submit allegiance to the emperor. In reply, Kertanegara cut off one of the ambassador’s ears as a message to Kublai khan that he will do no such thing.
When the Chinese fleet sent by the irate Kublai Khan arrived on Java, unbeknown to them Kartanegara was already dead. Kertanegara’s son in law, Prince Vijaya, at first managed to persuade them to kill Jayakatwang, but then turned around to oust the Chinese fleet from Java.
Hereafter Vijaya founded the powerful Majapahit empire in 1294 whose palace is located to the north of Singosari at Porong. Majapahit’s influence would encompass present day Indonesia and spread even to Malaysia and Thailand.
Much of what we know today about Singosari comes from the 14th century Old Javanese text called the Pararaton (or the book of Kings).
What remains of the palace of Singosari can be seen near the present-day town of Singosari, where the unfinished Singosari temple, built in 1304, can be found. In the courtyard are a collection of statues, while further down are two huge guardian statues known as dwarapala.
The beautiful Candi Jawi, with Mt. Penanggungan in the background, was built during the reign of Singosari. It is believed to be the funerary temple of the kingdom’s fifth and last king Kertanegara. Built in the 13th century, it is dedicated to a deity combining features of the Hindu god Siva with the Buddha. Candi Jawi is located 40 km. south of Surabaya at Prigen on the way to Tretes.
Other temples built during the Singosari era are the Candi Jago built in 1268 located in Tumpang village, 6 km. south of present day town of Singosari. It is dedicated to Singosari’s 4th king Visnusardahana; while Candi Kidal is 11 km along the same road, built in 1260 and decorated with the mythical Garuda bird. Kidal is dedicated to Singosari’s 2nd king, Raja Anusapati.
An original statue of king Kertanegara still stands in the centre of the city of Surabaya, affectionately known as Joko Dolog, or the Fat Boy.
Located south of the city of Surabaya, capital of East Java, Singosari can be reached by car or taxi from Surabaya or Tretes. Taxis and cars can be easily obtained in the city. As the second busiest city in Indonesia, Surabaya is served by many domestic and international airlines.
Source: Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, Republic of Indonesia