The Origins of Javanese in History

General / 13 October 2019

The Javanese are the most populous (about 100 million people according to 2011 data) in Indonesia, starting as an Indonesian ethnic group, most of them including Sundanese in West Java. The ancestors of Javanese people are ancient people who came from Austronesian, a species that is thought to originate from around Taiwan and migrated through the Philippines before finally arriving on the island of Java in 1,500 and 1,000 BC. Javanese ethnic groups have many sub-ethnic groups such as the Mataram people, the Cirebonese, Osing, Tengger, Boya, Samin, Naga, Banyumasan, and many more. Today, the majority of Javanese people proclaim themselves as Muslims and the minority as Christians and Hindus. Apart from the religion they profess, Javanese civilization can never be separated from their interaction with the original animism called Kejawen which has been running for more than a millennium, and the influence of Javanese also can still be found in Javanese history, culture, tradition, and other fields of art. For more details, let's look at an explanation of the history of the origin of the following Javanese tribes that have compiled a History Collection from various sources.

Javanese in the Hindu-Buddhist and Islamic Period
When discussing the origin of the Javanese tribe is not much different from the origin of the Indonesian people as a whole, namely when the discovery of fossils from Homo erectus which is also known as "Java Man" by Eugene Dubois, a Dutch anatomist in 1891 at Trinil. The Homo erectus fossil that was discovered, was estimated to have an unusually old age of around 700,000 years, making it one of the ancient human species that could be found at that time. Not long ago, in Sangiran another fossil of the same species was found again in 1930 by Gustav Heinrich Ralph von Koenigswald who discovered a tool that seemed far more advanced than the tools of the previous era and the age of the instruments they had found was estimated to be 550,000 up to 143,000 years.

The main belief held by the Javanese tribe was animism and continued as it did until finally the Hindu and Buddhist preachers arrived in Indonesia, which began with trade contact with the Indian subcontinent. What made Javanese people interested in adopting these new religions was because they were able to unite with the unique Javanese local philosophy. The gathering place for Javanese culture is Kedu and Kewu which are on the slopes of Mount Merapi as the heart of the Medang i Bhumi Kingdom of Mataram. Some ancient dynasties such as Sanjaya and Syailendra also used the place as their power center. When Mpu Sendok ruled, the royal capital was moved near the Brantas River in the 10th century, this also led to a shift in the cultural and political center of the Javanese. It is believed that this displacement was caused by the volcanic eruption of Mount Merapi, but there are also those who assume that this displacement was caused by an attack from the Srivijaya Kingdom.

The development of the Javanese tribe began to become significant when Kertanegara ruled Singasari Kingdom at the end of the 13th century. The king, who loved to expand his territory, made several large expeditions, such as to Madura, Bali, Kalimantan, and most importantly, to the island of Sumatra. Finally, Singasari succeeded in controlling trade in the Malacca Strait following the defeat of the Malay kingdom. The dominance of the Singasari kingdom ceased in 1292 when a rebellion by Jayakatwang succeeded in ending Kertanegara's life, and Jayakatwang was killed again by Raden Wijaya who was the son of Kertanegara. Later, Raden Wijaya would establish Majapahit, one of the largest kingdoms in the archipelago at that time.

When Majapahit experienced many problems about who became the successor, several civil wars occurred and made Majapahit lose their own strength. When Majapahit began to collapse, the island of Java also began to change with the development of Islam, and the collapse of Majapahit became a momentum for the Sultanate of Demak to become the most powerful kingdom. The Sultanate of Demak later also played an important role in dispelling the coming colonial Portuguese forces. Demak attacked the Portuguese twice when the Portuguese defeated Malacca. Demak is also known for their courage to attack the Portuguese alliance and the Sunda Kingdom. The Sultanate of Demak was then continued by the Kingdom of Pajang and the Sultanate of Mataram, and this change also forced the center of power to move from initially on the coast of Demak to Pajang in Blora, and finally moved again to Mataram precisely in Kotagede which is near Yogyakarta now.

Early Javanese Migration
The Javanese themselves are thought to have a connection with the migration of Austronesians to Madagascar in the first century. Although the main culture of this migration is indeed closer to the Ma’anyans in Kalimantan, some parts of the Malagasy language itself are taken from Javanese. Hundreds of years later when the period of the Hindu kingdom arrived, many Javanese merchants settled in other places in the archipelago. At the end of the 15th century following the collapse of Majapahit and the development of Muslims on the north coast of Java, many Hindus from Java migrated to Bali and played a role in the advancement of Balinese culture.

Besides domestically, Javanese also appeared on the Malay peninsula for a long time. The relationship between Malacca and Java itself is an important thing that plays a major role in the development of Islam in Indonesia because many Islamic missionaries were sent from Malacca to several trading areas on the north coast of Java. These migrations expand the scope to be explored when historians investigate the traces of Javanese origin in history.

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