Jayabaya — The Seer King of Java who Predicted the Dutch and Japanese Occupation of Indonesia
Nostradamus (1503 – 1566) was best known as an author of prophesies. He is credited by some with predicting a number of events in world history, including the French Revolution, the atom bomb, the rise of Adolf Hitler and the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. However, around 400 years before him lived Jayabaya, a Hindu king in Java whose importance in the history of the archipelago now known as Indonesia, is also known for his prophecies, particularly regarding the future of Java.
The predictions of Jayabaya, like those of Nostradamus, still have great influence on the minds of many Indonesians, because it is believed much of what he predicted has come true.
THE KING WHO LOVED TO LEARN
King Jayabaya (or Joyoboyo) ruled the Kediri Kingdom in 1135-1157 and is still popular among the Javanese to this day, as written in the Babad Tanah Jawi (Chronicle of Java) and Serat Aji Pamasa.
Anonymous; traditionally attributed to King Jayabaya (r. 1135–1157) (Public Domain)
As most kings of the age, he associated himself to a deity to legitimize his rule. Some sources say that he was the great-great grandson of the god of wisdom, Brahma, and some say that he was the incarnation of Vishnu. His father, Gendrayana, claimed to be a descendant of the legendary Five Pandava Brothers from the Hindu epic Mahabharata, tracing his lineage to Arjuna, the third Pandava Brother, who himself was the son of the god Indra. Due to this, Jayabaya was believed to have had a powerful magical talent which led to his ability to see far into the past and far into the future.
Jayabaya was also said to be wise and eager to learn. Under his rule, the kingdom of Kediri reached its peak of prosperity, particularly in literature.
The historical map of Kediri (Kadiri) kingdom 11th to 13th century Eastern Java. (CC BY SA 3.0)
He patronized a few famous poets of the age such as the brothers Empu (saint) Sedah dan Empu Panuluh who wrote Kitab Bharatayudha (the book of Bharatayudha), a retelling of the Indian epic Mahabharata, in 1157. The prologue of the book names King Jayabaya as the patron of the two poets. The era of the Kediri Kingdom was the golden age for Hindu literature in Java. The king himself published his own books of prophesies such as Serat Jayabaya, Serat Pranitiwakya and others.
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Jayabaya abdicated in his old age and sought a life of meditation as a recluse in the village of Menang, in the sub-district of Kediri Regency. To this day, the village is still considered a sacred pilgrimage site for the Javanese. Both Sukarno and Suharto, the first and second presidents of Indonesia respectively, were both said to have meditated there to attain their airs of kingly legitimacy, supernatural abilities as well as Jayabaya's blessings.
Statue of Vishnu. Kediri, East Java, circa 12th–13th century (CC BY SA 3.0)
The prophecies of Nostradamus received a mixed reaction when they were published. Some people thought Nostradamus was a servant of the devil, a fake, or insane. Many of the elite thought his quatrains were spiritually inspired prophecies. For Jayabaya, due to his position as king and his preceding reputation as a descendant of a deity, it was easier to get people to believe him and his books were therefore revered almost as much as the man himself.
The Jayabaya prophecies still have great influence on the minds of many Indonesians today because much of what he predicted has come true. One of the most famous prediction of Jayabaya was the arrival of white-skinned men who carry weapons that were able to kill from distance. He predicted that the white-skinned men would occupy Java for a very long time. They would then be defeated, he said, by the yellow-skinned men from the North, who would only occupy Java for the lifetime of a corn-stalk.
Dutch settlement in the East Indies. Batavia (now Jakarta), Java, c. 1665 (Public Domain)
This prophecy became a reality with the 300 years of Indonesian colonization by the Dutch. The Japanese defeat of the Dutch in Indonesia in 1942 was received with joy as the Javanese viewed it as a realization of the 800-year-old prophecy. The Japanese then occupied Indonesia until 1945, or three-and-a-half years before Indonesia’s independence in August 1945.
Outline of the Japanese entry in Batavia, as depicted by the Japanese. (Public Domain)
Jayabaya’s predicted the leadership of modern Indonesia with the rather loose term of Notonegoro, (literally translated as “administrator of the country”). As there was no further explanation of why he used this word specifically, there have been many different interpretations of this point. The simplest explanation would be that whoever became the leader in the modern day Indonesia would not be an all-powerful “king”, but an “administrator” who answered to the people of the country. However, there have been other, more elaborate, interpretations.
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One theory is that it refers to the last syllables of the names of presidents of the country. However, this was not entirely accurate as only the first two out of the seven presidents of Indonesia have the corresponding syllables in their names. Indonesian first president was SoekarNO, and the second president was SoeharTO. As BJ Habibie, the third president did not have the syllable NE at the end of his name, and Abdurrahman Wahid (the forth president) did not have the syllable GO, this interpretation becomes moot and other interpretations surfaced.
One interpretation says that it may be because only the “greatest” presidents would have the corresponding syllables. Another more detailed interpretation was, as NE was not in the name of BJ Habibie, this NE is then interpreted as the president from outside Java Island, which he was. And GORO was then said to be derived from the word goro-goro which means conflicts and riots, which happened in the era of Abdurrahman Wahid and Megawati Soekarnoputri as the fourth and fifth president. And the sixth president YodhoyoNO, is believed to bring the Indonesian leadership back to the first syllable of the word.
These are just some of the many interpretations of a very popular topic among the Indonesians who believe in this prophecy.
THE ARRIVAL OF A GREAT LEADER AND A NEW GOLDEN AGE
The most anticipated prediction of Jayabaya is that of the arrival of Ratu Adil (King/Queen of Justice, although the Javanese take it for granted that this person will be a man) as the new leader of Indonesia. Jayabaya predicted that this person would be a descendant of the royal family of the ancient kingdom of Majapahit who would rise to become the greatest leader Java and the world would ever know. He would appear, according to Jayabaya, "when iron wagons could drive without horses and ships could sail through the sky" (a time when there are cars and airplanes).
According to Jayabaya, the beginning of this great leader’s life will be difficult. He will conquer many difficulties, humiliation, and poverty. But he will rise above it all due to his sincerity and steadfast heart. The just king will be born in the dark age of suffering to restore order, harmony, and justice in the world.
As the Javanese believe in a cyclical history of alternating prosperity of life - where the era of prosperity will be followed by the era of darkness which will turn again to the era of prosperity in due time, this prediction appeals to the Javanese belief system.
Many Javanese believe that they are now in the middle of Jaman Edan (the age of craziness), or the era of darkness. Therefore, the arrival of the Ratu Adil is anticipated as nearing its time and he will usher in the dawn of a new golden age.
Featured image: Page from Serat Babat Tanah Jawi, the Chronicle of Java (Public Domain), Inset: King Jayabaya (Image Source: Serjarah-Negara.com)
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