The Sultanate of Mataram was an empire that ruled the interior of the central Java River from the late 1500s until 1755. It was the last truly independent sultanate in Indonesia before the Dutch colonisation.
The existence of the Mataram kingdom ended in 1755 with the Treaty of Giant, which divided it into Surakarta, ruled by Pakubuwono III, and Yogyakarta, ruled by Hamengkubuwono I.
The first ruler of Mataram was Gedhe Pamanahan. There is no certainty about the date of his reign. The story goes that he would have gained control of the Mataram region through his actions in the service of the Pajang ruler Pangeran Adivijaya, and by derailing his enemy Aria Penangsang from his horse in a duel. He set up his palace and capital at Kotagedee in Yogyakarta, where settlers began to arrive to work his lands.
Gedhe Pamanaham was succeeded as ruler of Mataram by his son Panembahan Ingalaga or Senapati (English: General) – a nickname he received from the Sultan of Pajang, Adivijaya. He is widely associated with mythical elements, such as the creation of the entire Mataram dynasty after an encounter with the mythical figure of Nyai Roro Kidul, noble ancestors among the rulers of the Majapahit kingdom and victorious military campaigns. Under Senapati, the power of Mataram was felt in Java from Hindu Buddhist Pasuruan to Cirebon, but the country failed to subdue coastal states like Surabaya. The historian H. J. de Graaf described Senapat as a tyrant with a bellicose nature, but without any constructive development.
Senapat”s son Panembahan Krabyak ascended the throne of Mataram after his death in 1601. His reign consisted mainly of defending and holding Mataram together. At the beginning, the kingdom was wracked by Panembahan Krabyak”s war against his rebel elder brother Pangeran Puger, who was active in Demak. Backed by the men of the Dutch naval officer Jacob van Heemskerck, Pangeran Puger won the first confrontation, but Panembahan Krabyak finally defeated him in 1604. A little later, another of his brothers, Pangeran Jayaraja of Panaragan, rose up against him in a rebellion for the throne of Mataram. Very little is known about the course of the conflict, but it was apparently brief.
During the reign of Panembaha Krabyak, the conflict between Mataram and Surabaya continued. It was not possible for Panembahan Krabyak to conquer the heavily fortified city-state, so this was never even attempted. Instead, the war was fought mainly in the form of raids by both sides.
The eldest son of Panembaha Krabyak, Ransang, later known as Agung, inherited the throne in 1613. He was the first of the Mataram rulers to officially adopt the title of ”Sultan”, which he did in 1641.
Agung is considered the greatest Indonesian warlord since the 1400s. The first of his conquests was the strategically important town of Wirasaba in 1615, which Mataram conquered to gain access to the lower reaches of the Brantas River valley, from where it was possible to control the links between the river valley and eastern Java. Surabaya responded with an attack, which was repulsed by Agung in January 1616 – made possible by his temporary assurance of loyalty from Pajang. This was followed by a series of victorious wars against the Java states: Lasem was conquered in 1616, Pasuharan and the rebellious Pajang in 1617, Tuban in 1619, until only Surabaya remained. After a five-year siege, it too finally surrendered in 1625 after Agung cut off the water supply to the city by damming the river.
Mataram was now the ruler of central Java – there was still Blambangan to the east and Banten to the west, but neither was a match for Mataram”s power. In the west, Cirebon paid tribute to him and made him a prince consort in 1625. Blambangan was eventually defeated in 1640.
During Agung”s reign, the Dutch East India Trading Company began to gain a foothold in Java. At first, Agung paid little attention to this development, focusing on gaining control of local states rather than challenging European power. Between 1628 and 1629, he attempted to conquer Dutch-ruled Batavia with the intention of overthrowing Banten, but failed.
Amangkurat I and II
Amangkurat I or Sunan Tegalwangi, who succeeded Agung as Sultan of Mataram, was an extremely cruel and power-hungry ruler. Like his father, he lacked military prowess and consolidated his power mainly by intimidating and assassinating his opponents.
The first coup attempt against Amangkurat I was made in 1647, when his brother Pangeran Alit led a group of deeply religious Muslims to the royal palace to take it over. However, Amangkurat”s forces repulsed the attack, and Prince Pangeran Alit was killed in that battle. Another coup attempt took place in 1661, when Amangkurat”s son Adipati Anom tried to overthrow his father.
Resistance to the autocratic rule of Amangkurat eventually led to an uprising in 1674. The leader of the rebellion was Prince Trunajaya, whose father had been executed by Amangkurat in 1656 and was said to be of noble Majapahit descent. Trunajaya, who ruled the island of Madura as a vassal of Mataram, managed to conquer a large part of the east of Java with the support of his supporters and pirates who had fled from Makassar. He then settled in Kedir.
The Trunajaya rebels finally succeeded in 1677 in capturing the court of Amangkurat, who fled and handed over his throne to his son, who had been behind the rebellion. The new sultan, who took the name of Amangkurat II, received Dutch help to put down the rebellion and eventually killed Trunajaya, who had become a pretender to the throne, himself after he was captured. Amangkurat II”s brother, Pangeran Puger, who had also declared himself sultan, also finally submitted to his rule in November 1681.
Towards the end of Amangkurat II”s reign, relations with the Dutch cooled again, partly because he sought to protect the anti-Dutch Macassars and Balinese. In 1686, 75 Dutchmen who had come to renegotiate treaties between Mataram and the Dutch were also killed at the court in Kartasura. In the western Java, a slave revolt led by the Balinese Surapat broke out, weakening Mataram considerably, and the kingdom began to secede again. Amangkurat II asked the Dutch for help in consolidating his power, but they refused.
Amangkura III and the first succession war
Amangkurat II died in 1703, and was succeeded by his son Sunan Mas under the title Amangkurat III. The very next year he was the target of a Dutch-backed rebellion led by his uncle Pangeran Puger, partly because the Dutch believed he was conspiring with Surapat against them. Pangeran Puger was recognised as Sultan of Mataram on 7 July 1704 by the Merchant Company, and in October that year he took the title of Pakubuwono I. The first of Java”s three succession wars began.
Driven into exile, Amangkurat III announced in 1708 that he was ready to negotiate, but the Dutch captured him and deported him and his family to Ceylon. The same was done to the descendants of those who took part in the Surapat rebellion.
Islam apparently became the main religion of Mataram around 1628-1629.
During the reign of Agung, Mataram introduced its own calendar in 1633, based on Javanese and Islamic traditions, to replace the earlier Hindu calendar.