The Legacy of Mataram’s Influence on the Sunda Region: A Historical Analysis

The kingdoms of Sunda and Galuh emerged as successors to the Tarumanegara Kingdom over seven centuries ago. However, their reigns were not destined to last indefinitely. In the latter half of the 16th century, the Islamic monarchies began to encroach upon the existence of the Sunda Kingdom from both the west and east. With the weakening of the Sunda Kingdom’s power, two Islamic monarchies with familial ties, Banten and Cirebon, managed to subdue several crucial ports. In 1579, Sultan Maulana Yusuf of Banten conquered the Sunda Kingdom. The second Sultan of Banten continued the expansion policies into the heartland of Sunda that had already been initiated by his father, Maulana Hasanuddin. This led to the attack and conquest of Pakwan Pajajaran, the capital of the Sunda Kingdom. Numerous regalia of the Sunda Kingdom were claimed and distributed among Sunda nobles. The crown of the Sunda Kingdom, known as Binokasih Sang Hyang Pake, for instance, was handed over to the Sumedang Larang Kingdom, which claimed to be the legitimate heir of the Sunda Kingdom. Additionally, the watu gilang (stone for the coronation of kings) was taken by Sultan Banten to his palace in Surosowan.

But did Cirebon, Sumedang, and Banten truly become the new rulers of the Sunda region? The answer is not so straightforward. Unexpectedly, a political force from Java emerged with a relatively more entrenched influence in the Sunda region. One strong entity that influenced the Sundanese culture was the Mataram Kingdom. During the 16th and early 17th centuries, the Islamic-Javanese throne, led by the Wali Sanga under Demak and later Pajang, underwent turbulence. Hadiwijaya, the ruler of Pajang, seemed to lack a capable successor. Eventually, Ki Ageng Pemanahan and his son Sutawijaya rose to power, emerging as the “victors” of this power struggle. They laid the foundation for the Mataram Kingdom, which was ambitious in its goal to unite the island of Java under one banner.

The political campaign for Java’s unification was initiated by Sultan Agung Hanyakrakusuma, the third ruler of Mataram. Simultaneously, the Dutch East India Company (VOC) was expanding its political and economic influence in Jayakarta. The relationship between the VOC and Sultan Agung was often tense. In 1614, the VOC sent envoys to Mataram to negotiate the physical boundaries of power. Sultan Agung claimed that the Priangan region, including the highlands of West Java today, was under Mataram’s jurisdiction. This claim stirred Sundanese society in Priangan. Raden Suriadiwangsa, the king of Sumedang Larang at the time, pledged allegiance to Sultan Agung in 1620, effectively bringing all of Priangan under Mataram’s rule.

Sultan Agung took significant political steps to solidify Mataram’s control over Priangan. He considered Priangan a crucial foothold for his ambitions, even though his attempt to conquer Batavia (now Jakarta) ultimately failed. The region became vital for subsequent Mataram rulers as well. Piyagem Sukapura, one of the metal inscriptions, sheds light on Sultan Agung’s efforts to portray himself as a just ruler. He rewarded the three regents in Priangan with gifts, emphasizing their loyalty. Interestingly, this event was associated with the capture of Dipati Ukur in 1636. Dipati Ukur, a Sundanese commander, was sent by Sultan Agung to help conquer Batavia but was later executed for insubordination.

Mataram’s political hegemony over the Sunda region was relatively short-lived, from the 17th to the early 18th centuries. However, Mataram created a new elite during this period, known as the “menak,” or district nobles, who maintained Mataram’s authority in Priangan. Their influence persisted until the end of the colonial era. Today, traces of Mataram’s cultural legacy can still be found in the region.