Legacy of Strife: The Javanese Dynastic Wars

Sunan Pakubuwana II had just completed his new palace in Sala in 1744. The new palace was built to replace the Kartasura Palace, which lost its sanctity due to the Geger Pacinan explosion a few years earlier.

From the palace later known as Surakarta, not long after, Pakubuwana II organized a contest to capture Raden Mas Said, his nephew. This policy was made because Raden Mas Said was considered to have participated in the rebellion alongside Sunan Kuning and Kapiten Sepanjang during the attack on the Kartasura Palace.

Unexpectedly, the bounty to capture Raden Mas Said was accepted by Pangeran Mangkubumi, Pakubuwana II’s brother, alias Raden Mas Said’s other uncle. Pangeran Mangkubumi at that time was promised land and a number of subjects if he could expel Pangeran Said’s group in Sukowati.

To cut the story short, Pangeran Mangkubumi succeeded in driving Raden Mas Said out of the Sukowati area and then asked for his rights from Pakubuwana II. However, Pakubuwana II broke his promise for various reasons. One of the reasons was the huge debt of the Mataram Kingdom to the VOC (Dutch East India Company) due to the Geger Pacinan Rebellion in the Kartasura Palace era.

In addition, Pakubuwana II was also instigated by Patih Pringgalaya to cancel his promise. Pangeran Mangkubumi was furious. He then joined Raden Mas Said in the rebellion that began in 1749. The duo leading the Third Javanese Succession War were known to be very fierce and slippery.

This was at least revealed in the Surakarta Palace text, the Babad Giyanti, written by the poet Yasadipura I and transliterated by Bambang Khusen Al Marie (2018). The Babad Giyanti also mentions that Raden Mas Said and Pangeran Mangkubumi were very popular among the people. Their struggle was considered a people’s struggle, so sometimes when one of them was cornered, it was the people who protected them.

Meanwhile, Pakubuwana II, who was ill because he had to face his brother and nephew, passed away and was succeeded by Pakubuwana III, his son. Pakubuwana III, who was raised to the throne by the VOC, was very unpopular with Raden Mas Said and Pangeran Mangkubumi.

With the support of Raden Mas Said, Pangeran Mangkubumi was then appointed as a rival king in Kabanaran and was given the title Susuhunan/Sunan Kabanaran. After receiving the title Sunan Kabanaran and attacking Surakarta, Pangeran Mangkubumi’s relationship with Raden Mas Said changed. On several occasions, he showed his superiority over Raden Mas Said.

Not long after that, Pangeran Mangkubumi exacerbated the situation. As mentioned by M.C. Ricklefs in Yogyakarta under Sultan Mangkubumi (1749–1792), in 1755 he even agreed to the Treaty of Giyanti, which made him king of half of Java. From then on, Pangeran Mangkubumi became the King of the Yogyakarta Palace and bore the title Hamengku Buwana I.

This ignited the hatred in Raden Mas Said’s heart. Still sore from feeling betrayed, Raden Mas Said’s hatred grew when Hamengku Buwana I asked Raden Mas Said to return his daughter—Raden Ayu Inten, who had previously been married to Raden Mas Said as a form of family tie with Hamengku Buwana I as her uncle and father-in-law.

In 1757, Raden Mas Said finally launched a major attack on the newly built Yogyakarta Palace and almost leveled the palace. The VOC, knowing that it was almost impossible to eradicate Raden Mas Said on the battlefield, then proposed negotiations. Thus, on March 17, 1757, Raden Mas Said ended his rebellion by agreeing to the Treaty of Salatiga.

Based on this treaty, he was entitled to the title of Adipati Arya, who ruled over a duchy. In history, Raden Mas Said is better known as Mangkunegara I. After Mataram was divided into three axes, Yogyakarta and Mangkunegaran apparently remained intertwined in Javanese history. The relationship, fraught with hatred and love, experienced unavoidable dynamics.

For example, not long after Hamengku Buwana I and Mangkunegara I ascended the throne, their deadly duo in the Javanese conflict stage reappeared in 1790. Their alliance, as mentioned in the Babad Pakepung manuscript, occurred due to the controversial policy of Pakubuwana IV. The sunan, who had just ascended the throne unilaterally, gave his son the title of Mangkubumi, which traditionally belonged to Hamengku Buwana I.

The Sultan demanded that Pakubuwana IV change the name of his crown prince before he considered it a declaration of war. On the other hand, Hamengku Buwana I was still determined to conquer Surakarta and reunite the Mataram Kingdom. For the company, the conflict between Surakarta and Yogyakarta was a reason to depose Pakubuwana IV, who was known to be close to the religious leaders and was considered prone to new rebellions.

Because Pakubuwana IV remained steadfast in his decision, Yogyakarta and the VOC together attacked Surakarta. On their journey, Mangkunegara welcomed the attack and decided to join his former father-in-law. The attack of these three political exponents on Surakarta later became known in history as the Pakepung Event. After this event, the ups and downs of the relationship between the Hamengku Buwana and Mangkunegara dynasties stagnated in an atmosphere of mutual suspicion and even hatred.

In some traditional Javanese historiography sources, it is said that initially the two leaders of these dynasties agreed not to unite with each other, especially through marriage. The bright spot of reconciliation between the Hamengku Buwana and Mangkunegara dynasties only occurred at the beginning of the 20th century, when the relationship between Mangkunegaran and Surakarta entered a cold war phase.

Mangkunegara VII, who was then in power over Mangkunegaran, was considered to have rivaled the prestige of Pakubuwana X, who was in power in Surakarta, because of his various movements in the national political movement and efforts in Javanese cultural revivalism through the establishment of the Djawa Institute.

Because of the competition between the two Solo monarchies, Mangkunegara VII felt that approaching the Yogyakarta Palace had great potential for strengthening his political power. Eventually, as revealed by U. Hermono in Gusti Noeroel: Streven Naar Geluk (Chasing Happiness) (2014), Mangkunegara VII decided to marry the daughter of Sultan Hamengku Buwana VII, named Bendara Raden Ayu Mursudariyah, on September 6, 1920. Mursudariyah was immediately appointed as the queen consort of Mangkunegaran and received the title of Gusti Kanjeng Ratu Timoer.

The marriage that united the two conflicting dynasties for seven generations became the starting point of the history of the birth of cultural assimilation and art between Yogyakarta and Mangkunegaran. One that can still be found today, both in the Yogyakarta Palace and the Mangkunegaran Pura, is the Bedhaya Bedhah Madiun dance. Outside of the cultural cooperation between these two political exponents, the offspring of Mangkunegara VII and Gusti Kanjeng Ratu Timoer also became dominant historical figures in Javanese feudal history, namely Gusti Noeroel. He was a flower of Mangkunegaran who captivated Sukarno, Sutan Sjahrir, and Hamengku Buwana IX.