The Transformation of Palembang: A Tale of Political Intrigue and Resilience

Palembang, a city on the east coast of Sumatra, has a rich history that reflects the ebb and flow of power, culture, and trade in the region. As the 16th century approached, Palembang underwent a significant transformation from being under the Hindu-Buddhist Majapahit Kingdom to becoming an Islamic civilization.

The Islamization of Palembang was marked by the arrival of Arya Damar or Arya Dillah, mentioned in the Babad Tanah Jawi. This marked the beginning of a new era for Palembang, leading to its emergence as a center of Islamic culture and trade in the region.

One key figure in this transformation was Ki Mas Hindi, born in Palembang around the mid-17th century. He was the son of Pangeran Sido ing Pasarean, the ruler of Palembang at that time. Ki Mas Hindi witnessed the challenges faced by Palembang, including threats from the Mataram Kingdom and the Dutch East India Company (VOC).

The relationship between Palembang and Mataram was complex, with Palembang sending tributes to Mataram as a form of allegiance, despite often being rejected. The VOC, on the other hand, sought to establish a trading post in Palembang, further complicating the political landscape.

In 1659, tensions reached a climax when the VOC burned the Kraton Kuto Gawang, the palace of Palembang, following the murder of Cornelis Ockerz, a VOC representative known for his arrogance. Pangeran Sido Rejek, the ruler of Palembang at that time, fled the palace, leading to a succession crisis.

It was in this context that Ki Mas Hindi emerged as a key figure. With the support of the ruler of Jambi, the VOC recognized Ki Mas Hindi as the next Prince of Palembang. Ki Mas Hindi returned to Palembang and established a new palace, Bringin Junggut, where he devised strategies to navigate the complex political landscape.

In 1675, Ki Mas Hindi proclaimed himself as the king of Palembang, with the titles of sultan and susuhunan, marking Palembang’s declaration of independence. This transformation was a testament to Palembang’s resilience and its ability to adapt to changing political and cultural landscapes.

Today, Palembang stands as a testament to its rich history, with its vibrant culture and heritage reflecting its past as a center of trade and Islamic culture. The transformation of Palembang serves as a reminder of the city’s enduring spirit in the face of adversity.