The Tumultuous Saga of Prabu Geusan Ulun and the Kingdom of Sumedang Larang


In the 16th century, at the base of Mount Tampomas, the Kingdom of Sumedang Larang flourished under the rule of Prabu Geusan Ulun. Revered for his piety, Geusan Ulun dedicated himself to the pursuit of Islamic knowledge, aspiring to match the scholarly prowess of the rulers of Banten and Cirebon. His quest led him to the sanctuaries of Demak, where he studied under renowned Islamic scholars.

Upon completing his studies, Geusan Ulun visited his relative, Panembahan Girilaya, the King of Cirebon. In Cirebon, a fateful encounter with Ratu Harisbaya, the daughter of Prince Sampang and his dream princess from Demak, set the stage for a dramatic turn of events. To his dismay, Geusan Ulun discovered that Harisbaya was already married to Panembahan Girilaya and was expecting his child.

Despite this, a mutual affection blossomed between Geusan Ulun and Harisbaya, prompting them to consider escaping to Sumedang together. With the help of his loyal attendants, Geusan Ulun executed this daring plan, successfully bringing Harisbaya to Sumedang. This abduction infuriated Panembahan Girilaya, igniting a war between Cirebon and Sumedang.

Foreseeing the repercussions of his actions, Geusan Ulun adeptly repelled Cirebon’s forces twice. In desperation, Panembahan Girilaya sought intervention from his superior, Panembahan Hanyakrawati of the Mataram Kingdom. Following Mataram’s directives, Harisbaya was formally handed over to Sumedang, with the condition that her unborn child with Girilaya be recognized as Sumedang’s legitimate successor.

This pivotal moment, recorded in the Carios Babad Sumedang manuscript translated by Dede Burhanudin (2012), heralded the birth of Raden Suriadiwangsa. He was the son of Panembahan Girilaya and Ratu Harisbaya, raised as the stepson of Prabu Geusan Ulun, and destined to significantly impact Sundanese history.

As Euis Thresnawati S. explains in Sejarah Kerajaan Sumedang Larang (2011), Suriadiwangsa’s early life was marked by Sumedang’s political strife. After the Sunda Kingdom’s fall a decade before Geusan Ulun’s reign, Sumedang was entrusted with continuing its legacy. This transition was symbolically represented by the ceremonial handover of the Binokasih Sanghyang Pak√® crown to Sumedang.

Inherited territories brought continuous challenges to Geusan Ulun from the Sultanate of Banten in the west and the Kingdom of Cirebon in the east. Moreover, the former territories of the Sunda Kingdom did not recognize Sumedang’s authority, leading to numerous rebellions.

The presence of Ratu Harisbaya in Sumedang further divided the kingdom internally. After Geusan Ulun’s death in the early 17th century, Sumedang Larang split into two regions: the eastern region, led by Geusan Ulun’s son Rangga Gede, and the western region, the original capital, controlled by Suriadiwangsa.

This division weakened Sumedang, concentrating military power in two separate locations. Suriadiwangsa, feeling vulnerable to threats from Banten and Cirebon, faced a new challenge when Sultan Agung of Mataram asserted his claim over Sumedang Larang in 1614. In 1620, Suriadiwangsa pledged loyalty to Sultan Agung, representing both his and Rangga Gede’s territories.

Recognizing Suriadiwangsa’s sincerity, Sultan Agung appointed him as the coordinating regent for all former Sumedang Larang regions, granting him the title Rangga Gempol Kusumahdinata. Suriadiwangsa’s exemplary service, especially his successful diplomatic mission to Sampang, earned him land in Mataram’s capital, known as Kasumedhangan.

However, Suriadiwangsa’s ambitions extended beyond his appointed role. As Mumuh Muhsin Z. details in Sumedang pada Masa Pengaruh Kesultanan Mataram (1601–1706) (2008), he aspired to be the sole ruler of Sumedang. Seeking assistance from the Sultanate of Banten, he plotted against Rangga Gede. This plan backfired when Banten exploited the situation to invade Sumedang’s territories.

Sultan Agung, angered by Suriadiwangsa’s betrayal, stripped him of his position, appointing Dipati Ukur of Bandung in his place. Suriadiwangsa was executed in 1624 and buried in Lempunyanganwangi, near present-day Lempuyangan Station in Yogyakarta.

Suriadiwangsa’s legacy, marked by ambition and political maneuvering, left a lasting imprint on Sundanese history. His life, as detailed in the translated manuscript of Carios Babad Sumedang and other historical sources, underscores the complexities of leadership and loyalty in the tumultuous era of the 16th and 17th centuries. The story of Sumedang Larang and its rulers remains a testament to the enduring struggle for power and identity in the region.