Ken Angrok and the beginnings of Singhasari

In 1222 Ken Angrok seized the throne and established a new kingdom: the kingdom of Singhasari. Ken Angrok’s story is alluded to in many literary sources and is the main subject of the Pararaton, a Javanese chronicle probably written in the fifteenth or sixteenth century.

Location of Singosari on map

Ken Angrok’s life story

The Pararaton, written centuries after the death of Ken Angrok, cannot be considered a historical text as such. Nevertheless, it contains information that can be checked against inscriptions and other literary sources, and it is historically interesting, even though many of its details may be more myth than reality.

Interestingly the text does not hesitate to depict Angrok, the founder of the dynasty, as a man who also has a darker side. The emphasis of the text seems to be on his defects as much as on his good qualities. Although Ken Angrok is said to be Brahma’s son, he lives the first part of his life as a thug, stealing and raping.

His destiny is sealed by his lust for a woman, the beautiful Ken Dedes, the wife of the regent of Tumapel (in the territory of Janggala), Tunggul Ametung. The thuggish Angrok fell in love with Ken Dedes, killed her husband and took his place. However, Ken Dedes was already pregnant with a son who, when he grew up, would instigate the assassination of his stepfather.

Once he became governor of Tumapel, Ken Angrok gradually extended his authority over the area east of Mount Kawi. Having become the protector of much of the former territory of Janggala, Ken Angrok adopted a royal title and, by doing so, ran into conflict with the king of Kadiri. The armies of the two kings competed in the battle of Ganter, which ended in victory for Ken Angrok. The territories of Kadiri and Janggala were united in the new kingdom of Singhasari, with Kutaraja (in Singosari) as its capital.

Compared with the Nagarakertagama, the Pararaton is more detailed in its revelation of the story of Ken Angrok, from the moment he was born and banished by his mother to the moment he was killed by his stepchild, Anushapati.

The Pararaton recounts that as soon as Anushapati heard from his mother, Ken Dedes, that Tunggul Ametung was his real father and had been killed by Ken Angrok, his stepfather, he wished to take revenge. He ordered someone from Batil to assassinate Ken Angrok with Mpu Gandring’s kris, which had killed his own father. The man from Batil covertly entered the palace to find Ken Angrok. When he saw that Ken Angrok was eating, he did not waste time, but went straight up to him and stabbed him until he was dead. Ken Angrok passed away on the golden throne at sunset. The man from Batil ran away, but Anushapati followed him and killed him immediately to hide his own bad conduct.

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The date of Ken Angrok’s death

While the Pararaton mentions the Shaka year 1169 (which corresponds to 1247 AD) as the year of Ken Angrok’s death, the Nagarakertagama records this event as having taken place in the Shaka year 1149 (1227 AD). Scholars agree that this latter date is the correct date, and that it can be further specified as 26 August 1227.

Read more on the Old Javanese calendar