Gajah Mada inscription

The Gajah Mada inscription is carved on an andesite stone which is now kept in the National Museum of Indonesia (D 111). There are 17 lines of text on the front of the stone. The script and language are Old Javanese. This is the best of all the inscriptions found around Singosari, both with regard to the type of rock that was used, and in terms of the clarity and neatness of the writing.

The Gajah Mada inscription begins by mentioning the death (kamoktan) of King Kertanagara who is called the Lord and who returned to Shiva and Buddha in the month Jyeshta of the Shaka year 1214 (between 18 May and 14 June 1292). This part of the inscription is often called Gajah Mada A. The rest of the inscription, often called Gajah Mada B, runs from the third line to the end.

The inscription begins by elaborating extensively on the date when the inscription was made, which corresponds to 27 April 1351. After that it mentions the main person who ordered the edict to which the inscription relates, as well as other important persons. It then states the reason for and the purpose of the edict, which was to document the restoration of a holy building in commemoration of King Kertanagara.

The inscription was issued by the Rakryan Mapatih Mpu Mada, better known as Gajah Mada. His name first appears during the reign of King Jayanagara (1309-1328). During the insurrection lead by Ra Kuti in 1315, King Jayanagara was hidden in Badander village by Gajah Mada, before Ra Kuti was finally killed. At this time Gajah Mada was a member of the king’s guards. The king rewarded Mpu Mada with the governorship of Kahuripan and he was later promoted to governor of Daha.

The Majapahit kingdom reached its peak during the reign of King Hayam Wuruk (1350-1389), who was still young when he ascended the throne but was assisted by the experienced Gajah Mada, who acted as his prime minister (Mahapatih Hamangkubhumi). In the Gajah Mada inscription the name of Hayam Wuruk is not mentioned even though he was already king – he had ascended the throne in 1350. It is his mother, Tribhuwanottungadewi, who is mentioned as foremost amongst the royal elite in this inscription of 1351.

The position of Mahapatiḥ Hamangkubhumi was actually granted to Gajah Mada when Majapahit was ruled by Hayam Wuruk’s mother, Tribhuwanottungadewi. This title was bestowed on Gajah Mada after he defeated the insurrection in Sadeng and Keta in 1331.

After the Sadeng incident, the Pararaton mentions a famous event in history, the Sumpah Palapa Gajah Mada, when Gajah Mada swore in front of Queen Tribhuwanottungadewi and the other royals of Majapahit, that he would not allow his food to be spiced (palapa) until he had united all of Nusantara under the banner of Majapahit, including the regions of Gurun, Seram, Tanjungpura, Haru, Pahang, Dompo, Bali, Sunda, Palembang and Tumasik.

Like Kertanagara, who conceived the political idea of expanding the realm of Singhasari to cover the whole of dvipantara, Gajah Mada also wanted to realize this political concept of nusantara, as declared in the Sumpah Palapa.

The Gajah Mada inscription informs us that Rakryan Mapatih Mpu Mada restored a holy sanctuary (caitya) that had been previously destroyed. The renovation of the holy caitya building was dedicated to: Paduka Bhatara (King Kertanagara); the Mahabrahmana (Brahmans), Sheva (Shaivas) and Sogata (Buddhists) who followed him in death; and Sang Mahawrdhamantri, who was killed at his majesty’s feet and accompanied Kertanagara to his death.

There is a theory that the Gajah Mada inscription is connected to the temple of Singosari. The caitya building reconstructed by Mpu Mada could be the Singosari temple as the Gajah Mada inscription was found not far from it. In view of the distribution of the priests’ statues in the Singosari complex to the south of the Raksasa images, another possibility is that the caitya mentioned in the Gajah Mada inscription was near there.

The Gajah Mada inscription ends by mentioning the reason for building the caitya, which was to express Gajah Mada’s feelings of devotion to King Kertanagara and his descendants, and to all the close attendants of the king. This, it is said, was the noble act of Rakryan Mapatih (Gajah Mada) in the land of Yavadvipa (the island of Java).

Read more on the Gajah Mada inscription (pdf)