This writing is one of the selected essays done by undergraduate students of “Organizational Communication” from University of Indonesia, the faculty of social and political sciences, international communication program of public relations 2013.
“It starts with interactions between two worlds: the modern and the tradition. Through conversations and engagements build bridges towards understanding. Accepting differences mean being open to diversity. Open the doors toward collaboration amongst different worlds and of different cultures and arts. Being authentic is as important as being different. Prevention of going obsolete starts with a conversation of differences. It is our job as communicators to build bridges from our roots progressing forward to the present and future. So when everyone else is going global, we are deeply rooted in our local wisdom whilst keeping touch with modernity,” Kandi Windoe
Inspired by the same spirit, Kediri Bertutur takes the undergraduate students on their own cultural journeys. Kediri Bertutur presents Kimiko Kanani Widjaja’s personal writing after taking a look into Indonesia’s history of Majapahit kingdom.
LEARNING FROM MAJAPAHIT
Indonesia Overview: The Republic of Indonesia is located in Southeast Asia and is a sovereign state. A sovereign state is represented by a centralized government and holds possession over independent authority over a geographical area. This beautiful nation is made up of 13,466 islands, 33 provinces and over 238 million individuals. Thus, Indonesia is labeled as the fourth country with the most population in the world. In addition to that, Indonesia’s economy (Gross Domestic Product) is ranked the sixteenth largest worldwide. Thus, this country is considered a member of the G-20 major economies. Indonesia is also a founding member of ASEAN.
Indonesia is an archipelago country and its archipelago has been an important element in the trading regions ever since the 7th century. Archipelago, as an overview, is an abundance of islands located in the same area. Kingdoms such as Sriwijaya and later on Majapahit traded items with countries like China and India in said islands. And due to these trades, the rulers of those times eventually became engrossed to the foreign cultures (religion, political ideologies, etc). These influences lead to the saturation of Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms. On the other hand, Muslim traders popularized the Muslim religion and colonization by the Europeans brought Christianity and Catholicism.
After three and half centuries of colonization by the Dutch, Indonesia finally gained its Independence on the 17th of August 1945. Our country eventually developed a democratic system and its economy started to grow rapidly. There are hundreds of distinct native ethnic and linguistic groups. However, the largest ethnic group that possesses a political dominance is the Javanese. The majority of Indonesians are Muslims but a portion of the population believes in other religions such as Christianity, Catholicism, Hinduism (for example, Bali) and Buddhism.
This country has national motto—Bhinneka Tunggal Ika—, which is defined as “Unity in Diversity.” Despite the diverse population, the individuals strive to become one. There will be no “Muslim Indonesians” or “Christian Indonesians” or perhaps “Javanese Indonesians,” but there will only be The Republic of Indonesia.
Indonesia Today: The Indonesians we meet today are quite different from those who have lived during the era of heavy colonization and trades. Nowadays, the individuals are overexposed to the Western culture that they often forget about the national beauty of their own country. The biggest highlight would be the generation of youth. Children and teenagers nowadays are so focused on the technology that has been infused in society that they forget essential aspects such as interpersonal, face-to-face communication and becoming one with Indonesia’s mother nature. As for the children, most of them are born in the electronic era; thus exposing technology to them at an extremely young age. On the other hand, though the number of adults overexposed to technology is not as high as teenagers and children, they have the tendency to focus mainly on expanding their businesses. Expansions would mean going abroad to meet international business partners and going abroad to meet international business partners will sooner or later create an international cultural influence in said adult’s life.
As we may already know, Indonesia’s traditions are often neglected by the current society. How often do we hear of Tari Piring? Or Tari Kecak? Do we hear it as often as we hear ‘modern dance’ or ‘hip hop?’ And what about Wayang? Children nowadays watch puppet shows about Western fairytales such as “Cinderella” or “The Little Mermaid” but most of them would probably give us confused faces when we ask them whether they know what Wayang is or not. And how often do we see dresses made out of batik as compared to dresses made by famous designers form overseas? Children know famous kings such as King Louis the VIV from France, but do they know who king Hayam Wuruk from the Majapahit Empire is?
Indonesia is very blessed for it has a countless number of arts & traditions that bring out the best of our country, but our society has been brainwashed to appreciate cultures from different nations instead. This blurs their vision of Indonesia’s beauty. Another issue that we have in Indonesia today is the fact that there are ‘wars’ amongst different ethnic and religious groups. The simplest example is FPI (Front Pembela Islam), a social association that often burns down churches belonging to Christian Indonesians. Acts like this diminishes the entire point of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika. Are we not supposed to become one through our diversity? Our nation came together in order to achieve independence and this is how we are going to repay our ancestors? Through war amongst our own people?
The Magnificent Kingdom of Majapahit: As it has been stated before in the introduction, there were once many kingdoms inhabiting Indonesia. One of the most noted kingdoms is the kingdom of Majapahit, an archipelagic and Hindu-Buddhist empire located in East Java. It stood from roughly 1293 until approximately 1500. This Empire reached its summit of glory during the era of king Hayam Wuruk, who sat on the throne from 1350 up until 1389. Alongside his prime minister, Gajah Mada, they brought the Majapahit Empire into its saturated state. To be more specific, during the era of these two historical figures, the Majapahit Empire dominated other kingdoms from other countries across Southeast Asia; including other kingdoms from Indonesia and also Singapore, Malaysia, Manila and East Timor. The kingdom of Majapahit is considered as one of the most powerful realms in the history of Southeast Asia.
Not only that this Empire was able to take control of a diverse group of kingdoms from different parts of Southeast Asia, but the kingdom of Majapahit also focused on numerous activities to develop arts. A few of these activities are those under the essence of architecture. The Majapahit Empire is known for building temples using bricks. Do not be mistaken; although bricks have been used to create temples for a long time, the Majapahit society was the one to actually master it. In addition to the bricks, this society also utilized vine sap and palm sugar mortar in order to make the temples strong. Examples of temples built by the Majapahit realm are Brahu temple (Trowulan; the capital of Majapahit), Pari temple (Sidoarjo), Jabung temple (Probolinggo) and, of course, the Surawana temple (located near the Kediri area). Some of the temples under this kingdom’s names are preexisting temples that they have renovated. For example, we have the Penataran temple, the largest temple located in East Java ever since the era of Kediri. This temple was actually visited by king Hayam Wuruk himself during his royal trip around East Java. Their infrastructure methods and designs are still practiced by individuals living in Java as well as Bali up until today.
The Majapahit kingdom is also the source of popular Indonesian literatures. Said literatures are actually considered as the Empire’s legacy. For example, in the folklore ‘The Legend of Minangkabau’ from Minangkabau, the prince was highly associated with the Javanese Majapahit kingdom. Other regional legends that are associated with the Majapahit Empire or perhaps king Hayam Wuruk and general Gajah Mada are found in locations such as Aceh, Palembang, Bali and even Brunei. A few of the Javanese legends that we know also originated from the era of Majapahit. Some of these legends include the tale of Sri Tanjung (also known as Kisah Banyuwangi and tells a story about a wife who is exceptionally loyal to her husband) and the epic of Damarwulan (a Javanese legendary hero who appears in the struggles between the Majapahit kingdom and the Blambangan kingdom). These stories flourished even after the downfall of the Majapahit Empire and are inspirations for Wayang, Ketoprak and mask drama performances.
Reuniting our People, Raising the Awareness of the Majapahit Empire and Indonesian Cultures: The main goal that we need to pay attention to is how we can reunite Indonesians through our culture. Yes, many of us have lost our paths, but that does not mean that we will be lost forever. We must believe that beneath all the intense exposure towards cultures from different nations, there is still that sense of nationalism that lies within. However, it will not be easy to bring that sense of nationalism back to life. Therefore, we need to design a campaign that is so powerful that it will attract the hearts of our people.
I am going to begin by implementing more Indonesian cultures in schools, especially for elementary students because I believe change should start from a very young age. National schools can intensify the Indonesian cultures they are already teaching and International schools can have annual events that are held to educate the students about Indonesia’s richness in diversity. An example of an annual event is actually one that was held in my previous school, Binus International School Simprug. In this annual event, the students are divided into four teams; Majapahit, Sriwijaya, Pajajaran and Mataram. However, my school mainly focused on sports and academic competitions, therefore it did not teach the students much about the history of those four kingdoms none did said competitions teach them about our diverse cultures. Therefore, for this campaign, the schools can create this event with competitions related to the history of Indonesia. The competing groups can perhaps act out a drama/Wayang performance and gather stories from the different Empires. This will expose them to the culture of said Empires and will enrich their knowledge about their history.
Next, our campaign needs to also empower teenagers. Since a large portion of Indonesia’s population is composed of individuals between ages thirteen to nineteen, we need a large event that can include as many participants as possible. Therefore, I would like to suggest that we create an Expo with the name “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika.” The slogan of this Expo will be “Reliving the Glorious Empires of the Past.” This Expo is to be held in a large area. Why do we need a large area? It is simply because we will be recreating the once lost beauty of Indonesia that brought us to where we are now. The concept is similar to Taman Mini Indonesia, however we will focus mainly on the kingdoms. Therefore, temples popularized by Empires such as Majapahit will be rebuilt (smaller, of course). Folklores and legends that originated in the past will also be rewritten and retold, but perhaps with more modern words so that the attendees will be able to understand easily. The personnel that will be in charge of supervising the event will be dressed in traditional clothing depending on which kingdom they will represent. Traditional music will be played in order to create the traveling-back-in-time atmosphere.
Teenagers who attend the event will be divided into groups, each with a tour leader, and they will travel around the area and observe the true beauty of Indonesia’s culture. This Expo can also show that, despite the large differences that each kingdoms have, we all managed to eventually become one and free our nation from the Dutch’s colonization. I believe that by getting to know our nation better, teenagers will be able to love Indonesia a little better as well.
For young adults who are often busy with work and business expansions, we can organize seminars. These seminars will focus on the idea of unity through diversity. We will call the seminars “Berbeda, Bersatu, Berhasil” (Different, Become One, Achieve). Not only that the alliteration has a nice ring to it, but it also translates the key message of the seminar quite well. The main lesson that we will teach the attendees is that differences, when embraced, can create an innovation that may benefit Indonesia’s future. To those young adults interested in architecture, another program under our campaign that I would like to suggest is a design competition with the theme “Reliving Majapahit.” For this event, we can collaborate with Google Indonesia, for example, or other companies that are currently trying to increase their brand awareness in Indonesia. Basically, the designs will be very Indonesian. The winner will have their design built between the society and us. The fact that we let the attendees participate, we are destroying the wall of alienation. Letting them be involved in the flow of activities will boost their motivation.
Limitations and Contingency Planning: No matter how appropriate our plans are, there will always be a tendency that something will go wrong. Therefore, we need to have our own contingency planning. For the school activities, there are possibilities that the students do not understand the system of Indonesia’s kingdoms enough in order to participate in the event. Therefore, we must make sure that the schools have provided adequate lessons prior to the said event so that the students will have a general idea of how it is going to be like. The Expo may just be the biggest challenge for us. First, let us discuss the promotional methods appropriate for this event. How do we promote the Expo? Will we gain enough attendees? Since our target market is composed of teenagers who are heavily exposed to technology, a good way of promoting this event is through Social Media. This means endless tweets on Twitter, updates on Facebook and perhaps an Instagram account that can be used to show sneak peaks of the designs for the Expo. During the day of the event itself, we may have lack of control. This leads us to the next contingency planning. We can let the teenagers themselves participate by becoming the personnel that will help the other teenagers learn about the different kingdoms. They will be trained beforehand and equipped with the appropriate information needed to answer any possible questions. Similarly to the Expo, the seminars can be promoted through the usage of Social Media. Young adults are also somewhat connected to various forms of Social Media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, therefore promoting through said medium may help the message reach a larger range of audience. For the design competition, information and announcements can also be found on the partner company’s website (eg. The link on Google Indonesia’s homepage logo).
The Windup: Indonesia is a nation that is rich in diversity; whether it may be in culture, ethnic groups or even religious groups. Different individuals have different lifestyles and values as well. However, Bhinneka Tunggal Ika was created through the belief that all these differences, despite how big they are, are able to become one. It is true that the Indonesia we know now is quite different from the Indonesia we have read in history books. However, that does not mean that we should sit quiet and let Indonesia become even more westernized over time. After all, do we really need to idolize kings from other countries when we have king Hayam Wuruk, a powerful Indonesian king who ruled many different kingdoms all across Southeast Asia? The Majapahit era taught us to embrace our own culture by developing it. This Empire also thought us that despite the fact that they are from Indonesia, they are able to rule those kingdoms from foreign countries. The way they were able to create an acquisition with foreign Empires shows that despite the differences, we can still become one. It is important that we, as Indonesians, help our country embrace its beauty in order to strengthen our society’s sense of nationalism.
a. Creese, H. (1997). In search of Majapahit: The Transformation of Balinese Dentities. Clayton, Vic., Australia: Monash Asia Institute, Centre of Southeast Asian Studies, Monash University.
2. Online Article(s)
a. INDONESIA. (n.d.). Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved June 8, 2014, from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/id.html
b. Major Problems Facing Indonesia Today. (n.d.). Major Problems Facing Indonesia Today. Retrieved June 8, 2014, from