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Delving deeper into history of Dharmasraya in 'Pamalayu Festival'

Ni Nyoman Wira
Ni Nyoman Wira

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Wed, September 11, 2019  /  05:07 pm
Delving deeper into history of Dharmasraya in 'Pamalayu Festival'

The Bhairawa statue is on display at the National Museum in Central Jakarta. The statue is said to symbolize King Adityawarman. (JP/Narabeto Korohama)

It was Wednesday, Aug. 21 when Sutan Riska Tuanku Kerajaan, regent of Dharmasraya in West Sumatra, tweeted his criticism of a guide at the National Museum in Central Jakarta.

The guide in question, who is apparently not part of the museum's official guide team, mentioned that the towering Bhairawa statue was proof of the Majapahit kingdom’s reign over Sumatra. “I felt horrible hearing it,” wrote Sutan in response.

Discovered in 1935 in West Sumatra, the 4.41-meter-high Bhairawa statue is made from andesite rock.

The Education and Culture Ministry wrote that the statue depicted the ruler of the Dharmasraya kingdom in Sumatra, King Adityawarman, who at one point stayed in the Majapahit kingdom in East Java. He returned to Dharmasraya to become king in the 14th century.

Aware that there is too little information on the royal figures, Pamalayu Festival was initiated. It opened on Aug. 22 and will run until Jan. 7, 2020, while also marking the 16th anniversary of Dharmasraya regency.

The festival aims to enlighten the public about the history of the Malay Dharmasraya kingdom and its connection with other kingdoms at that time, especially Singosari in East Java, while at the same time also spreading the regency’s culture.

Sutan Riska Tuanku Kerajaan, regent of Dharmasraya in West Sumatra, gives a speech at the opening of Pamalayu Festival at the National Museum in Central Jakarta on Aug. 22.Sutan Riska Tuanku Kerajaan, regent of Dharmasraya in West Sumatra, gives a speech at the opening of Pamalayu Festival at the National Museum in Central Jakarta on Aug. 22. (JP/Narabeto Korohama)

Pamalayu Festival features various events, including Arung Pamalayu (carnival of decorated boats) on Sept. 23 at the Batanghari River which flows through Jambi from Minangkabau highland in West Sumatra. There is also a vlog competition, essay photo contest, seminar and cultural events at the festival.

The festival’s name was taken from the Pamalayu expedition, the one often mistaken as a way for King Kertanegara of the Singosari kingdom to invade Dharmasraya.

“We feel it is odd that the word ‘invade’ is used,” said Sutan during the festival’s opening recently at the National Museum in Central Jakarta. “If it was an invasion, how is it possible that the representatives of Singosari presented the Amoghapasa statue to the King of Dharmasraya? The Amoghapasa statue is a symbol of compassion.”

Read also: The hidden glory of Dharmasraya Kingdom

Said to be presented by King Kertanegara, the Amoghapasa statue has several inscriptions on its sides, including one that explains the origin of Dharmasraya.

The Amoghapasa statue is one of the main exhibits at the National Museum in Central Jakarta. The statue was a gift from the Singosari kingdom to the Dharmasraya kingdom.The Amoghapasa statue is one of the main exhibits at the National Museum in Central Jakarta. The statue was a gift from the Singosari kingdom to the Dharmasraya kingdom. (JP/Narabeto Korohama)

Bambang “Tomi” Budi Utomo, National Archaeology Center researcher, said at that time Kertanegara was preparing for the invasion from Kublai Khan of the Mongol Empire to Java by forming an alliance with Dharmasraya. “The words ‘conquered by the Singosari army’ aren’t found on the inscription,” said Tomi, adding that the inscription aimed to bring joy for the people of Dharmasraya.  

The statue also has other inscriptions that explain Amoghapasa itself. There is also one inscription that has not been translated.

Education and Culture Ministry culture director general Hilmar Farid at the opening of Pamalayu Festival at the National Museum in Central Jakarta on Aug. 22.Education and Culture Ministry culture director general Hilmar Farid at the opening of Pamalayu Festival at the National Museum in Central Jakarta on Aug. 22. (JP/Narabeto Korohama)

Education and Culture Ministry culture director general Hilmar Farid said it was necessary for us to view historical events from different perspectives.

“The word ‘expedition’, if we see it from Indonesian historiography, was a term used by the Dutch when discussing expanding their power across the archipelago. So it’s not aggression, but expedition,” said Hilmar on the same occasion.

He also guessed that perhaps the word, when being included into our national historiography, had not been filtered from the colonial historiography. It is similar to the ongoing debate about the name for incidents in 1947 and 1948, which are known by Indonesians as Military Aggression I and II, respectively. (mut)