The Brantas is the largest river in East Java. From the time of the Kediri and Majapahit kingdoms to the end of the Dutch East Indies, the river was a busy and bustling passage for both merchants and warships.
As a central economic hub of East Java during those eras, the river’s banks were lined with ports called Naditirapradesa (berthing terminals). These Brantas ports were maintained and managed by the kingdoms with their respective rules and laws, including those governing tax collection.
The Canggu inscription of Hayam Wuruk, King of Majapahit, describes royal awards granted to all the Naditirapradesa along the Bengawan Wulayu, or Solo River, and the Bengawan Sigarada, or Brantas River.
In 1293, the Brantas River was the location of an attack by Mongolian and Majapahit troops on Daha City under the ruling Jayakatwang. Many vessels owned by both warring fleets were destroyed in the river.
A similarly catastrophic encounter occurred when the Dutch East Indies Company (VOC) and the Mataram Kingdom invaded the palace of Trunojoyo in Kediri, with many ships drowned in the Brantas river.
The sunken ships of past battles have left many treasures for modern explorers. Treasure hunters have discovered gold and antique coins as well as vintage krises and jugs.
Such valuable objects can be found behind Fort Van den Bosch, Ngawi, East Java, which is the meeting point of the Brantas river and a tributary of the Solo River.
Treasure hunters from various regions in Java work from morning to dusk. Their hauls, sold directly to traders around the riverbanks, range from useless articles to those worth tens of millions of rupiah, if they are lucky enough.