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Jakarta Post

The hidden glory of Dharmasraya Kingdom

  • Syofiardi Bachyul Jb

    The Jakarta Post

Padang, West Sumatra   /   Sat, January 4, 2014   /  04:27 pm
The hidden glory of Dharmasraya Kingdom

Left over: The Siguntur royal family before the royal house in Siguntur, Dharmasraya.

Not many Indonesians know of the Dharmasraya Kingdom and its relics these days. But when they are reminded of the statues of Bhairawa, Amoghapasa and the Pamalayu expedition of 1294, they will surely recall the three historical landmarks of the Nusantara ( archipelago) studied in high school.

Bhairawa is known as the largest statue ever discovered in Indonesia and Southeast Asia. The 4.41-meter-high statue that weighs 4 tons with a fiery face, wielding a knife and bowl while trampling on a body and a row of human skulls, is said to represent King Adityawarman and is kept at the Indonesian National Museum, Jakarta.

Amoghapasa, a 163-cm high statue made from andesite rock, portrays a female figure, Lokeswara, as a symbol of compassion in Mahayana Buddhism, is also kept at the same museum. This statue is popular for the important inscription at its base, stating that it was sent by Kertanegara, King of Singasari in Java in 1292 as a token of friendship to the Malay Dharmasraya monarch of the time, King Mauliwarmadewa.

The Pamalayu expedition delivering the statue was led by four Singasari officials, including Rakryan Adwyabrahma, the father of Adityawarman with Dara Jingga, a Malay princess sent along with Dara Petak as the Pamalayu group returned to Singasari in 1294. Dara Petak later became the consort of Raden Wijaya, the first king of Majapahit after Singasari.

The former location of Dharmasraya Kingdom is in the village of Siguntur, Dharmasraya regency, West Sumatra, 233 km east of Padang, the provincial capital, the regency that also borders the province of Jambi. It is on the banks of the wide and deep Batang Hari River, with its 600-km winding upper reaches leading to the downstream part of Jambi city on the east coast of Sumatra.

International relations: A damaged stone statuette with only its legs remaining, believed to have been one of the escorts of Amoghapasa Statue of Dharmasraya Kingdom sent from Singasari, placed before the royal house of Siguntur Kingdom. International relations: A damaged stone statuette with only its legs remaining, believed to have been one of the escorts of Amoghapasa Statue of Dharmasraya Kingdom sent from Singasari, placed before the royal house of Siguntur Kingdom.
Archeologists and historians agree that Dharmasraya was a continuation of the Malay kingdom originally based in a Jambi'€™s downstream area and a contemporary of Sriwijaya Kingdom in Palembang, South Sumatra. After the fall of Sriwijaya, the center of the Malay kingdom moved to Dharmasraya through Batang Hari. Dharmasraya lasted from 1286 to 1347.

At present, traces of Dharmasraya Kingdom'€™s glory can still be witnessed in three temple complexes in Siguntur, which are those of Padang Roco, Pulau Sawah and Bukik Awang Maombiak. Unlike Java'€™s stone monuments, these temples are composed of red bricks, like Muara Takus Temple in Kampar, Riau, and their damaged condition has limited excavation to only 2.4 meters.

'€œIt'€™s very difficult to reconstruct the temples here because of the severe damage,'€ said Nurmatias, an archeologist who was a temple restoration team member 20 years ago. Now Nurmatias is head of the Cultural Heritage Conservation Center in Padang.

Two of the complexes, Padang Roco and Pulau Sawah '€” 7 km apart '€” are located across Batang Hari and can only be visited by boat or pontoon. Padang Roco near Langsat River is famous for its main temple and two ancillary structures. Amoghapasa with its inscription was found there. On the riverbank not far from the temple, Bhairawa was discovered by the Dutch government on 1935 and taken to Bukittinggi, before moving to the National Museum.

Meeting with the royal family under the seventh king of Siguntur, Sultan Hendri Tuanku Bagindo Ratu, some time ago, The Jakarta Post was shown two royal stamps, one carried the picture of a lotus believed to have been the seal of Dharmasraya and the other had Arabic writing of the period of the Siguntur Kingdom.

'€œBy using a letter with the seal of the Siguntur Kingdom, we once entered Malaysia without passports because the King of Malaysia had formerly come from Dharmasraya,'€ said Marhasnida, a royal family member. The family also displayed a number of heirlooms they had inherited or acquired from Pulau Sawah excavation, including a sword, spear, jug, gold coated kris (dagger) adorned with diamonds and a mini figurine of cut legs of pure gold.

Calm and remote: Visitors need to cross the 500-m-wide Batang Hari River by outboard motorboat to reach the temples in Dharmasraya.Calm and remote: Visitors need to cross the 500-m-wide Batang Hari River by outboard motorboat to reach the temples in Dharmasraya.

Heritage: The Padang Roco temple complex where Bhairawa Statue, said to represent King Adityawarman, was found.Heritage: The Padang Roco temple complex where Bhairawa Statue, said to represent King Adityawarman, was found.

Royal marker: The stamps of Dharmasraya Kingdom and Siguntur Kingdom.Royal marker: The stamps of Dharmasraya Kingdom and Siguntur Kingdom.

Gold and glory: A gold finger-sized figurine found near the Pulau Sawah temple complex serves as proof of the gold-rich kingdom.Gold and glory: A gold finger-sized figurine found near the Pulau Sawah temple complex serves as proof of the gold-rich kingdom.

Traditional way: Visiting the temple location in Padang Roco and its surrounding villages relies on a ferry to transport passengers, goods and motor vehicles, crossing 500-m-wide Batang Hari River. Traditional way: Visiting the temple location in Padang Roco and its surrounding villages relies on a ferry to transport passengers, goods and motor vehicles, crossing 500-m-wide Batang Hari River.
'€” Photos by Syofiardi Bachyul Jb