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Majapahit Terracotta Relief

Private Collection


Between 1300 and 1500, the Majapahit Empire covered most of what is Indonesia today. The capital of Majapahit was in East Java, not far from where modern day Surabaya is. The city was left to ruin and deserted when the royal heirlooms were taken to the new Islamic state of Demak in Central Java, in the early 1500's. Archaeologists now believe that the capital of Majapahit was a cosmopolitan city of canals and markets and terracotta buildings and temples. It is believed that the Majapahit people decorated terracotta walls, roofs, columns, and household implements, with figures of everyday life. This piece appears to be Buddha meditating and might have been part of a pillar.

Javanese and Balinese think of Majapahit as their golden age. Balinese claim to be the descendants and the continuation of Majapahit. A Javanese legend promises that when, Sabda Palon and Naya Genggong return, there will be contentment in Java. Sabda Palon and Naya Genggong are the servants of Majapahit's last king. They refused to embrace Islam and chose to leave this world body and all (moksa), promising to return when Javanese are Buddhist once more.

Although the rulers of Majapahit were Hindu, the palace had quarters for Buddhist priests and the city housed Muslims and other spice trade foreigners as well.

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