Majapahit 1292-1478

The successor state to Sri Vijaya, Majapahit, was founded in a bold string of treacheries. The son-in-law of the Singhasari king broke with his father-in-law to found the Hindu Majapahit kingdom in 1292. When Kublai Khan's punitive expedition arrived the next year, he allied his kingdom with the Mongols. On destroying his father-in-law with Mongol help, he immediately turned and slaughtered the Mongols.

Despite its promising start, the Javanese Majapahit empire would be relatively short-lived. It was founded just as the penetration of Muslim traders and proselytizers into the archipelago was gaining in strength. Majapahit was fortunate in having the services of Gajah Madah; an ambitious and determined Prime Minister and Regent. In his long career from 1331 to 1364, Gajah Madah brought Bali, Java and Sumatra effectively under Majapahit control. A few years after his death, the Majapahit navy took Palembang, the Sri Vijayan capital, and thus put the former empire to a definitive end in 1377; or so it seemed.

Majapahit was divided by a war of succession in 1401 that went on for four years. Weakened by internal dissension it could not stop the rising power of the Sultanate of Malacca. Majapahit continued to disintegrate and finally collapsed in 1478.

The imperial ambitions of the Indianized kingdoms of Java, Malaya and Sumatra concentrated mainly on gaining from their rivals a larger share of the commercial traffic that passed through the archipelago and the Straits. Territorial aggrandizement does not seem to have been the object of their rivalries. From time to time new settlements from Java (985, 1280 and 1387) were founded on Borneo. They have more the sporadic character of exiles forced to flee the vicissitudes of Javanese politics than a deliberate policy of imperial expansion.

Unlike the rapid and ubiquitous spread of Islam that was to follow, the influence of Hindic-Buddhist culture in the archipelago remained localized in the vicinity of the Straits.