The Pararaton, also known as the Book of Kings, is a manuscript in the Kawi language. The comparatively short text of 32 folio-size pages (1126 lines) contains the history of the kings of Singhasari and Majapahit in eastern Java. The book is also called "Pustaka Raja", which is Sanskrit for "book king", or "book of kings".

Pararaton opens with a former incarnation of the founder of Singhasari kingdom (1222–1292), Ken Arok.cite journal|last=Johns|title=The Role of Structural Organisation and Myth in Javanese Historiography|first=A.H.|journal=The Journal of Asian Studies|date=1964|url=|volume=24|issue=1|pages=91–99|doi=10.2307/2050416] Almost half of the manuscript is the story of Ken Arok's career before his accession to the throne in 1222. This part is clearly mythical in character. Then there follow a number of shorter narrative fragments in a chronological succession. Many of the events recorded here are dated. Towards the end the pieces of history become shorter and shorter and are mixed with genealogical information concerning the members of the royal family of Majapahit.

The importance of the Angrok story is not only indicated by its length, but also by the fact that it furnishes an alternative name: "Serat Pararaton atawa Katuturanira Ken Angrok" or "The Book of Genealogy or the Recorded Story about Ken Angrok". Since the oldest colophon in the manuscripts contains the date 1522 Saka (AD 1600), the final part of the text must have been written between AD 1481 and 1600, presumably closer to the first date than to the second date.


Pararaton commences with a brief of prelude telling how Ken Arok incarnated himself in which he became the king. He offered himself as a human sacrifice to Yamadipati, the Javanese Door God, in order to save himself from death. As a reward, he was promised that upon his death he would return to Vishnu's heaven and reborn as a superior king of Singhasari.

The promise was fulfilled. Ken Arok was begotten by Brahma of a newly-wed peasant woman. On his birth, his mother laid him in a graveyard where his body, effulgent with light, attracted the attention of Ki Lembong, a passing thief. Ki Lembong adopted him, raised him and taught him all of his arts. Ken Arok became indulges in gambling, plunder and rapine. In the manuscript, it is written as such that Ken Arok was saved many times by divine interceptions. There is a scene in Mount Kryar Lejar that gods descends in conference and "Batara Guru" (Shiva) declares Ken Arok as his son. Ken Arok is also destined to bring stability and power to Java.

The prelude of Pararaton is followed by the meeting of Ken Arok with Lohgawe, a Brahmanian who came from India to make sure Batara Guru's instructions were fulfilled. It was Lohgawe who asked Ken Arok to meet Tunggul Ametung, ruler of Tumapel. Ken Arok then killed Tunggul Ametung to gain possession of Ametung's wife, Ken Dedes; and also the throne to Singashari.

Analysis of the manuscript

Some parts of Pararaton cannot be accounted as historical facts. Especially in the prelude, fact and fiction, fantasy and reality go together. Scholars such as C. C. Berg argued that texts as these are entirely supernatural and ahistorical, and intended not to record the past, but instead determine future events. [C. C. Berg. "Het rijk van de vijfvoudige Buddha" (Verhandelingen der Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen, Afd. Letterkunde, vol. 69, no. 1) Ansterdam: N.V. Noord-Hollandsche Uitgevers Maatschappij, 1962; cited in M.C. Ricklefs, "A History of Modern Indonesia Since c. 1300, 2nd ed. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993, page 18 and 311] However, the majority of scholars accept some historicity in the Pararaton, noting numerous correspondences with other inscriptions and Chinese sources, and accept the manuscript's frame of reference which a valid interpretation is conceivable.

It should be noted that the manuscript was written under the nature of Javanese kingship. For Javanese, it is the function of the ruler to link the present with the past and the future and to give human life its appropriate place in the cosmic order. The king is Javanese realm, the sacral embodiment of the total state, just as his palace as a microscomic copy of the macrocosmos. The king (and a founder of a dynasty) possesses an innate divinity to a far higher degree than an ordinary men.

Ras compared the Pararaton with respectively the Sanskrit Canggal inscription (732 AD), the Śivagŗha (Siwagrha) inscription (856 AD), the Calcutta Stone (1041 AD) and the Babad Tanah Jawi (1836 AD). This showed clear similarities in character, structure and function of these texts and also similarity with texts from the Malay historiography [J.J. Ras, 2001, "Sacral kingship in Java". In: Marijke J. Klokke and Karel R. van Kooij (eds.), Fruits of inspiration. Studies in honour of Prof. J.G. de Casparis, pp. 373-388. Groningen: Egbert Forsten, 2001. [Gonda Indological Studies 11.] ISBN 90-6980-137-X ] . Ras suggests to place one specific type of texts from the whole Indonesian area together in one literary genre, the ‘government chronicle’ or the ‘book of kings’: historiography at the service of the legitimity of kingship.


Further reading

* J.L.A. Brandes, 1897, "Pararaton (Ken Arok) of het boek der Koningen van Tumapěl en van Majapahit. Uitgegeven en toegelicht". Batavia: Albrecht; 's Hage: Nijhoff. VBG 49.1.
* J.J. Ras, 1986, "Hikayat Banjar and Pararaton. A structural comparison of two chronicles". In: C.M.S. Hellwig and S.O. Robson (eds.), A man of Indonesian letters (Dordrecht, Cinnaminson: Foris VKI 121, pp. 184-203), ISBN 90-6765-206-7
* J.J. Ras, 2001, "Sacral kingship in Java". In: Marijke J. Klokke and Karel R. van Kooij (eds.), Fruits of inspiration. Studies in honour of Prof. J.G. de Casparis, pp. 373-388. Groningen: Egbert Forsten, 2001. [Gonda Indological Studies 11.] ISBN 90-6980-137-X

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