October 14, 2015

Hari Ragat Inspiration: Battle of Bubat


The Perang Bubat, or the Battle/Massacre at Bubat Square in Trowulan, Sumatra is a tragic tale of honor against ruthless ambition that I want to share as reference for making Hari Ragat campaigns.

This historical event happened in the 14th century, during the height of power of the Madjapahit Empire under the king Hayam Wuruk and his wily prime minister Gajah Mada. Here’s what happened in brief:

Under Gajah Mada, who had sworn an oath never to eat spiced food again until he had conquered all Nusantara (the Indonesian archipelago), the armies of Madjapahit had subdued all nearby kingdoms save Sunda Galuh. This was not because Sunda Galuh was that powerful or hard to reach – in fact it was very close – but because the Sunda Galuh royal family was closely related to the Madjapahit king. Gajah Mada simply would never get permission to campaign against Sunda Galuh as Hayam Wuruk would never commission war against these relations as his ancestor Raden Wijaya was a grandson of a Sundanese king.

But Aragorn-like, Hayam Wuruk was said to have fallen in love with the princess Dyah Pita Loka Citraresmi, daughter of Lingga Buana the current king of Sunda. A marriage was arranged, and Rajah Lingga duly arrived in Trowulan, the Madjapahit capital, with his daughter and an honor guard. They encamped at Bubat Square while awaiting the wedding ceremony.

But Gajah Mada had devised a plan to start war with Sunda Galuh by using Lingga Buan’s own sense of honor against him. Without Hayam Wuruk’s knowledge, Gajah Mada received the Sundanese and demanded that Lingga Buana make submission to Hayam Wuruk as a vassal, and hand over his daughter not as a wife, but as a hostage-concubine for the royal harem.

Of course this could not be borne. Lingga Buana refused, Gajah Mada insisted, and weapons were drawn. The Madjapahit army was thrown against the small Sundanese honor guard, who died to a man with their king. As the battle raged, Princess Pita Loka and her ladies in waiting all stabbed themselves dead. There were no survivors in the Sundanese party.

In the aftermath, Sundanese relations with Madjapahit turned icy despite Hayam Wuruk sending an embassy to apologize. Gajah Mada was discredited, and soon after was forced by the king to retire. The disgrace shook the fragile web of relationships that held this sea empire together, and thereafter Madjapahit would begin to decline. 


  1. That is certainly an inspirational event, if tragic!

  2. Hi Howard! Yup, strong martial codes of honor really tend to create powerful tragic stories ...


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