Trowulan Ancient City Map

trowulan majapahit temple

Date of Submission: 19/10/1995
Category: Cultural
Submission prepared by:
Directorate General for Culture
East Java
Ref.: 285
Trowulan is a village in Mojokerto, in the Indonesian province of East Java. It is surrounded by an archaeological site covering approximately 100 square kilometres. It has been suggested it was the site of the eponymous capital city of the Majapahit Empire, which is described by Mpu Prapanca in the 14th-century poem Nagarakretagama and in a 15th-century Chinese source. The Nagarakretagama contains poetic descriptions of the palace of Majapahit and its surroundings, but is limited to the royal and religious sectors. Some of the details are vague, and scholars who have tried to compile a plan of the capital have come to different conclusions.

Older research at Trowulan has concentrated on monumental remains: temples, tombs, and a bathing place. Archaeological surveys and excavations have recently found the remains of industrial, commercial and religious activity, habitation areas and water supply systems, all of which are evidence of dense population during the 14th to 15th centuries.

Descriptions in contemporary sources

According to the account of Prapanca in the Nagarakretagama poem, the royal compound was surrounded by a thick, high wall of red brick. Nearby was the fortified guard post. The main gate into the palace was located in the north wall, and was entered through huge doors of decorated iron. Outside the north gate was a long building where courtiers met once a year, a market place, and a sacred crossroads. Just inside the north gate was a courtyard containing religious buildings. On the western side of this courtyard were pavilions surrounded by canals where people bathed. At the south end a gate led to rows of houses set on terraces in which palace servants lived. Another gate led to a third courtyard crowded with houses and a great hall for those waiting to be admitted into the ruler’s presence. The king’s own quarters, which lay to the east of this courtyard, had pavilions on decorated red brick bases, ornately carved wooden pillars, and a roof decorated with clay ornaments. Outside the palace were quarters for Shiva priests, Buddhists, and other members of the nobility. Further away, and separated from the palace by open fields, were more royal compounds, including that of the chief minister Gajah Mada. Here Prapanca’s descriptions end.

A 15th-century Chinese source describes the palace as clean and well kept. It was said to have been enclosed within a brick wall more than 10 metres high and with a double gate. The houses inside were built on pillars and were 10–13 metres high, with wooden floors covered with fine mats on which people sat. Roofs were made from wooden shingles and the dwellings of the common people were roofed with straw.

A book on Majapahit court etiquette defines the capital as ‘All where one can go out without passing through paddy fields.’ Temple reliefs from Majapahit do not depict urban scenes, but some contain sketches of settlements indicated as pavilions enclosed within walls. The word ‘kuwu’ in Nagarakretagama seems to refer the settlement units consisting of a group of buildings surrounded by wall, in which a large number of people lived under the control of a nobleman. This pattern characterised the 16th-century coastal cities of Java described by early European visitors, and Majapahit’s capital was probably composed of such units.


The ancient city ruins at Trowulan had been discovered by the 19th century. Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, governor of Java from 1811 until 1816 and an indefatigable enthusiast for the island’s history, reported the existence of ‘ ruins of temples…. scattered about the country for many miles ‘. Much of the region was blanketed with dense teak forest at that time, making detailed survey impossible. Nonetheless, Raffles was so impressed by what he saw that he was later to refer to Trowulan as ‘ this pride of Java ‘.

Excavations in and around Trowulan have shown that parts of the old settlement still lie buried under several metres of mud and volcanic debris, a result of the frequent eruptions of nearby Mount Kelud, as well as frequent flooding of the Brantas river. Several archaeological ruins lie scattered around Trowulan village. Several are quite damaged, while others have undergone reconstruction. Most are constructed of red brick.

Candi Tikus is a ritual bathing pool (petirtaan) which is perhaps the most exciting recent archaeological finding at Trowulan. Candi Tikus means ‘rat temple’, the name given to the discovery in 1914 because the site appeared during the excavation to be a rat-breeding enclosure. Restored to its present condition in 1985 and 1989, this complex of red brick takes the form of a sunken, rectangular basin, into which a flight of steps descends on the northern side. The principal structure, which projects from the southern wall of the basin, was apparently modelled on the legendary Mount Mahameru. No longer complete, it consisted of terraced foundations, upon which would have rested a concentric arrangement of ‘turrets’ surrounding the highest peak of the building.

Not far from Candi Tikus in the Keraton district stands the recently restored gateway of Bajang Ratu, an elegant red brick paduraksa gate dating from the mid-14th century. The form of the structure is tall and slender, rising to a height of 16.5 metres and displaying intricate relief decoration, especially on the roof section. Bajang Ratu in Javanese literally means ‘dwarf or defect monarch’. Folk tradition links the gate with Jayanegara, the second Majapahit king, successor to Kertarajasa Jayawarddhana, founder of the Majapahit Empire. According to tradition, Jayanegara fell from the gate as a child, causing defects to his body. The name probably also means ‘little monarch’, as Jayanegara ascended to the throne at a young age. Historian connect this gate with Ʋenggapura (Ʋi Ranggapura) or Kapopongan of Antawulan (Trowulan), the shrine mentioned in Nagarakertagama as the dharma place (holy compound) dedicated to King Jayanegara during his death on 1328.

Wringin Lawang is located a short distance south of the main road at Jatipasar. The name in Javanese means ‘The Banyan Tree Gate’. The grand gate portals are made from red brick, with a base of 13 x 11 metres and a height of 15.5 metres, and date from the 14th century. The gate is of the ‘Candi Bentar’ or split gateway type, a structure which may have appeared during the Majapahit era. Most historians agree that this structure is the gate of an important compound in the Majapahit capital. Speculations concerning the original function of this majestic gateway have led to various suggestions, a popular one being that it was the entrance to the residence of Gajah Mada.

Candi Brahu in the Bejijong district is the sole surviving structure of what was once a cluster of historic buildings. According to popular folk belief, it was in the vicinity of Candi Brahu that the cremation ceremonies for the first four Majapahit rulers were carried out. This tradition, while difficult to prove, is supported in part by material evidence, which suggests that the monument once served as a royal mortuary shrine. The royal personage to whom the building was dedicated remains unclear. The ruin of Candi Gentong lies nearby.

The Islamic tomb of Champa Princess is believed to be the tomb of a Majapahit king’s consort. According to local traditions, she is said to have married one of the last of the Majapahit kings and to have converted him to Islam before her death in 1448.

Segaran Pool is a large rectangular pool with size 800 x 500 metres. The name Segaran originated from the word ‘segara’ in Javanese which means ‘sea’, probably the local suggest that the large pool is the miniature of the sea. Surrounding the water basin is rectangular wall made of red brick thus make the form of the pool. The pool brick structure is discovered in 1926 by Maclain Pont, at that the pool was covered in dirt and mud. Reconstruction took place some years later and now Segaran pool is functioned by locals as recreational pool and fishing pond. The brick structure originated from 14-15th century Majapahit era. The actual function of the pool is unknown. The study suggested that the pool probably served various functions, but mainly the as city reservoir, the source of fresh water essential for high density urban area, especially during dry season. Another local popular belief is this pool is use as the bathplace and swimming pool to train Majapahit troops, also as recreational pool for Majapahit royalties to entertain the envoys and guests.

Near northeast edge of Kolam Segaran lies the ruin of Candi Menak Jingga. The structure is now ruined and stones scaterred around the vicinity with the base still lies buried underground. Excavation still on the progress. The structure is made from carved andesite stone on outer layer with red brick in inner layer. The most exciting feature of this structure is the parts contained ornaments (probably roof part) identified as Qilin, a Chinese mythical creature. This might suggested a strong cultural relationship with China especially during Ming Dynasty. The local tradition linked this site with the pavilion of Queen Kencana Wungu, the Majapahit queen from the tales of Damarwulan and Menak Jingga.

At Umpak, stones form the base for wooden pillars, which were probably part of wooden building. The organic material has decayed and only the stone base remains.

In the Troloyo district, numerous Islamic tombstones have been discovered, the majority of which date from between 1350 and 1478. These finds confirm not only that a Muslim community was well established in Java by the mid 14th century, but also that the religion was officially acknowledged and practised within the royal capital itself.
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