Flag of Banten Sultanate 1527 AD/CE to 1813 AD/CE

Capitals: Old Banten, Serang

Banten Sultanate en.svg.png

Continent: Asia

Official Languages: Sundanese, Banten, Javanese, Lampung

Established: 1527 AD/CE

Disestablished: 1813 AD/CE


Sunan Gunungjati (Sharif Hidayatullah) was an "ulama", an educated class of Muslim legal scholars. He was educated in the Middle East, and can trace his ancestry to the Kingdom of Sunda. Sharif Hidayatullah become the Sultan of Cirebon in 1479. In 1482 Sharif Hidayatullah sent a letter to King of Sunda, proclaiming Cirebon independent from Sunda Pajajaran. Previously the Cirebon settlement was founded in 1445 by his uncle Prince Cakrabuana. In the early 16th century, Gunungjati arrived in the town of Banten Girang with the intention of spreading the word of Islam in this still-Hindu area.

According to Suma Oriental, written in 1512–1515, Tomé Pires, a Portuguese explorer reported that the port of Banten still belonged to the Kingdom of Sunda, while Cirebon had been established as an Islamic state.

Although at first well received by Sunda authorities, after news of the Portuguese-Sunda alliance in 1522 became known, Gunungjati nevertheless asked the Demak sultanate to send troops to Banten. It was likely his son, Hasanudin, who commanded this military operation in 1527, just as the Portuguese fleet was arriving of the coast at Sunda Kelapa, to capture these towns. Subsequently, Portuguese fleet that intended to establish a coastal fortress was defeated by Cirebon and Demak forces.

Sunan Gunungjati and his son settled in Banten Girang, and took control of both the port of Banten and Kelapa, while the king of Sunda was powerless to prevent this take over. Sunan Gunungjati crowned Hasanudin king of Banten with authority bestowed by the Sultan of Demak who, in turn, offered Hasanudin his sister's hand in marriage. Thus, a new dynasty was born at the same time as a new kingdom was created. Banten was the capital of this kingdom, held as a province under Sultanate of Cirebon.

Having established control over the ports and the pepper trade, Hasanuddin decided to build a new capital, to symbolise the new era which was beginning. On the advice of his father, Sunan Gunungjati, he choose to construct it on the coast at the mouth of the Cibanten River. That a settlement already existed at this place is evidence by its harbour activities, but at this time the seat of political power was in Banten Girang. The royal city was founded on the delta, formed by the two arms of the river. Two main streets running crossed north–south and east–west divided the city into quarters. The royal palace surrounded by residences of the principal minister of state, was built on the south side of the royal square and the great mosque on the west side. Foreigners, for the most part merchants, had to live outside the royal city, that is on either side of the delta. The international trade was accommodated in the larger western harbour where Pecinan (Chinatown), European trading post and foreigner quarters were located, while the eastern port accommodated domestic trade with smaller vessels, where the retail market was also located. A ship-wright to repair ships was located on the eastern side of the city.

After some twenty years the new dynasty was so firmly established that Hasanuddin had no hesitation in leaving the kingdom in 1546 to take part in a military expedition against Pasuruan in eastern Java, at the request of Sultan Trenggana, the third sultan of Demak. At that time, Banten was still under the suzerainty of Demak, thus obliged to fulfill the duty as a vassal state to participate in Demak's endeavour. During this venture, the Demak Sultan lost his life, and it is likely that Hasanuddin took advantage of his suzerain's death and the troubles which ensued to free his kingdom from any further obligations to this royal house.

From the 1550s onwards the kingdom enjoyed a period of great prosperity. Trade received a significant growth due to flourishing trade with Portuguese Malacca, a former enemy that despite their political rivalry Portuguese fleets kept coming back to Banten to buy pepper. According to tradition, the development of this kingdom was managed by Hasanuddin's son, Maulana Yusuf, who had become co-sovereign with his father, following a custom long practised in the archipelago.

Rapid economic development led to a increase of the urban population. Major agricultural developments to ensure food production was launched, by constructing irrigation canals, dams and the expansion of ricefields. The royal city itself had undertaken a major project; 1.80 metres thick brick ramparts were built encircling the entire city spanned for 8 kilometres. Maulana Yusuf also led the construction of the Great Mosque of Banten, perhaps built upon an older and simpler structure.

After the death of Hasanuddin in 1570 at some seventy years of age, Maulana Yusuf ascended to the throne when he was about 40 years of age. He was already an experienced ruler as co-sovereign with his late father. During Yusuf's reign, his younger brother Pangeran Japara returned from Jepara in Central Java. The name of this prince describes that he had spend his life in Jepara, the late king Hasanuddin has entrusted his younger son under the care of Queen Kalinyamat of Jepara.

Yusuf chose his young son Prince Muhammad as the heir. However, not long after that Yusuf fell ill and died in 1580. The chosen successor, Prince Muhammad was only a child of 9 years old at that time and was not come of age. Thus, this provoked the first crisis of succession, as his uncle — Pangeran Japara, was eager to replace his late brother as the new king of Banten.

On 27 June 1596 Dutch trade ships led by Cornelis de Houtman, the first Dutch fleet to arrive in East Indies, landed in Banten. On its return to the Netherlands, the voyage (1595–97) generated a modest profit.

In 1600 the Dutch set up the Dutch East Indies Company (Dutch: Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie or VOC) with the aim to bypass the spice trade. Unlike the Portuguese in Malacca which at that time quite harmoniously integrated into the Asian trade system involving various states in the region including Banten, Dutch as the newcomer had a different approach, they came to the scene hellbent to seize control of spice trade from Far East all the way to Europe. The Portuguese and Dutch fought fiercely for influence in Banten in the early 17th century, and erupted into a full-scale naval battle on Bay of Banten in 1601, in which the Portuguese fleet was crushed.

Other Europeans were soon to follow. The English, who started to sail to the East Indies from around 1600, established a permanent trading post in Banten in 1602 under James Lancaster. In 1603, the first permanent Dutch trading post in Indonesia was established in Banten.

In 1619, the mercurial VOC Governor General J.P. Coen stormed and burnt Jayakarta into the ground and ousting Banten authority from the city. From its ashes they established the first Dutch foothold in the archipelago, the fortified port town of Batavia (now Jakarta). This new foreign-controlled town soon will become the nemesis for Banten and bears a great repercussion, not only for Banten, but upon the whole archipelago. Coen soon moved on to his next objective; to control the trade in the area by implementing a monopoly on all trading activities. In order to do this, he put into effect a blockade of the Banten harbour, which went uninterrupted for some 15 years.

In retaliation, the Banten government placed an embargo on all pepper exports to Batavia. However, as the Dutch blockade was in place, they patrolled the Bay of Banten, harassing and marauding trading ships, preventing traditional Asian traders, especially Chinese from coming to Banten. As the result, bulks of unwanted pepper sacks stockpiled and accumulated in Banten warehouses. This blockade struck a severe blow to commerce, thus pushing some Chinese merchants to move out from Banten and resettling in Batavia.

Between 1629 and 1631, a major agricultural project were underway; digging canals, building dams etc. to produce rice as well as a new export commodity; sugar. The English was the primary buyer, while the Chinese merchants and settlers concentrated in Kelapadua village has established possibly the first sugar plantation in Java. Sugarcane has been a familiar plant in Java since ancient times, as image of sugarcane can be found in the 9th century Borobudur bas relief. However, this was the first time that the sugar reached this large plantation scale.

In 1635 King Abu al-Mafakhir named his son Prince Pekik (Abu al-Ma'ali Ahmad) as his co-reign. In the next year a peace treaty with Batavia was signed and ratified later in 1639. In 1636, the sovereign sent envoy to Mecca for the first time, and two years later the diplomatic delegation returned with the prestigious title of "sultan" bestowed by the Grand Shareef of Mecca upon the king of Banten. This was the first sultan title officially bestowed by Mecca opon the king of Java, which much to the dismay of the powerful King Hanyokrokusumo of Mataram that subsequently also sent envoys to Mecca to acquire this much coveted honorific title of Islamic world.

By 1651 the Anglo-Dutch Wars erupted in Europe, which subsequently affected Batavia relations with English trading interest in Banten. The war reflected with the fierce trading competitions and clashes between Dutch East India Company and British East India Company. Dutch Batavia once again imposed blockade upon Banten, since the port is the center of British trading interest in the archipelago. This time however, Banten was quite powerful enough to resist Batavia coersion, albeit not in equal footings. Banten adopted a rather indirect guerilla warfare; attacking Dutch ships in high seas by sending fireships, also launch raids and harassing farmlands around Batavia.

Started in 1656, the Chinese merchants of both Banten and Batavia brokered a peace talks between two cities, that led to the agreements three years later with kingdom of Jambi acted as intermediary. Banten demand the right to re-establish trade with Mollucas and Malay Peninsula, while Batavia demand the extradition of fugitives that find refuge in Banten. The peace treaty was signed in 1659.

Since 1653 Sultan Ageng has launched agricultural reform; among other by developing new settlements along Cisadane River right on the outskirt of Batavia. Thousands of acres land are cleared and planted with coconut trees, and around twenty thousand people are transmigrated to the new settlement. The development also include lands along north coast between Banten and Batavia. Irrigation project was conducted in Tanara between 1663 and 1664, a canal was dug as far as Pasilyan River and connected to Cisadane. The second phase project in 1670-1672 was the development between Tanara and Pontang, including the construction of two canals and dams to irrigate new paddy fields being worked by ten thousands new settlers. The last phase between 1675 and 1677 was the clearing and irrigated lands between Banten and Anyer. The scale of project was quite enormous spanning between outskirt of Batavia to Anyer on the west coast of Java, 40 kilometres canal were dug, at least 3 dams were built, more than 40,000 hectares of lands were transformed into sawah, about 30,000 people were resettled and large numbers of villages created, and two new towns were planned. In 1678 Sultan Ageng created a new palace right in the heart of the newly improved lands in Tirtayasa village. The term "Tirtayasa" itself means "water management" or "hydraulics" which properly describes Sultan's pride project. This new idyllic farmland abode has lend to the nickname of the Sultan that henceforth famously known as Sultan Ageng Tirtayasa.

By 1800, a major change occurred; the Dutch East India Company went bankrupt, and its possessions were nationalized by the Netherlands as their colony, the Dutch East Indies. In 1808 Herman Willem Daendels, Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies in 1808–1810, commissioned the construction of Great Post Road to defend Java from incoming British invasion. Daendels ordered Sultan Aliyuddin II of Banten to move the capital to Anyer and to provide labour to build a new port planned to be built at Ujung Kulon. The Sultan refused Daendels' command, and in response Daendels ordered the invasion of Banten and destruction of Surosowan palace. The Sultan, together with his family, was arrested in Puri Intan and held as a prisoner in Fort Speelwijk, and later sent into exile in Ambon.

On 22 November 1808, Daendels declared from his headquarters in Serang that the Sultanate of Banten had been absorbed into the territory of the Dutch East Indies. In 1813 the Banten Sultanate ceased to exist when Thomas Stamford Raffles forced Sultan Muhamad Syafiuddin to give up his throne. This was the final blow that marked the end of Sultanate of Banten.

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