Senapati of Mataram

Danang Sutawijaya (Senapati of Mataram)

Panembahan Senapati, formally styled Panembahan Senapati ing Ngalaga Sayyidin Panatagama (died in Jenar (now in Purwodadi, Purworejo), 1601), was the founder of the Mataram Sultanate.[1] His biography is discovered from traditional accounts, such as Javanese chronicles in the future era.


Born with the name Danang Sutawijaya alias Dananjaya was the son of Ki Ageng Pamanahan, a Javanese chief and retainer to Joko Tingkir, who reigned as Hadiwijaya, Sultan of Pajang.[1] It was said that Pamanahan was a descendant of the last Majapahit king. Sutawijaya's mother was Nyai Sabinah who, according to Javanese chronicles, was a descendant of Sunan Giri, a member of Walisanga. It showed that there was an effort of Javanese chroniclers to make a cult of personality toward the rulers of Mataram and its successor states as the descendants of extraordinary men.

Nyai Sabinah had a brother namely Ki Juru Martani, who would be elected as the first patih (viceregent) of Mataram. He had an important role in arranging strategy to suppress Arya Penangsang's rebellion in 1549.

Sutawijaya was also adopted by Hadiwijaya as an inducement, because Hadiwijaya and his wife still had no children yet in that time. Hadiwijaya gave him a residence in the north of a market, thus his nickname Raden Ngabehi Loring Pasar.

Early role

According to Javanese tradition, the Senopati who was Joko Tingkir's foster son assassinated Arya Penangsang of Jipang-Panolan (now in Cepu, Blora Regency), making him the last direct heir of the Sultans of Demak. His death established the legitimacy of the Sultanate of Pajang.[2]

Senapati ing Alaga

Ki Ageng Pamanahan was granted Mataram region in 1556. After his death in 1575, Sutawijaya succeeded him as a chief of Mataram, styled Senapati Ing Ngalaga (meaning "commander in battlefield").

In 1576, Ngabehi Wilamarta and Ngabehi Wuragil of Pajang came to Mataram to ask for Mataram's loyalty, given that Senapati didn't come to Pajang more than a year. Senapati, who was riding his horse in Lipura village, did't pay attention for them. However, the two senior officials were able to keep Sultan Hadiwijaya's feeling from the report they had arranged.

Divine mandate

The traditional chronicle Babad Tanah Jawi alleges that Senopati, in his quest to become the supreme ruler of Java, had a spiritual alliance with Nyai Roro Kidul, the Javanese goddess of the Indian Ocean. The Babad, however derives Senopati's support from Muslim saint Sunan Kalijaga, who is considered to be one of the Wali Songo or 'Nine Apostles' of Islam in Java.[3] Other than Nyi Roro Kidul, Senapati also contacted the ruler of Mount Merapi. He also built fortification and trained his soldiers.

Rebellion against Pajang

In his effort, Senapati also dared to divert the journey of mantri pamajegan (tax collector) from Kedu and Bagelen who wanted to deliver tax to Pajang. They could be persuaded by Senapati so they swore allegiance to him.

Sultan Hadiwijaya was restless to hear about his adopted son's development. He then sent 3 messengers to investigate Mataram's development, i.e. Arya Pamalad of Tuban, Prince Benawa, and Patih Mancanegara. Senapati welcomed them with party. However, there was a quarrel between Raden Rangga (Senapati's son) with Arya Pamalad.

In 1582, Sultan Hadiwijaya banished Tumenggung Mayang to Semarang because he had helped his son, Raden Pabelan, to enter keputren (residence for Mataram princesses) and seduce Ratu Sekar Kedaton, Sultan's youngest daughter. Raden Pabelan himself was sentenced to death and his corpse was thrown away to Jenes River in Laweyan (currently located in Surakarta).

Pabelan's mother was Senapati's sister. Senapati then sent mantri pamajegan to liberate Tumenggung Mayang who were on journey to exile.

Outraged by Senapati's action, Sultan Hadiwijaya invaded Mataram with his soldiers. The war then took place. Pajang's soldiers could be defeated although outnumbered Mataram's one.

Sultan Hadiwijaya fell sick in his journey back to Pajang, and died after it. In his deathbed, Sultan Hadiwijaya requested to his children not to dislike Senapati and they had to treat him as an eldest brother. Senapati himself also attended his adoptive father's funeral.

Ruler of Mataram

Arya Pangiri was Sultan Hadiwijaya's son-in-law who became Duke of Demak. Supported by Panembahan Kudus, he occupied Pajang in 1583 and ousted Prince Benawa by appointing him as Duke of Jipang.

Prince Benawa then allied with Senapati in 1586. They viewed Arya Pangiri's reign had harmed people of Pajang. The war broke out. Arya Pangiri was arrested and sent back to Demak.

Prince Benawa offered Pajang's throne to Senapati, but refused. Senopati just demanded some Pajang's heirlooms to be looked after in Mataram.

Prince Benawa became Sultan of Pajang until 1587. He requested that Pajang was merged with Mataram. He requested Senapati to be Mataram's king. Pajang then became Mataram's vassal state, administered by Prince Gagak Baning, Senapati's brother.

Since that time, Senapati became the first ruler of Mataram, titled Panembahan. He didn't want to use Sultan as a title to honour Sultan Hadiwijaya and Prince Benawa. His royal court was located in Kotagede.


During his reign, the kingdom adhered to Javanese traditions, although Islam had already been introduced to Java. The Javanese Muslim state of Pajang (and the ancient Hindu-Javanese kingdom of Mataram, still on the same site) got in trouble when Panembahan Senopati schemed to undermine the authority of the King of Pajang. Senopati had conquered the Mataram district himself and circa 1576 he conquered Pajang, imposed the new religion and established his own court. The Mataram ruler refused to embrace Islam. Many historiographical problems surrounded Senopati's reign. He concentrated his spiritual powers through meditation and asceticism. Senopati's reliance upon both Sunan Kalijaga and Nyai Loro Kidul in the chronicles' accounts nicely reflects the Mataram Dynasty's ambivalence towards Islam and indigenous Javanese beliefs. The straight line between Mount Merapi at the north and the southern sea, with the Mataram kingdom at the center, was a strong concept of cosmology among the Javanese.[4]

Senopati's grandson, Sultan Agung (the Great Sultan, 1613–1645), was described as a great Muslim ruler and was claimed as the greatest of Mataram's rulers, though both Senopati and Sultan Agung established a liaison with the Goddess of the Southern Ocean of Nyai Loro Kidul.[5]

Expanding Mataram's territory

After Hadiwijaya's death, many vassal states in East Java seceded. The alliance of East Java's dukes were still led by Surabaya as the strongest entity. They were involved in a battle against Mataram in Mojokerto, but they could be mediated by Giri Kedaton's messenger.

Other than Pajang and Demak, Pati was also subjugated peacefully. Pati was led by Duke Pragola I, son of Ki Panjawi. His sister Queen Waskitajawi became the main queen consort of Mataram. It had made Duke Pragola I hoped that Mataram would be led by his sister's descendants.

In 1590, joined troops of Mataram, Pati, Demak, and Pajang attacked Madiun, which were led by Rangga Jumena (the youngest son of Sultan Trenggana), who had prepared a large troops awaiting the invader. With a brilliant trickery, Madiun was conquered. Rangga Jumena fled to Surabaya, while his daughter namely Retno Dumilah was married by Senapati.

In 1591, a coup d'etat took place in Kediri. Raden Senapati of Kediri was driven out by new regent, Ratujalu, supported by Surabaya.

Raden Senapati of Kediri was adopted by Panembahan senapati as his son and he helped him to take over the throne of Kediri. The war ended with the death of both Raden Senapati with Duke Pesagi (his uncle).

In 1595, Duke of Pasuruan intended to submit to Mataram peacefully, but was prevented by his commander, Rangga Kaniten. Rangga Kaniten was defeated by Panembahan Senapati in a duel. He himself was assassinated by Duke of Pasuruan, who swore allegiance to Mataram.

In 1600, Duke Pragola I of Pati rebelled against Mataram. The rebellion was precipitated by appointment of Retno Dumilah of Madiun as second queen consort. Pati military forces were able to occupy some regions in the north of Mataram. A war broke out near Dengkeng River, where Mataram force led by Senapati himself destroyed Pati force.


Panembahan Senapati alias Danang Sutawijaya died in Kajenar village in 1601. He was buried in Mataram Cemetery, Kotagede and was succeeded by his son Mas Jolang, born from Ratu Mas Waskitajawi.


  1. Gusti Kanjeng Ratu Pambayun / Retna Pembayun, married with Ki Ageng Mangir, a chief of Mangir, a fiefdom located in the west of Mataram.
  2. Pangeran Ronggo Samudra (Duke of Pati)
  3. Pangeran Puger / Raden Mas Kentol Kejuron (Duke of Demak)
  4. Pangeran Teposono
  5. Pangeran Purbaya / RM. Damar
  6. Pangeran Rio Manggala
  7. Pangeran Adipati Jayaraga / Raden Mas Barthotot, Duke of Ponorogo
  8. Panembahan Hadi Prabu Hanyokrowati/Panembahan Seda ing Krapyak (Panembahan Senapati's successor, reigned from 1601 to 1613)
  9. Gusti Raden Ayu Demang Tanpa Nangkil
  10. GRAy. Wiramantri
  11. Pangeran Adipati Pringgoloyo I (Regent of Madiun, 1595–1601)
  12. Ki Ageng Panembahan Juminah/Pangeran Juminah/Pangeran Blitar I (Regent of Madiun between 1601 and 1613)
  13. Pangeran Adipati Martoloyo / Raden Mas Kanitren (Regent of Madiun between 1613 and 1645)
  14. Pangeran Tanpa Nangkil