New Evidence of a Śailendra Presence Found in Central Java

The chemistry of a lifelong friendship.
A depiction of the Śailendra royal court on one of Borobudur's bas reliefs. Source: Gunawan Kartapranata,,_Borobudur.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0.

After a week of excavation, in Ngreco hamlet, Kesongo village, Tuntang District, Semarang Regency, possible evidence of a Śailendra presence in the area has been found by a team archaeologists comprising members of the National Research Center for Archaeology (Indonesian: Pusat Arkeologi Nasional), Gadjah Mada University's Archaeological Center, Bandung Institute of Technology’s Geomorphology Department and the French Cultural Center in Jakarta.1

The discovery of a foundation adds to previous findings of a jaladwara—a water sewage system—along with pieces of bricks and artifacts. The foundation may be that of a since-demolished temple, and according to National Research Center for Archaeology team leader Indrajaya Agustijanto, exceeds 3.6 meters (11' 9'') and was made of brick.

Combined with the jaladwara, one can paint a picture of a temple and waterway in the area, and with it an ancient civilization.

Initial evidence that this area was inhabited by people during the Śailendra period came from the discovery of a plaque near the current excavation site in Tuntang. The plaque was inscribed with the number “685”. Because the Śaka calendar2, which starts in 78 CE, was used in Java during this period3, this plaque would have been inscribed in 763 CE, 15 years before the inscription linked with Candi Kalasan, which is the first4 in Indonesia to mention the Śailendra dynasty. Indrajaya notes, “When compared to the Canggal plaque in Magelang, the time span is between 20 and 40 years, so it can be said that the finding in Ngreco is quite old when associated with the Sailendra period.”

Little is actually known about the Śailendra dynasty5, despite its prominence in Central Javanese (as well as western Indonesian) history. There are competing theories as to whether it originated from Funan, India, Sumatra, or Java, each with its own problems. Much of the discord stems from questions of familial ties and dynastic succession. For example, what is the relationship between the Śailendra and Sañjaya, which were rival kingdoms in the later centuries? The Sañjaya dynasty is credited with Prambanan's construction, and according to the aforementioned Canggal plaque, formed by Sañjaya. Panangkaran, the successor of Sañjaya, may be the possible founder of the Śailendra dynasty, thus linking the two dynasties. Śailendra may have been the actual name of Sañjaya or his posthumous name, thus making the Sañjaya a branch of the Śailendra, rather than the other way around. The two dynasties may not have been related at all.

Answers to these questions unfortunately remain mere hypotheses.

The archaeological team's research is not limited to Semarang Regency; work has also been conducted in Batang, Pekalongan, and Tegal Regencies, as well, with Batang yielding important results, according to Indrajaya.

“During a two-week exploration in the Gringsing area of Batang, archaeologists found a waterway system and a passage to the Dieng plateau,” he said.

Indrajaya nevertheless recommends patience with these findings. His team will be conducting further research.


  1. Ainur Rohmah, "Remnants of Sailendra dynasty allegedly found," The Jakarta Post, April 9, 2014,
  2. Ajay Mitra Shastri, "Śaka Era", Indian Journal of History of Science 31(1) (1996),
  3. Lorenz Franz Kielhorn, The Indian Antiquary (1894), 113–134,
  4. 700 Śaka, or 778 CE.
  5. Anton O. Zakharov, "The Śailendras Reconsidered," Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre Working Paper No. 12 (August 2012),