Sultanate of Cirebon

Sultanate of Cirebon


Capital Cirebon
Languages Javanese, Sundanese, Cirebon
Religion Islam
Government Monarchy
Panembahan, Susuhunan (Sunan), Sultan
   1445-1479 Prince Cakrabuana
   Establishment of Caruban settlement 1445
  Cirebon Independence from Sunda Kingdom 1479
   First disintegration of the Cirebon Sultanante 1677
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Sunda Kingdom
Dutch East Indies
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A pendopo pavilion in Keraton Kasepuhan, Cirebon.

The Sultanate of Cirebon (Indonesian: Kesultanan Cirebon, Sundanese: Kasultanan Cirebon) was an Islamic sultanate in West Java founded in the 15th century. It is said to have been founded by Sunan Gunungjati, marked by his letter proclaimed Cirebon's independence from Pajajaran in 1482,[1] although the settlement and the polity had been established earlier in 1445. Sunan Gunungjati also established the Sultanate of Banten. It was one of the earliest Islamic states established in Java, around the same period with the Sultanate of Demak.

The sultanate court lies near the modern day city of Cirebon on West Java's north coast. Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, the sultanate thrived and became the region's centre of trade and commerce, as well as served as an Islamic learning and dissemination centre. The sultanate split into four royal houses, starting in 1677. Today there are four kratons (palaces) in Cirebon; Keraton Kasepuhan, Kraton Kanoman, Keraton Kacirebonan, and Keraton Keprabonan, each has their own lineage and all are the descendants and remnants of the Cirebon Sultanate.


Most of the history of Cirebon Sultanate was found in a local Javanese chronicle known as Babad. Some notable chronicles that focused on the history of Cirebon are Carita Purwaka Caruban Nagari and Babad Cerbon. Foreign sources also mentioned Cirebon, such as Tomé Pires' Suma Oriental, written in 1512-1515. The later period of the sultanate documented from the colonial Dutch East Indies sources. Other than recording its own history, one of the royal houses of Cirebon, especially Keraton Keprabonan led by Wangsakerta princes, also actively recorded and researched the history of Java by collecting old manuscripts.


There are several suggestions about the origin of the name "Cirebon". According to Sulendraningrat who based on the script Babad Tanah Sunda and Atja on Carita Purwaka Caruban Nagari script, Cirebon at first was a small hamlet built by Ki Gedeng Tapa, which eventually evolved into a bustling port village and named Caruban (Sundanese for: mixture), because the port town was a melting pot settled by immigrants from various ethnic groups, religions, languages, customs, and livelihoods different to reside or trade.

Another popular opinion suggested that the town's name derived from rebon the Sundanese word for small shrimp. Initially most of the people's livelihood was fishing and collecting rebon along the coast as well as making shrimp paste, petis paste, and salt. Rebon is the main ingredients on making shrimp paste. From the term of water used for shrimp paste manufacture (belendrang) that is called cai rebon (Sundanese for: rebon water) which later became Cirebon.

With the support of the bustling harbour and natural resources from the hinterland, Cirebon became one of the important ports on the north coast of Java for shipping and trading activities among the islands and with the rest of the world. In addition, the Islamic Sultanate of Cirebon grew into the centre of Islam in West Java.


The coastal area around the port of Cirebon was known as a coastal village of Muara Jati, a part of Sunda kingdom as stated on travel records of Prince Bujangga Manik, a Hindu Sundanese hermit who visited some of the holy Hindu sites in Java and Bali between the late 15th century, or early 16th century.[2] In his lontar manuscripts. The border of the Sunda kingdom in the west is Sunda Strait and in the east is Cipamali river (present day kali Brebes) and Cisarayu river (present day Serayu River) in Central Java Province.[3] At this time Muara Jati was located around 14 kilometres north from modern Cirebon, and later known as Singapura. The transformation from small Hindu coastal fishing village into thriving Muslim port began with the rule of Ki Gedeng Tapa.

Ki Gedeng Tapa

Ki Gedeng Tapa (or also known as Ki Gedeng Jumajan Jati) was a wealthy merchant living in the village of Muara Jati. He was appointed as the port master of Muara Jati fishing village by Sunda king reside in Kawali, Galuh, located further inland south of Muara Jati. The Muara Jati was later called Singapura, located several kilometres north of modern Cirebon. The thriving port town attract Muslim traders. Ki Gedeng Tapa and his daughter, Nyai Subang Larang are said to be converted to Islam. Nyai Subang Larang studied at Quro pesantren (Islamic school) in Karawang area.

At that time the West Java region including Muara Jati were belongs to Sunda kingdom with its capital in Pakuan Pajajaran. Sunda King Prabu Jayadewata or Sri Baduga Maharaja or popularly known as King Siliwangi married to Nyai Subang Larang and have three child; Prince Walangsungsang born in 1423, Princess Rara Santang (Syarifah Mudaim) born in 1426, and Prince Kian Santang (Raden Sangara) born in 1428.[1]

Although Prince Walangsungsang was the first-born son of Sunda King, the prince did not earned the right as a crown prince of Pakuan Pajajaran. This was because his mother, Nyai Subang Larang was not the prameswari (queen consort). Another reason was probably because of his conversion to Islam, probably influenced by his mother, Subang Larang whom was a Muslim woman. At that time in 16th century West Java, the state's religion was the Sunda Wiwitan (Sundanese ancestral religion), Hinduism and Buddhism. It was his half brother, King Siliwangi's son from his third wife Nyai Cantring Manikmayang, was chosen as crown prince, later ascended to the throne as King Surawisesa.

In 1442 Prince Walangsungsang married to Nyai Endang Geulis, daughter of Ki Gedheng Danu Warsih from Gunung Mara Api hermitage. Walangsungsang with his sister Rara Santang wondering around several hermitages to study spiritualism. In Gunung Amparan Jati they met an ulama Sheikh Datuk Kahfi from Persia. Walangsungsang, Rara Santang, and Endang Geulis, learn Islam from Sheikh Kahfi. The Sheikh ask the Prince to open a new settlement in the area Southeast from Gunung Jati (today Lemahwungkuk area). Walangsungsang was assisted by Ki Gedheng Danusela, Ki Gedheng Danu Warsih's younger brother. The new settlement was called Dukuh Alang-alang. By clearing forest, he established a new settlement on 1 Shura (Muharram) in 1358 (Javanese Islamic calendar), coincide with 8 April 1445 CE.

Ki Gedeng Alang-Alang (reign 1445-1447)

People of this new settlement elected Danusela as their new kuwu (village chief) later refer to as Ki Gedeng Alang-alang. He appointed Raden Walangsungsang as his deputy, titled as Pangraksabumi. However Ki Gedeng Alang-alang died two years later in 1447.

Prince Cakrabuana (reign 1447–1479)

After Ki Gedeng Alang-Alang's death in 1447, Walangsungsang appointed as the ruler of the town and established a court and assumed a new title as Prince Cakrabuana. The coastal port village attract settlers from overseas as well as inland and forming a thriving new society in the village named Caruban, which means mixture in Sundanase to describe the compositions of its settlers. Two years after its establishment the record dated from 1447 shows the cosmopolitan composition of this thriving port town. According to this record the settlers of Caruban at that time was 346 people (182 men and 164 women), composed from various ethnics background; 196 Sundanese, 106 Javanese, 16 Sumatran, 4 Malaccan, 2 Indian, 2 Persian, 3 Siamese, 11 Arabs, and 6 Chinese settlers.[4]

After a hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Prince Cakrabuana changed his name to a Muslim one, Haji Abdullah Iman. He built a thatched hut and a tajug pavilion called Jalagrahan, and expanded it as Pakungwati palace, today are pendopos (pavilions) located in front of Kasepuhan Palace, establishing his court in Cirebon. Thus he was considered as the founder of Cirebon. After the death of Cakrabuana grandfather, Ki Gedeng Tapa (Ki Gedeng Jumajan Jati), Cakrabuana receive inheritance; the Singapura settlement located north of Caruban were merged and incorporated into Caruban realm. The fortunes from inheritance was used to expand Pakungwati palace. His father King Siliwangi sent his envoy Tumenggung Jagabaya and Raja Sengara (Cakrabuana's younger brother), to bestow Prince Carkrabuana with the title Tumenggung Sri Mangana. Cirebon grew into a thriving port, yet Cakrabuana still loyal to his father and sent tribute to the main court of Sunda Pajajaran.

The early period of Cirebon Sultanate was commonly identified as Pakungwati period. It refer to Pakungwati palace, a Javanese style compound consists of series of pendopos (pavilions) enclosed within red brick walls and gates in typical Majapahit style of architecture. Pakungwati compound located north of Keraton Kasepuhan and today incorporated within Kasepuhan compound. During Pakungwati period, Cirebon Sultanate was a unified kingdom under one monarch. He was the first king of Cirebon, ruled from his palace Pakungwati and actively spread Islam to the people of Cirebon and West Java.

Meanwhile, Rara Santang during her hajj pilgrimage met Sharif Abdullah of Egypt and get married. She change her name to Syarifah Mudaim and in 1448 born a son Sharif Hidayatullah. In 1470 Syarif Hidayatullah went aboard to study at Mecca, Baghdad, Champa, and Samudra Pasai. Later he came home to Java. He learn from Sunan Ampel in East Java, served in Demak court, and later came back to Cirebon. He asked his uncle, Tumenggung Sri Mangana (Cakrabuana) to establish Islamic school in Caruban or Carbon.


Sunan Gunung Jati (1479-1568)

After his resignation in 1479 AD, Cakrabuana was succeeded by his nephew, Sharif Hidayatullah (1448-1568), the son of Nyai Rara Santang and Sharif Abdullah of Egypt. He married his cousin, Nyi Mas Pakungwati daughter of Cakrabuana and Nyai Mas Endang Geulis. He is popularly known with his posthumously name, Sunan Gunung Jati, with stylised name Tumenggung Sharif Hidayatullah bin Sultan Maulana Muhammad Sharif Abdullah, and also holding the title as Ingkang Sinuhun Kangjeng Susuhunan Jati Purba Panetep Panatagama Awlya Allah Kutubid Jaman Khalifatur Rasulullah. He ascend the throne as Sultan Carbon I reside in Keraton Pakungwati.

In 1482 Sharif Hidayatullah sent letter to his grandfather King Siliwangi, with statement that Cirebon refusing to pay tribute to Pajajaran. Previously Cakrabuana always paid Pajajaran tribute to acknowledge Sunda overlordship over Cirebon. By doing this Cirebon proclaimed itself as a sovereign independent state. The Cirebon independence proclamation was marked with Chandrasengkala (chronogram) Dwa Dasi Sukla Pakca Cetra Masa Sahasra Patangatus Papat Ikang Sakakala, corresponds with 12 Shafar 887 Hijri or 2 April 1482 CE. Today the day marked as the anniversary of Cirebon Regency.[1]

In 1515 Cirebon has been established as an Islamic state. In Suma Oriental, written in 1512-1515, Tomé Pires, a Portuguese explorer report:

First the king of Çumda (Sunda) with his great city of Dayo, the town and lands and port of Bantam, the port of Pomdam (Pontang), the port of Cheguide (Cigede), the port of Tamgaram (Tangerang), the port of Calapa (Kelapa), and the port of Chemano (Chi Manuk or Cimanuk), this is Sunda, because the river of Chi Manuk is the limit of both kingdoms.

Now comes Java and we must speak of the kings within the hinterland. The land of Cheroboam (Cherimon), the land of Japura, the land of Locarj (Losari), the land of Tateguall (Tegal), the land of Camaram (Semarang), the land of Demaa (Demak), Tidumar (Tidunan), the land of Japara (Jepara), the land of Ramee (Rembang), the land of Tobam (Tuban), the land of Cedayo (Sedayu), the land of Agasij (Grisee or Gresik), the land of Curubaya (Surabaya), the land of Gamda, the land of Blambangan, the land of Pajarucam (Pajarakan), the land of Camtã, the land of Panarunca (Panarukan), the land of Chamdy, and when its ended we will speak of the great island of Madura.[5]

According to Tome Pires report, Cirebon was identified as Cheroboam or Cherimon. In 1515 Cirebon was no longer under the authority of Hindu Sunda kingdom, but rather identified as Java north coast port. It refer to Cirebon has been established as a Muslim state, just like those of Demak and Gresik.

After the news of the Portuguese-Sunda alliance in 1522 became known, Gunungjati nevertheless asked 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.[6]

Sunan Gunungjati had Hasanudin named king of Banten 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.[7]

During the reign of Sharif Hidayatullah or Sunan Gunung Jati, Sultanate of Cirebon enjoyed a rapid growth and rose to become a prominence kingdom in the region. The thriving coastal port city become the centre of trade as well Islamic learning and dissemination. The port town attract traders from Arabia to China. Sunan Gunung Jati is believed to be the founder of the dynasty that ruled both the Sultanate of Cirebon and Banten. He also credited as the proselytiser of Islam in West Java. Ulamas from his court and mosque spreading the messange of Islam to inland Majalengka, Kuningan, Kawali (Galuh), as well as the neighbouring coastal ports of Sunda Kelapa, and Banten.

Large numbers of foreign traders come to establishes trade relations with Cirebon. Chinese Ming Dynasty in particular, establishes closer relations signify by the visit of Ming dignitary Ma Huan. The ties between China and Cirebon grew much closer when Sunan Gunungjati took the hands Princess Ong Tien — the daughter of Chinese Emperor — in marriage during his visit to China. With this dynastic marriage, the Chinese Emperor wishes to establish close relations and strategic alliance with Cirebon. Apparently it is advantageous for Chinese interest in the region as well as Cirebon economic interest, as the city welcomes Chinese traders and businesses. After married to Sunan Gunungjati, Princess Ong Tien change her name to Nyi Rara Semanding. The Emperor of China brought his daughter some treasures, most of these relics that Ong Tien has brought from China still exist and stored in the museums of Cirebon royal houses. The close relations between China and Cirebon has made Cirebon a popular destination for Chinese immigrants in coming years to seek a better life in Indonesia, thus established Chinese Indonesian community. Cirebon Pecinan (Chinatown) is among the oldest Chinese settlement in Java. Chinese influences can be seen in Cirebon's culture, most notably the Cirebon batik megamendung pattern that resembles Chinese cloud imagery.

In his old age, Sunan was more interested in dawah efforts, propagate Islamic faith to surrounding areas as a ulama. He groomed his second son, Prince Dipati Carbon, to be his successor. However the prince died young in 1565 and posthumously known as Prince Pasarean. Three years later the king died and was buried in Gunung Sembung cemetery, Gunung Jati, around 5 km north of the town centre of Cirebon. Since then he has been popularly referred to by his posthumous name, Sunan Gunung Jati.

Fatahillah (1568–1570)

After the death of Sunan Gunung Jati, the throne was vacant since there was no descendant of Sunan considered worthy for the task at that time. General Fatahillah or Fadilah Khan were stepped in to assume the throne. He was the late Sunan's trusted officer that often took the administration role when the Sunan went out to performing dawah. Fatahillah's rule was considered as an interlude that only lasted for two years, since he died in 1570. He was buried alongside the tomb of Sunan Gunung Jati in Astana Gunung Sembung Jinem Building.[8]

Panembahan Ratu (1570-1649)

After the death of Fatahillah, there was no other appropriate candidate to be king. The throne fell to the great grandson of Sunan Gunung Jati, Pangeran Mas, the son of late Prince Suwarga, grandson of Sunan Gunung Jati. Pangeran Mas then hold the title Panembahan Ratu I and ruled for more than 79 years. During his rule, Panembahan Ratu paid more attention on strengthening the religious affair and spreading Islam further. As the centre of Islamic learning in the region, Cirebon influence penetrate inland and influenced the recently established Mataram Sultanate in Southern Central Java. However, since the king was more interested to become ulama, Cirebon fail to recruit Mataram into its sphere power, and Mataram grew more powerful eversince.

By the 17th century Sultanate Mataram rose to be a regional power under Sultan Agung of Mataram's reign. Around 1617 Agung launched his westward campaign targeted against Dutch settlements in Batavia, and rallied his massive troops near Cirebon's border. Agung urged the aged Panembahan Ratu to be his ally in his campaign to expel the Europeans out of Java. By doing so Cirebon become Mataram's ally, that in practice fell under Mataram's influence. For his campaign against Batavia he need support and supply across northern West Java, and asked Cirebon and regents in West Java to support him. However the Sundanese Priangan menak (nobles) of kadipaten (regency) Sumedang and Ciamis, suspect that Agung's campaign was none other than Mataram strategy to occupy their lands. The Sundanese nobles fought against Mataram, and Agung later asked Cirebon to quell the Sumedang and Ciamis rebellion instead. In 1618 and 1619 both Sumedang and Ciamis were defeated by Cirebon. Both Priangan regencies fell under Mataram rule, and in 1628-29 Sultan Agung of Mataram launched the failed Siege of Batavia.

The realm of the Sultanate of Cirebon at that time include Indramayu, Majalengka, Kuningan, modern Cirebon Regency and Municipality. Although officially Cirebon still an independent and sovereign state, in practice Cirebon was fell within mighty Mataram's sphere of influence, behaves not just as an ally, but more likely as a vassal. The Mataram rule upon Priangan inlands has exposed Sundanese people to Javanese cultures. When Panembahan Ratu died in 1649 he was succeeded by his grandson, Panembahan Girilaya.


Panembahan Girilaya (1649-1677)

After the death of Panembahan Ratu in 1649, the throne succeeded by his grandson, Prince Karim or Prince Rasmi, since the father of Prince Rasmi, Prince Seda ing Gayam or Panembahan Adiningkusuma died first. Prince Rasmi then assume the name of his deceased father, Panembahan Adiningkusuma, also known as Panembahan Ratu II. Later he often referred with his posthumous name as Panembahan Girilaya.

During the reign of Panembahan Adiningkusuma, Sultanate of Cirebon were sandwiched between two great power, the Sultanate of Banten in the west and Mataram Sultanate in the east. Banten suspected Cirebon has grew more closer to Mataram, since Amangkurat I of Mataram was Panembahan Adiningkusuma's father in-law. Mataram on the other hand suspected that Cirebon did not sincerely cementing the alliance with their Central Javanese counterpart since Panembahan Adiningkusuma and Sultan Ageng Tirtayasa of Banten belongs to the same Sundanese Pajajaran lineage.

Although Cirebon never been attacked by Mataram, since 1619 Cirebon has been practically held under Mataram influences and behaves as vassal. In 1650 Mataram asked Cirebon to urge Banten to submit under Mataram domination. Banten refuse the threat, and in response Mataram urged Cirebon to attack Banten. In 1650 Cirebon sent 60 ships to attack Banten port in Tanahara. However this naval campaign ended in disastrous defeat of Cirebon. This war is known as Pagarage war or Pacirebonan war that took place in 1650. On the other hand, Cirebon relations with Mataram were also strained. The tension culminated with the execution of Panembahan Adiningkusuma alias Panembahan Girilaya in Plered, while Prince Mertawijaya and Prince Kertawijaya taken as the hostage in Mataram.

Panembahan Adiningkusuma was summoned to Plered in Mataram by his father in-law, Susuhunan Amangkurat I of Mataram. However he was being executed instead. From his marriage with the daughter of Sunan Amangkurat I, Panembahan Adiningkusuma have three children, namely Prince Martawijaya, Prince Kertawijaya, and Prince Wangsakerta. He was entombed in Girilaya hill near Yogyakarta, near the royal tomb of Mataram kings in Imogiri, Bantul regency. Since then he referred as Panembahan Girilaya. According to several sources in Imogiri and Girilaya, the tombs of Panembahan Girilaya and the tomb of Sultan Agung in Imogiri are of the same heights.

Disintegration of the Sultanate

With the death of Panembahan Girilaya, Cirebon was left without a monarch. Prince Wangsakerta assumed the everyday administration, but worried about the fate of his elder brothers being held as hostages in Mataram court. Because of this incident, the Cirebon succession was held hostage by Mataram, by their own grandfather Amangkurat I. Wangsakerta went to Banten to seek Sultan Ageng Tirtayasa help to free his brothers. Sultan Ageng Tirtayasa is the son of Prince Abu Maali that died in Pagarage war. Tirtayasa agreed to assist Cirebon and saw it as an opportunity to improve diplomatic relations between Banten and Cirebon. Using the opportunity of Trunojoyo rebellion against Mataram, Sultan Ageng Tirtayasa secretly supported the revolt and managed to safe the two Cirebon princes.

However, Sultan Ageng Tirtayasa saw an opportunity to imposing Banten's influence upon Cirebon. He crowned both princes he saved as the sultans, Prince Mertawijaya as Sultan Kasepuhan while Prince Kertawijaya as Sultan Kanoman. By doing so the Sultan of Banten disintegrate and weaken the Sultanate of Cirebon into several petty states. On the other hand, Prince Wangsakerta that has fought for 10 years only given small title and estate. The cunning divide strategy was meant to weaken Cirebon and to prevent Cirebon to be Mataram ally and become a menace to Banten in the future as it had done in Pagarage war.

First disintegration (1677)

The first disintegration of Cirebon lineage took place in 1677, all three sons of Panembahan Girilaya inherited the remnant of Sultanate of Cirebon. Three princes ascended their offices as Sultan Sepuh, Sultan Anom, and Panembahan Cirebon. The change of the Panembahan title to Sultan because the title was bestowed by Sultan Ageng Tirtayasa of Banten.

Sultan Ageng Tirtayasa of Banten enthroned the two oldest princes as sultan, the Sultan Sepuh (eldest) and Sultan Anom (younger), the ceremony took place in Banten. Each sultans ruled over their own subjects, and inherited their own parts of lands. Sultan Sepuh rule the former Pakungwati palace and expand his palace further to become Keraton Kasepuhan. Sultan Anom build a new palace, Keraton Kanoman, located several hundred meters north from Kasepuhan palace. Prince Wangsakerta, the youngest, was not enthroned as sultan, but remain as Panembahan. He neither inherited lands or subjects, his estate established as kaprabonan (paguron), somekind of school to educate Cirebon intellectuals.

In Cirebon tradition, since 1677 each of three branch lineages descends their own line of sultans or rulers. Just like royal traditions the heir should be the oldest son, or if it not possible, grandson. In some instance, a relatives could assume the office for a period.

Second disintegration (1807)

For more than a century, the succession of Cirebon lineages was conducted without any significant problems. However, by the end Sultan Anom IV reign (1798-1803), Keraton Kanoman faces succession disputes. One of the prince, Pangeran Raja Kanoman, demand his share of throne and separate the kingdom by forming his own, Kesultanan Kacirebonan.

Pangeran Raja Kanoman was supported by Colonial government of Dutch East Indies by issuing besluit (official letter) Governor General of Dutch East Indies appointing Pangeran Raja Kanoman as Sultan Carbon Kacirebonan in 1807. However the successor of Kacirebonan do not have the right to use the title "sultan", and the rulers of Keraton Kacirebonan use the title "pangeran" instead. Since that time Cirebon has another additional ruler, the ruler of Keraton Kacirebonan, separated from Keraton Kanoman. The Sultanate of Cirebon disintegrated into four lineages. Meanwhile, the throne of Kanoman succeeded by Sultan Anom IV also known as Sultan Anom Abusoleh Imamuddin (1803-1811).

Colonial era

Since 1619 Dutch East India Company has firmly established their base in Batavia, and since the 18th century the inland mountainous region of Priangan has been under their possession, ceded from Banten and Mataram. After Dutch intervention in 1807, Dutch East Indies government has exercised further into the internal affairs of Cirebon states. All of the four keratons finally held no real political power, held as protectorate under Dutch East Indies colonial government.

In 1906 and 1926, all Cirebon keratons finally lost their authority over their city and lands. The sultanates' authority officially disbanded by Dutch East Indies government through the establishment of Gemeente Cheribon (Cirebon Municipality), that consist of 1,100 hectare, with around 20,000 inhabitants (Stlb. 1906 No. 122 and Stlb. 1926 No. 370). In 1942 the City of Cirebon area were expanded further to 2,450 hectare. Each remnants of Cirebon sultanates; the Kasepuhan, Kanoman, Keprabonan, and Kacirebonan kratons only held ceremonial status.

Republic of Indonesia era

After the war of Independence and establishment of Republic of Indonesia, each sultanates of Cirebon are part of the republic. The real authority was held by bupatis (regent) and walikota (major) of the remnant of Cirebon Sultanates; City and Regency of Cirebon, Indramayu, Majalengka, and Kuningan. All regencies are part of West Java province. Just like Dutch East Indies colonial era, the royal houses; the Kasepuhan, Kanoman, Keprabonan, and Kacirebonan kratons only held ceremonial status as local cultural symbol. Each royal houses still descends and enthroned their kings up until now.

After the fall of Suharto and the advent of reformation era of democratic Indonesia, there is some aspiration to form Cirebon province, a new province separated from West Java. The territory of proposed new province corresponds to the former realm of Cirebon Sultanate; Cirebon, Indramayu, Majalengka, and Kuningan. The formation of new kingdom-based province is similar to those of Special Region of Yogyakarta, however the idea remains as a proposal and not conducted yet. Because lack of funding and maintenance, in last decade all the four keratons of Cirebon are in state of disrepair. In 2012, the government plans to immediately restore the four keraton, or palaces, in Cirebon — the Kasultanan Kasepuhan, Kanoman, Kacirebonan and Keprabonan palaces, which are all in various stages of ruin.[9]


State carriage in the Kanoman kraton (right) and the Kasepuhan kraton (left), circa 1910-1940.

During its early formation years, the sultanate actively propagate Islam. Cirebon send their ulamas to proselytise Islam into inland West Java. Together with Banten, it is credited for the Islamization of Sundanese people in West Java as well as coastal Java. Because the sultanate located on the border of Javanese and Sundanese cultural realms, the Sultanate of Cirebon demonstrate both aspects, reflected in its art and architecture, also in their language. The Sultanate Pakungwati palace shows the influence of Majapahit red brick masonry architecture. The styles and title of its officials also influenced by Javanese Mataram courtly culture.

As a port city, Cirebon attract settlers from around and overseas alike. Cirebon culture was described as Java Pasisiran (coastal) culture, similar with those of Banten, Batavia, Pekalongan, and Semarang, with notable influences mixture of Chinese, Arabic-Islamic, and European influences. The notable one is Cirebon batik with vivid colours with motifs and patters that clearly demonstrate Chinese and local influences. Chinese influences can be seen in Cirebon's culture, most notably the Cirebon batik Megamendung pattern that resembles Chinese cloud imagery.

Some of royal symbols of Cirebon Sultanate describe their legacy and influences. The banner of Cirebon Sultanate is called "Macan Ali" (Ali's panther) with Arabic calligraphy arranged to resemble a panther or tiger, describe both Islamic influence and also Hindu Pajajaran Sundanese King Siliwangi tiger banner. The royal carriage of Kasepuhan's Singa Barong and Kanoman's Paksi Naga Liman carriage resemble the chimera of three animals; eagle, elephant, and dragon, to symbolyze Indian Hinduism, Arabic Islam, and Chinese influences. The images of Macan Ali, Singa Barong and Paksi Naga Liman also often featured as pattern in Cirebon batik.

The remnants of Cirebon sultanate; Kasepuhan, Kanoman, Kaprabonan, and Kacirebonan keratons are now run as cultural institution to preserve Cirebon culture. Each still held their traditional ceremonies and become the patrons of Cirebon arts. Topeng Cirebon mask dance, inspired by Javanese Panji cycles is one of notable Cirebon traditional dance and quite famous within Indonesian dances. Although did not held real political power any more, the royal lineage of Cirebon still well respected and held in high prestige among the people of Cirebon.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 "Sejarah Kabupaten Cirebon" (in Indonesian). Cirebon Regency. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
  2. Noorduyn, J. (2006). Three Old Sundanese poems. KITLV Press. p. 438.
  3. Ekajati, Edi S. (2005). Kebudayaan Sunda Jaman Pajajaran. Yayasan Cipta Loka Caraka.
  4. Yoseph Iskandar, ”Sejarah Jawa Barat” (1997)
  5. Pires, Tome (1512–1515). "The Suma Oriental of Tome Pires: An Account of the East, from Red Sea to China". Armando Cortesão. Asian Educational Services, New Delhi 1990, 2005. p. 166. ISBN 81-206-0535-7. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
  6. Guillot, Claude (1990). The Sultanate of Banten. Gramedia Book Publishing Division. p. 17.
  7. Guillot, Claude (1990). The Sultanate of Banten. Gramedia Book Publishing Division. p. 18.
  8. Muljana, Slamet (2005). Runtuhnya kerajaan Hindu-Jawa dan timbulnya negara-negara Islam di Nusantara (in Indonesian). PT LKiS Pelangi Aksara. p. 72. ISBN 9798451163.ISBN 9789798451164
  9. Rukmana, Nana (29 June 2012). "Four palaces in Cirebon to be renovated at a cost of Rp 70b". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 16 January 2013.

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