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The Sweat of the King: State Wealth vs. Private Royal Wealth in Pre-colonial Islamic Javanese Kingdoms.

We may imagine pre-colonial Javanese monarchs as being capable of arbitrary conduct, and their kingdoms as places only partly constrained by either principles or laws. There are examples in the historical record to support such images. Many Javanese susuhunan or sultans would have agreed with Louis XIV, who is supposed to have proclaimed, 'The state, that is I' (I'etat, c'est mot).

But there is also evidence that there were conventional distinctions, expectations, and restrictions on royal authority. There can be little doubt, for example, that a monarch was expected to consult his senior family members and courtiers about major decisions. Failure to do so could lead to the monarch losing the legitimacy others ascribed to him and--in the poorly institutionalized kingdoms of Java--losing also his throne (and life) to rebellion.

Here we will examine evidence that there was a specific distinction drawn between revenues that pertained to the kingdom and those that were the personal wealth of the monarch. The Javanese ruler, it seems, may not have been as free as some present-day despots to treat the state's revenues as available for plunder.

My curiosity about this matter was piqued by a passage in the chronicle Babadkraton, a text from the Yogyakarta court in the 1770s. (1) This tells of events after the death of Amangkurat II (r. 1677-1703), which is dated on f. 503V. as occurring on the eve of Saturday-Kliwon, 23 Dumadilakir, at sunset (that is, at sunset on the Friday evening by CE reckoning), the year Alip, with the chronogram ardi kalih rasa tunggil (AJ 1627). This date is internally consistent and almost certainly correct, equivalent to around sunset on the evening of 23 November 1703, although the numeral varies by one day from standard date conversion tables and Ian Proudfoot's Takwim. (2)

On the Babad kraton's f. 504v., (3) we read of the dead monarch's body being taken to the royal graves at Imagiri. The entourage included his widow Ratu Kancana, who took along 1,000 reyal (to reward those saying prayers for the deceased). This money is described as kaskayan ing Nata pribadi, dudu wetuning praja, reyal muklis wau, saking karinget Sang Nata (the wealth of the king himself, not the income of the kingdom, that is, reyal pure in intent, from the sweat of the king). The same text (with insignificant variants) is found in the so-called Major Surakarta babad, compiled in Surakarta in 1836. (4) So this episode in the chronicles clearly distinguishes between the monarch's private wealth--that which originated from 'the sweat of the king'--and the income of the kingdom as an institution.

I have translated the Javanese word muklis here as 'pure in intent'. We might also say, as Gericke and Roorda put it (1901, 11:492), referring to the Arabic root, 'pure in heart, not hypocritical'. This is the Qur'anic term mukhlis, derived from the Arabic ikhlas, 'sincerity'. Zayd (2018) comments that 'mukhlis best approximates the notion of worthy and well-directed "intention". Sincerity is the foundation of all acts of worship [...] acceptable to God and of all forms of prayer'. The appearance of this term in the Babadkraton indicates that money that was muklis--that was from the 'sweat of the king' rather than from state revenues--was more appropriate, meritorious, and undefiled when praying for the dead king, more born of pure intent and acceptable to God. Such monies were regarded as undefiled for a pious purpose, unlike money which might have derived from the state treasury.

That a crucial term in the babad account is the Javanese/Arabic muklis/mukhlis leads to the suspicion that this distinction between private royal wealth and state revenues entered Javanese law and practice with the coming of Islam. Our knowledge of such matters in pre-Islamic times is limited by the nature of the surviving evidence. Neither Old Javanese charters (prasasti) nor works of literature (kakawin) shed light on such an issue, as far as I am aware. That the distinction is so clearly linked in the Babadkraton account with obsequies for the dead king also suggests a specifically religious--that is to say, Islamic--setting for the concept.

A similar distinction between the kingdom's revenues and the monarch's personal estate was applied at the time when Pakubuwana II (r. 1726-1749) was dying in December 1749. This was in the midst of a bitter civil war--already raging for nearly a decade by that stage--and the ailing monarch appears to have trusted no one around him. Instead, he turned to the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC, Dutch East India Company) governor of Java's northeast coast, J.A. Baron van Hohendorff (whom Javanese sources commonly name Undur, 'Retreat'). Remarkably, the dying king proposed that, in the transition to the next monarch, it should be Van Hohendorff who took charge of the court and of the king's personal wealth rather than any Javanese lord.

The Dutch and Javanese texts of the treaty which Pakubuwana II and Van Hohendorff signed on 11 December 1749 draw this distinction. The Javanese text distinguishes between the kingdom with all its dependencies (karaton Matawis [...] sarta sawewengkonipun sedaya) on the one hand and the king's heirs, including the crown prince, on the other (putra-putra kawula kang kantun-kantun punapa dening Pangeran Adipati Anom). The Dutch text makes the same distinction between het Mattaramsche rijk [...] met ap- en dependentie on the one hand and mijne na te laten kinderen voornamentlijk den Kroonprins Pangeran Adipati Anom on the other. The former, the kingdom, was surrendered without limitation to the VOC, an arrangement which proved to be a dead letter in the military-political realities of the day. The latter, the monarch's heirs, were entrusted to the care of the VOC. The latter arrangement was common Javanese practice, so that someone trustworthy would ensure that heirs received their proper inheritances. (5) Thus, here again we see a distinction drawn between the institutions of the kingdom and the personal property of the monarch and his family.

Prince Mangkunagara I (a.k.a. Mas Said) was then in rebellion and not present at the Surakarta court when Pakubuwana II died. He recorded what he learned at second-hand in his autobiographical chronicle, the Serat babad Pa-kunegaran. He seems to have given no attention to the surrender of the entire kingdom to the VOC--perhaps recognizing that as a concession without significance in the midst of a brutal civil war--but did hear something about the treatment of Pakubuwana I I's personal legacy. There we read, titilare SriBupati, kang dunya pinaratiga, mring Deler ingkang amaris, kang saduman Narpati, ingkang kalih dumanipun, pinendhet ing Wala[n]da, Deler Udur ingkang ambil, nulya Deler upamit dhateng Sang Nata (the legacy of the king [Pakubuwana II], his worldly goods, were divided into three by the Hon. Gentleman, who transmitted them. One part went to the king [Pakubuwana III], two parts were demanded by the Dutch; it was the Hon. Gentleman Van Hohendorff who took them. Then the Hon. Gentleman took leave of the king.) (6) No other sources known to me support this depiction of Van Hohendorff's avarice--which is not to suggest that there was any shortage of avarice in the ranks of the Company's officers. The passage is of interest because again it seems to treat the monarch's personal wealth as something separate from the kingdom itself.

The Babad Giyanti may also shed some light on the issue, but it does not do so as clearly as the previous examples. This is a chronicle conventionally ascribed to Yasadipura I (1729-1803), who--if the ascription is correct--lived through the events it describes over the tumultuous years from the 1740s to 1757. The Babad Giyanti generally views things from the perspective of Prince Mangkubumi (Sultan Hamengkubuwana I, r. 1749-1792), who was in rebellion at this time and in alliance with Mangkunagara I.

The Babad Giyantis account of the succession in Surakarta in 1749 has some similarities with that in the Serat babad Pakunegaran. It describes the dying Pakubuwana 11--flickering in and out of consciousness--saying to Van Hohendorff: Gupernur iya sukur, dene sira teka pribadi, prakara sutanira, Ki Dipati iku, ya mongsa bodhowa sira, sadurunge sauwise pasrah mami, iya marang ing sira, /0/ lajeng kendel tan ngandika malih ('Governor, thank God that you have come in person. The case/affair of my son the crown prince I turn over to your judgement: what comes before and what comes after, I surrender to you.' Then [the king] stopped and said no more.) (Yasadipura I [ascribed to] 1937-1939, VI31). Again, the king is depicted as asking Van Hohendorff to handle matters to do with his son, the crown prince. It is not entirely clear what was meant here. Was this about the governor deciding whether the crown prince should succeed, or about the transmission of the dying monarch's personal wealth to the next generation, in accordance with the distinction we have seen in the texts of the treaty itself?

Subsequently, the Babad Giyanti depicts Van Hohendorff as announcing to the assembled court, yen mangke Sang Prabu, seleh karaton maringwang (that the king [Pakubuwana II] has transferred the kraton to me) and then that lamun wong gedhe-gedhe Betawi, tuwanJendral ngadegaken raja, Pangran Dipati Anom (that the Hon. Gentlemen of Batavia and the Governor General install as king the crown prince) (Yasadipura I [ascribed to] 1937-1939, VI:32). There is room for debate here, but it is possible that the Babad Giyanti also treats the transmission of the dying king's worldly goods to the next generation and the installation of a new king as separate matters.

Further Queries

If we accept that there was a distinction drawn between the monarch's personal private property and the state treasury, questions remain for which the evidence known to me cannot provide entirely satisfactory answers. Readers may find it instructive to turn to Ann Kumar's attempt to make sense of the Mangkunagaran finances in the later eighteenth century (Kumar 1980:26-36), based on the MS Babad tutur. G.P. Rouffaer (1931:299-311) also did his best to untangle such complexities. Neither of these discussions resolves the two following questions:

What revenues were regarded as pertaining to the monarch's private income?

On this question, we gain most assistance from later eighteenth-century Javanese documents of the court of Yogyakarta, edited by Carey and Hoadley. There we find records of the sultan loaning money and being paid house rents (Carey and Hoadley 2000:314, 349, 350, 364, 367). We might therefore guess that the king had private property in the form of housing and that from his cash balances he earned returns as a moneylender. As the money used when praying for the dead Amangkurat II was undefiled 'reyal pure in intent', we may assume that the king's earnings from moneylending would have been structured so as to avoid Islamic law's condemnation of usury. The Javanese terms used in Carey and Hoadley's documents are bungah and sekar, both of which could simply refer to a lawful increase' rather than to usurious interest. What other forms of private royal income might have existed we could only guess.

For what purposes were such private royal resources to be used?

On this question, we can only speculate. The most obvious purposes would probably be acts of personal, religious merit and family expenses, such as the costs of weddings, circumcisions, burials, the support of royal family members without adequate income from appanages, and so on. We should expect that acts of religious merit could only convey that merit to a king personally (whether living or dead) if the costs were met from his personal royal wealth. We recall the key comment in the Babad kraton's f. 504V., cited above, that the 1,000 reyal accompanying the dead king's cortege to Imagiri (to reward the religious praying on the deceased's behalf) was reyal muklis saking karinget Sang Nata (reyal pure in intent, from the sweat of the king). Thus, rewards to those who took part in group prayer and Qur'anic recitations in the palaces, performances which conveyed religious merit, presumably should also have come from those pure reyal derived from 'the sweat of the king'.


With thanks to Peter Carey and Barry Hooker for their suggestions.


Bale Pustaka (1939-1941). Babad tanahJawi. Batawi Sentrum: Bale Pustaka. [Thirty-one vols.]

Carey, Peter and Mason C. Hoadley (eds) (2000). The archive of Yogyakarta. Vol. 2: Documents relating to economic andagrarian affairs. Oxford: Oxford University Press for the British Academy. [Oriental Documents 11.]

Gericke, J.F.C. and T. Roorda (1901). Javaansch-Nederlandsch handwoordenboek. Revised ed. Edited by A.C. Vreede and J.G.H. Gunning. Amsterdam: Johannes Muller; Leiden: Brill. [Two vols.]

Jonge, J.K.J. de and M.L. van Deventer (eds) (1862-1909). De opkomstvan het Nederlandsch gezag in Oost-Indie: Verzameling van onuitgegeven stukken uit het oud-koloniaal archief.'s-Gravenhage: Nijhoff. [Sixteen vols.]

Kumar, Ann (1980). 'Javanese court society and politics in the late eighteenth century: The record of a lady soldier. Part I: The religious, social, and economic life of the court, Indonesia 29 (April):1-46.

Pantja Sunjata, I.W., Ignatius Supriyanto and J.J. Ras (eds and translit.) (1992). Babad kraton:SejarahkeratonJawasejakNabiAdamsampairuntuhnyaMataram, menurut naskah tulisan tangan. The British Library, London, Add 12320. Djakarta: Djambatan. [Two vols.]

Proudfoot, Ian (2006). OldMuslim calendars of Southeast Asia. Leiden and Boston: Brill. [Handbuch der Orientalistik section 3, vol. 17].

Ricklefs, M.C. (1974). Jogjakarta under Sultan Mangkubumi, 1749-1792: A history of the division of Java. London, etc.: Oxford University Press.

Ricklefs, M.C. (ed. and transl.) (1978). Modern Javanese historical tradition: A study of an original Kartasura chronicle and related materials. London: School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

Rouffaer, G.P. (1931). 'Vorstenlanden, in: Adatrechtbundels. Vol. 34: Java en Madoera, pp. 233-378. s-Gravenhage: Nijhoff.

Soekanto ([1952]). SekitarJogjakarta 1755-1825 (Perdjandjian Gianti--perang Dipanagara). Djakarta and Amsterdam: Mahabarata.

Soeripto (1929). Ontwikkelingsgang der vorstenlandsche wetboeken. Leiden: Boek- en Steendrukkerij Eduard IJdo.

Yasadipura I [ascribed to] (1937-1939). Babad Giyanti. Batawi Sentrum: Bale Pustaka. [Twenty-one vols.] Also published at (accessed on multiple dates in October 2018).

Zayd, Nasr Hamid Abu (2018). 'Intention', in: Jane Dammen McAuliffe (ed.), Encyclopaedia of the Qur'an. Leiden: Brill. Consulted online on 31 October 2018.

Javanese MSS Cited

Babadkraton. British Library Add. MS 12320. A chronicle of the Babad tanahJawi family, as far as is known the earliest text to have survived which extends from Adam to the fall of Kartasura in 1742, but with a major lacuna at f. 63[1.sup.r]., omitting material for the years 1719-1741. Written by R.Tg. Jayengrat in Yogyakarta in AJ 1703-1704 [AD 1777-1781] and taken by the British at the sack of the Yogyakarta kraton in 1812. 717 ff. From the collection of John Crawfurd, acquired by the library in 1842. Available online at (accessed on multiple dates, October 2018).

Babad tutur, KITLV Or. 231. A copy of a hybrid chronicle-diary kept in the Mangkunagaran palace, extending from [Rejeb] AJ 1707 [July 1781 CE] to Mulud AJ 1718 [November 1791 CE]. Anonymous, but clearly copied in the Mangkunagaran palace. 303 ff. Held in Leiden University library.

Serat babad Pakunegaran. British Library Add. MS 12318. Composedby Mangkunagara I; this copy was made in Surakarta in AJ 1705 [1779 CE] for his 55th birthday. 418 ff. From the collection of John Crawfurd, acquired by the Library in 1842.

M.C. Ricklefs

The Australian National University, Canberra

DOI: 10.1163/22134379-17501020

(1) British Library Add. MS 12320. See the list of Javanese MSS at the end of this note for more details. It has been published in transcription in Pantja Sunjata, Supriyanto and Ras 1992. It is accessible online at (accessed on multiple dates, October 2018).

(2) This Javanese date is given in all the Javanese sources known to me. Variations of one day between actual Javanese usage and standard conversion tables are not unusual. Such tables and Proudfoot's Takwim give this combination of 5- and 7-day-week days as occurring on 22, not 23 Jumadilakir, equivalent to Saturday 3 November. See the discussion in Ricklefs 1978:190-191. Ian Proudfoot's Takwim is found as a CD-ROM in Proudfoot 2006 and on the Internet (; I do not access this Internet version myself and some users have reported difficulty in getting it to work.

(3) Text also in Pantja Sunjata, Supriyanto and Ras 1992,11:179.

(4) Published in Bale Pustaka 1939-1941, XVI:41: kaskayanya nata pribadi, dede wedaling praja, reyalmuklis tuhu, saking karingetNarendra. The online transcription of this passage by has a rare error, reading dene rather than dede, which confuses, indeed inverts, the meaning of the passage; see (accessed 31-10-2018).

(5) This matter is discussed in Ricklefs 1974:49-52, with extracts from the texts of the treaty. Both texts are published in Soekanto [1952]:178-L81. The Dutch text is also in De Jonge and Van Deventer 1862-1909, X:159-160. The Javanese text is also in Soeripto 1929:188-189, but this version is not taken from the original and shows some differences from Soekanto's version.

(6) Serat babad Pakunegaran, British Library Add. MS 12318 (see the list of Javanese MSS at the end of this note for details), f. 201V.
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Title Annotation:Short Note
Author:Ricklefs, M.C.
Publication:Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences of Southeast Asia and Oceania
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9INDO
Date:Jan 1, 2019
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