Take advantage of the search to browse through the World Heritage Centre information.

Trowulan - Former Capital City of Majapahit Kingdom

Date of Submission: 06/10/2009
Criteria: (i)(v)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Indonesia
State, Province or Region:
Trowulan, Mojokerto, East Java
Coordinates: S7 30 - 7 40 E112 18 - 112 28
Ref.: 5466

The Tentative Lists of States Parties are published by the World Heritage Centre at its website and/or in working documents in order to ensure transparency, access to information and to facilitate harmonization of Tentative Lists at regional and thematic levels.

The sole responsibility for the content of each Tentative List lies with the State Party concerned. The publication of the Tentative Lists does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the World Heritage Committee or of the World Heritage Centre or of the Secretariat of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its boundaries.

Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


The Trowulan site is the only city site of the Hindu-Budha classical age in Indonesia that can still be found. The site covers an area of 11 km x 9 km, which includes the Districts of Trowulan and Sooko within the Regency of Mojokerto and the Districts of Mojoagung and Mojowarno under the Jombang Regency. The site of the former capital city of the Majapahit Kingdom was built on flat terrains at the foot of three mountains, namely the Penanggungan, Welirang, and Anjasmara Mountain. Geographically, the Trowulan area was suitable for human settlement since it was supported by plane topography with relatively shallow ground water. Hundreds of thousands of archaeological remnants of the old city in the Trowulan Site were found buried underground as well as on the surface in the form of: artifacts, eco-facts, and features.

The intriguing site of the remains of Majapahit Kingdom was discovered through extensive and lengthy research. The first research on the Trowulan Site was conducted by Wardenaar in 1815.  Assigned by Sir Raffles, Wardenaar made records of the archaeological relics in the Mojokerto Area and his work was cited in Raffles' book the "History of Java" (1817) which exposed the various archaeological objects found in Trowulan from the Majapahit Kingdom. In 1849, a team of archaeologists, W.R. van Hovell, J.V.G. Brumund, and Jonathan Rigg published their research in the "Journal of the Indian Archipelago and Eastern Asia". Another book on the findings of Trowulan titled "Toelichting over den Ouden Pilaar van Majapahit" was written by J. Hageman in 1858. Later on, R.D.M.  Verbeek made a site visit to Trowulan and issued a report in an article titled "Oudheden van Majapahit in 1815 en 1887", published in TBG XXXIII in 1889. Further research was done by R.A.A. Kromodjojo Adinegoro a Regent (Head) of Mojokerto Regency (1849-1916) who had great concern on the Archaeological Heritage in Trowulan. He excavated the old water system that was named the "Tikus" Temple or the Mouse Temple and Adinegoro also initiated the establishment of the Mojokerto Museum that housed the archaeological artifacts of the Majapahit Kingdom. Meanwhile, J. Knebel, a member of the Comissie voor Oudheidkundig Orderzoek op Java en Madura in 1907 documented the archaeological heritage of Trowulan. Another scholar, N.J. Krom,   reviewed the Heritage from the Majapahit Kingdom in Trowulan in his book Inleiding tot de Hindoe Javaansche Kunst (1923).

More intensive Research was conducted upon the establishment of the Oudheidkundige Vereeneging Majapahit (OVM) in 1924 initiated by R.A.A. Kromodjojo Adinegoro in collaboration with a Dutchman by the name of Ir. Henry Maclaine Pont with an office in Trowulan.  This office was designated as a museum to house and exhibit heritage objects from the Majapahit era. Between 1921-1924, Maclaine Pont led an excavation in Trowulan to verify the data from the Nagarakartagama manuscript and provided an early reconstruction sketch of Majapahit city in Trowulan.

Stutterheim who conducted research on the structure of the capital city of Majapahit Kingdom also used the manuscript of Nagarakartagama Pupuh VIII - XII as the main reference and concluded that the city planning of the Majapahit Palace is analogous to that of the Yogyakarta and Surakarta Palace. Further study shows that the construction in the palace complex resembles the design of the Balinese palace compound (Stutterheim, 1948).

Further research was conducted by the National Centre for Archaeology Research (Puslit Arkenas) in the 1970s until 1993.  The Research Center continued the search for more evidence of the old city through archaeological excavation using the clues (names of places) found in the manuscript of Nagarakartagama as a reference or based on the new findings that were discovered by the local people. The research at that time applied a sporadic strategy and it was found that the Trowulan Site was an accumulation of various artifacts not only showing evidence of human settlement but also other sites used for ceremonial activities, rituals, sanctuaries, industrial activities, slaughter house, burials, rice fields, markets, water canals and reservoirs. These sites divided the city into smaller regions that are connected by a road system. However, the results from this research have not been able to provide a complete portrait of the entire city of Majapahit as depicted by Prapanca in his literature writing in Nagarakartagama.

A more comprehensive understanding of the Trowulan Site was acquired through the aerial photograph of the site taken by the Geography Team of Gadjah Mada University showing that the Trowulan Site was a city that had a canal system. Since 1926, various studies have revealed that the Trowulan Site had 18 large and small dams connected to an irrigation system with wide and narrow channels. From the aerial view of the old city of Majapahit, it can be observed that the ancient water canals were symmetrically built and seemingly have shaped the city.

Year after year, more research and preservation activities were conducted on the  Trowulan Site not only by the Centre for Cultural Heritage Preservation of East Java, that is responsible for conserving the site,  but also by other institutions and academicians who have concern towards the heritage of the glorious Majapahit Kingdom in the Trowulan Site. As time progresses, many building sites and remnants of human settlement have been excavated, restored, maintained and utilized such as the Mouse Temple (Candi Tikus), Gateway of Bajangratu, Baru Temple, Gentong Temple, the Gateway of Wringinlawang, Kedaton Temple, and the Sentonorejo Settlement.

Thousands of artifacts from the Trowulan Site have been discovered and preserved.  Most of these artifacts discovered by experts and those found by the local community are maintained at the Majapahit Information Centre or known as Pusat Informasi Majapahit (PIM). The Majapahit artifacts are classified based on the material substance of the artifacts:

a. Terracotta Artifacts (made from earthenware clay) consist of: 1) Sculptures/Statues or human statues (featuring different races such as Chinese, Indian, Arabic); 2) Domestic appliances such as water carafe, water tubs, piggy-banks; 3) Production tools, among others: statue molds, kowi (mold of metal good, made from clay); and 4) Elements of buildings and housings such as miniature houses, pillars as a maquette, roof tiles, peaks, water pipes, and jaladwara (temple's water channel).

b. Ceramic artifacts (made from ceramics) such as plates, bowls, vases, spoons either locally made or from foreign origins.

c. Metal artifacts (made from metal) among others: coins both locally made and from foreign origins, tools used for ceremonies such as bells, mirrors, zodiac baker, incense burning.

d. Stone artifacts (made from andesite or tuff) such as relief, statues and stone tablets.

Analyzing these various artifacts, many researchers then studied further the civilization of the Majapahit era, related to various aspects such as the economy system, religion, literature, technology, art, law, agriculture and environment. The results from this study and in-depth research have enriched the wealth of knowledge on the findings of the Majapahit Kingdom and have enabled the experts to reconstruct the civilization of that time.

Based on the scattered heritage findings both in the forms of the remains of ancient buildings and human settlements as well as individual artifacts, Nurhadi Rangkuti then proposed a hypothesis that the area of the capital city of Majapahit in Trowulan covered an area of 9 x 11 square km. This hypothesis applies the analogy of the city pattern in the Islamic Mataram age that designates a mosque as the landmark for the borders of the kingdom. Assuming that culture is a process of continued diffusion, the city of the Majapahit Kingdom must have been based on a city planning concept that may be similar to that of the Mataram Kingdom.

The results from this extensive research in The Trowulan Site evidently shows that the Trowulan Site is the location of the remains of the capital city of the Majapahit Kingdom for more than 200 years between the 13th - 15th century AD, and this site is valued as an important part of Indonesia's historical and cultural journey of civilization.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

(i) Represent a masterpiece of human creative genius

The diverse artifacts that support the Trowulan Site as the capital city of Majapahit Kingdom can be observed until today. The archaeological remains and thousands of artifacts discovered in The Trowulan Site are strong indications that Trowulan was a modern city at that time.

From the archaeological evidence found in that site, it can be concluded that the capital city of the Majapahit Kingdom in the Trowulan Site was built through a process of deliberation and done by thorough planning with detailed and modern architecture that promotes local wisdom in caring for the environment. This provides proof of the accumulation of knowledge and ideas from a sophisticated civilization of the ancestors of Indonesians in the 12th and 14th century AD.

Several experts studied the Trowulan Site to interpret the various possible reasons for choosing this area as the capital city for the Majapahit Kingdom in the past. The following are some of the considerations:

a. This region is a very fertile area since there were volcanic quarter sediments containing sand or gravel pyroc clastica. These materials originated from the volcano in the southern part of the area that is known as the Arjuna Complex consisting of the volcanic mountains of Anjasmoro, Welirang, and Penanggunangan. The Anjasmoro Mountain is the oldest volcano in the area that has shifted. Being unstable, the rocks of the mountain may move. These moving rocks become volcanic mud flow when rain hits the area and develops into a fan-shaped fluvio volcanic sediments. From this analysis, it can be concluded that the Trowulan area is located at the tip of the fluvio volcanic fan. Furthermore, supported by the water shed of the Ginting River and the Brangkal River and having a flat topography that is rich with fluvio volcanic sediments, this area provides stable and fertile resources to sustain the livelihood of the people.

b. Having close proximity to the water sheds of the Brantas River and other smaller rivers, the Trowulan area has easy access with other regions.

c. The systematically built canals dissecting the city of Majapahit are the results from wise deliberation and advanced civilization showing concern for the environment. Earlier studies have shown that the climate in that age in the Trowulan area and its surrounding has not significantly changed compared to the present tropical rain climate that is categorized as an AW type. According to Koppen, under this type of climate, the high rain fall in the rainy months cannot compensate for the low rain fall in the dry season. (Sutikno, 1993). Under this condition, the Trowulan area and its surrounding may experience 4 to 6 months of drought in a year. Despite having two rivers - Gunting River and Brangkal River, in the dry season the volume of these two rivers may shrink and the opposite happens in the rainy season. Floods may occur and develop the fluvio volcanic fan (Sutikno, 1993). Therefore, the installment of a canal system is certainly justified.

With 20 to 40 meter-wide canals crossing the Majapahit region, the city was designed under an organized pattern with buildings situated in certain parts of the city.

Having such a well-planned city, Majapahit evidently was the centre for the government. The network of canals in the Trowulan Site criss-crossed the city almost perpendicularly. Apparently Majapahit city was developed based on a pattern of a chess board that was shaped by the relatively straight and perpendicular canals stretching from the north to south and from the west to east. The course of the canals was not necessarily parallel to the earth's north-south magnetic axis. The canals were slightly shifted -100 to the right, clockwise in the Cartesian quadran. It appears that the canals were adjusted to the geographical condition. Judging from the distance of the canal grids in the map, in the western part, the north-south canals were located relatively closer to each other compared to those built in the eastern part. This shows that in the zones where the canals were relatively close, this area was utlized for settlement, the city centre and the king's palace. Meanwhile, the east-west canals that were built straight and intersecting the central part of the canal system provided evidence that there was a link for socio-cultural activities connecting the eastern, western, northern and southern parts to the central part of the city. The canals were also linked to a network of roads that were built parallel to the canals either on one or both sides of the canals.

Research results show that the canal system and the water constructions built in the Majapahit era served as an irrigation facility for agriculture and were used to channel water into the reservoirs. Trowulan had five reservoirs namely the Baureno Dam, Kumitir Dam, Domas Dam, Temon Dam, Kraton Dam and the Kedung Wulan Dam. In addition to these dams, Trowulan had three man-made ponds closely positioned, namely the Balong Bunder, Balong Dowo, and the Segaran Pond. These dams functioned as water reservoirs, to control flood, and to manage the humidity of the area.

d. As a city, the Trowulan Site holds numerous cultural heritages of various aspects of livelihood -both sacral and profane- that are interesting to be further studied. The architecture and the sculpture of the relief on the heritage structures in Trowulan Site display the expertise of the architects and the craftsmen in integrating exotic culture with the local culture.

(v) Be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates significant stages in traditional human settlement, land use, or marine culture that shows the interaction of a culture (or cultures), or the interaction of humans with nature, especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change;

In the past, historians and experts on cultural studies have only scrutinized the ancient structures of the Hindu-Buddhist era in Indonesia. Archaeologists and architects tend to focus on sacral buildings commonly known as temples. Meanwhile, only little attention has been given to the study of non-temple structures such as human settlement, since no complete structure of human settlement has ever been discovered. As a matter of fact, from several studies, it shows that not far from the temples, there are traces of human settlement around the complex of the temple structure that have been identified. Mundardjito et al have discovered the remnants of a settlement towards the south of Bawongan Temple in 1976, and uncovered a settlement site around the Borobudur Temple compound, located in the upper grounds and a settlement in the south and southwest of the temple lower grounds of Borobudur Temple in the 1970-s. Observing these findings, Boechari in his article titled "Temples and its Environment", proposed a hypothesis that temples as a worship place do not stand alone. Along with these temples that serve as a center for rituals, there are settlements for the local people, the priests and caretakers of the temples (Boechari, 1977).

In addition to the ancient settlements within the proximity of the temples, Indonesia has an archaeological site that clearly displays the remains of a human settlement in the scale of a city -the Trowulan Site- in Mojokerto, East Java. Having such wide area coverage, the Trowulan site houses a wealth of heritage in the form of temples, gateways, water structures, reservoirs, canal system, construction elements, thousands of terracotta and ceramic tools used for domestic purposes. Among these findings, there were many sites of the remains of human settlement that were also revealed. According to Soekmono, from the many Hindu-Buddhist Kingdoms in Indonesia that existed before the Islamic Kingdoms (prior to 1500 AD), only the Majapahit Kingdom (14th to 16th century AD) has provided relics of human settlement in the Trowulan Site. Yielding such a rich heritage, the Trowulan site is considered by many experts as very important and rare.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The Trowulan Site possesses many significant values as follows:

1. The Trowulan Site has an indispensable scientific value as a source of analogy to study the past.

The city of Majapahit is one of the examples of a classical city settlement in Indonesia that serves as a benchmark for studying other ancient cities in South East Asia and more ancient cities in Indonesia (ancient Mataram) in terms of spatial planning and environmental management and other aspects.

2. The Trowulan Site has relative and technical values.

The main elements of the settlement of Majapahit city such as the Segaran Pond, the canals are evidence that tehre is significant understanding of hydraulic technology and high value of art in terms of concepts, techniques and methods already acquired by the ancestors of Indonesians in the past.

3. The Trowulan Site has a strong identity as well as social values

The settlement in Majapahit city is closely related to a continuum of traditional settlement of the Balinese culture in the later age, in which both settlements indicate the indigenous agrarian way of life of Indonesians.

4. The Trowulan Site has educational value.

The settlement of Majapahit city has great potential to be further developed as an education media for the present and future generation. It may serve as a means to carry forward the values of local wisdom that reflects the tradition to understand and balance culture with nature conservation.

Comparison with other similar properties

The city pattern of Trowulan has no similar match since it is the only comprehensive heritage site that can be found in Indonesia.