Sultanate of Cirebon

The Sultanate of Cirebon (Indonesian: Kesultanan Cirebon, Pegon: كسلطانن چيربون, 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, as marked by his letter proclaiming 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, along with the Sultanate of Demak.

Sultanate of Cirebon
كسلطانن چيربون
StatusVassal of the Sunda Kingdom (1445–1515)
Vassal of the Mataram Sultanate (1613–1705)
Common languagesSundanese, Javanese
Prince Cakrabuana
Panembahan Ratu II
 Prince Cakrabuana was appointed as the ruler of Cirebon
 Cirebon Independence from Sunda Kingdom
 Cirebon under the rule of Mataram Sultanate
 First disintegration of the Cirebon Sultanate
 The founding of Kasepuhan and Kanoman
 Final loss of authority to colonial government
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Sunda Kingdom
Mataram Sultanate
Dutch East Indies
Today part ofIndonesia
A pendopo pavilion in Kraton Kasepuhan, Cirebon.

The sultanate's capital lay around the modern-day city of Cirebon on Java's northern coast. Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, the sultanate thrived and became a major regional centre of trade and commerce, as well as a prominent centre of Islamic learning. The sultanate split into three royal houses in 1677, and a fourth split off in 1807, each with their own separate lines of descent and kratons; Kraton Kasepuhan, Kraton Kanoman, Kraton Kacirebonan, and Kraton Kaprabonan. They remain today, performing ceremonial duties.


There are several suggestions concerning the origin of the name "Cirebon". According to Sulendraningrat, who based it on the Babad Tanah Sunda script, and Atja who based it on the Carita Purwaka Caruban Nagari script, Cirebon was at first a small hamlet built by Ki Gedeng Tapa, which eventually developed into a bustling port village 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.

Another theory suggests that the town's name is derived from rebon, the Sundanese word for small shrimp that live in the area. Initially, a common livelihood in the settlement was fishing and collecting rebon along the coast, making shrimp paste or petis udang from it. The term for water used in shrimp paste manufacturing (belendrang) is cai rebon (Sundanese for "rebon water"), which later gave its name to the town as Cirebon.


Most of the history of the 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 is documented in colonial sources of the Dutch East Indies. 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.


The village of Muara Jati was in the coastal area around the port of Cirebon and was part of the Sunda kingdom, as stated in the travel records of Prince Bujangga Manik, a Hindu Sundanese hermit who visited some of the holy Hindu sites in Java and Bali in the late 15th century or early 16th century.[2] The border of the Sunda kingdom in the west is Sunda Strait and in the east 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 of modern-day Cirebon. The transformation from a small Hindu coastal fishing village into a thriving Muslim port began with the rule of Ki Gedeng Tapa.

Ki Ageng Tapa

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

At that time, the West Java region including Muara Jati belonged to the Sunda kingdom, with its capital in Pakuan Pajajaran. The Sunda King Prabu Jayadewata or Sri Baduga Maharaja, popularly known as King Siliwangi, was married to Nyai Subang Larang and had three children; 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 the Sunda King, he did not earn the right of 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, who 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, who was chosen as crown prince, and who later ascended to the throne as King Surawisesa.

In 1442 Prince Walangsungsang married Nyai Endang Geulis, daughter of Ki Gedheng Danu Warsih from Gunung Mara Api hermitage. Walangsungsang, with his sister Rara Santang, wandered 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, learned Islam from Sheikh Kahfi. The Sheikh asked the Prince to open a new settlement in the area Southeast of Gunung Jati (today the 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 forests, he established a new settlement on 1 Shura (Muharram) in 1358 (in the Javanese Islamic calendar), coinciding 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 referred to as Ki Gedeng Alang-alang. He appointed Raden Walangsungsang as his deputy, titled Pangraksabumi. However Ki Gedeng Alang-alang died two years later in 1447.

Prince Cakrabuana (reign 1447–1479)

After Ki Gedeng Alang-Alang died in 1447, Walangsungsang was appointed as the ruler of the town and established a court, and assumed a new title as Prince Cakrabuana. The coastal port village attracted settlers from overseas as well as inland and formed 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, a record dating from 1447 showed that the settlers of Caruban at that time were 346 people (182 men and 164 women), composed of various ethnic backgrounds; 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 there are pendopos (pavilions) located in front of Kasepuhan Palace, establishing his court in Cirebon. Thus he was considered the founder of Cirebon. After the death of Cakrabuana's grandfather, Ki Gedeng Tapa (Ki Gedeng Jumajan Jati), Cakrabuana received inheritance; the Singapura settlement located north of Caruban was merged and incorporated into the Caruban realm. The fortune from the inheritance was used to expand the 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 was still loyal to his father and sent tribute to the main court of Sunda Pajajaran.

The early period of the Cirebon Sultanate was commonly identified as the Pakungwati period. It refers to the Pakungwati palace, a Javanese-style compound consisting of a series of pendopos (pavilions) enclosed within red brick walls and gates in the typical Majapahit style of architecture. Pakungwati compound located north of Keraton Kasepuhan and today incorporated within Kasepuhan compound. During the 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 changed her name to Syarifah Mudaim and in 1448 bore a son Sharif Hidayatullah. In 1470 Syarif Hidayatullah went abroad to study at Mecca, Baghdad, Champa, and Samudra Pasai. Later he came home to Java. He learned 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 ascended the throne as Sultan Carbon I reside in Keraton Pakungwati.

In 1482 Sharif Hidayatullah sent a letter to his grandfather King Siliwangi, with a statement that Cirebon refused 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 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 the Tomé Pires report, Cirebon was identified as Cheroboam or Cherimon. In 1515 Cirebon was no longer under the authority of the Hindu Sunda kingdom, but rather identified as Java's north coast port. It referred to Cirebon as an established Muslim state, just like those of Demak and Gresik.

After the news of the Portuguese-Sunda alliance in 1522 became known, Gunungjati nevertheless asked the 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 on 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 the Sultanate of Cirebon.[7]

During the reign of Sharif Hidayatullah or Sunan Gunung Jati, the Sultanate of Cirebon enjoyed rapid growth and rose to become a prominent kingdom in the region. The thriving coastal port city became the centre of trade as well Islamic learning and dissemination. The port town attracted 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 is also credited as the proselytiser of Islam in West Java. Ulamas from his court and mosque spread the message 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 came to establish trade relations with Cirebon. The Chinese Ming Dynasty in particular, established 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 of Princess Ong Tien — the daughter of the Chinese Emperor — in marriage during his visit to China. With this dynastic marriage, the Chinese Emperor wishes to establish close relations and a strategic alliance with Cirebon. It was advantageous for Chinese interest in the region as well as Cirebon's economic interest, as the city welcomed Chinese traders and businesses. After she was married to Sunan Gunungjati, Princess Ong Tien changed her name to Nyi Rara Semanding. The Emperor of China brought his daughter some treasures. Most of the relics that Ong Tien brought from China still exist and are stored in the museums of Cirebon royal houses. The close relations between China and Cirebon made Cirebon a popular destination for Chinese immigrants in the following years, to seek a better life in Indonesia, where they established the 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, propagating the Islamic faith to surrounding areas as an ulama. He groomed his second son, Prince Dipati Carbon, to be his successor. However, the prince died young in 1565 and was 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, also known as Fadilah Khan, 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 perform dawah. Fatahillah's rule was considered an interlude that only lasted for two years, as 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 held the title Panembahan Ratu I and ruled for more than 79 years. During his rule, Panembahan Ratu paid more attention to strengthening the religious affair and spreading Islam further. As the centre of Islamic learning in the region, Cirebon's influence penetrated 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 of power, and Mataram grew more powerful ever since.

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 islands 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 was 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 assumed the name of his deceased father, Panembahan Adiningkusuma, also known as Panembahan Ratu II. He is posthumously referred to as Panembahan Girilaya.

During the reign of Panembahan Adiningkusuma, the Sultanate of Cirebon was sandwiched between two great powers, the Sultanate of Banten in the west, and Mataram Sultanate in the east. Banten suspected Cirebon had grown 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 belonged to the same Sundanese Pajajaran lineage.

Although Cirebon has never been attacked by Mataram since 1619, Cirebon has been practically held under Mataram's influence and behaves as a vassal. In 1650 Mataram asked Cirebon to urge Banten to submit under Mataram domination. Banten refused 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 the disastrous defeat of Cirebon. This war is known as Pagarage war or Pacirebonan war that took place in 1650. On the other hand, Cirebon's 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 were taken as hostages in Mataram.

Panembahan Adiningkusuma was summoned to Plered in Mataram by his father in-law, Susuhunan Amangkurat I of Mataram. However, he was executed instead. From his marriage with the daughter of Sunan Amangkurat I, Panembahan Adiningkusuma had three children: 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. He is now referred to 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 the same heights.

First disintegration (1677)

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 also held hostage by Mataram, and by their own grandfather Amangkurat I. Wangsakerta went to Banten to seek Sultan Ageng Tirtayasa's help to free his brothers. Sultan Ageng Tirtayasa was the son of Prince Abu Maali that died in the 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 save the two Cirebon princes.

However, Sultan Ageng Tirtayasa saw an opportunity to impose Banten's influence upon Cirebon. He crowned both princes he saved as the sultans, Prince Mertawijaya as Sultan Kasepuhan, and Prince Kertawijaya as Sultan Kanoman. By doing so, the Sultan of Banten disintegrated and weakened the Sultanate of Cirebon into several petty states. On the other hand, Prince Wangsakerta who had fought for 10 years, was only given a small title and estate. This divisive strategy was meant to weaken Cirebon and to prevent Cirebon to be Mataram's ally and becoming a menace to Banten in the future as it had done in the Pagarage War.

The first disintegration of the Cirebon lineage took place in 1677 when all three sons of Panembahan Girilaya inherited the Sultanate of Cirebon. The 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 Kasepuhan, Prince Martawijaya, with official regal title Sultan Sepuh Abil Makarimi Muhammad Samsudin (1677-1703) ruled Keraton Kasepuhan
  • Sultan Kanoman, Prince Kartawijaya, with official regal title Sultan Anom Abil Makarimi Muhammad Badrudin (1677-1723) ruled Keraton Kanoman
  • Panembahan Keprabonan Cirebon, Prince Wangsakerta, with official title Pangeran Abdul Kamil Muhammad Nasarudin or Panembahan Tohpati (1677-1713) ruled Keraton Keprabonan

Sultan Ageng Tirtayasa of Banten enthroned the two oldest princes as sultans, Sultan Sepuh and Sultan Anom, in Banten. Each sultan ruled over their own subjects, and inherited their own lands. Sultan Sepuh ruled the former Pakungwati palace and expanded his palace further to become Keraton Kasepuhan. Sultan Anom build a new palace, Keraton Kanoman, located several hundred meters north of Kasepuhan palace. Prince Wangsakerta, the youngest, was not enthroned as sultan but remained a Panembahan. He neither inherited lands nor subjects. His estate was instead established a kaprabonan (paguron), a type of school to educate Cirebon intellectuals.

In Cirebon tradition since 1677, each of the three branch lineages descends its own line of sultans or rulers. In royal tradition, the heir should be the oldest son, or if not possible, a grandson. In some instances, a relative could assume the office for a small period of time.

Second disintegration (1807)

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

Pangeran Raja Kanoman was supported by the colonial government of the 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 did 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 was 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 a 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 was officially disbanded by the Dutch East Indies government through the establishment of Gemeente Cheribon (Cirebon Municipality), which consists of 1,100 hectares, with around 20,000 inhabitants (Stlb. 1906 No. 122 and Stlb. 1926 No. 370). In 1942 the City of Cirebon's area was expanded further to 2,450 hectares. The remnants of the Cirebon sultanates ( the Kasepuhan, Kanoman, Keprabonan, and Kacirebonan kratons) now only held ceremonial status.

Republic of Indonesia era

After the war of independence and the establishment of Republic of Indonesia, each sultanate of Cirebon were 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 a local cultural symbol. Each royal house still descended from the royal family and enthroned their own kings.

After the fall of Suharto and the advent of the reformation era of democratic Indonesia, there was an 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 the new kingdom-based province is similar to those of Special Region of Yogyakarta. However, the idea remains as a proposal and has not been conducted yet. Because of a lack of funding and maintenance, in the last decade all the four keratons of Cirebon are in a state of disrepair. In 2012, the government planned to restore the four keratons, 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 propagated Islam. Cirebon sent 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 is located on the border of the Javanese and Sundanese cultural realms, the Sultanate of Cirebon demonstrates both aspects, reflected in its art, architecture, and language. The Sultanate of Pakungwati Palace shows the influence of Majapahit red brick masonry architecture. The styles and titles of its officials are also influenced by Javanese Mataram courtly culture.

As a port city, Cirebon attracts settlers from around and overseas alike. Cirebon culture was described as Java Pasisiran (coastal) culture, similar to 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 patterns that 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 the royal symbols of the 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, describing 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 resembles the chimera of three animals; eagle, elephant, and dragon, to symbolize Indian Hinduism, Arabic Islam, and Chinese influences. The images of Macan Ali, Singa Barong, and Paksi Naga Liman are also often featured as patterns in Cirebon batik.

The remnants of the Cirebon Sultanate; Kasepuhan, Kanoman, Kaprabonan, and Kacirebonan keratons are now run as cultural institutions 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 the notable Cirebon traditional dances and is quite famous as an Indonesian dances. Although it does not hold real political power anymore, the royal lineage of Cirebon is still well respected and held in high prestige among the people of Cirebon.

List of Sultans of Cirebon

  1. Prince Cakrabuana : 1447-1479, is considered the founder of the Cirebon Sultanate.
  2. Sunan Gunungjati (Sultan Cirebon I) : 1479-1568
  3. Fatahillah : 1568-1570, the crown prince died the position of head of government was carried out by Fatahillah.
  4. Panembahan Ratu I (Sultan Cirebon II) : 1570-1649
  5. Panembahan Ratu II (Sultan Cirebon III) : 1649-1677

In 1679 the Sultanate of Cirebon was divided into two kingdoms, namely Kasepuhan and Kanoman, due to the struggle for power between brothers.

See also


  1. "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.
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  6. Guillot, Claude (1990). The Sultanate of Banten. Gramedia Book Publishing Division. p. 17.
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