The Chermin Empire and Majapahit II
While the history of the earlier periods is obscure, the later 14th and 15th centuries were a high point of the Langkasuka civilisation. Raja Sang Tawal the son of Raja Sakranta of the Melayur Empire, based at Ligor, moved to Kelantan after he was defeated by Siam in 1295 and lost Singgora (the old name for Songkhla). Kelantan then became the base for unified Langkasuka. In 1339, Raja Bharubhasa (Sultan Mahmud Syah) replaced his father Raja Sang Tawal as king of Langkasuka, and succeeded in grouping the Isthmus, Champa in Vietnam, and Samudra-Pasai in Sumatera into a new empire known as the Chermin Empire.
The period of the so-called Chermin Empire, reaching from Sumatera to Vietnam, was the zenith of Langkasuka power. Raja Bharubhasa captured Kedah from the mad king Raja Bersiong (Maha Prita Daria) and incorporated Gangga Nagara (the old kingdom of Perak) as part of the Chermin Empire. The Raja's sister, Dewi Durga ruled Lamuri, later known as Aceh. In 1345, the Siamese mounted a major attack on the Isthmus, with the result that Raja Bharubhasa was forced to offer gold and silver trees as tribute to the Kingdom of Sukhotai. The offering of tribute to Siam was a symbolic turning point, the "little weft within the lute" that centuries later was to end with Siam permanently capturing the northern portion of the Isthmus. Raja Bharubhasa moved upriver to another area in Kelantan called Bukit Panau, and named his new capital Jeddah, meaning "Jewel". The jewel capital of Raja Bharubhasa was situated very near the very site of the "Red Earth" kingdom of the 7th century — the original Langkasuka.
From this time onwards a tug-of-war with Siam ensued. In 1357 Gajah Mada of the Majapahit empire in Jawa defeated Siam and joined in a coalition with the peninsular states to successfully attack Ayudthaya. Gajah Mada declared Jeddah the capital of West Majapahit, with Jawa island being known as East Majapahit. History repeated itself, following the same pattern of Sri Wijaya when it split in the 7th century, and also located one capital at Kelantan/Kedah and another in Sumatera.
In 1395 Siam re-attacked the southern peninsula and captured Temasek in 1401. The power of Siam was on the rise. Sultan Iskandar Shah (Kemas Jiwa) was called from Jawa to come back and rule Kelantan, though he was married to the Majapahit Queen in 1427. Basing himself in Kelantan, Iskandar Shah proclaimed his kingdom as Majapahit II (1432-1502) with the capital called Kota Mahligai (Fort of Heaven). In 1467, Siam of Ayudthaya conquered Majapahit II, and Sultan Iskandar Shah fled to Champa and died there. His nephew Pateh Aria Gajah, who had served as Iskandar's prime minister, moved to Pattani. Later, Iskandar's son known as Mansur Shah briefly revived the Majapahit II kingdom in Kelantan. Majapahit II under Mansur survived a short time until defeated by Melaka in 1499.
As we can see from the fact that Iskandar Shah named his Kelantan kingdom "Majapahit II", the Majapahit empire of Jawa was inextricably connected to the history of the states of the Isthmus. Majapahit was known as the greatest empire of all states in insular Southeast Asia from 1300 onwards, claiming political control over most of the archipelago, but declining in the 15th century. Essentially, the relationship that earlier had existed between Sri Wijaya and the Isthmus evolved into one between Majapahit and the Isthmus.
Through conquest — and also subtly through alliance and defeat — the Isthmian states managed to survive in various guises and flourish from the 6th until the 14th centuries. From the beginning their history was intricately interwoven with more powerful empires to the north and south. To the north they alternately warred against and allied with the Khmer, and later the Sukhotai and Ayudthaya empires of Siam; to the south with the Sri Wijaya, and later the Sailendra and Majapahit empires in Sumatera and Jawa; to the west with the Chola empire in India.
The interplay with Indonesia is the most important of all influences, especially in the early period before the rise of Siam. Sri Wijaya, based in its early years at Palembang in Sumatera, was the mother empire of the Indonesian archipelago, the one from which all the others in Sumatera, Java, and Bali later sprang. It continued in different guises and locations from the late 7th century until the 14th century, and at various times exerted hegemony over the Malay peninsula.
By the 8th century a rival kingdom was thriving in central Jawa known as the Sailendras; they too controlled the Isthmus for a brief period. The Sailendras were related to the old kings of north-central Jawa as well as to the Sri Wijaya ruling house in Sumatera. Prince Patapan (Balaputra) fled from Jawa to Sri Wijaya in 832 to ascend the throne, with the result that the Sailendra line was extinguished in Jawa but continued in Sri Wijaya on Sumatera. The history of Sri Wijaya is inextricably linked with the ruling houses of the Malay peninsula. For example, in the 15th century, Parameshwara, a Sri Wijayan prince fled from Sumatera to Singapura Temasek before he became the sultan of Melaka.
The Javanese, however, deny that Parameshwara had true Sri Wijayan blood, which is traced ultimately to Sri Lankan royalty. They say instead that he was a grandson of Adityavarman, ruler of Pagar Ruyung, by a Javanese mother. Adityavarman was appointed to his position by Majapahit on the recommendation of Gajah Mada. Adityavarman himself may possibly have been a descendant of the royal house of Malayu Dharmasraya from Jambi who had conquered Palembang, the seat of Sri Wijayan power, in 1088, and thereby had become the new masters of late Sri Wijaya, which lasted until 1288, when it was invaded and defeated by the Javanese kingdom of Singhosari.
After Prince Patapan moved to Sumatera in 832, power in Jawa shifted from the centre to the east of the island. The Sailendras yielded to a series of dynasties in east Jawa who thrived from the 9th until the 15th century, most important of which was the Majapahit, dated usually from 1292 until about 1500. During the heyday of the Majapahit in the 14th and 15th centuries, the Malay Isthmian states appear at times to have been a part of the Majapahit empire. The subtle shifts of power along the Isthmus are very complicated and not many scholars have looked into this thoroughly. Meanwhile there were powerful influences from Chinese, and in later centuries, Islamic traders.
In about 1025, Rajendra Chola of South India attacked and subjugated Kedah, with the result that the Kedah region flourished with a Hinduized civilisation which has left the largest pre-Islamic monuments on the peninsula. Meanwhile, it was recorded in Pali chronicles of the 15th century that Sujitaraja, the Buddhist Malay Raja of Ligor had married a Khmer princess in the second half of the 10th century. The close association between 10th and 11th century Khmers and Isthmian Malays at the highest level provides many reasons that the ancient culture of the two peoples has much in common. The Malay rulers of Ligor acquired strength and ambition from their Khmer association.
So important is Sri Wijaya to the history of the Isthmus that there have been several attempts by scholars to place its capital there. Thai academia has a long tradition of adopting neighbouring dynasties as their own, viz. the identification of the original Thai nation with the Dali Empire of Yunnan. In similar fashion, Thais have claimed Chaiya or Cahaya (which in Malay means light), as the site where Si Wichai (Sri Wijaya) was. On the other hand, J.L. Meons (1937) believed that early Sri Wijaya was located in Kelantan and K.A. Nilakanta Sastri (1949) supported the idea. The Kelantan theory may not be far-fetched, since Chinese Sui Dynasty annals of the 7th century describe an advanced kingdom called Chi Tu ("Red Earth") as being in Kelantan. The ancient name for Kelantan was "Raktamrittika", meaning "Red Earth" — this was later changed to "Sri Wijaya Mala". The capital of Sri Wijaya Mala was called "Valai", and it was situated along the upper Kelantan river of Pergau, known for its rich gold mines.
The controversy over the true location of Sri Wijaya arises because of the fact that after the death of Maharaja Sri Jayanaga around 692, during the mission to capture Jawa Island, Sri Wijaya seems to have been divided into two states. The eldest son Maharaja Dipang ruled over Amdan Negara, that is, the Malay Isthmus, probably Kelantan/Kedah. The second son, Maharaja Dhiraja, ruled the islands (Sumatera and other islands of the Indonesian archipelago), based at Palembang. After the division into east and west, the name of Sri Wijaya remained in Sumatera, but on the Malay peninsula, a poetic title emerged for the Kelantan/Kedah area, namely, Tanah Serendah Sekebun Bunga (Valley of Flower Garden Land). This title is still found in traditional performing arts such as Mak Yong dance, Wayang Kulit puppet theatre, etc. By 730 the capital of Sri Wijaya in Sumatera moved from Palembang, known as Langkapura, to Kota Mutajap near the river mouth of Jambi in Sumatera.
It is reasonable to speculate that some elements of the Sri Wijayan culture originated in Sumatera, but later spread to other parts of South East Asia from Kelantan/Kedah. Yawakoti meaning Jawa Point, is situated at Bukit Panau hill along the upper Kelantan river near Pergau; some believe this place to be from which Jawanese politics and culture spread out.
Al Tabari states that the word Jawa or Jva was used more widely in ancient times. Jawa in those days meant "Jawanese culture", including its centres on the Isthmus, as compared to now when Jawa only refers to Jawa Island in Indonesia. According to one tradition, the Jawanese moved down from Kemboja and spread out to the archipelago.
The final fall of Majapahit II in 1502 is sometimes taken by historians as the end of Langkasuka. However this defeat no more marked the end of Langkasuka than all the other victories and defeats, rises and falls of dynasty recorded earlier. The royal courts and culture of the region continued to thrive after 1500 — in fact the culture of the Isthmus reached its highest flower in the years that were to come. However, two important changes occurred at this time in the history of Langkasuka: First, with conversion to Islam by the Sultan of Pattani in 1500, the culture became Islamic. Second, the locus of Langkasuka shifted away from Kelantan, pulled higher up the Isthmus in a response to the growing power of Siam. From 1500 until 1900 power on the Isthmus was located in Pattani and Ligor (Nakhorn Sri Thammarat). This was the era of maritime power, and Pattani had an advantage over other states because of its important natural harbour.
Pasir Putih (meaning "white sand") is another name for Gresik, an earlier kingdom in Pattani history. It is the name of an old place in East Jawa, possibly during the Majapahit Kingdom. Gresik later became Pattani, and its importance grew after the beginning of the 14th century when Siam began to expand downwards and Ligor became a Siamese dependency. Pattani appeared in the records of the Ming Admiral Cheng Ho, who led a Chinese fleet to Melaka in the early 1400's. With the decline of the Majapahit and the Chermin empires after the 15th century, Pattani eventually gained hegemony over the Isthmus, and it maintained its independence long after Siam absorbed other northern Isthmian Malay states.
The glory of the Pattani Kingdom dates from the rule of Sultan Ismail Shah (1500-1530), who founded the Malay Muslim kingdom known as Pattani Darul Salam after he converted to Islam. It was believed that Islam in Pattani came way before Melaka (1412) and Trengganu (1303/1368), as Pattani was a seaport through which traders came and went, the source of Islamic teaching and cultural forms.
Pattani as the name of a city state may have been changed after the ruler converted to Islam. There is some dispute about the origins of the name, one theory being that the name derives from Pantai Ini in standard Malay language. At the same time, the people of Pattani, Kelantan and Besut (the northern part Trengganu) speak a very distinctive dialect in which the sounds Patta Ni mean "This Shore". Today, the Thais denote the language of the people in the south of Thailand is "Jawi", where Malaysians use Jawi to refer to the written script of the Malay language adapted from Arabic script. This script is thought to have originated in Pattani.
Pattani's Golden Era came after the fall of Melaka to the Portuguese in 1511. Four Queens ruled Pattani during this time: Queen Green (1584-1616), Queen Blue (1616-1624), Queen Purple (1624-35) and Queen Yellow (1635-86). Around 1688-90, the rule of Pattani shifted to the Kelantan royal line, and this scenario was reversed around 1730 when the Pattani royal line came to rule Kelantan. The last sultan of Pattani, Sultan Abdul Kadir Kamaruddin's (1899-1902) son Tengku Seri Akar was married to the daughter of Sultan Muhamad IV of Kelantan. Through the 16th century to the 19th century we can trace many Pattani royal sons and daughters married into the ruling families of Kelantan, Perlis, Trengganu, Pahang, Johor, Melaka and Kedah.
After the four Queens, the power of Pattani gradually declined. Where the rulers of Pattani had once commanded the whole Isthmus, their domains shrank to cover only the four provinces of Pattani, Narathiwat, Yala, and Sathun. Eventually they controlled only the area covered by the modern Thai province of Pattani, only to be swallowed up by Siam in the early 20th century. As Pattani declined, the Sultan of Ligor (Nakhorn Sri Thammarat), although still under Siamese suzerainty, regained a measure of independence, and it is from this that confusion has arisen as to the true location of Langkasuka.