Letter from the Fugitive Pangeran Puger to the Supreme Government, 5 May 1704

Introduced M. C. Ricklefs, Professor Emeritus, The Australian National University

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Pangeran Puger was one of the sons of Susuhunan Amangkurat I (r. 1646-77) and brother to Susuhunan Amangkurat II (r. 1677-1703) and thus, at the time this letter was written, he was uncle to the young ruler Amangkurat III (r. 1703-8) who had just succeeded on the death of his father.  This letter was one of the crucial documents that led to the First Javanese War of Succession (1704-8), the first VOC military intervention in the Javanese kingdom for several decades, and the installation of Puger as Susuhunan Pakubuwana I (r.  1704-19).  This changed the line of succession in the Mataram dynasty. All subsequent monarchs of Kartasura, Surakarta and Yogyakarta have been descendants of Puger/Pakubuwana I.

Puger was evidently born c. 1648. When Trunajaya took the court of Plered in late June 1677, Amangkurat I and his son the crown prince – shortly to succeed as Amangkurat II – fled westward. Amangkurat I died during the flight and was buried at Tegalwangi. There had already been conflict between Puger and the crown prince, who was about the same age as he. Indeed, there is some evidence that at the end of his life Amangkurat I preferred Puger over the crown prince. Whatever the case, it was Puger who led the final resistance to Trunajaya’s conquest of the kraton.  

Puger also fled westwards from the fallen court and declared himself king. In Javanese chronicles he is given royal titles such as Senapati Ingalaga Sayidin Panatagama and is called Panembahan. In contemporary letters he used the title Susuhunan. With his princely brothers Martasana (who later adopted royal titles himself) and Singasari, Puger marched back into Mataram and reconquered the old kraton by mid-October 1677 at the latest.  

Now commenced a long period of tension between Puger – who held the old court of Plered and reigned as a monarch in his own right – and Amangkurat II, who established his new court at Kartasura and whom the VOC supported. In November 1680, VOC and Kartasura forces drove Puger and his followers from Plered. Finally the VOC gave Puger a guarantee of his safety and he then submitted to Amangkurat II in November 1681.

During Amangkurat II’s reign down to his death in 1703 there were repeated episodes of difficulties between him and Puger,  and with Puger’s family, just as there were many other conflicts, cliques and intrigues in the disintegrating court.

When Amangkurat II died, the chronicles say, supernatural events indicated that the divinely determined authority of kingship should pass to Puger rather than to the crown prince, – whom the chronicles (reflecting perhaps the interests of Puger’s descendants who ruled in the courts where they were written) depict as a crippled, degenerate and cruel man. Nevertheless, he succeeded to the throne as Amangkurat III. 

Puger’s son, Raden Suryakusuma, accompanied Amangkurat II’s body to the royal graves at Imagiri but did not then return to Kartasura. Instead, he went westwards to Bagelen and declared himself to be king with the title Prabu Panatagama or – even more grandly – Susuhunan Waliolah Panatagama (‘King, Friend of God, Regulator of Religion’). It seems that Suryakusuma was acting independently of his father, but nevertheless at court Puger was accused of having instigated his rebellion and was imprisoned, then  placed under house arrest.

By early 1704, several other dignitaries also found themselves at odds with the new king. Among them were the powerful lord of Madura Pangeran Cakraningrat II (who was now in his eighties and one of whose wives was said to have been raped by Amangkurat III), the lord of Surabaya, Angabei Jangrana II, and the bupati of Semarang (a VOC-controlled territory) Tumenggung Rongga Yudanagara. According to Javanese sources, these were among those pressing Puger to rebel.  On 10 March, he fled Kartasura in the dead of night and headed for Semarang, thus launching his second attempt to become king.

Thus began what is commonly called the First Javanese War of Succession (1704-8).

It was from Semarang that he wrote the letter that follows below. It should be remembered that when he had surrendered in 1681 the Company had guaranteed his safety, so in a sense he already thought of himself as something of a VOC protégé. Hence his reference to the favour the Company had previously shown him and his trust and hope in the VOC ‘along with God’. He complained of his treatment by the new king and denied the allegation that he was responsible for Suryakusuma’s rebellion.

His claims of widespread support from Cakraningrat II and others soon proved to be exaggerated, for it proved difficult to put together a coalition to march on Kartasura. But at the time the letter was written, it seemed to hold great promise for the VOC. The Company’s long-standing distrust of the Kartasura kraton, its particular dislike of Amangkurat III – who was said to be in contact with the VOC’s most hated enemy, Surapati – and its view of Puger as someone with whom it had special connections, all inclined the Company to support his bid for the throne. Amangkurat III, meanwhile, wrote to the Company promising to pay off his royal debt; the VOC did not believe him.

On 7 July 1704, the VOC told Puger that it recognised him as the rightful king. Puger promised that he would accept a new contract along the lines which Captain Tack had been authorised to agree to before he was murdered at the court in 1686, although Puger admitted that he did not know what that amounted to. At first Puger used the title Susuhunan (or Susuhunan Ratu) Amangkurat, but in October 1704 he took the titles by which he was known thereafter, Susuhunan Pakubuwana (I), Senapati Ingalaga Ngabdulrahman Sayidin Panatagama.

In 1705, with the support of VOC armed forces and a coalition of Javanese supporters, Pakubuwana I gained control of Kartasura, which Amangkurat III had abandoned without attempting to defend it. During the susequent campaign of 1706, Surapati was wounded in fighting at Bangil and died in Pasuruan. The First Javanese War of Succession ended in 1708 with the surrender of Amangkurat III and his exile to Sri Lanka.



M. C. Ricklefs. War, culture and economy in Java, 1677–1726: Asian and European imperialism in the early Kartasura period. Sydney: Asian Studies Association of Australia in association with Allen and Unwin, 1993.

M. C. Ricklefs, “Letter from the Fugitive Pangeran Puger to the Supreme Government, 5 May 1704”. In: Harta Karun: Hidden Treasures on Indonesian and Asian-European History from the VOC Archives in Jakarta, document 4. Jakarta: Arsip Nasional Republik Indonesia, 2013.