History of Lombok

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Two tiny islands, Bali and Lombok have been buffeted by powerful empires throughout their history, and their fortunes have often been tied to those of their larger neighbours, Jawa and Sumbawa. Relations between Bali and Lombok have been uneasy at the best of times, but more often turbulent and bloody. The origins of their present cultural, religious and economic differences are firmly rootes in past events.

The most famous event in early Balinese history occuried towards the end of the tenth century when a princess of East Java, Princess Mahendratta, married the Balinese King Udayana. Their marriage portrait is believed to be depicted in a stone in the Pura Korah Tegipan in the Batur area. Their son, Erlangga, born around 991 AD, later succeeded to the throne of the Javanese kingdom and set his regent to rule over Bali, this bringing the two realms together until his death in 1049.

In the following centuries, the ties between the two islands fluctuated as various factions and kingdoms gained and lost power. In 1284, Kertanegara, the ruler of Singasari empire in Java, conquered Bali for a time, but by the turn of century, the most powerful force in Bali was again a domestic one, presided over by King Bedaulu based in the Pejeng district, east of Ubud.

Little is known of the ancient history of Lombok, which was largely the province of small, localized rulers, although it is known that the small kingdom of Selaparang controlled an area in the east of the island for a period

During the seventeenth century. Lombok came under a combination of influences from the Balinese an the Makassarese of Sulawesi. The Balinese from Karangasem, in the far east of Bali, arrived in the early seventeenth century, across the Lombok Strait, and settled in the west of Lombok, gradually achieving political control over the area. At roughly the same time, the makassarese, who had conquered Sumbawa in 1618, invaded the east of the island. The first major conficts between the two invaders occurred in 1677 when the Balinese, assisted by the indigenous Sasak aristocracy, managed to rout the Makassarese.

From the end of the seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth century, the Balinese struggled to secure their control over Lombok. Initially united and with little effective opposition from the Sasaks, this proved a simple operation. However, in 1775, Gusti Wayan Tegah, who had been placed in the throne by the raja of Karangasem, died, and disagreements over the succession by his two sons led to the information of two rival principalities with further disputes around 1800 leading to more splits. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, there were four rival Balinese principalities vying for control, Pagesangan, Pagutan, Mataram and Cakranegara. With their overloads fighting among themselves, the Sasak aristocracy in the east to the island FACEd little interference in their affairs from the Balinese.

On the night of August 25, 1894, there were reprisals. Balinese forced attacked the Dutch camp in the Mayura Palace at Cakranegara, where around 900 soldiers were camped. The Dutch were trapped inside the massive walls and only managed to escape to Mataram and then to Ampenan with great loss of life and heavy casualities. The Dutch soon received reinforcement and, aided by the Sasaks from the east, proved too strong for the raja. Mataram was razed to the ground and Cakranegara attacked. Some members of the royals family surrendered while others commited puputan. The Dutch took control of the entire island and the district of Karangasem on Bali which had been under the raja’s control.

The position of Lombok under Dutch colonial rule was different from that of Bali. Following the Dutch victory in 1894, the situation of the people of Lombok began to deteriorate and continued to do so for the next fifty years, bringing the population to the point of starvation more than once. The aim of the Dutch was to rule an economically profitable colony, but provitable for themselves. They taxed the population to the hilt, and forced compulsory labour for projects such as road building. In addition to land tax, there were taxes on income and on the slaughter of animals. Initially allowed to pay the taxes in local currency, the system changed to demand taxes he paid in Netherlands indies currency (NIC). The Chinese rice axporters were one of the few groups on the island who traded in NIC, and increasing amounts of rice started to be sold to them to raise money for taxes. Consequently, a very high proportion of food grown on the island was exported, and local rice consumption dropped by a quarter. By 1934, the Dutch administration estimated that about a third of the population were landless and destitute.

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