Historical Facts about Matah Ati

In studying the history of Java one would almost never come across a village called Matah. Matah was merely a barren village, just like all the other villages found on the slope of Pegunungan Seribu in Southern Java. These villages had little significance through the 17th century. The only relevance of the village Matah was its presence in the Laroh area, or as the Javanese would call Nglaroh. But even Nglaroh was considered a remote area, yet it falls under the administration of the Kartasura Kingdom. Thus, Nglaroh became a part of the land to be granted to the prince, Pangeran Arya Mangkoenagoro, a cunning and charismatic prince, and son of Raja Amangkurat IV. He is the eldest son and heir to his father’s throne. Signs of his destiny as king manifested when he was the only one among the sons to have been handed the keris heirloom by the king. During that time, the keris heirloom signified the symbol of power. The queen, Kangjeng Ratu Ageng allied with Patih Danureja to scheme an underhanded plan to claim the throne for her own son, the very young Pangeran Adipati Anom. Eventually, the plan was realized and Prince Adipati Anom succeeded in claiming the throne with title Pakubuwana II. This appointment turned into a case of slander against Pangeran Arya Mangkoenagoro as a result of the conspiracy between Kangjeng Ratu Ageng and Patih Danureja.

He was accused of committing adultery with the king’s concubine, Mas Ayu Larasati. The prince was sentenced to death but this was later changed into exile to Ceylon, and ended with a sentence in Kaapstad, the southern tip of the African continent. Defamation also threatened his children Raden Mas Said and his two younger siblings. There was even a plot to kill all the children who have, since early childhood, been left behind by their mother.

As he stepped into adulthood, Raden Mas Said began to understand the politics behind the current kingdom. Due to this awareness, he could no longer accept the injustice and humiliation from the royal governor, Patih Natakusuma. Raden Mas Said decided to leave for the land, Nglaroh which his father once ruled. From that time onwards, Nglaroh became an important place in terms of politics of the Kartasura Kingdom. In the end, Nglaroh became Raden Mas Said’s base camp as he began his struggle against injustice. His fighting spirit was ignited alongside the support he gained from a young girl from the village Matah named Rubiyah, who later becomes Raden Mas Said’s partner in life and in his struggle.

For her loyalty, Raden Mas Said gave Rubiyah the name Matah Ati. From the beginning of the 16-year struggle against the malpractices of the Kartasura reign that was backed up by the East India Company (VOC), the young lady from the village of Matah eventually transformed into a symbol of spirit, resilience and equality of a Javanese woman.

Historical facts were written by:
- Sudharmono S.U, professor at the Faculty of Literature and Fine Arts University Sebelas Maret Surakarta
- Drs. Susanto, M. Hum, History Department, Faculty of History University Sebelas Maret