Gajah Mada (c. 1290 – c. 1364) was, according to Javanese old manuscripts, poems and mythology, a powerful military leader and Mahapatih or (equal to) Prime Minister of the Indonesian Hindu empire of Majapahit, credited with bringing the empire to its peak of glory. He delivered an oath called Sumpah Palapa, in which he vowed to live ascetic (by not consuming food containing spices) until he had conquered all of the Southeast Asian archipelago of Nusantara for Majapahit. In modern Indonesia, he serves as an important national hero, a symbol of patriotism and national unity. During his reign the Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, became ingrained in the culture and worldview of the Javanese through the performing arts of wayang kulit (“leather puppets”).This account of his life, political career and administration was taken from several sources. Mainly Pararaton ("The Book of Kings"), the Nagarakretagama (a Javanese language epic poem dating from the 14th century), and inscriptions dating from the late 13th and early 14th century.
The popular depiction of Gajah Mada in the media is actually an imagination of M. Yamin, in his book entitled "Gajah Mada: Pahlawan Persatuan Nusantara", first published in 1945. There is also another illustration about the figure of Gajah Mada, different from the M. Yamin's, which is the result of research at the University of Indonesia by archaeologist Agus Aris Munandar. He illustrated Gajah Mada as similar to Bima in wayang shadow puppet show, which has a transverse mustache. He is mostly shown bare-chested, wearing a sarong, and using a weapon in the form of a kris. Historical sources, in fact, does not support this. A Sundanese patih explained (written in the kidung Sundayana), that Gajah Mada wore golden embossed karambalangan (breastplate), armed with gold-layered spear, and with a shield full of diamond decoration.