• Borobudur – Temple of Innumerous Buddhas • Java • Sumatra • Kalimantan (Borneo)
• Bali – The Island of Gods • Komodo lizard • East Timor • Economy • Sports
• Indonesian patchwork • Writers of travelogues about Indonesia • Culture
Indonesia, by many things a unique and unusual country. The Southernmost country in Asia. The largest archipelago in the world, with 17 508 islands, 6 000 of which is inhabited. It is cut by the equator. It spreads over three time zones (+ 7 to + 9 GMT ). The name Indonesia is composed of the Greek words “indos“ – Indian, and “nesos“ – island.
The Indonesian archipelago consists of the Great Sunda (Sumatra, Borneo, Sulavesi, Java, Maluku islands...) and Little Sunda islands (Bali, Sumbaba, Flores, Komodo...). Indonesians call their country Tanah Air, which means: earth and water.
The total surface of mainland is 741 100 square miles or 1 919 440 km². It has borders with Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and East Timor. The Kalimantan island is divided between Indonesia and Malaysia and Irian Jaya is shared with Papua New Guinea.Nature
Indonesia is an island country situated between Australia and Asia, a part of the Malaysian archipelago. Between Indonesian islands there are Java, Banda and Celebes seas. It is mostly a mountain and volcanic country. It is the part of the Pacific Ring of Fire as, geologically speaking, it is very vulnerable and sits on more than 220 active volcanoes The most important volcanoes are Korinchi in Sumatra, Rindjani in Lombok, Semeru and Merapi in Java, Agung in Bali. The soil is very fertile due to constant volcanic activity, so that there are even four rice harvests a year.
The highest mountain is Jaya (previously Puncak Jaya), with the peak Maoke, that used to be called Sukarno in the province of Irian Jaya (Papua), 5 030 meters above sea level. It is the highest peak in South Pacific and the highest island mountain top in the world. The climate is equatorial – monsoon which has a strong impact on the way of life. Also, this is where the tall grass called ylang ylang grows.
There are only two seasons – autumn and spring. Average yearly temperature is 24 – 27° C, precipitation 2 000 – 3 000 mm, and in the mountain areas up to 4 000 mm. The nature of Indonesia varies from island to island. ▲ TopHistory
Geographic position of the Indonesian archipelago had a great impact on its history.
Indonesia has been inhabited since the prehistoric era. The well-known Dutch scientist Eugene Dubois found, back in 1891, the oldest fossilized remains of a human (Pithecanthropus erectus) near the Bengavin Solo river in Java and it was called the Javanese man or “upright man”. The Archipelago was inhabited from the ancient times by migrations from Asia and Indonesians and Malaysians are the main ethnic groups. Indonesians inhabited the central parts of the island, hunted and cultivated soil.
Indians, under whose influence the first states in Indonesia were formed between 8th and 14th centuries, brought Buddhist and Hindi religion to central Java.
Arabs who were involved in trading, formed several Muslim states and brought Islam with them, along with the elements of Arabic culture. First they came to the island of Sumatra and later spread over the whole archipelago, except for Bali which remained the only Hindu island in the whole of the Indonesia.
The Chinese also played a part in the Indonesian history, as they were involved in mining, navigation and trade.
In 18th century under the leadership of Khubla Khan, Mongolians conquered some of the states and collected taxes from those.
The first European to reach Indonesia at the end of 18th century was Marco Polo, who, in his travelogue Miracles of the World or A Million, left valuable descriptions of vast riches of the islands.
The first colonists were the Portugese, but they were suppressed by the Dutch, who until recently, stayed and remained only in the eastern part of East Timor.
The Dutch who formed a colonial empire, calling it the Eastern (Dutch) India, in 1619 established the city of Batavia, presently Jakarta – the capital of Indonesia. Their exploitation of the land and the pople was merciless. For this purpose, during the 19th and 20th century they have built a dense traffic network and the first modern oil and metal industry in Java, the richest island of all.
Until the middle of 20th century Indonesia was politically incoherent but despite that fact, no one in the Ancient times or Middle Ages could etirely conquer it. However, at that time the first organised rebellions against the Dutch colonists began. Indonesian movement became very strong and well organised. The national party of Ahmad Sukarno, after many long fights not only with the enemy but with political oponents as well, managed to establish national unity. The plans of liberation were thwarted by the Japanese occupation forces which, during the World War 2 occupied the country. However, two days after capitulation of Japan, on 17th August 1945, Sukarno and general Hatta, made a declaration by which the people of Indonesia gained independence and the first president was Ahmad Sukarno, the leader of the National Party. Although this was not the end of the conflict with Holland, under the pressure of the World public and an extensive diplomatic battle, finally on 15th August 1950 the Republic of Indonesia was declared. Since then, several Indonesian presidents have been in power. The first woman President was Dr. Megawati Sukarnoputri, daughter of the first President Sukarno. On the occasion of marking 60 years of independence, in front of the Presidential place Merdeka, the Indonesian flag, hand-embriodered by the hands of Mrs. Ibu Sukarno, Megawati’s mother was waving in the wind. The same flag from the house of Ahmad Sukarno is nowadays preserved as a relic.
In the past few years, the Indonesian Government and Administration are putting all their efforts to solve the domestic economic problems, improve the living standard, protect the environment, as well as ease the tensions between the Muslims and non-Muslims. Today, this country is hit by earthquakes, tsounami, aviary fly epidemic and terrorist attacks.
Since 28th September 1950, Indonesia has been the member of the United Nations.
It was an active member of the Non-Aligned Movement. It is also a member of the ASEAN group. ▲ TopIndonesia in figures
According to data by the National geographic magazine, in 2003 Indonesia had 224.784.000 inhabitants. This makes it the fourth country in the world by number of population. It is also has the largest Muslim population in the world – Muslims represent 88% of the nation. The official religion is monotheism. Christians make 8%, Hindus 2 %, Buddhists 1%, and the rest 1 % of the remaining population.
Indonesia has 300 ethnic groups.
Although there is a multitude of languages and even more dialects, in any of 17 508 islands anyone who speaks Bahasa will make himself understood. This language, adopted as the official language at the 2nd Congress of Indonesian Youth on 28th October 1928, remained the standard language of today and it belongs to West-Australian group of Austronesian family of languages.
Javanese writing is similar to Chinese symbols.
Apart from Indonesian, the official languages are English, Dutch, Javanese and other world languages are also spoken.
84% of the population is literate and the average life expectancy is 68 years. The annual income, per capita is ₤ 2,800.
The Indonesian is an ethnonyme with two connotations– the general name for Indonesian population, whose consolidation into single indonesian ethnos is only at the beginning, and the name for the immigrants who are of Indonesian origin.
Primary education lasts for 9 years. Pupils and students wear white uniforms with red scarves. ▲ TopNational symbols
In a country with 300 ethnic groups, many languages, cultures and traditions, the main weapon for strengthening of the national unity is the State ideology or philosophy– Pancasila. It represents a group of norms that affirm the principle of unity within diversity, („Bhinneka Tunggal Ika“), which should be adhered to by every Indonesian.
1. Faith in one and only one God.
The State Coat of Arms represents a golden eagle - mythical bird Garuda, that symbolises creative energy, sublimeness of the nation. The bird has 17 feathers in each wing, 8 feathers in the tail and 45 in its neck, which symbolises the date of Indonesian declaration of independency, 17th August 1945.
The Indonesian National Parliament has 500 Members and the National Advisory Assembly, in session every five years when President is elected, has 1000 members.
The state power is largely shared with the Armed Forces.
The eruption of the island volcano Krakatoa (Krakatau), situated at the centre of Sunda Straits, between Java and Sumatra, in 1883 was recorded as one of the greatest natural catastrophes on Earth. The explosion equaled the effect of several atomic bombs and it caused a 36 m high tidal wave that killed 36 000 people in Java and Sumatra. The eruptions were felt in Australia, Japan and the Philippines and the waves reached the Western shores of America and Eastern shores of Africa.
An enormous quantity of ashes produced covered the area of 800 000 km2.
First contacts with the powerful, highly civilised culture originate from the beginning of our era. Sailing along maritime trade routes, the Indonesian kingdoms (Shrivijaja, Sumatra, Central Java), were visited by individual visitors belonging to upper classes (castes) and rich merchants who brought Buddhism and Hinduism.
At the beginning of 9th century, the Buddhist dynasty Sailendra (called “The Masters of the Mountains “) established its rule in a large part of Java, when Borobudur began to take its form – the largest Buddhist temple in the world had been built between 760-810. It is an important legacy of the kings of Central Java, as apart from the religious ceremonies, this was where royal ceremonies also took place. It was built from over one million stone blocks, each weighing abt. 90 Kg. The stones were brought from the nearby river quarry and then they were processed by hand. Hundreds of people had been toiling there for thirty years. The temple is layed on a square basis with a side length of 125m, it is of semi-conical shape abt. 50m high, divided in 5 floors. On the top there is a small stupa. It was built in the style of late Buddhism, in the model of mandala – a group of geometric shapes marking a sacred space.
Borobudur may only be compared with the temple in Nandagarahu, North-Eastern India. The terrace walls are decorated with 1400 representations chiseled in stone that unite into one six km long relief. There are 432 statues of Buddha and 72 lattice bells containig also statues of Buddha.
Borobudur – « The Hill of the Gods » was abandoned, no one knows why, and it was eaten up by the jungle. Tomas Stamford Raffles who, at the beginning of 18th century was the Vice-Governor in these parts of the world, pointed out the historic and cultural significance of this temple, discovered in 1814 by a Dutch engineer H. K. Kornelius. It took 200 people to labour for a month and a half to clear the temple of vegetation and volcanic ashes. Only in 1983, thanks to UNESCO and the Indonesian Government, was re-construction of this monument and its drainage system completed.
About a million people a year visit this temple. ▲ TopJava Island
Half a millennium ago, from a small fishing village Sunja Kelapa the city of Jaya Karta has developed. Its new name was given to it by sultan Bantana. At the beginning of 17th century, Dutch sea farers reached the Javanese shores, suppressed the Arabs, colonized the island and changed the city’s name to Batavia, which, later became Jakarta – the capital of the Indonesian archipelago.
The commercial part of Jakarta – Pasar Baru, preserved the architecture from the Dutch times. The Chinese quarter is called Glodok.
On the Liberty Square – Merdeka Square – the wealthy Dutch merchants built a conspicuous building for commercial purposes, and by the middle of 19th century it became the official residential building of the Indonesian President.
At the center of the Square there is the National Monument, erected in honour of the declaration of independence. At its 137m high top an eternal flame burns in a gold-plated vessel, the making of which involved using of 35Kg of pure gold. The tower, made of Italian marble, was finished in1961. In its central part there is a room, decorated with 48 pictures, telling the history of Indonesia from the prehistoric times up to modern times. In the vicinity of the Merdeka Square there is also a sculpture representing the national hero – Diponegoro- riding a horse.
According 1999 Census, on the area of 637,47 km2, Jakarta has over 9 604 900 inhabitants and it is given the status of special territory.
Jakarta also boasts a museum, Taman Mini Indonesia – Mini Indonesia. The idea for its establishment was given by the wife of the President, Mrs. Suharto.
Approx. 50Km out of Jakarta there is the town of Bogor, famous for its enormous garden with about 5 000 orchids, and one of the flowers was pronounced the largest of its kind in the world.
Near Jakarta, there is the big Sukarno-Hatta International airport.
The first sultanate in these parts was founded in Jojakarta back in 1775 and today 85% of Javanese population are Muslims.
In the central part of the island, Kraton, center of all the sultanates and kingdoms – the ancient capital is situated.
Abot 20 km from Jojakarta, Prambanan, one of the most splendid Hindu temples may be found. It was built eleven centuries ago. It suffered the same fate as Borobudur – it was only discovered after the jungle was cleared. The blueprints for reconsruction wer made in 1918, and by the middle of 20th century it was opened to visitors.
Java is famous for its traditional batik national costume. There are several centers where batik is made. A famous town for it is called Solo. Thanks to a fashion designer, Ivan Tirta, Javanese batik became world-known and appeared at catwalks from Paris to New York.
The craters of 2675 high live volcano Merapi, every 5 years shake not only the island but the whole archipelago. The highest peak of the island, Mount Semeri is actually a 3676m high active volcanoe. ▲ TopSumatra
Second largest island of the archipelago, populated by 43 309 707 inhabitants, according to the 2000 Census. In Sumatra you may see the unusually painted houses of Batak tribe, famous for is long tradition of exquisite handicrafts, finest whittled woodwork, philigrane silver and woven clothes and dresses. The roofs are bordered by deer horns and buffalo fights are very popular with the islanders.
In the Western Sumatra you may find an interesting phenomenon – a wife is allowed to have up to four husbands. Husbands live in their own houses and they come to the wife’s house when called upon. Sumatra exports rubber, wood, tobacco, coffee, pepper. Significant raw materials are oil and coal. Aceh region, populated by Muslims is fighting for secession from Indonesia. The State intervened several times to prevent them to secede.
In December 2004, South-East Asia was hit by an underwater quake, causing a tsunami. The worst consequences of the natural disaster were suffered by Indonesia. The North-East part of Sumatra and the city and province of Banda Aceh were terribly hit – over 100 000 people killed, 5 000 released for treatment at home, abt. 80 000 missing and over 650 000 refugees. The catastrophe was followed by a great epidemic, shortage of water, food, medicines. Although international community had sent a part of the aid as promised, many people in need never received it.
Last year, Indonesian Government prepared a several years long programme for the country’s reconstruction and rehabilitation. The largest donations came from Japan, Australia, Germany, Canada and China and significant aid package came from the Bosnian Islamic Community. ▲ TopKalimantan (Borneo)
Kalimantan is the largest island of Indonesia. Several national parks are situated there, the most popular is Gunung Palung. This national park offering natural habitat to very small animals is characteristical for a large variety of frogs of different colors and shapes. Eastern Kalimantan, is the home of Dajak tribe, which lives very high above the ground due to dangers of reptiles and other animals. Nearby to their settlement there is a reserve – an orchid garden spread over 5000 acres, where the unique black orchid grows.
Orangutang is the famous inhabitant of Kalimantan jungles. Along with the tiger and some other species, it is included in the international protection of primates programme. ▲ TopBali – The Island of Gods
Bali, situated between Java and Lombok, with population of 4 million inhabitants has the area of 5 620 Km2. 94% are Hindus and only 5% are Muslims, As Arabs never managed to overcome the coral barriers surrounding the island. The capital is Denpasar.
It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, favorite with European and American tourists.
The climate is tropical, favourable all year round. Temperatures are between 28 and 30 degrees Celsius. The rain season lasts from October to April and the dry season from may to September. Majority of the inhabitants speak English.
22% of the area is covered by forests, and 8% is represents the untouched nature.
Rice represents the staple food. No Indonesian will be left without reserves of at least 10Kg of rice. Several sorts of rice grow in Bali, red is consumed by children, black is used for making wine and brandy, and white for bread and cakes. It is presumed that the knowledge on rice cultivation originates from the Northern parts of Asam and Brahmaputra, valley in the North-Eastern India, or from Burma. There are three rice harvests during the year.
Among the coconut trees, the most romantic Indonesian fruit may be found – passion fruit, similar to apricot. Avocado and durian are also among the favourites. And there are also 20 different sorts of bananas.
In this least populated island of the Indonesian archipelago, at 3000 meters above sea level there is the most powerful volcano, Gugung Agung (the Navel of the World). During the 1960’s over 2000 people were killed by its eruption and 250 000 houses were destroyed. The survivors go and build homes in a new place, saying “ If a flower nor a stone cannot escape its fate, neither can human life “.
At the foot of the volcano, in 10th century the temple of Besakih – the Mother of all Balinese temples was built. It is decorated with rich reliefs chiseled in stone, representing mythological monsters, dragons, demons as well as jungle vegetation.
Kehen temple, the most sacred temple of the Bangli village, was built in 13th century and it was dedicated to the Holy Trinity: gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The temple, once destroyed by the Batur volcano, is renewed and open for celebrations. On the shore of the Indian Ocean, the Balinese have built Tanah Lot – The Temple of the Rising Sun. There are over 10 000 temples built in the area of only 5 500km2.
Cock fights are the popular entertainment with the locals.
Traditional epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata are key motifs of the traditional Balinese dance, symbolising the battle between good and evil.
Almost every Balinese village has its gamelan band, which is the part of everyday life. The gamelan musicians accompany the rice harvests, weddings, receptions. Garuda is the symbol of ancient Balinese mythology and it is an integral part of Indonesian culture. At the same time, Garuda is the name of the national air-carrier.
The town of Ubud is popular place for gatherings of painters, where they organise workshops in naïve art.
The Centre of Batik making is in Batuan. Here batik is made strictly by hand with silk and wax unlike Java, Jojakarta and Madura where there are factories for industrial production of batik.
Many movie and TV directors, artists, travellers described Bali as « the last piece of Heaven on Earth « and « the Dawn of the World ». And the legend says that the Sun has built its loving home there. ▲ TopKomodo lizard
The only non-extinct prehistoric lizard – Varanus komodoensis – belongs to the species of big lizards (Varanider), living on the Komodo island, was on the verge of extinction and now it is protected. It can reach 3 meters in length, and 130Kg of weight. It digs holes up to 9 meters deep. It is mostly a scavenger, but a grown lizard may feed on its own species of smaller size. It runs very fast and sometimes attacks humans. Today it represents a tourist attraction in this part of the world. ▲ TopEast Timor
In Dili, capital of East Timor, on 20th May 2006, by lowering of the UN flag an raising of new one, one of the youngest States in the world was formed – the democratic republic of East Timor. The island is divided, along a central line running for 288Km, into the Indonesian and the East Timorian half.
It belongs to the group of Little Sunda islands (Kepuanan Sunda Kejtil), and has the area of 15 007 Km2.
After the Javanese Empire, Dutch and Portuguese colonists, Indonesian forces have, back in 1974, intervened and annexated it in 1976 when the province of East Timor was established. During 24 years, one quarter of the population or approx.
After 420 years of battling for freedom, on 20th May 2002, East Timor was declared to be 192 independent state. As peace-keepers in East Timor, Serbian and Montenegrin soldiers are also engaged. ▲ TopEconomy
The Idonesian archipelago is very rich in natural resources. Indonesia is prevailingly agricultural country, but it is also rich in raw materials. During 1960’s Yugoslavia was one of the big importers of Indonesian goods. At the same time in our country’s shipyards, ships were built and sold to Indonesia.
After the declaration of independence, the economy kept developing but the serious problem represents food supply for local population.
One of the strategic goals in agriculture, production of rice to cover the local consumers’ needs, was achieved in 1984.
Today, Indonesia is the largest producer and exporter of oil in the far East. It is a significant producer of petroleum, natural gas, cement, tin, bauxite, manganese, iodine, India-rubber, timber, textile and ready-to-wear clothes.
Indonesia and Malaysia have also developed processing industry
After Malysia, Indonesia is second largest exporter of India-rubber in the world.
Ship-building elements for tankers, passenger and reconnaissance ships are key products in the country’s exports. There are shipyards in Surabaya, Jakarta and several other cities as maritime traffic is of great importance for communication between many thousands of islands.
Indonesia is famous for production of tea, coffee, pepper, sugar, tobacco, palm oil. Fishing also represents the important branch of economy.
Indonesian currency is Rupiah and it is divided into 100 sen. ▲ TopSports
Indonesians have a long tradition of playing dominoe game, called gaple. They are also in top world positions in table tennis and badmintone. Football, basketball and handball are very popular, although in those disciplines they do not fare so well in the global competition.
At the summer Olimpic Games in Athens , Taufik Hidayat was the only Indonesian competitior who won the gold medal in athletics.
Irian Jaya island represents 22% of the total area, and its inhabitants only make 1% of total population.
The first European who made and left valuable records on the rise of Indonesia is Marco Polo (13th century).
There were other men who wrote about Indonesia, our publicist Branko Savic among them. However, it is interesting that women-explorers i.e travelogue writers wrote about it. Helen Churchill, the first American influential femal geographer travelled to Indonesia with some friends in 1911 and visited Indonesia as well as China, the Philippines and India and gathered lots of quality information for articles and presentations.
Great Austrian explorer, Ida Pfeiffer,who travelled around the globe twice, after sailing from London to Capetown in 1851 continued her voyage to Singapore and Borneo. She spent six months in Borneo, exploring the vast jungles. She visited Dajak tribe, famous for its rituals – head hunting. Surprisingly, this tribe was not hostile at meeting with her and she liked it. In the beginning she was scared but she quickly realised that Europeans were not that much better : « I wished I could spend more time amongst the free Dajak tribe, as I found them to be without honesty, good will or coyness in their manners. I should have bowed to them for their behavior they were showing, above all other races I had met ».
Her next destination was Sumatra. Again, against the advice given by her European counselors, she went to see Batak tribe aware of the fact that there were cannibals. However, they appreciated her curiosity and let her move freely in their community. When they joked about wanting to eat her, she replied that it would not do them any good, as she was old and sinewy.
She was the first person ever to write about Batak tribe.
Among our ladies who were drawn by the magic of Indonesia and wrote about it, we must mention journalist Jelena Novakovic and publicist Marija Savin. ▲ TopCulture
Indonesian art belongs to Indian culture, with elements of the Arabian culture, which, in 14th century spread through Sumatra over to Java. Bali, until today maintained Hindu religion.
Traditional Indonesian dances and gamelan instruments, (Gamelan Bali and Gamelan Java), Instruments from Sumatra – Telemplong and the group of instruments made out of bamboo, where each instrument represents one note - angklunk and traditional art are the national symbols of Indonesia. Each part of this country has its own dance, costume, rites and tradition.
Today in Indonesia there are several Universities involved in the studies of traditional music, dance and art.
Mpu Tantular, reputable writer, who in his book Pararaton described the life of Indonesian kings came up with the slogan – unity in diversity.
Painters Basuki Abdula and Afandi are world famous for their paintings, the value of which is estimated in millions of USD.
The Ministry of Education with the Government of Indonesia grants scholarships for young people from friendly countries who are interested to spend a year in state Universities throughout the country and study traditional dance, music, painting, sculpture, photography and Indonesian language. The scholarship is called the Darmasiswa RI programme.
On 17th August 2003 in Belgrade the Association of Serbian/Montenegrin-Indonesian Friendship NUSANTARA has been founded, with the aim of promoting the traditionally good and friendly relations between our countries and the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia (Kedutaan Besar Republik Indonesia) in Belgrade, organised a dance school “Citra nusantara“, as well as learning how to play the traditional gamelan music. ▲ Top
In Belgrade, 20th April 2006
1. Encyclopedia (2005): Britannica, issued by „Narodna knjiga“ and „Politika“, Belgrade