Bhinneka Tunggal Ika
Unity in Diversity
Bhinneka Tunggal Ika - Unity in Diversity
The sovereign state is a presidential, constitutional republic with an elected legislature. It has 34 provinces, of which five have special status. The country’s capital, Jakarta, is the second-most populous urban area in the world. The country shares land borders with Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and the eastern part of Malaysia. Other neighbouring countries include Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines, Australia, Palau, and India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Despite its large population and densely populated regions, Indonesia has vast areas of wilderness that support one of the world’s highest levels of biodiversity.
The Indonesian archipelago has been a valuable region for trade since at least the 7th century when Srivijaya and later Majapahit traded with entities from mainland China and the Indian subcontinent. Local rulers gradually absorbed foreign influences from the early centuries and Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms flourished. Sunni traders and Sufi scholars brought Islam, while Europeans introduced Christianity through colonisation. Although sometimes interrupted by the Portuguese, French and British, the Dutch were the foremost colonial power for much of their 350-year presence in the archipelago. The concept of “Indonesia” as a nation-state emerged in the early 20th century and the country proclaimed its independence in 1945. However, it was not until 1949 that the Dutch recognised Indonesia’s sovereignty following an armed and diplomatic conflict between the two.
Indonesia consists of hundreds of distinct native ethnic and linguistic groups, with the largest one being the Javanese. A shared identity has developed with the motto “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” (“Unity in Diversity” literally, “many, yet one”), defined by a national language, ethnic diversity, religious pluralism within a Muslim-majority population, and a history of colonialism and rebellion against it. The economy of Indonesia is the world’s 16th largest by nominal GDP and 7th by GDP at PPP. The country is a member of several multilateral organisations, including the United Nations, World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund, G20, and a founding member of Non-Aligned Movement, Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, East Asia Summit, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
From the seventh century CE, the Srivijaya naval kingdom flourished as a result of trade and the influences of Hinduism and Buddhism. Between the eighth and tenth centuries CE, the agricultural Buddhist Sailendra and Hindu Mataram dynasties thrived and declined in inland Java, leaving grand religious monuments such as Sailendra’s Borobudur and Mataram’s Prambanan. The Hindu Majapahit kingdom was founded in eastern Java in the late 13th century, and under Gajah Mada, its influence stretched over much of present-day Indonesia. This period is often referred to as a “Golden Age” in Indonesian history.
The earliest evidence of Islamized populations in the archipelago dates to the 13th century in northern Sumatra. Other parts of the archipelago gradually adopted Islam, and it was the dominant religion in Java and Sumatra by the end of the 16th century. For the most part, Islam overlaid and mixed with existing cultural and religious influences, which shaped the predominant form of Islam in Indonesia, particularly in Java.
Indonesia has a well-preserved natural ecosystem with rain forests that stretch over about 57% of Indonesia’s land (225 million acres). Forests on Sumatra and Kalimantan are examples of popular destinations, such as the Orangutan wildlife reserve. Moreover, Indonesia has one of the world’s longest coastlines, measuring 54,716 kilometres (33,999 mil).
Indonesia has nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Komodo National Park, and a further 19 in a tentative list that includes Bunaken National Park and Raja Ampat Islands. Other attractions include the specific points in Indonesian history, such as the colonial heritage of the Dutch East Indies in the old towns of Jakarta and Semarang, and the royal palaces of Pagaruyung, Ubud, and Yogyakarta.
Indonesia is an ethnically diverse country, with around 300 distinct native ethnic groups. Most Indonesians are descended from Austronesian peoples whose languages had origins in Proto-Austronesian, which possibly originated in what is now Taiwan. Another major grouping is the Melanesians, who inhabit eastern Indonesia (the Maluku Islands and Western New Guinea).
The Javanese are the largest ethnic group, constituting 40.2% of the population, and are politically dominant. They are predominantly located in the central to eastern parts of Java and also sizable numbers in most provinces. The Sundanese, Malay, Batak, Madurese, Minangkabau and Buginese are the next largest groups in the country. A sense of Indonesian nationhood exists alongside strong regional identities.
Indonesia has several levels of subdivisions. The first level is that of the provinces, with five out of a total of 34 having a special status. The most recent change being the split of North Kalimantan from East Kalimantan in 2012. Aceh, Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Papua, and West Papua have greater legislative privileges and a higher degree of autonomy from the central government than the other provinces. A conservative Islamic territory, Aceh has the right to create some aspects of an independent legal system implementing sharia.
Yogyakarta is the only pre-colonial monarchy legally recognised in Indonesia, with the positions of governor and vice governor being prioritised for descendants of the Sultan of Yogyakarta and Paku Alam, respectively. Papua and West Papua are the only provinces where the indigenous people have privileges in their local government. Jakarta is the only city granted a provincial government due to its position as the capital of Indonesia.
Indonesian territory is divided into 34 provinces, which are also grouped into 3 time zones. There are 18 Provinces that are included in the Western Indonesia Time Zone – WIB (Waktu Indonesia bagian Barat), 12 Provinces that are included in the Central Indonesia Time Zone – WITA (Waktu Indonesia bagian Tengah), and 4 Provinces that are included in the Eastern Indonesia Time Zone – WIT (Waktu Indonesia bagian Timur).
Indonesia has played an important role in the world economy due to its strategic position as a world maritime route. Indonesia in East Asia has a strategic position because it connects East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East to Europe. Southeast Asia is the source of the most sought-after and most valuable commodities, namely spices. The main commodities of Indonesian spices are cloves, nutmeg and mace. These spices stimulated the development of international trade in Southeast Asia. The Spice Route is a spice commodity route that crosses many areas and various ports in the world, especially from the western archipelago across Asia, Africa to Europe.
Indonesia’s size, tropical climate, and archipelagic geography support one of the world’s highest levels of biodiversity. Its flora and fauna is a mixture of Asian and Australasian species.
The islands of the Sunda Shelf (Sumatra, Java, Borneo, and Bali) were once linked to mainland Asia, and have a wealth of Asian fauna. Large species such as the Sumatran tiger, Rhinoceros, Orangutan, Asian elephant, and Leopard were once abundant as far east as Bali, but numbers and distribution have dwindled drastically.
Having been long separated from the continental landmasses, Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara, and Maluku have developed their unique flora and fauna. Papua was part of the Australian landmass and is home to a unique fauna and flora closely related to that of Australia, including over 600 bird species. Forests cover approximately 70% of the country.
British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace described a dividing line (Wallace Line) between the distribution of Indonesia’s Asian and Australasian species. It runs roughly north–south along the edge of the Sunda Shelf, between Kalimantan and Sulawesi, and along the deep Lombok Strait, between Lombok and Bali. Flora and fauna on the west of the line are generally Asian, while east from Lombok they are increasingly Australian until the tipping point at the Weber Line. In his 1869 book, The Malay Archipelago, Wallace described numerous species unique to the area. The region of islands between his line and New Guinea is now termed Wallacea.