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Indonesia History

Indianized States
Sunda / Pajajaran 6691579
Galuh Kingdom669732

Srivijaya [Sailendra]

Mataram / Medang [Sanjaya]7521045


Islamic States
Sultanate of Ternate12571949
Malacca Sultanate14001824
Tidore Sultanate14501904
Demak Sultanate14751548
Aceh Sultanate14961903
Banten Sultanate15261813

Mataram Sultanate

European Colonialists
The Portuguese15111619
The British16021818
The Dutch16191949
The Japanese19391945

No one, aware of the the universal prevalence of superstition and credulity in the society of old Java, will reasonably expect to find the Javanese possessed of any remote records deserving the name of history. If the accounts of their ancient story be less monstrously extravagant and impudent than those of the Hindus, they are fully more incongruous. The mythological legends of ancient India naturalized in Java, and blended with the wild tales of the country, while the whole forms a mass of absurdity, and of incongruity, almost unequalled in the accounts of any other people.

From the period of the acquaintance of the Javanese with Mahomedans, forming an exact parallel case with the Hindus of India, the dawning of the historical truth, and some common sense and moderation may be discovered, brightening slowly and, for the next two centuries, improving into records of some consistency and moderation.

Still, however, as was the case in India, the professed object of historical writing among the Javanese was amusement, and not utility. Even in most of their early 19th Century productions, a constant effort was made to give the most natural and obvious transactions an air of romance, and even to convert the most ordinary affairs of human life into tales to amuse the fancy. Every transaction which wore an air of mystery was eagerly seized, and converted into a miracle, or ascribed to supernatural agency, while the most important movements of society were either taken no notice of at all, or treated with provoking apathy and neglect.

The writing of history a of "Indonesia" is complicated by the fact that modern Indonesia had no true antecedent. What is required is, not a history of France, but of the Holy Roman Empire. This is The first people in Indonesia arrived about 40,000 years ago when sea level was lower and it was joined to Asia by a land bridge. Then at the end of the last ice age about 10,000 BC a new wave of people came. At first they hunted animals, collected shellfish and gathered plants for food. By about 2,500 BC they learned to grow crops such as taro, bananas, millet and rice. The early farmers also made pottery but all their tools were made of stone. By 700 BC the Indonesians had learned to make bronze and iron. Furthermore at that time wet rice cultivation was introduced. Indonesian villages were forced to co-operate to regulate the supply of water to their fields. In time organized kingdoms emerged.

From about 400 BC Indonesians traded with other nations such as China and India. Hinduism and Buddhism were also introduced to Indonesia. Early inhabitants had an agricultural economy based on cereals, and introduced pottery and stone tools during the period 2500 to 500 B.C. During the period between 500 BC and AD 500, as the peoples of the archipelago increasingly interacted with South and East Asia, metals and probably domesticated farm animals were introduced.

The island now called Java was known to the Western world at the beginning of the Christian Era. Ptolemaeus, the Greek geographer, called it Jabidore (150 AD). It was likewise called Jawadwipa, meaning "Barley Island," the early visitors confusing the ripe rice with ripe barley. The Chinese annals indicate with reasonable correctness the route which the early traders followed for the purpose of bringing spices first to Rome, and later to the northern Italian cities. This route followed Ambon, Banda, the north coast of Bali and Lombok, the north coast of Java, east coast of Sumatra (between that island and Banka), and the west coast of Malacca* Here the route merged into the general trade route from China.

These islands, especially Java and Sumatra, were visited during this early period, by merchants from Hindustan, who remained for some time. The monsoon pattern made it impossible to complete the voyage between China and India without a pause of some months in the Malay-speaking region, encountering Malay, the lingua franca throughout the Archipelago. The sailors did not play a causal role in the spread of Malay; they found it convenient to use Malay because Malay was already widespread.

It is generally believed that transportation along the eastern part of this great trade route was first in the hands of the Hindus from the mainland of Asia, and that later it came mostly into the handjs of the Chinese until 600 AD, when the Hindu states in Java had grown powerful enough to control the spice trade themselves. It must have been a very ancient business, this spice trade, for cloves which grow only in the Moluccas were known in Rome in the first few centuries after Christ.

The ancient history of Sumatra is happily not quite so shrouded in vague reports as that of Borneo or Celebes. The principal reason is probably because this island offered its long western coast as a trade route for the spice trade. It was natural that both the Hindu and the Chinese traders should have stopping-places here. From a cultural standpoint Sumatra reached importance during two different periods. From about 500 to 750 it became the channel through which Buddhism spread eastward, especially to Java. Again, from 1250 to 1400, it did the same service for the Islam religion.

By the 8th century AD Indonesian civilization was flourishing. Among the kingdoms was a Hindu kingdom in central Java called Sailendra. There was also the great Buddhist kingdom of Sriwijaya in south Sumatra. There were two rival royal dynasties in Java at the time the Buddhist Sailendra and the Saivite Hindu Sanjaya. The Sailendras were known as ardent followers of Lord Buddha, though stone inscriptions found at Sojomerto suggest they may have been Hindus. Temples built by the Syailendra Dynasty are located in the South West of Merapi Mountain, while temples built by the Sanjaya Dynasty that are located in the South East of Merapi Mountain.

Empires had come and gone in the region since the seventh century, but the geo-political center of the archipelago, the land and water over which the successive Empire struggled, remained the land base controlling the Strait of Malacca. Civilization never declined in this region since the 7th Century. There were many successive governments that followed in sequence. Later empires originated as expansionist movements in Java; after Srivijaya (AD 650-1350) came Majapahit (AD 1293-1500), and Mataram (AD 898-1750). All three medieval empires had major centers in Sumatra and Malaya that competed with and sometimes launched bloody wars against Java. The Mataram Empire, which relied on tribute from rice farmers, favored inland cities and monuments, while the Sri Vijaya Empire, which relied on controlling trade, favoured coastal cities.

When Marco Polo arrived in Sumatra from South China in 1292, he mentioned a large city (Palembang), and referred to the whole island as Java Minor. He claimed that there were eight kingdoms or states in Sumatra, and that one of them named Perlak was much frequented by the Saracenic merchants, who had converted the natives to the Law of Mohammed.

From the 7th century to the 13th century Sriwijaya prospered and it became a maritime empire controlling western Java and part of the Malay Peninsula. It was also a center of Buddhist learning. However in the 13th century the Sriwijaya Empire broke up into separate states. In the 13th and 14th centuries a Hindu kingdom flourished. It was called the Majapahit Empire. It was founded in 1292 and soon rose to dominate most of Indonesia. However in the early 15th century the Majapahit Empire went into a rapid decline.

Islam was brought to Indonesia by Indian merchants. Muslim traders first traveled through South East Asia in the early 13th century. It first gained a toehold in Aceh in north Sumatra and in following centuries it spread through the rest of Indonesia. By the end of the 16th century Islam had become the dominant religion in the region.

Large sections of the Javanese remained heathen for centuries after the establishment of Muhammadan kingdoms in the island and though many superstitions and customs survived among them from the days of their pagan ancestors, still the tendency was continually in the direction of the guidance of thought and conduct in accordance with the teaching of Islam. This long work of conversion proceeded peacefully and gradually, and the growth of Muslim states in this island belonged rather to its political than to its religious history, since the progress of the religion has been achieved by the work rather of missionaries than of princes.

In 1413 the Chinese envoy Cheng Ho visited Sumatra or Java Minor. He was accompanied by Ma Hoean, who was an Arabic scholar and a Mohammedan. His memoirs disclose the fact that the Mohammedan religion had made great progress in the north. In fact, all of northern Sumatra had been converted to Islam, while Palembang remained Buddhist.

In 1478 after a desperate battle which lasted seven days, Majapahit fell and the Hindu supremacy in Eastern Java was replaced by a Muhammadan power. A large number of those who remained faithful to the old Hindu religion fled in 1481 to the island of Bali, where the worship of Siva is still the prevailing religion. Others seem to have formed small kingdoms, under the leadership of princes of the house of Majapahit, which remained heathen for some time after the fall of the great Hindu capital.

Banos, who visited Sumatra in 1525, published a list of the states existing in Sumatra. There were twenty-nine countries, at the head of which stood sultans or rajahs. Since the year 1500 the state of Atjeh had become important. This state, located on the extreme northern point of Sumatra, was erected on the ruins of Lamoeri. The Portuguese had built a fort at Pasei-Samunden in 1521, but this was stormed and taken by the forces of the Sultan of Atjeh in 1524. The Portuguese were thereby definitely ejected from Sumatra. The Sultan of Atjeh became the leader of the Mohammedans in the island, while the Javanese Mohammedans came under the leadership of the Priest-Prince of Giri. This prince seems to have been the suzerain of the rulers of Demak, Cheribon, Tegal, Kudus, Tuban, Dradjat, and Ampel (Surabaya), who were all Mohammedans.

Before the centralizing rulers in the 17th century, the conciliar principle was established and no important decision could be made without the assembly of notables. Absolutism had to deal not with feudalism or constitutionalism but with autonomous lineages, tribes, and entrepreneurs not yet incorporated into state structures. The stronger states made possible by commerce sooner or later fell prey to excesses of personal power which destroyed or alienated the important merchants.

The last of the great empires to survive, Mataram, was brought to heel by the Dutch in the 18th century.

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Page last modified: 11-04-2017 18:47:15 ZULU