According to A2zgov, Indonesia, Asia, is a large empire consisting exclusively of islands. The number of islands officially amounts to 13,677, only about 6,000 of them are inhabited. One of them is the strangely shaped island of Sulawesi, formerly known as Celebes.
With almost 250 million inhabitants, Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country. Indonesia is also the world’s most populous Muslim country.
My exciting and interesting tour of the island of Sulawesi gave me the opportunity to meet the fascinating Torah people and their magnificent funeral ceremonies. In the Togian Islands, I celebrated the turn of the millennium. Here I saw the rare coconut crab. In Tangkoko National Park I got to see the world’s smallest half monkey, the tarsier (ghost animal) and in Manado I went to exciting markets where snakes, smoked rats, bats and dog meat were sold.
Indonesia history, in short
The Indonesian archipelago was first inhabited by Pithecanthropus erectus, the Java man, one of mankind’s earliest ancestors who came to the island of Java via land bridges about a million years ago. Here they found a fertile environment that gave them opportunities to live. Their further development is not known. Probably they were exterminated by other “ethnic groups” or they were integrated with others who also came here.
Today’s population is related to the Malay and Philippine. However, these peoples immigrated as late as about 4,000 years before the birth of Christ.
About 3,000 years ago, Dongson culture spread from China and Vietnam to Indonesia. With it came learning about growing irrigated rice, performing buffalo sacrifices, knowledge of bronze casting, erecting large stone monuments and part of the current weaving culture.
At the beginning of the Christian era, there were already small established, but functioning, kingdoms here.
The first traces of Hinduism date to the year 200 AD. How Hinduism and Buddhism came to the Indonesian archipelago is not completely mapped. It is believed that it came with merchants who visited the region early on.
During the 13th century, Islam seriously reached northern Sumatra through merchants from Gujarat in western India, who stopped here on their trade trips to the Moluccas and China. However, Arab merchants had established settlements in the Indonesian archipelago as early as the end of the sixth century, but without actively spreading the message of Islam. During his visit to the city of Perlak in 1292, now Ache, Marco Polo stated that the people of this city had converted to Islam. The religion spread rapidly and today almost 90% of the country’s population is Muslim, which means that Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population.
The first Europeans to visit the region were the explorer Marco Polo and Vasco da Gama, and a few missionaries. They met cities and the kingdom. Some of them at war with each other. In the early 16th century, the first Western merchant ships reached the area now known as the Moluccas in search of spices. In 1511 they conquered Malacca and a year later they reached the Moluccas archipelago. In order to defend their interests, they quickly built large fortifications from which they defended strategic points.
The Portuguese were followed by Spaniards and Dutch. All in search of wealth, created by the valuable spice trade. In the early 17th century, the Dutch managed to defeat the Portuguese at Tidore and Ambon, which led them to take over the spice trade. Thereafter, they became the dominant force and gradually forced a monopoly on the spice trade. It was not until the beginning of the 20th century that they had complete control over the country.
During a period in the early 19th century, the British occupied several of the Dutch possessions. However, the Dutch got these back later by exchanging areas they held in India and on the Malacca Peninsula.
The Japanese occupied the region during World War II. After their capitulation, Indonesia’s independence was proclaimed on August 17, 1945 by the nationalist movement led by Sukarno. This was followed by a power game with the British and Dutch that resulted in independence from the former colonial powers and on December 27, 1949, the Indonesian flag was hoisted on Isdana Merdeka, the Palace of Freedom, marking a new era in the country’s history.
Unfortunately, since then the country has not always had the political stability and the people do not have the human rights one would expect in a democratic country. The unrest of recent years is well known. During the early years of the 21st century, however, the situation seems to have stabilized somewhat, even though religious unrest occasionally flourishes.