Jakarta (Djakarta), Indonesia
Jakarta is the capital of Indonesia and Southeast Asia’s largest city. The city is located on the northern coast of West Java at the mouth and on the low alluvial plain of the Ciliwung River. It is a contrast of modern western architecture and traditional Indonesian culture. The rapid growth into a modern city and recent political turmoil reflect the economic and social development of Indonesia.
From the fourteenth century Jakarta was a small port of the Hindu Pajajaran Kingdom (thirteenth to sixteenth century), Sunda Kelapa. The Portuguese established themselves in the region to take advantage of the spice trade and were granted the right to build a fort. This port and the Portuguese fortress was captured on 27 June 1527 by the Islamic troops of Prince Fatahillah (Sunan Gunungjati) for the neighbouring Banten sultanate and renamed Jayakarta (Great Victory).
The next century was relatively peaceful as trade with Europeans grew but in 1618, after a skirmish between the British (backed by Jayakartians) and the Dutch Vereenigde Oost-Indishe Compagnie, the town was attacked and destroyed. It was rebuilt as the walled fortress capital of the Dutch East Indies, Batavia.
Dutch colonial rule in Indonesia brought prosperity to Batavia and many Indonesians and Chinese traders flocked to the city. By 1740, when it was evident that the walled city could no longer contain all its inhabitants; the Chinese were evicted. This prompted the massacre of 5,000 Chinese inhabitants by Dutch citizens.
During their colonial reign the Dutch brought non-Javanese slaves from other countries and built a series of canals. Subsequently an extensive system of urban railways was also developed linking Batavia with other cities on Java.
Batavia was the centre of Dutch trading and administrative activities for three centuries until, in March 1942, colonial forces surrendered to the invading Japanese army who reinstated the name of Jakarta in an attempt to win the sympathy of Indonesians. On 17 Aug. 1945, Indonesia’s first president Sukarno proclaimed Indonesia independence. Sukano arrived in the city on 28 Dec. and established his government in the palace of the Dutch governor-general.
In 1966 the city was declared a special metropolitan district with the status of a state or province.
Modern Indonesia is a sprawling metropolis that is no stranger to civil unrest. During the late 90s and into the new century thousands of protesters took to the streets to protest against political corruption. Many died and much property was destroyed in the resulting clashes between the armed forces and protestors. Indonesia’s change of president on 23 July 2001 took place without the expected violence but the city remains volatile.
Jakarta exports rubber and tea and is a centre for railway engineering, tanning and saw-milling. The city’s major manufactures include textiles and soap.
Places of Interest
The National Monument, or Monas as it is popularly called, was erected during the presidency of Sukarno. It represents the people’s determination to achieve freedom and the crowning of their efforts in the Proclamation of Independence in Aug. 1945. The Monas is a 137-m tall marble obelisk, crowned with a flame coated with gold. The monument is open to the public and a lift carries visitors to the top for a commanding view of the city.
Sunda Kelapa, better known as Pasar Ikan (fish market) is located at the mouth of the Ciliwung River. It was formerly the harbour town of Sunda Kelapa where the Portuguese traded with the Hindu Kingdom of Pajajaran in the early sixteenth century.
Kasteel Batavia, the old fort and trading post of the Vereenigde Oost-Indishe Compagnie, can still be seen. Tall masted Bugis schooners from South Sulawesi anchor here.
Completed in 1627, the building that now houses the Jakarta Museum initially served as the Dutch East Indies Company’s Town Hall. The Indonesian hero and renegade prince, Diponegoro, was said to have been imprisoned in its dungeon before his exile to South Sulawesi.
The Jakarta Museum provides a historical background with displays of maps and antiquities including furniture and porcelain used by the Dutch rulers of Batavia.
The Central Museum, established in 1778 by U.M.C. Rademacher and the Batavia Association of Arts and Sciences offers historical, archaeological and ethnographic artefacts and relics.