The History of Java Island dates back 35,000 years. On the banks of the Bengawan Solo River, near the town of Trinul, were unearthed part of the skeletal remains of Java Man, scientifically known as Pithecanthropus Erectus (upright ape-man). Wajak Man, who was discovered on the south coast of Java near Blitar. is the earliest known example of homo sapiens. the human race.
The First Mataram kingdom, which followed Hinduism and Buddhism, existed from 712AD to 935AD near Yogyakarta. Borobudur, which is the largest Buddhist monument in the southern hemisphere, dates from around 810 AD.
The Second Mataram Kingdom was a Muslim kingdom that started at the north coast town of Demak. It slowly spread south and became established in the area around Yogyakarta and Surakarta. Mataram reached its peak under King Amangkurat II from 1613 to 1646. The Kingdom of Mataram ended in 1755 when Central Java was divided between the Sultanate of Surakarta under Pakubuwana I, and Yogyakarta under Mangkubumi I ( later the Hamengkubuwono lineage).
On the road between Jogja and Solo, at Prambanan. stands a Shivaite Hindu mausoleum, once consisting of over 150 shrines arranged around 8 major temples. Prambanan is still put to good use, being the venue for the Ramayana dance-drama staged by the Kraton Hadiningrat Surakarta dance company each year during the August-September dry season at the time of the full-moon. Other Hindu temples from the same period are scattered across the Dieng Plateau.
The Majapahit Empire, which rose in 1293, was probably the greatest Javanese empire, covering most of the present-day Indonesia, and as far as parts of the south-east Asian mainland. It was based near the present cities of Malang and Surabaya. The legacy of this Hindu Kingdom are the numerous monuments that surround the highland town of Malang in East Java.
During this period the Moslem-inspired trading ports on the north coast of Java had been growing in strength and were reducing Majapahit’s influence. Around 1430 AD, when defeat at the hands of an army from Demak was imminent, the Majapahit royal family and entourage en mass fled to Bali. This point marked the Islamisation of the Javanese kingdoms and the rise of the Second Mataram Empire.
In Bali, the ex-Majapahit rulers set up court at Gelgel near Klungkung, and was unified under King Batu Renggong. It is for this reason that the Klungkung royal family is considered to be the highest in Bali. All other royal families, such as Ubud and Denpasar are related, being established when members of the court moved away. However, there was continual conflict between the various fiefdoms until the 19th Century.
DUTCH INFLUENCE ON JAVA
The Dutch East India Company (V.O.C.) first established itself in Batavia (Sunda Kelapa) and Banten in West Java in the early 17th Century. One of the early Sunda Kelapa forts still stands in today’s Jakarta, through the river has been extended far out into the bay. During the 17th Century there was strong competition between the Dutch, English and Portuguese for control of the spice trade.
At the same time the Dutch had been busy setting up other forts and spice plantations on other Indonesian islands. The Moslem Mataram had tried unsuccessfully to repel the Dutch. They later learnt to work together to their mutual benefit. The Banten Sultanate controlled the pepper trade for around 100 years, until the Dutch in Batavia became stronger and blockaded Banten, convincing the Chinese traders to move to Batavia. Other trading ports on the northern coast of Java, such as Demak, Gresik and Jepara suffered the same fate.
As the Dutch became more entrenched in Java, and their share of the Asia trade declined, they became more involved in local politics and received more money from taxing the locals than taxing inter-island trade. By the end of the 18th Century the Dutch controlled over half of Java, and the Dutch government had taken over from the bankrupt Dutch East India Company. The Dutch began working with the local Regents, and increasingly supervised the cultivation of produce for export, especially coffee and sugar. However, the larger the area planted to these plantation crops meant less land for rice, so the well-being of the villagers declined.
In the 19th Century Java was no longer the centre of trading empire but a colonial empire under the Dutch crown. The Regents became salaried officials, thus reducing their power, wealth and prestige. In 1830, after the successful completion of the Java War, Governor van Bosch introduced the Cultivation System, involving compulsory plantings of designated export crops on a peasant’s land, instead of collecting land tax. Initially one-fifth and later up to one-half of a farmers land was taken, often displacing food crops with indigo, coffee and sugar. In the 1840’s severe famine hit Java, while all the profits supported the Netherlands home economy.
Bali was relatively free of the Dutch until after the Java War. By the middle of the 19th Century the Dutch had established themselves at Buleleng (Singajaja) and started to use local conflicts as a reason to interfere in Balinese affairs. The massacre of the royal courts of Denpasar and Klungkung occurred in 1906 and 1908 respectively. In Denpassar, on the open field opposite the museum, the king and his court chose certain death to surrender in what is known as ‘Puputan’. Armed with only their sacred kris dagger the warriors lined up in front of the Dutch cannons.
THE MODERN ERA – JAVA AFTER 1900
The Ethical Policy was introduced at the turn of the century to improve the welfare of the Indonesians while at the same time providing a market for Dutch consumer products. Dutch domination finally came to an end with the Japanese invasion in 1942. Before the Japanese surrender in 1945, Indonesian nationalists led by Sukarno announced Indonesia’s Independence. The Dutch tried unsuccessfully to return after WWII, and their assets were nationalised in 1957. After a parliamentary period under Sukarno, tension between the army and the communists reached a climax in 1965 with the Gestapu incident and the resultant massacres. Suharto took the reins of government and remained in control until 1998. His administration followed a policy based on a mixture of capitalism, state enterprise and social welfare.
After 1998 was the Reformation Period – Reformasi.
Democracy, a free press, free and fair elections are all parts of the new Indonesia
Geography of Bali and Java
Bali and Java are two of the longest settled islands in Indonesia and lie on the southern side of the island chain facing Australia. The Australian cities of Perth and Darwin are closer to Bali than they are to Sydney or Melbourne.
The Indonesian archipelago straddles the Equator between the Indian Ocean to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east. It lies between 6°N and 11°S of the equator. Bali and Java are around 5* South. Indonesia’s neighbours are The Philippines to the north, Malaysia and Singapore to the west, Papua New Guinea to the east, and Australia to the south.
The national language of Indonesia, “Bahasa Indonesia”, is based on the form of Malay used as a lingua franca or trade language for hundreds of years. In its simplified form, it was spoken by traders between The Philippines and Persia. Bahasa Indonesia became a formal language in 1928 at a conference in Medan, Sumatra.
This website contains a self-learn conversational course in Bahasa Indonesia suitable for travelers and expats.
The rectangular shaped island of Java is approximately 1,000 km long from east to west and 100-200 km wide from north to south. In this limited area live over 120 million people. No matter where you go in Java you will always find someone; walking to a distant garden or gathering grass or firewood.
Bali is even smaller. Diamond shaped, Bali is 120 km from north to south and 180 km from east to west, with over 3 million people, plus tourists and visitors. Both islands have a rugged chain of mountains with active volcanoes running along the east-west axis. These mountains reach heights of up to 3,000 metres above sea level. The southern coasts face the Indian Ocean and have numerous surfing beaches that at times can be extremely dangerous to inexperienced swimmers.
The northern coasts face the Java Sea and are more tranquil. The Lovina stretch of Bali has many quiet sandy beaches, but the north coast of Java is low lying and covered in many places by mangrove swamp.
LAND USE AND INDUSTRY
Indonesians generally work in agriculture, growing rice, corn and vegetables. The main plantation and cash crops are palm oil, rubber. coconuts, tobacco, sugar and spices. The resources sector, particularly oil and gas, had been Indonesia’s main exports until the early 1980’s, but with reserves being used for export and local consumption, Indonesia is now a net importer. Gold, coal and other minerals are major growth areas.
Manufacturing is largely concentrated on Java, especially around Jakarta and Surabaya, but is plagued by inefficiency and high cost inputs and poor infrastructure. Indonesia’s future lies in agriculture and labour intensive industry; the only sectors that can absorb the increases in population and reduce the chronic problem of underemployment.