A mixture of more than seventeen thousand islands, today’s Modern Indonesia incorporates an extensive variety of religious and cultural customs, as well as a rich nation priding itself in its own unique character. Looking at this archipelagic nation these days brings astonishment in knowing that Indonesia history dates back to the first Indonesian archipelago inhabitation of the “Java Man” believed to have existed roughly from five-hundred-thousand to two-million years ago.
For nearly a thousand years, Indonesia history records involvement in maritime trade that resulted to a broad array of ethnic influences both culturally and religiously. One of the first people who were able to trade with the islands were the Chinese, followed by Buddhist and Hindu mercantilist from India who structured two empires called the Majapahit and Srivijaya during the 8th century AD. In the 13th century, these empires were displaced by Islamic influences carried by the Malay and Arab seafarers.
Later in the 16th century of Indonesia history, the Portuguese and the English were the very first Europeans to reach the area; however, in 1595 the trading in the area was taken over by the Dutch East India Company. Beginning 1814 throughout the time of Japanese invasion in World War II, the people of Indonesia and its resources were under the autocratic rule of the Dutch.
The country’s major movement for independence was the Indonesian Nationalist Party or PNI that surfaced in 1920’s leaded by Ahmed Sukarno; however, it was completely concealed by the Dutch and mostly remained underground till Dutch East Indies were overrun by Japanese in World War II. A dummy PNI government was installed by the Japanese for the length of their occupation; in 1945, after their defeat, the PNI affirmed independence.
This independence was immediately confronted by the Dutch who sent out military force to Indonesia and seized Sukarno; however, in 1949 the Dutch were forced to grant the independence of the country because of international pressure. Colonial power exhausted a great deal of Indonesia’s wealth while giving little to the country’s development; the new leaders had an enormous task of development ahead of them, including building unity among the different ethnic tribe inhabitants, thus they chose a national motto “Bhineka Tunggalika” which means “unity in diversity”.
At present, in spite of the various challenges throughout Indonesia history, this national motto has become an inspiration to the mixture of cultures, diverse customs, beliefs, religions, and traditions, making the country move towards an improved tomorrow and a better Indonesia history in the making.