History of Jakarta

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This article is about the history of Jakarta. For a general timeline of the area, see Timeline of Jakarta. For the specific period when the area was called Batavia, the capital of the Dutch East Indies, see Batavia, Dutch East Indies.
Image of Batavia, capital of the Dutch East Indies in what is now North Jakarta, circa 1780

Jakarta is Indonesia's capital and largest city. Located on an estuary of the Ciliwung River, on the northwestern part of Java, the area has long sustained human settlement. Historical evidence from Jakarta dates back to the 4th century CE, when it was a Hindu settlement and port. The city has been sequentially claimed by the Indianized kingdom of Tarumanegara, the Hindu Kingdom of Sunda, the Muslim Sultanate of Banten, and by Dutch, Japanese and Indonesian administrations.[1] The Dutch East Indies built up the area before it was taken during World War II by the Empire of Japan and finally became independent as part of Indonesia.

Jakarta has been known by several names. It was called Sunda Kelapa during the Kingdom of Sunda period and Jayakarta, Djajakarta or Jacatra during the short period of the Banten Sultanate. Under the Dutch, it was known as Batavia (1619–1949), and was Djakarta (in Dutch) or Jakarta, during the Japanese occupation and the modern period.[2][3]

Old Batavia refers to the original downtown area of Jakarta and some of its historic buildings.

Early kingdoms (4th century AD)[edit]

The coastal area and port of Jakarta in northern West Java has been the location of human settlement since the 4th century BCE Buni culture. The earliest historical record discovered in Jakarta is the Tugu inscription, which was discovered in Tugu sub-district, North Jakarta. It is among the oldest inscriptions in Indonesian history. The area was part of the Indianized kingdom of Tarumanagara.

In AD 397, King Purnawarman established Sunda Pura, located on the northern coast of West Java, as the new capital city for the kingdom.[4] The capital of Tarumanagara kingdom was most probably located somewhere between Tugu sub-district North Jakarta and Bekasi Regency West Java. Purnawarman left seven memorial stones across the area, including the present-day Banten and West Java provinces, consisting of inscriptions bearing his name.[5]

Kingdom of Sunda (669–1527)[edit]

Padrão of Sunda Kalapa (1522), a stone pillar sealing the Sunda–Portuguese treaty, Indonesian National Museum, Jakarta.

After the power of Tarumanagara declined, its territories became part of the Kingdom of Sunda. According to the Chinese source, Chu-fan-chi, written by Chou Ju-kua in the early 13th Century, the Sumatra-based kingdom of Srivijaya ruled Sumatra, the Malay peninsula, and western Java (known as Sunda). The port of Sunda was described as strategic and thriving, with pepper from Sunda renowned for its supreme quality. The people of the area worked in agriculture and their houses were built on wooden piles.[6]

One of the ports at the mouth of a river was renamed Sunda Kelapa or Kalapa (Coconut of Sunda), as written in Hindu Bujangga Manik, manuscripts from a monk's lontar and one of the precious remnants of Old Sundanese literature.[7] The port served Pakuan Pajajaran (present day Bogor), the capital of the Sunda Kingdom. By the fourteenth century, Sunda Kelapa became a major trading port for the kingdom.

Accounts of 16th century European explorers make mention of a city called Kalapa, which apparently served as the primary port of a Hindu kingdom of Sunda.[1][dead link] In 1522, the Portuguese secured Luso Sundanese padrão, a political and economic agreement with the Sunda Kingdom, the authority of the port. In exchange for military assistance against the threat of the rising Islamic Javan Sultanate of Demak, Prabu Surawisesa, king of Sunda at that time, granted them free access to the pepper trade. Portuguese who were in the service of the sovereign made their homes in Sunda Kelapa.

Banten Sultanate (1527–1619)[edit]

Jayakarta in 1605 prior the establishment of Batavia.

To prevent Portuguese gaining a foothold on Java, Fatahillah, on behalf of the Demak attacked the Portuguese in Sunda Kelapa in 1527 and succeeded in conquering the harbour on June 22, after which Sunda Kelapa was renamed Jayakarta.[1][dead link][8][not in citation given] Later, the port became a part of the Banten Sultanate, located west from Jayakarta.[citation needed]

By the late 16th century, Jayakarta was under the rule of the Sultanate of Banten. Prince Jayawikarta, a follower of the Sultan of Banten, established a settlement on the west banks of the Ciliwung River, erecting a military post to control the port at the mouth of the river.[9][not in citation given]

In 1595, merchants from Amsterdam embarked upon an expedition to the East Indies archipelago. Under the command of Cornelis de Houtman, the expedition arrived in Bantam and Jayakarta in 1596 with the intention of trading spices, similar to the intentions of the Portuguese.[9][better reference needed][not in citation given]

Over the next 25 years there was contention between the Dutch and British on the one hand, and between the Sultanate of Banten and Prince Jayawikarta on the other. This was ultimately resolved in 1619, when the Dutch established a closer relationship with Banten and militarily intervened at Jayakarta, where they assumed control of the port after destroying the existing city.[10] The new city built on the site was officially named as Batavia on January 18, 1621,[10] from which the Dutch East Indies eventually ruled the entire region.[9][not in citation given]

Dutch East India Company (17th – 18th century)[edit]

A map of Batavia with images showing stages in the transformation of the city up to 1667

Batavia was named after the Germanic tribe of the Batavi, as at the time of it was believed that the tribe's members were the ancestors of the Dutch people. Jayakarta was then called "Batavia" for more than 300 years.[9][not in citation given]

Coat of arms of Batavia

On August 27, 1628, Sultan Agung, king of the Mataram Sultanate (1613–1645), launched his first offensive on Batavia. He suffered heavy losses, retreated, and launched a second offensive in 1629. The Dutch fleet destroyed both his supplies and ships, located in the harbors of Cirebon and Tegal. Mataram troops, starving and decimated by illness, retreated again. Later, Sultan Agung pursued his conquering ambitions in an eastward direction and attacked Blitar, Panarukan and the Blambangan principality in Eastern Java, a vassal of the Balinese kingdom of Gelgel.[citation needed]

Following the siege, it was decided that Batavia would need a stronger defense system. Based on the military defensive engineering ideas by Simon Stevin, a Flemish mathematician and military engineer, governor-general Jacques Specx designed a moat and city wall that surrounded the city; extensions of the city walls appeared to the west of Batavia and the city became completely enclosed. The city section within the defense lines was structured according to a grid layout, criss-crossed with canals that straightened the flow of the Ciliwung river.[citation needed]

In 1656, due to a conflict with Banten, the Javanese were not allowed to reside within the city walls and consequently settled outside Batavia. Only the Chinese people and the Mardijkers were allowed to settle within the walled city of Batavia. In 1659, a temporary peace with Banten enabled the city to grow and, during this period, more bamboo shacks appeared in Batavia. From 1667, bamboo houses, as well as the keeping of livestock, were banned within the city. Meanwhile, the city progressively became an attraction for many people and suburbs began to develop outside the city walls.[citation needed]

The area outside the walls was considered unsafe for the non-native inhabitants of Batavia. The marsh area around Batavia could only be fully cultivated when a new peace treaty was signed with Banten in 1684 and country houses were subsequently established outside the city walls. The Chinese people began with the cultivation of sugarcane and tuak, with coffee a later addition.

The large-scale cultivation caused destruction to the environment, in addition to coastal erosion in the northern area of Batavia. Maintenance of the canal was extensive due to frequent closures and the continuous dredging that was required. In the 18th century, Batavia became increasingly affected by malaria epidemics, as the marsh areas were breeding grounds for mosquitos. The disease killed many Europeans, resulting in Batavia receiving the nickname, "Het kerkhof der Europeanen" ("the cemetery of the Europeans").[11] Wealthier European settlers, who could afford relocation, moved to southern areas of higher elevation. Eventually, the old city was dismantled in 1810.[citation needed]

Batavia was founded as a trade and administrative center of the Dutch East India Company; it was never intended to be a settlement for the Dutch people. Coen founded Batavia as a trading company, whereby a city's inhabitants would take care of the production and supply of food. As a result, there was no migration of Dutch families and, instead, a mixed society was formed. As the VOC preferred to maintain complete control over its business, a large number of slaves was employed. Batavia became an unattractive location for people who wanted to establish their own businesses.[citation needed]

Within Batavia's walls, the wealthy Dutch built tall houses and canals.

Modern colonialism (19th century – 1942)[edit]

Batavia in 1840, showing the growth of the city to the south of the old Batavia.

After the VOC was formally liquidated in 1800, the Batavian Republic expanded all of the VOC's territorial claims into a fully-fledged colony named the Dutch East Indies. From the company's regional headquarters, Batavia evolved into the capital of the colony. During this era of concurrent urbanisation and industrialisation, Batavia was involved in the inceptive stage of most of the colony's modernising developments.

In 1808, Daendels decided to quit the by-then dilapidated and unhealthy Old Town—a new town center was subsequently built further to the south, near the estate of Weltevreden. Batavia thereby became a city with two centers: Kota as the hub of business, where the offices and warehouses of shipping and trading companies were located; while Weltevreden became the new home for the government, military, and shops. These two centers were connected by the Molenvliet Canal and a road (now Gajah Mada Road) that ran alongside the waterway.[12] This period in the 19th century consisted of numerous technological advancements and city beautification initiatives in Batavia, earning Batavia the nickname, "De Koningin van het Oosten", or "Queen of the East".

The city began to move further south, as epidemics in 1835 and 1870[clarification needed] encouraged more people to move far south of the port.

Map of Batavia in 1897

The abolition of the Cultuurstelsel in 1870 led to the rapid development of private enterprise in the Dutch Indies.[who?][clarification needed] Numerous trading companies and financial institutions established themselves in Java, with most settling in Batavia. Jakarta Old Town's deteriorating structures were replaced with offices, typically along the Kali Besar. These private companies owned or managed plantations, oil fields, or mines.

Japanese occupation[edit]

Sketch of the Japanese entry into Batavia

On March 5, 1942, Batavia fell to the Japanese. The Dutch formally surrendered to the Japanese occupation forces on March 9, 1942, and rule of the colony was transferred to Japan. The city was renamed Jakarta (officially Jakarta Tokubetsu Shi, Special Municipality of Jakarta, in accordance with the special status that was assigned to the city). The economic situation and the physical condition of Indonesian cities deteriorated during the occupation. Many buildings were vandalized, as metal was needed for the war, and many iron statues from the Dutch colonial period were taken away by the Japanese troops.[citation needed]

To strengthen its position in Indonesia, the Japanese government issued Act No. 42 1942 as part of the "Restoration of the Regional Administration System". This act divided Java into several Syuu ("Resident Administration" or Karesidenan) that were each led by a Bupati (Regent). Each Syuu was divided into several Shi ("Municipality" or Stad Gemeente) that were led by Wedanas ("District Heads"). Below a Wedana was a Wedana Assistant ("Sub-district Head"), who, in turn, oversaw a Lurah ("Village Unit Head"), who, in turn, was responsible over a Kepala Kampung ("Kampung Chief").

A Schichoo ("Mayor") was superior to all of these officials, following the law created by the Guisenken ("Head of the Japanese Imperial Administration"). The effect of this system was a "one-man rule" structure with no councils or representative bodies. The first schichoo of Jakarta was Tsukamoto and the last was Hasegawa.[13]

In 1943, the Japanese Imperial administration slightly revised the administration of Jakarta by adding a special counseling body. This agency was composed of twelve local Javanese leaders who were regarded as loyal to the Japanese; among them were Suwiryo and Dahlan Abdullah.[13]

National revolution era[edit]

The first ceremony of raising the flag of Indonesia in Jakarta

After the collapse of Japan in 1945, the area went through a period of transition and upheaval during the Indonesian national struggle for independence. During the Japanese occupation and from the perspective of the Indonesian nationalists who declared independence on August 17, 1945, the city was renamed Jakarta.[14] After the war, the Dutch name Batavia was internationally recognized until full Indonesian independence was achieved on December 27, 1949 and Jakarta was officially proclaimed the national capital of Indonesia.[14]

Following the surrender of the Japanese, Indonesia declared its independence on August 17, 1945. The proclamation was enacted at Jalan Pegangsaan Timur No. 56 (now Jalan Proklamasi), Jakarta, with Suwiryo acting as the committee chairman. Suwiryo was recognized as the first mayor of Jakarta Tokubetsu Shi. The position was soon altered to Pemerintah Nasional Kota Jakarta ("Jakarta City National Administration").

On September 29, 1945, Anglo-Dutch troops arrived in Jakarta to disarm and repatriate the Japanese garrison. They also planned on reasserting control over the colony.[15] On November 21, 1945, Suwiryo and his assistants were arrested by members of the Netherlands Indies Civil Administration.[13]

During the Indonesian National Revolution, Indonesian Republicans withdrew from Ally-occupied Jakarta and established the capital in Yogyakarta. Urban development continued to stagnate while the Dutch tried to re-establish themselves.

In 1947, the Dutch succeeded in implementing a set of planning regulations for urban development—the SSO/SVV (Stadsvormings-ordonantie/Stadsvormings-verordening)—that had been devised prior to the war. On December 27, 1949, the Dutch recognized Indonesia as an independent country and sovereign federal state under the name of "Republic of the United States of Indonesia". At this time, the Jakarta City Administration was led by Mayor Sastro Mulyono.


Monas, or the national monument, symbolizing the fight for Indonesian independence.

In 1949, construction began according to the Kebayoran Baru urban plan designed by Moh. Soesilo. It was completed in 1955. Kebayoran Baru is considered the first urban planning design that was created by an Indonesian.[citation needed]

In 1950, the Dutch left and their residences and properties were taken over by the Indonesian government in 1957. Once independence was secured, Jakarta was once again made the national capital.[16]

In the mid-1950s, driven by a sense of corruption and disproportionate government expenditure in Jakarta, there were proposals to relocate the capital. Those in support included Takdir Alisjahbana, who was unflattering in his depiction of the city. However, by 1957, these proposals were abandoned. Instead, the city's boundaries were expanded, and it became the Daerah Khusus Ibukota (DKI, Special Capital Territory), one of the provinces of Indonesia.[17]:201

The departure of the Dutch caused a massive migration of the rural population into Jakarta, in response to a perception that the city was the place for economic opportunities. The kampung areas in Jakarta swelled as a result.

Indonesia's founding president, Sukarno, envisaged Jakarta as a great international city and instigated large government-funded projects that were undertaken with openly nationalistic architecture—a newly independent nation's pride was on international display.[18] To promote nationalist pride among Indonesian people, Sukarno infused his modernist ideas into the urban planning initiatives that he approved for the capital city.

Some of the notable monumental projects of Sukarno are: the clover-leaf highway, a broad by-pass in Jakarta (Jalan Jenderal Sudirman); four high-rise hotels, including the Hotel Indonesia; a new parliament building; a stadium; the largest mosque in Southeast Asia; and numerous monuments and memorials, including The National Monument.


Since 1970, the national development policy has been focused primarily on economic growth and achievement. This situation encouraged the emergence of a large number of private housing projects, but government housing schemes have also been implemented to cope with the growth of urban populations. During this period, kampung improvement programs have been reintroduced to improve conditions in existing areas. The Kampung Improvement Programme of Jakarta, enacted by Ali Sadikin, the governor of Jakarta (1966–1977), was a success; the program won the Aga Khan Award for architecture in 1980. Sadikin was also responsible for rehabilitating public services, banning rickshaws, and clearing out "slum dwellers" and "street peddlers".[16] Despite the perceived success of this policy, it was discontinued for its over-emphasis upon the improvement of only physical infrastructure.[19]


During the 1980s, smaller land sites were acquired for high-rise projects, while larger parcels of land were subdivided for low-key projects, such as the building of new shophouses. This period also saw the removal of kampongs from the inner-city areas and the destruction of many historical buildings.[19] One infamous case was the demolition of the Society of Harmonie and the subsequent construction of a parking lot.

The period between the late-1980s and the mid-1990s saw a massive increase in foreign investment as Jakarta became the focus of a real estate boom. The investment of overseas capital into joint-venture property and construction projects with local developers brought many foreign architects into Indonesia. However, unlike the Dutch architects of the 1930s, many of these expatriate architects were unfamiliar with the tropics, while their local partners had received similarly Modernist architectural training. As a result, downtown areas in Jakarta gradually resembled those of the large Western cities; and often at a high environmental cost: high-rise buildings consume huge amounts of energy in terms of air-conditioning and other services.[19]

The economic boom period of Jakarta ended abruptly in the 1997 Asian financial crisis and many projects were left abandoned. The city became a center of violence, protest, and political maneuvering, as long-time president, Suharto, began to lose his grip on power. Tensions reached a peak in May 1998, when four students were shot dead at Trisakti University by security forces; four days of riots ensued, resulting in damage to, or destruction of, an estimated 6,000 buildings, and the loss of 1,200 lives. The Chinese of the Glodok district were severely affected during the riot period and accounts of rape and murder later emerged.[16] In the following years, including several terms of ineffective Presidents, Jakarta was a center of popular protest and national political instability, including a number of Jemaah Islamiyah-connected bombings.

Since the turn of the century, the people of Jakarta have witnessed a period of political stability and prosperity, along with another construction boom.

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "History of Jakarta". Jakarta.go.id. 8 March 2011. Archived from the original on June 8, 2014. Retrieved 17 June 2014. 
  2. ^ See also Perfected Spelling System as well as Wikipedia:WikiProject Indonesia/Naming conventions
  3. ^ Lesson: Old Indonesian Spellings. StudyIndonesian. Retrieved on 2013-07-16.
  4. ^ Sundakala: cuplikan sejarah Sunda berdasarkan naskah-naskah "Panitia Wangsakerta" Cirebon. Yayasan Pustaka Jaya, Jakarta. 2005. 
  5. ^ The Sunda Kingdom of West Java From Tarumanagara to Pakuan Pajajaran with the Royal Center of Bogor. Yayasan Cipta Loka Caraka. 2007. 
  6. ^ Dr. R. Soekmono (1988) [1973]. Pengantar Sejarah Kebudayaan Indonesia 2, 2nd ed. (5th reprint ed.). Yogyakarta: Penerbit Kanisius. p. 60. 
  7. ^ Bujangga Manik Manuscript which is now located at the Bodleian Library of Oxford University in England, and travel records by Prince Bujangga Manik.(Three Old Sundanese Poems. KITLV Press. 2007. )
  8. ^ "History of Jakarta". BeritaJakarta. 
  9. ^ a b c d "History of Jakarta". BeritaJakarta.com. The Jakarta City Administration. 2002. Retrieved August 16, 2011. 
  10. ^ a b "Batavia". De VOCsite (in Dutch). de VOCsite. 2002–2012. Retrieved 27 November 2012. 
  11. ^ van Emden,, F. J. G.; W. S. B. Klooster (1964). Willem Brandt, ed. Kleurig memoriaal van de Hollanders op Oud-Java. A. J. G. Strengholt. p. 146. 
  12. ^ Gunawan Tjahjono, ed. (1998). Architecture. Indonesian Heritage 6. Singapore: Archipelago Press. p. 109. ISBN 981-3018-30-5. 
  13. ^ a b c Jakarta Dalam Angka – Jakarta in Figures – 2008. Jakarta: BPS – Statistics DKI Jakarta Provincial Office. 2008. pp. xlvii–xlix. ISSN 0215-2150. 
  14. ^ a b Waworoentoe 2013.
  15. ^ Jessup, John E. (1989). A Chronology of Conflict and Resolution, 1945-1985. New York: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-24308-5. 
  16. ^ a b c Vaisutis, Justine; Martinkus, John; Batchelor, Dr. Trish (2007). Indonesia. Lonely Planet. p. 101. ISBN 9781741798456. Retrieved December 11, 2014. 
  17. ^ Cribb R, Kahin A. Historical Dictionary of Indonesia. The Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2nd edition ISBN 9780810849358
  18. ^ Schoppert, Peter et al. (1997). Java Style, p. _.
  19. ^ a b c Gunawan Tjahjono, ed. (1998). Architecture. Indonesian Heritage 6. Singapore: Archipelago Press. p. 131. ISBN 981-3018-30-5. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Blusse, Leonard. An Insane Administration and Insanitary Town: The Dutch East India Company and Batavia (1619–1799) (Springer Netherlands, 1985).
  • Ricklefs, Merle Calvin (1993), A History of Modern Indonesia Since c.1300, Stanford: Stanford University Press, ISBN 0-8047-2194-7 .
  • Schoppert, Peter; Damais, Soedarmadji & Sosrowardoyo, Tara (1998), Java Style, Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing, ISBN 962-593-232-1 .
  • Witton, Patrick (2003), Indonesia, Melbourne: Lonely Planet, ISBN 1-74059-154-2 .

External links[edit]