Merdeka Palace

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Merdeka Palace
Merdeka Palace Changing Guard 1.jpg
The front facade of Merdeka Palace
General information
Architectural style Palladio
Location Jalan Medan Merdeka Utara Gambir
Jakarta 10160, Indonesia
Construction started 1873
Client Governor-General of The Dutch East Indies
Design and construction
Architect Drossares

Merdeka Palace (English: or Independence Palace, Indonesian: Istana Merdeka or Istana Gambir, Dutch: Paleis te Koningsplein), is one of the 6 presidential palace compounds of Indonesia. The Merdeka Palace compound includes Istana Negara (Jakarta). It is in Central Jakarta, Indonesia and is used as the official residence of the President of the Republic of Indonesia. The palace is located directly in front of Merdeka Square and The National Monument.

The palace previously served as a residence for the Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies during the colonial era. In 1949, the palace was renamed Merdeka Palace, "merdeka" is an Indonesian word for "freedom" or "independence".

Merdeka Palace compound includes Negara Palace and 3 other structure: Wisma Negara (State Guesthouse), Sekretariat Negara (State Secretariat), and Bina Graha Building. They make up the Presidential Palace compound in an area of 6.8 hectares (17 acres). It is the center of Indonesian executive authority.[1]


Negara Palace[edit]

The history of Merdeka Palace found its root back to the first state palace in Rijswijk (today known as Harmonie). The palace started as a manse of a rich Dutchman J. A. van Braam and was completed in 1804. The palace was purchased by the government of Dutch East Indies to accommodate the administrative need and council meeting in Batavia. While Buitenzorg Palace south of Batavia became the main residence of the Governor-General.

Merdeka Palace[edit]

Littograph of Paleis Koningsplein in the 1880s (now Merdeka Palace)
View of reception room in the palace cir. 1936
Interior of the Palace in 1936

During the mid-19th century, the Rijswijk palace does not suffice the accommodation of its administrative purposes, thus Governor-General Pieter Mijer requested the construction of a new palace in 1869. The request was granted later on March 23 1873 under Governor-General James Loudon's administration. The Neo-Palladian palace was designed by Drossares, and was built by the Department of Public work and Prossacra contractor firm at the cost of 360,000 Franc. The new building was built in southern part of the Rijswijk Palace compound directly facing Koningsplein (now Merdeka Square). The palace was finished in 1879 during Governor-General Johan Wilhelm van Lansberge's administration. The new Governor-General palace at Koningsplein was also known as Istana Gambir (Gambir Palace).[2][3]

Later during the Japanese occupation of Indonesia which lasted from 1942 to 1945, the Rijswijk Palace compound became residence of Saiko Shikikan (army commander) of the Japanese garrison.

The war of Indonesian revolution from 1945–1949 finally ended with Netherlands' recognition of the republic of Indonesia. The Indonesian declaration of independence from the Dutch in 1949 was announced in Gambir Palace. During the ceremony, the Royal Dutch flag was substituted with the Flag of Indonesia. Many spectators were in jubilation when the flag took to the sky, and yelled "Merdeka! (Freedom!)". From that moment, Istana Gambir became known as Istana Merdeka.[3] On December 27, 1949, a day after the ceremony, President Sukarno and his family arrived from Yogyakarta. For the first time, the President of the Republic of Indonesia settled in Merdeka Palace. The first Independence Day annual ceremony was held in the Istana Merdeka in 1950.

Since the Dutch Colonial rule, Japanese Invasion and Indonesian Republic fifteen Governor-Generals, three Japanese commanders, and one Indonesian President have taken residence in the Merdeka Palace.[2][3]

Evolution of the Merdeka Palace[edit]

The building has remain unchanged since the building was finished in 1879.[3] After the Indonesian independence, the Merdeka Palace compound was expanded to include not only Istana Negara (State Palace), but also to construct Wisma Negara, Sekretariat Negara (State Sectreatiat) and Bina Graha. Several colonial buildings and residences were demolished in the Weltevreden area to make way for today's State Palace compound.

A small octagonal Gazebo located in the courtyard of the palace was used as the Sukarno's children private school, the school is also open for palace staff's children. This Gazebo was previously used by Dutch colonial officials as muziek-koepel (Music Gazebo), where music performances are played during formal balls.[4]

Later in 1961 national monument Monas was built in Merdeka square so that the Freedom Palace would have its facade in view of the newly built monument.

When Suharto rose as the president of Indonesia, he had the household function of the palace that previously was used by Sukarno removed. Sukarno's bedroom was converted into Ruang Bendera Pustaka (Regalia Room) and his wife, Fatmawati's room was converted into the President's bed chamber.[2] An old wooden building in the palace complex known as "Sanggar" was demolished to make way for Puri Bhakti Renatama building, and was used as a museum to store valuable artifacts, artwork and gifts from foreign emissary. Later he also build the Bina Graha Building in the palace ground, which he used as his office.[2]

When Megawati took office, she had Puri Bhakti Renatama building converted into the President's office, while its content moved to Bina Graha building. She also re-arranged the furniture and ornaments of the palace back to the way it was under Sukarno. She had the Jepara wood carving furnitures that previously was placed by Suharto removed with the exception of Ruang Jepara (Jepara Room, as a reminder of Suharto's regime) and replaced it with the old colonial refurbishment.[2]

The Merdeka Palace in Present Day[edit]

Aerial View of the Palace compound
Vladimir Putin meet Yudhoyono in Merdeka Palace during Russia stately visit in 2007

The Merdeka Palace serves as an official venue for state events; such as the Independence Day ceremony, welcoming ceremony of honorable guests, cabinet meetings, receiving foreign ambassador, state banquets and reception of Letters of Credence from foreign ambassadors. In addition it also contain private quarter and offices for the head of state.

The administrative role that the palace once occupied has been shifted to the State Palace building and State Secretariat, while the Merdeka Palace remains a symbolic vestige of authority.

The Merdeka Palace has a several rooms such as, First Chamber, Residential Chamber, Guest Room, Banquet Room, Reception Hall, Regalia Room, Office, Bed Chamber, Living Room, and Kitchen.

The palace parts and rooms[edit]

On the front lawn of Merdeka Palace stands a 17 meters tall flagpole and fountain. The annual flag raising ceremony takes place during Indonesian Independence ceremony every August 17. During the Independence ceremony, the verandah at the facade of the palace is often used as ceremonial podium for the President and VIP.[2] The Palace have 5 main room:

  • Ruang Kredensial (credential room) is the mainhall of the palace and is where most of stately and diplomatic activities are conducted, such as receiving state guests and ambassador. The credential room is decorated with furniture that dates back to the colonial days, as well as prestigious paintings and ceramic works.[3]
  • Ruang Jepara (Jepara room) was a former study room of Sukarno, and named after Jepara, a town in Central Java. It was named after the town for its wood carving furnitures and ornaments that came from Jepara.[2]
  • Ruang Raden Saleh (Raden Saleh room) is located in front of Ruang Jepara. The room was previously used as the first lady's office and living room. When Megawati came into office she had the room used to store 5 painting of famous Indonesian painter Raden Saleh.[2]
  • Ruang Resepsi (reception hall) is the largest room of the palace. It is usually used for state banquets, state gala dinners, national meetings, and cultural performances. In this room there are two masterpiece paintings of Basuki Abdullah. On the eastern wall hangs "Pergiwa Pergiwati" a painting theme from Mahabharata, and on the west wall hangs the Javanese "Jaka Tarub" painting.[2]

After Sukarno, the following presidents no longer use the palace as the presidential residence, although it is still the official presidential residence. The palace's offices are still in use by the current Indonesian president. During the Suharto administration, Suharto preferred to reside in his own house at Jalan Cendana, Menteng, while the palace and Bina Graha only served as his office. The palace once again became the official presidential residence during the Abdurrahman Wahid and Megawati administrations. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono sometimes resides in Merdeka Palace, however just like Suharto, he often prefers to reside in his own house, at Puri Cikeas, Cibubur, south of Jakarta.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mengenal Kecantikan Dua Istana Kepresidenan,
  3. ^ a b c d e "Merdeka, Istana". Jakarta. Archived from the original on January 13, 2010. 
  4. ^ Yuk, Main ke Istana Presiden!, 30 August 2012,
  5. ^ Anugrah, Meutia Febrina (April 19, 2014). "Zaman Soeharto, Istana Negara Jarang Digunakan". Retrieved March 7, 2015. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 6°10′12.60″S 106°49′26.75″E / 6.1701667°S 106.8240972°E / -6.1701667; 106.8240972