Names of Indonesia
Indonesia is the common and official name to refer the Republic of Indonesia or Indonesian archipelago; however, other names, such as Nusantara and East Indies are also known. Some of these names are considered obsolete and confined to certain periods of history, while some might be more geographically specific or general.
On identifying geographical names of their lands, the Indonesian natives seldom transcend their traditional boundaries, which is relatively small confined in their tribal environs. There are around 300 distinct native ethnic groups in Indonesia, and 742 different languages and dialects, which add to the complexity and nonconformity on the naming of the region. The concept of identifying the whole archipelagic region that today forms Indonesia with a single name was unknown then. Geographical names usually applied to individual islands, such as Java, one of the earliest identified islands in the Indonesian archipelago. It was foreign traders and explorers from India, China, Middle East, and Europe who finally chose the names of this region.
The island of Java was the earliest island within Indonesia to be identified by the geographers of the outside world. "Yavadvipa" is mentioned in India's earliest epic, the Ramayana dating to approximately 5th–4th century BC. It was mentioned that Sugriva, the chief of Rama's army dispatched his men to Yawadvipa, the island of Java, in search of Sita.
Suvarnadvipa, "Golden Island", may have been used as a vague general designation of an extensive region in Southeast Asia, but over time, different parts of that area came to be designated by the additional epithets of island, peninsula or city. In contrast the ancient name for the Indian subcontinent is Jambudvipa. In ancient Indonesia, the name Suvarnadvipa is used to designate Sumatra island; as counterpart of neighbouring Javadvipa or Bhumijava (Java island). Both Java and Sumatra are the principal islands in Indonesian history.
The great island of Iabadiu or Jabadiu was mentioned in Ptolemy's Geographia composed around 150 CE in the Roman Empire. Iabadiu is said to mean "barley island", to be rich in gold, and have a silver town called Argyra at the west end. The name indicated Java, and seems to be derived from the Hindu name Java-dvipa (Yawadvipa). Despite the name's indicating Java, many suggest that it refers to Sumatra instead.
Eighth-century Arabs geographers identified the whole Maritime Southeast Asian region as "Jawi" (Arabic:جاوي). The word "Jawi" (جاوي) is an adjective for the Arabic noun Jawah (جاوة). Both terms may originate from an Indian source, the term "Javadvipa", the ancient name for Java. "Jawah" and "Jawi" may have been used by the Arabs as catch-all terms referring to the entire Maritime Southeast Asia and its peoples. Today, the term Jawi is also used to describe Jawi alphabet, the Arabic script that has been used and modified to write in Southeast Asian languages, especially Malay language. In native Javanese language, the term also means Java (geographically: tanah Jawi ꦠꦤꦃꦗꦮꦶ, or ethnically: tiyang Jawi ꦠꦶꦪꦁꦗꦮꦶ).
Nanyang (南洋) (literally meaning "Southern Ocean"), is a Chinese term denoting the greater Maritime Southeast Asia region not only Indonesia, but also including Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Brunei, but usually excluding other mainland Southeast Asian nations, especially the other nations on the Indochinese peninsula. It came into common usage in self-reference to the large ethnic Chinese migrant population in Southeast Asia. Nanyang is contrasted with Dongyang (Eastern Ocean), which refers to Japan.
The term "the Indies" derived from the Indus River flowing through modern-day Pakistan, India and western Tibet. It was applied by the ancient Greeks to most of the regions of Asia to the east of Persia. This usage dates at least from the time of Herodotus, in the 5th century BC (see Names of India). The term "Indies" was first used by European geographers to identify the geographic region of the Indian Subcontinent, and the islands beyond.
After the discovery of America, the term was modified to include "east", to distinguish the area from the area associated with Columbus' discoveries, called the West Indies. During the age of exploration in the 16th century, "East Indies" became a term used by Europeans to identify what is now known as Indian subcontinent or South Asia, Southeastern Asia, and the islands of Oceania and Maritime Southeast Asia. During that era, the East Indies portion now called "Indonesia" fell under Dutch colonial control and therefore was referred to as Dutch East Indies.
Insulindia or Insulinde, is an archaic geographical term for Maritime Southeast Asia, encompassing the entire area situated between Australasia and Indochina. More common in Portuguese and Spanish, it is a combined word (portmanteau) from insula ("island") and india (India).
Indonesia derives from the Latin and Greek Indus (Ἰνδός), and the Greek nésos (νῆσος), meaning "island". The name dates to the 18th century, far predating the formation of independent Indonesia. In 1850, George Windsor Earl, an English ethnologist, proposed the terms Indunesians — and, his preference, Malayunesians — for the inhabitants of the "Indian Archipelago or Malayan Archipelago". In the same publication, a student of Earl's, James Richardson Logan, used Indonesia as a synonym for Indian Archipelago. However, Dutch academics writing in East Indies publications were reluctant to use Indonesia. Instead, they used the terms Malay Archipelago (Maleische Archipel); the Netherlands East Indies (Nederlandsch Oost Indië), popularly Indië; the East (de Oost); and Insulinde.
After 1900, the name Indonesia became more common in academic circles outside the Netherlands, and Indonesian nationalist groups adopted it for political expression. Adolf Bastian, of the University of Berlin, popularised the name through his book Indonesien oder die Inseln des Malayischen Archipels, 1884–1894. The first Indonesian scholar to use the name was Suwardi Suryaningrat (Ki Hajar Dewantara), when he established a press bureau in the Netherlands, Indonesisch Pers-bureau, in 1913. Although the name was originally meant for scientific purposes, on 28 October 1928, the name "Indonesia" gained more political significance when the native pro-independence nationalist youth in Dutch East Indies declared the Youth Pledge; acknowledge Indonesia as one motherland, one nation, and uphold Indonesian as the language of unity.
Nusantara is an Indonesian word for the Indonesian archipelago. It originated from Old Javanese and literally means "archipelago". The name derived from the Old Javanese words of sanskrit origin nusa ("island") and antara ("in between") or antero ("the whole of" or "the collection of"); the combined word therefore connotes "collection of islands" or "archipelago".
The word Nusantara was taken from an oath by Gajah Mada in 1336, as written on an old Javanese manuscript Pararaton and Negarakertagama. Gajah Mada was a powerful military leader and prime minister of the Majapahit Empire who was credited with bringing the empire to its peak of glory. Gajah Mada delivered an oath called Sumpah Palapa, in which he vowed not to eat any food containing spices until he had conquered all of Nusantara under Majapahit.
In 1920, Ernest Francois Eugene Douwes Dekker (1879–1950), proposed "Nusantara" as a new name for this country instead of "Indonesia". He argued that the name was more indigenously developed, which did not contain any words etymologically inherited from the name Indies, Indus or India. This is the first instance of the term Nusantara appearing after it had been written in Pararaton manuscript.
The definition of Nusantara introduced by Douwes Dekker is different from its 14th century definition. During the Majapahit era, Nusantara was described as vassal areas to be conquered, the overseas possessions of Majapahit, in contrast with Negara Agung or the core of Majapahit. However, Douwes Dekker did not want this aggressive connotation, so he defined Nusantara as all the Indonesian regions from Sabang as far as Merauke. Although Douwes Dekker's proposal did not succeed, and the name "Indonesia" remained in use for the nation's name, the name "Nusantara" has been widely used in literature, printed and broadcast news materials and popular publications, thus it has become the synonym for Indonesia.
Poetic literature names
Some literature works and poems describe Indonesia in eloquent poetic names, such as Zamrud Khatulistiwa ("Emerald of the Equator"), which refers to Indonesian green and lush tropical rainforest as the emeralds, as well as the geographic position of Indonesia, along the equator. It was coined by Multatuli (a pen name used by Eduard Douwes Dekker, Ernest Douwes Dekker's granduncle), a 19th-century Dutch writer, who described Dutch East Indies as "'t prachtig ryk van Insulinde dat zich daar slingert om den evenaar, als een gordel van smaragd" ("the beautiful empire of Insulinde that girdles the equator like a belt of emerald").
Other epithets such as Bumi Pertiwi ("Land of Pertiwi or Mother Earth"), refer to Indonesia through its national personification, Ibu Pertiwi, and Tanah Air (Indonesian lit: "soil and water"), an Indonesian word for "homeland".
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