History of Sumatra

                                                                           History of Sumatra in short terms

(ENG) Bron: Indephedia / WikipediaAn old name for Sumatra was "Swarna Dwipa" (Sanskrit for "Island of Gold"), probably due to the very early export of gold from the mines of the Sumatran highlands.

Sumatra was known by the ancient Greeks as Taprobana. The name Taprobana Insula was used by Klaudios Ptolemaios, a Greek geographer from the second century AD. Exactly in the year 165 when he described the region of Southeast Asia in his geographic hyphegesis. Taprobana is also nicknamed Chryse Nesos, which also means "Golden Island".

Due to its location on the Indian-Chinese trade routes, various trading cities arose, especially on the east coast. This also brought influences from Indian religions to Sumatra. The most famous example is Srivijaya, a Buddhist monarchy with today's Palembang as its center. Through trade and conquest, this kingdom dominated the region in the 7th-9th century and promoted the spread of Malay culture in Sumatra, the Malay Peninsula and West Borneo (Kalimantan). However, the kingdom's influence did not extend much further than the coastal areas.

The influence of the Srivijaya kingdom waned in the 11th century. The island was repeatedly invaded from Java by Javanese kingdoms: first Singasari and later Majapahit. Islam also emerged during this period, which was spread through contacts with Arab and Indian traders.

In the late 13th century, the ruler of the Samudra kingdom (now Aceh, the northern province of Sumatra, in the Indonesian spelling "Aceh") converted to Islam. The name "Samudra" was pronounced by Ibn Battuta as "Sumatra", hence the name of the island. Samudra was succeeded by the powerful Aceh Sultanate. With the arrival of the Dutch, the many Sumatran principalities were gradually brought under Dutch rule. Aceh was the main obstacle, given the long and expensive Aceh war (1870-1905). At the beginning of the twentieth century Aceh was subject to Dutch rule. Military campaigns were carried out until 1914 and after that it remained unrest in Aceh.

In 1945/1949 Sumatra became part of the Republic of Indonesia. However, Aceh's nationalists did not recognize Djakarta's sovereignty. The fuse went down when President Sukarno decided in 1953 to merge Aceh with North Sumatra administratively. An uprising turned into a guerrilla war, which lasted until Aceh regained special status in 1959.

Sumatra, and especially Aceh, was extremely hard hit by the tsunami of December 26, 2004. New earthquakes (on November 19, 2005, March 5, 2010 and January 11, 2012) had much less serious consequences.

History of Sumatra in Long terms


(ENG) Bron:  Ancient origins / Asianinfo / Wikipedia. 

Indonesia did not exist as yet during the Palaeocene period (70 million years BC), the Eocene period (30 million years BC), the Oligacene period (25 million years BC) and the Miocene period (12 million years BC). It is believed that Indonesia must have existed during the Pleistocene period (4 million years BC) when it was linked with the present Asian mainland. It was during this period that the Homonids made their first appearance and Java Man inhabited the part of the world now called Indonesia. Java Man, named Pithecanthropus Erectus by Eugence Dubois who found the fossils on the island of Java, must have been the first inhabitant of Indonesia.

When the sea level rose as the result of melting ice north of Europe and the American continent, many islands emerged, including the Indonesian archipelago. It was also during this period (3000-500 BC) that Indonesia was inhabited by Sub-Mongoloid migrants from Asia who later inter-married with the indigenous people. Later still (1000 BC) inter-marriage occurred with Indo-Arian migrants from the south-Asian sub-continent of India.


Srivijaya was a Buddhist kingdom in Sumatra (Indonesia). At the end of the 7th century, the empire expanded from the capital at present-day Palembang (South Sumatra) and gained control of the nearby ports.

Srivijaya (often referred to as the Srivijaya Empire ) was a thalassocracy (meaning a maritime/sea-based state) that flourished between the 7th and 13th centuries AD. This state was based on the island of Sumatra (today part of Indonesia) and became a dominant power in the area, extending its influence to the neighboring island of Java and the Malay Peninsula . Although the rulers of Srivijaya used conquest to extend their kingdom’s influence, it was not their primary method of doing so.

Instead, it was through trade that Srivijaya grew powerful, not to mention wealthy. In fact, Srivijaya is remembered more for its trade relations than for its military conquests, especially when compared to the more aggressive Majapahit, which was based on Java.

Unfortunately, Srivijaya is largely forgotten today, especially outside the region of Southeast Asia . Moreover, even in Indonesia and Malaysia, the existence of this state was mostly forgotten for a long time after its collapse.

The name ‘Srivijaya’ is a combination of two Sanskrit words, ‘sri’, which means ‘shining’ or ‘radiant’, and ‘vijaya’, meaning ‘victory’ or ‘excellence’. This state is known by various names, depending on the sources.

For instance, the Chinese referred to it as Sanfotsi, or San Fo Qi, whereas the Arabs called it Zabag. In addition, it was known as Melayu by the Khmer, and Yavadesh and Javadeh in Sanskrit and Pali respectively.

The first reference to the name Srivijaya ("Glorious Victory") dates back to 671. A Chinese monk named I-Tsing spent six months in Palembang on his way to India. At the time, Palembang was an important Buddhist center for education and trade. According to I-Tsing, there were more than a thousand Buddhist monks in the city and he advised other Chinese monks to first visit Srivijaya during their transit to India to learn Sanskrit.


The first of the Indonesian kingdoms that we know anything about, is Srivijaya - which lasted to about 1400 A.D. It was an ancient Malay kingdom on the island of Sumatra. At around 500 A.D, a new Srivijayan center began to develop around the present-day town of Palembang.

However it is from Chinese records, that we gather much of what we know. And it is from these Chinese records, dated to about 600 A.D, that we learn that there are two Sumatran kingdoms, one based in Palembang and another based in Jambi. They also mention three other kingdoms on the neighboring island of Java.

It seems that the kingdom of Srivijaya was a coastal trading center and a maritime power. But it did not extend its influence, much beyond the coastal areas of the various islands. People of the in-land areas of these islands, were pretty-much unaffected by the Srivijaya. However for those in the coastal areas and river valleys, force was the dominant element in the Srivijaya Empire's relations with them.

As a stronghold of "Vajrayana" Buddhism, Srivijaya attracted pilgrims and scholars from other parts of Asia. Included in These was the Chinese monk Yijing, who in 671 and again in 695 A.D, made lengthy visits to Sumatra on his way to study at Nalanda in India. In 775 A.D, the last Srivijaya king retreated to east Java, in the face of the rising power of the central Javanese "Shailendra" kingdom, they were followers of Mahayana and Tantric forms of Buddhism.


Almost all known accounts of Srivijaya were written by foreign visitors to the kingdom. The empire probably also had written sources on strips of palm frond (lontar), but none of it has been preserved. Inscriptions on stones have been found (most from the period between 682 and 686). The inscriptions contain vows of allegiance to the king and threats of divine retaliation against rebels against the empire. These Srivijayan inscriptions have even been found as far as southern Thailand. Probably the empire at its height included the coasts of Sumatra, the Malay Peninsula and perhaps western Borneo.

The empire reached its peak around the year 1000. Chinese and Indian sources report monetary support for the construction of temples in these countries by the rulers of Srivijaya. Densely populated Java also seemed to be under the influence of the Sumatran Empire during this period.

Downfall of the kingdom.

However, the empire was soon afterward struck by a devastating attack from the mighty kingdom of Chola in South India, in 1025. An inscription on a wall of an Indian temple in Tanjore tells of an Indian armada crossing the strait and one after the other. Srivijayan port subjugated, including the capital. The exact reason for the attack is unclear, but it is plausible that the Indian traders were fed up with the heavy taxes imposed on them by the Srivijaya Empire when they entered the area. In 1080, an old rival of Srivijaya, Melayu, subjugated the empire and reduced it to vassal status to Melayu. In the 12th and 13th centuries, Melayu dominated the empire politically and economically.

Indian traders bring Islam to Sumatra. Coinciding with the decline of the Sriwijaya Empire in the 11th century, Islam made its way to Sumatra through Indian traders from Gujarat, especially to Aceh and North Sumatra. 

It was said that the variant of Islam that came to Indonesia from India was the heterodox mystic sects of Sufism, something that was not entirely foreign to the Javanese ascetics. One could see a parallel between the Javanese traditions of disciple initiation by the teacher with Indian Sufi teaching methods. 

By the late 13th century, the monarch of the Samudra kingdom in Sumatra had converted to Islam. This fact was recorded by Marco Polo who visited the island in 1292 and Italian Odoric of Pordenone in 1321

The empire's demise started with an attack on Melayu by the East Javanese kingdom of Singhasari in 1278. Javanese sources tell of a Sumatran princess who was taken to Java and married a Javanese prince (possibly a prince of Majapahit). They had a son, Adityavarman, who settled in Sumatra, first in Batang Hari, his mother's homeland, later in the highlands of Minang (Padang Uplands) in West Sumatra. The half-Sumatran, half-Javanese prince left many inscriptions next to a gigantic statue of himself as the Buddhist deity Bhairava standing on a pile of human skulls. Many of them have not been copied or translated. One reason for this is that the inscriptions were written in an unusual language that combines Old Malay with ungrammatical Sanskrit. The last inscription dates from 1374, which mentions a crown prince, Ananggavarman. After that, it remains quiet in Sumatra, until the arrival of the Europeans, some three hundred years later.

Candi Bahal at Padang Lawas

Batak warriors


In 1402, the Malay Empire of Malacca was founded by Parameswara, a prince from Srivijnana. It had fled from Palembang to Temasek just before Palembang was taken by Mahapahit. In Temasek he killed the Siamese ruler to fill that place himself, but the population turned against him and he had to flee. He arrived in Malacca via Muar.
The mainland of the Sumatran province of Riau also belonged to the sultanate. In 1414 Parameswara married a princess from Pasai and converted to Islam.
Malacca was on the trade route from Europe, Arabia and India to China and developed into an important port. Many merchants settled here. They traded in silk, tea, opium, herbs and gold.
During the reign of Sultan Mansur Shah (1459-1477), the more than 3000 islands of Riau also became part of the sultanate. During this period Malacca reached the height of its power and he maintained good contacts with, among others, China. He married the Chinese princess Hang Li Po in 1459.
In 1511 the sultanate fell into the hands of the Portuguese. The sultan fled to Johor, re-established a kingdom, and spent fifteen years trying to reclaim Malacca, where the Portuguese had built a fortress, A Famosa.
The Strait of Malacca runs between Malacca and Riau, even at that time a busy trade route.

Map of Malacca anno: 1630

Sultanate Atjeh

It is unclear exactly when the state originated; this is partly because the previous state Pasai also has no clear ending. Some have it started around 1300 [1], sometime in the mid-14th or 15th century, based on estimates of when Islam reached the area, or the coronation of the first Sultan Ali Mughajat Shah, whose exact date is unknown. power came (probably ca. 1514 [1]). This sultan made Aceh the dominant power in North Sumatra and his son Salahuddin (Ala-ad-din) extended his influence to Malaysia. Maritime trade, and especially its pepper monopoly, provided Aceh with prosperity, but the Portuguese (who subjugated the sultanate of Malacca in 1511) increasingly threatened it, creating a struggle for control of the Strait of Malacca. Aceh then allied itself with Portugal's other enemies, the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of the United Netherlands.

Aceh reached a peak under Sultan Iskander Muda (c. 1607-1636). After that, the sultanate increasingly had to tolerate competition from the Dutch East India Company, which conquered Malacca in 1641 and broke Aceh's pepper monopoly. The VOC intrigued with local chieftains and weakened the sultan's authority. In 1769, the British arrived in Penang and dealt a severe blow to the Aceh pepper trade. Nevertheless, the sultanate remained independent because neither the Netherlands nor England was able to annex the area.

In 1824, the two European trading nations, the Netherlands and England, concluded the London tract, essentially deciding that Sumatra would come under Dutch and Malacca under British influence. The Netherlands would help protect British trade in the region and respect Aceh's independence.
The Aceh Sultanate formed a cultural, historical and linguistic unity under the authority of an elected sultan. In reality, however, it didn't have much power. The local Rajas ruled the more than a hundred dependencies into which the empire was divided. Livelihoods were mainly the trade in pepper, camphor and betel nuts, as well as smuggling and piracy. In 1857 the Netherlands approached the sultan and entered into an alliance of peace, friendship and trade. In practice, however, this yielded little result, the Acehnese felt too much threatened by the constant pressure aimed at recognizing the Dutch supremacy. In 1871, in a British-Dutch tract, the Treaty of Sumatra, it was recorded that the Netherlands was given a free hand on that island and thus also in Aceh. The sultan now sought support from a number of Western countries. These contacts were unsuccessful, but they did cause increasing concern in The Hague and Batavia. For Governor-General James Loudon, this "betrayal" of the Acehnese was reason to push for a military subjugation of this unruly sultanate in order to finally get it fully under control.

Aceh was eventually annexed by the Kingdom of the Netherlands after two military expeditions of the Royal Netherlands Indies Army in 1873 and 1874; the sultan had to flee together with his 3-year-old son (pretender sultan of Aceh). The sultan died a few days later from the effects of cholera. His son would become the last sultan of Aceh. However, colonial authority was not yet firmly established when the Acehnese people revolted and a protracted guerrilla war continued. The Dutch only succeeded in conquering Aceh in 1904 under Colonel Van Heutz. However, riots and violence continued to occur until 1914. Aceh was incorporated into the Dutch East Indies.

Padri war

The Padri Wars (also called the Minangkabau Wars) consisted of a series of war acts between 1803 and 1837 in West Sumatra, Indonesia between the Padri on the one hand and the nobility and traditional leaders of the Minangkabau on the other. The Padri were Sumatran Islamists who wanted to impose Sharia law in Minangkabau after being inspired by Wahhabism during the Hajj. The traditional Minangkabau leaders asked for help from the KNIL, which was involved in the conflict between 1821 and 1837. In 1837 the Padri had been defeated and the Dutch colonial authority had tightened its grip on West Sumatra.

At the beginning of the 19th century, Java and areas in southern Sumatra were mainly under Dutch control. They were wary of further area expansion. Since governor Van den Bosch, the administrative officials had been ordered to prevent the government from becoming involved in wars against Indonesian peoples. In the longer term it was his intention to bring the entire archipelago under the control of the Netherlands. King William I had authorized him to subdue Sumatra south of Aceh. [1] This required an end to the civil war in Minangkabau, in the highlands behind Padang on the west coast. The Padri had declared a holy war there in order to be able to implement the strict regulations of Islam. They had taken control of much of the area.
In 1821 the Minangkabau chiefs had entered into an agreement with the Dutch East Indies government in which they relinquished sovereignty in exchange for help in expelling the Padri. A small force was sent to the area, but despite support from native troops, it was unable to defeat the Padri. [2] At the outbreak of the Java War in 1825, the soldiers were brought back. 

In 1831, the government resumed the fight against the Padri. It was a difficult war in mountain terrain. The army was partly made up of Ambonese, Buginese (from Celebes) and Madurese, but Minangkabau's troops made up 2/3 of the total, which was 15,000 men at the most. The Padri's headquarters was the mountain fortress Bonjol, the most famous fortress of the government was Fort de Kock, located on a steep top. After four years of fighting, the Padri were forced back to their headquarters. Bonjol finally fell in 1837. Imam Peto Sarif, nicknamed Imam Bonjol, was exiled to Menado. The whole of Minangkabau now came under Dutch rule, including the coastal areas north of it up to the border with Aceh

Padri war 1803 - 1837

The first expedition to Palembang

Sumatra was a punitive expedition of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army in 1819. From 1639 the Dutch East Indies government had a trade treaty with the sultan there and they had a factory, reinforced with military occupation, and a civil administration in Palembang. Until 1811, the sultan paid an in-kind tribute consisting of agricultural products and tin, which was mined on the island of Banka. 

In the early 19th century, Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II was the ruler of Palembang. In preparation for plans by the Governorate of British India to expand their influence, the Sultan, like other chiefs in the archipelago, was visited by English envoy Thomas Stamford Raffles. His task was to gauge the loyalty of the monarchs to the Dutch government and preferably to urge them to break with the Netherlands and then to join the English. However, the sultan of Palembang strived for independence, breaking with the Netherlands but not joining England.
Considering himself strong enough for this, he entered the factory grounds in 1811 after a ruse with his armed retinue. He had the garrison of 110 men embarked on a number of small vessels and gave the impression of taking them to Java. At the mouth of the Soengsang they were raided and murdered on the orders of the sultan or his son. With the Dutch gone and the English not yet arrived, the sultan considered himself independent and no longer supplied tin from the mines of Banka. The latter was the reason for an English expedition to Palembang under General Gillespie, after which the sultan fled to the interior. The English proclaimed his younger brother sultan and entered into a contract with him stipulating that Banka and Billiton and some other islands would be ceded to the English. The English resident appointed in Palembang subsequently managed to negotiate with the previous sultan. He restored him to his position in Palembang, whereby it had to meet a number of conditions. The English government in Java appeared to disagree with the actions of their resident and reinstated the younger brother as sultan. This was known to be a weak personality and he may have been seen as a suitable puppet. In August 1814, Palembang and the surrounding area came under Dutch authority again by an Anglo-Dutch treaty. England retained authority over Benkoelen to the west of it. 

In 1816 a complaint was received from the English resident of Benkoelen that the inhabitants of Palembang were violating British territory to rob slaves. The young sultan was called to account by the Dutch East Indies government, but the latter denied the grievances. The Dutch government considered him unfit to remain as monarch over Palembang, which is why Commissioner Herman Muntinghe was sent to Palembang in June 1818. This brought a number of border districts, over which the sultan ruled, under direct Dutch control. Now people were better able to take action against human robbery and the slave trade from Palembang in Benkoelen. In the meantime, the well-known English diplomat Thomas Stamford Raffles had been appointed English governor of Benkoelen in March 1818. Disputes arose between him and the Dutch administration in Palembang about the interpretation and implementation of parts of the treaty of 1814. Raffles at one point had a letter delivered by an envoy to the young sultan of Palembang, who then concluded a contract with the British envoy. . Although the contract was kept secret from Muntinghe (who knew Raffles well), the presence of the British delegation in the sultan's palace (the kraton) was clearly visible. When the sultan received a second visit from an English commissioner, he was exiled to Java with his sons and a number of friends.


At the beginning of 1819, Commissioner Muntinghe had left for the Palembang uplands for four months to make arrangements with the English regarding border disputes. The young sultan was in Java; the old sultan took his chance and took possession of the kraton again. Unlike his young brother, this was a strong personality who still enjoyed respect among native heads and was equipped with armed followers. In June 1819 fighting broke out for a few days between the sultan and the Dutch East Indies troops who had made camp on the opposite river bank. The Sultan's troops fired from the craton on the garrison and on two warships. An attempt to take the sultan's palace failed, the Dutch troops had to withdraw to Bangka and wait for reinforcements. Warships are stationed at the mouth of the Soengsang. Muntinghe went to Java for consultations and it was decided to send a squadron of landing troops commanded by Rear Admiral Wolterbeek to Palembang.

On August 22, 1819 the first militairy expedition left Batavia. It consisted of five warships and three transport ships. At the end of August, the fleet spent several days at the Muntok roadstead on Bangka Island, where additional troops came on board. The troop strength was 68 officers and 1,432 men. In addition to the naval guns, they had 14 artillery pieces. Here further preparations were made and actions on Banka were also carried out. These were aimed both against pirates and against a fortification at Bangakota, built by Palembang insurgents. In mid-September, most of the ships were in the mouth of the Soengsang or Mushi River and the fleet sailed up the river in early October. Passing sandbanks in the estuary had taken time and had to wait for spring tide. On 20 October Wolterbeek had approached the island of Gombora and Peladjoe with his ships with the reinforcements present there. For several days, shelling took place between the ships and the fortifications that the sultan had built. The fleet had to be constantly on the lookout for burning wooden houses that the sultan's troops would drift down the river. These were abundant, because many people lived in floating houses along the river banks. 

As a result of the shelling on the side of the expedition army, 29 were killed and 60 wounded. The number of victims of the other party is not known, but is estimated to be lower due to the quality of their positions and their relatively safer position. The onset of the wet monsoon, and a large number of sick people on the ships, were an obstacle to completing the expedition. Piles built in the river by the Sultan's troops proved difficult or impossible to pass so that the ships could not get close to the defenses. The swampy terrain with undergrowth along the banks turned out to be so unsuitable for a landing that Wolterbeek decided on 30 October to return the troops to Bangka and Batavia. Some warships stayed behind to block the estuaries.
The expedition ended in defeat for the Dutch East Indies army and two years later a second expedition to Palembang was to take place.


In 1814 the British came to Indonesia and built Fort York in Bengkulu on the west coast of Sumatra. It was later renamed Fort Marlborough.

During the Napoleonic wars in Europe when Holland was occupied by France, Indonesia fell under the rule of the British East India Company (1811-1816). Sir Thomas Stanford Raffles was appointed Lieutenant Governor General of Java and dependencies. He was subordinated to the Governor General in Bengal, India.

Raffles introduced partial self-government and abolished the slave trade. In those days slaves were captured and traded by foreigners. He also introduced the land-tenure system, replacing the hated Dutch forced-agricultural system, whereby crops were grown and surrendered to the Government. Borobudur and other temples were restored and research conducted. Raffles wrote his famous book, "The History of Java," in which he described Java's high civilization and culture.

During the British stay in Sumatra (1814-1825), William Marsden wrote a similar book on the history of Sumatra, which was published in 1889.

After the fall of Napoleon, and the end of the French occupation of Holland the British and Dutch signed a convention in London on August 13, 1814, in which it was agreed that Dutch colonial possessions dating from 1803 onwards should be returned to the Dutch Administration in Batavia. Thus, the Indonesian archipelago was recovered from the British in 1815


After their attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, the Japanese forces moved southwards to conquer several Southeast Asian countries. After Singapore had fallen, they invaded the Dutch East Indies and the colonial army surrendered in March 1942.

Soekarno and Hatta were released from their detention. The Japanese began their propaganda campaign for what they called "Great East Asia Co-prosperity". But Indonesians soon realized that it was a camouflage for Japanese imperialism in place of Dutch colonialism.

To further the cause of Indonesia's independence, Soekarno and Hatta appeared to cooperate with the Japanese authorities. In reality, however, Indonesian nationalist leaders went underground and masterminded insurrections in Blitar (East Java), Tasikmalaya and Indramayu (West Java), and in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Under the pressure of the 4th Pacific war, where their supply lines were interrupted, and the increasing of Indonesian insurrections, the Japanese ultimately gave in to allow the red-and-white flag to fly as the Indonesian national flag. Recognition of "Indonesia Raya" as the national anthem and Bahasa Indonesia as the national language followed. Hence, the youth's pledge of 1928 was fulfilled.

After persistent demands, the Japanese finally agreed to place the civil administration of the country into Indonesian hands. This was a golden opportunity for nationalist leaders to prepare for the proclamation of Indonesia's independence.


The Republic of Indonesia first saw light on August 17, 1945, when its independence was proclaimed just days after the Japanese surrender to the Allies. Pancasila became the ideological and philosophical basis of the Republic, and on August 18, 1945 the Constitution was adopted as the basic law of the country.

Following the provisions of the Constitution, the country is headed by a President who is also the Chief Executive. He is assisted by a Vice-President and a cabinet of ministers.

The sovereignty of the people rests with the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR). Hence, the President is accountable to the MPR. The legislative power is vested in the House of Representatives (DPR). Other institutions of the state are the Supreme Court, the Supreme Advisory Council and the Supreme Audit Board.

Soekarno became the first President and Chief Executive, and Mohammad Hatta, the first Vice-President of the Republic. On September 5, 1945 the first cabinet was formed.