Independence Day Indonesia 2021
The 17th of August is Indonesian Independence Day, a day of national celebration in the country. Known as “Hari Kemerdekaan”, it’s one of the biggest holidays in Indonesia. Every year it’s marked with festivities across the country. It is a day to celebrate Indonesia’s proclamation of independence on 17 August 1945. For many weeks leading up to the event the local populace gears up for the big event. Government and office buildings are draped with red and white cloth through the month of August. Private homes raise their Indonesian flags weeks before the 17th. The whole country is decorated in colourful decorations. The President performs an official flag hoisting at the Merdeka Palace on the morning of the 17th as an official celebration.
Independence Day Celebrations
One of the more unique hints that Independence Day is getting close is the constant stream of schoolchildren marching along the roads. Schools throughout the archipelago host parades on the 17th. The children practice for weeks ahead of time to get their marching rhythm correct. Onthe 17th, there are community parties throughout the country with games and fun for everyone. One of the more entertaining spectacles is the “Panjat Pinang.” This is a greased pole or tree with prizes hanging from the top. The crowds love watching participants struggle their way up the pole, often with disastrous yet entertaining results.
One question we hear from our visiting guests is: “What is Independence Day? Independence from who?” The answer to this is simple yet complicated! Understanding it in full requires understanding the history of Indonesia. We have a two part series about the history of Indonesia here and here. In short, the Indonesian archipelago has a long history that is not well known by many outside of Indonesia.
History of Indonesia
For most of modern time, the land that is now known as Indonesia was a collection of independent states and kingdoms. Around the 7th century a growing trend of empire building began. The Buddhist Srivijaya empire emerged in Sumatra, Java, and the Malay peninsula and lasted until the 12th century. Successive empires include the Mataram and Majapahit kingdoms, centered mainly in Java and surrounding islands. It was not until the European colonial era that the shape of modern Indonesia began to emerge. The importance of the international spice trade from the Maluku area tied the eastern islands of the archipelago to the larger centers in Java and Sumatra.
Through a vast network of bureaucracy, the Dutch East India company established what would become modern Indonesia. During the 16th to 20th centuries, the Dutch ruled most of Indonesia with a cruel hand typical of most colonial powers. Although the Dutch created the modern infrastructure that would comprise Indonesia, the harsh rule of the occupation was not taken kindly by the people. There were constant uprisings throughout the archipelago against the Dutch. By the early 20th century, a more concentrated movement began pushing for Indonesian independence.
The First Independence Day
Led by Soekarno and Hatta, the push for independence became stronger and stronger before WWII. The successful invasion of Indonesia by the Japanese in 1942 was the final push. As the war turned and the Japanese began to retreat, they became supportive of an independent Indonesia. When Japan surrendered on 15 August 1945, Soekarno and his allies seized upon this opportunity to declare independence. Soekarno became the President and Hatta the Vice President of a newly independent country. The Dutch however wanted their colony back. This led to a short struggle which ended in the Dutch pulling out in 1949.
2021 marks the 76th anniversary of Indonesian independence. With a population of over 200 million people and 17,000 islands, the nation is as diverse as anywhere on the planet. With a rich history, proud people, and incredible natural resources, Indonesia is a unique nation. The Samata is proud to be a part of this wonderful country and we are happy to join in this celebration of nationhood on the 17th of August 2021.