Jakarta capital of the Republic of Indonesia is a sprawling, busy metropolitan city that is the epitome of this archipelagic nation that is deeply rooted in multi-cultural traditions, today stretching out to be a globally recognized player in world politics and the economy in this 21st century.
For centuries since its establishment in 1527 when it was known as Sunda Kelapa, Jakarta has been a busy port where merchants from China, India, Arabia and later Portugal, Spain, England and Holland came to exchange silks, porcelain, and exotic goods for spices, tea, coffee, camphor, sandalwood, and other precious produce from all over the Indonesian islands.
The Official Jakarta Guide for Heritage & Culture, Content:
- Introduction Jakarta
- Historic Jakarta Pre-colonial, Colonial, Independence and Modern Indonesia
- Kota Tua: The Old Batavia
- The Jakarta History Museum
- The Wayang Museum
- The Fine Arts and Ceramics Museum
- Bank Indonesia Museum and Bank Mandiri Museum
- Kalibesar – the Large Canal
- Merdeka Square
- Lapangan Banteng
- Construction of Modern Jakarta
- Greater Jakarta and Jabodetabek
- Other Museums and Heritage Sites
- Betawi Culture and Traditions
- Setu Babakan : The Betawi Cultural Village
- Music and Dance
- Chinese Heritage in Jakarta
- Portuguese and British Heritage
- Indian and Arab Heritage
- General Information
- Trans Jakarta Bus Lines
- Jakarta Map
Today, as the seat of Indonesia’s national government, the country’s financial, trading and business center and the heart of the country’s burgeoning young middle class, Jakarta attracts investors and business people from around the world to this expanding city. And so, next to Dutch heritage buildings found in Old Batavia, colonial mansions in Central Jakarta or cramped settlements around, Jakarta boasts modern high rise buildings, luxurious top of the line hotels, a plethora of modern air-conditioned malls housing the world’s top high class brands, wide toll roads and flyovers, as well as the bane of modern cities : traffic jams.
Jakarta is also the nation’s airline hub. International airlines make Jakarta one of their main airports to call, while the ultra-busy Soekarno-Hatta airport is also the hub for almost all domestic air carriers.
Jakarta, is where it all happens. During Dutch colonial days from the 17th century on, the city- then called Batavia – was for three hundred years the seat of hegemony of the Dutch Government over the then Netherlands East Indies. After World War II, it was also Jakarta where, on 17th August 1945 Indonesia proclaimed her hard-fought Independence from the yoke of colonialization. Towards the end of the 20th century, it was again Jakarta that saw the fight of the people for Reform and Democratization of the country’s institutions.
Historic Jakarta Pre-colonial, Colonial, Independence and Modern Indonesia
The oldest part of Jakarta lies on the north west coast of Java where the Ciliwung river pours out into the Bay of Jakarta.
This harbour town was first known as Sunda Kelapa. But on 22 June 1527 Prince Fatahillah razed Sunda Kelapa and founded the town of Jayakarta on the same site. This is the date that Jakarta takes as the establishment of the city. Jayakarta was a thriving port where traders from China, India, Arabia and later the Europeans, as well as those from all over the archipelago exchanged their wares.
In 1619, the Dutch VOC under Jan Pieterszoon Coen destroyed Jayakarta and built a new town on the west bank of the Ciliwung river, which he named Batavia, after the Batavieren, the Dutch tribal ancestors. Batavia was planned similar to Dutch towns, in a series of blocks cut by canals and defended by a fortified wall and a moat. This part of Batavia was completed in 1650. Old Batavia was where the Europeans lived, while the Chinese, Javanese and other indigenous groups were relegated outside the city entrenchment.
In its heydays, Batavia became known as the Jewel of the East, the seat of the VOC and later it became the seat of the Dutch Government over the sprawling East Indies archipelago. During the Japanese occupation in 1942, the Japanese again changed the name from Batavia to Jakarta.
The Old Batavia
Center of Old Batavia was the Municipal Hall, known as Stadhuis, fronted by a large plaza, known as Stadhuisplein, that has a fountain in its center that supplied water to the surrounding buildings. Today the plaza is called the Fatahillah Square and the Stadhuis has become the Fatahillah Museum which houses the complete history of the growth of the city of Jakarta.
Around the square are important buildings. On the East side was the Court of Justice, which is now the Museum of Fine Arts and Ceramics. Here you will find paintings of Indonesia’s maestro painter Raden Saleh as well as those of the more contemporary painter, Basuki Abdullah, Affandi and more.
Nearby is the Kota Railway Station, also known as the Beos Station. This is an art deco building, which continues to be in use and still retains its original architecture. While to the north are a number of commercial buildings which now house the Museum Mandiri and the Bank Indonesia Museum.
The Jakarta History Museum
Also known as the Fatahillah Museum in the Old Batavia district, the Museum follows the history of Jakarta. Originally built in 1707 as the Stadhuis, or the Municipal Hall of Batavia, the building now houses the history of the city of Jakarta from prehistoric times until today, in metals, textiles, stones, crystal, ceramics, paper and bone. Here is the “Jagur” cannon, believed to enhance fertility, the axe used for beheading of criminals, paintings of consecutive Dutch Governor Generals from 1602 – 1942. Here are also original antique colonial furniture once used by the colonial powers. The Museum has a dark and scary dungeon that was once a prison, where at one time
The Wayang Museum
The Wayang Museum is also located at the Fatahillah Square. “Wayang” are the typical stylized Indonesian puppets that draw their tales from the Hindu epic poems the Mahabharata and the Ramayana as well as relate the feats of ancient Javanese kings in destroying their opponents. While “wayang” is a way of popular storytelling yet it is a sophisticated art form that conveys deep philosophical thoughts and learnings.
For this reason Wayang has also been designated a UNESCO World Heritage. Most well known are the finely crafted leather puppets that are used for shadow puppet performances, but in this Museum you will find all kinds of puppets from different parts of Java. There are the wayang golek puppets from West Java, These are wooden puppets played by the “dalang” or the story teller, who changes his voice and intonations following the character in action, whether male or female, king or commoner.
Wayang can also be performed by human actors, in which case it is called “Wayang Wong”. Here are also masks, wayang beber, Wayang Revolusi, Wayang Suket and more, totalling some 5,500 items. The Museum also has a collection of puppets from different countries, from China, India, Thailand, Cambodia to France and Suriname. The oldest in the collection is the Wayang Kyai Intan created in 1870. Jl. Pintu Besar Utara No. 27 West Jakarta | T (62-21) 6929560
Indonesia’s National Hero, Diponegoro, was imprisoned and chained. Jl. Taman Fatahillah 1 West Jakarta | T (62-21) 6929101
The Fine Arts and Ceramics Museum
Still at the Fatahillah Square is the Fine Arts and Ceramics Museum. Here are displayed a collection of rare paintings by Indonesia’s maestros like Raden Saleh, Affandi, Basoeki Abdullah, S. Sudjojono, to contemporary Dede Ero Supria and more. There is also a collection of ceramics and sculptures by G. Sidharta. Jl. Pos Kota No. 2 West Jakarta T (62-21) 6926090
Bank Indonesia Museum and Bank Mandiri Museum
If you are interested in Banking, then visit the Bank Indonesia Museum and the Bank Mandiri Museum also around the Square. In the Bank Indonesia Museum you can follow the history of the archipelago’s Banking system from Dutch colonial times to today. While the Bank Mandiri Museum shows how a private bank was run in the old colonial days. A mural shows the four seasons in Europe and a Dutch Captain, named Cornelis Houtman. The building itself has still retained the aura of the good old days, where ceramic mozaic floors are still in place in the lobby, the meeting room and offices of the bank directors. Bank Indonesia Museum Jl. Pintu Besar Utara No. 3 West Jakarta T (62-21) 2600158 Bank Mandiri Museum Jl. Lapangan Stasiun 1 West Jakarta T (62-21) 6902000.