Due to Indonesia's emergence into an archipelago where its inhabitants, though of one similar ancestry , were separated by seas and therefore lost contacts, have caused the individual development of cultures, including their languages and their growing into diversification.
Nevertheless, the population of Indonesia has been reclassified, not so much on the basis of their racial origins, but more so on the basis of their linguistic identities caused by mentioned diversification, into four ethnic groups. A pure classification according to their racial origins is difficult to realize due to their inter-marriages. These four main ethnic groups are the Melanesians (the mixture between the Sub-Mongoloids with the Wajaks), the Proto-Austronesians (including the Wajaks), the Polynesians and the Micronesians.
These Melanesians are again sub-divided into the Acehnese of North Sumatra, the Batak in Northeast Sumatra, the Minangkabaus in West Sumatra, the Sundanese in West Java, the Javanese in Central and East Java, the Madurese on the island of Madura, the Bali-nese, the Sasaks on the island of Lombok, and Timorese on TimorIsland. On the island of Borneo in Indonesia's Kalimantan, one finds the Dayaks. On the island of Sulawesi in the north are the Minahasas and in the center the Torajas, and in the southern part, Makasarese and the Buginese. The Ambonese in the Maluku and the Irianese in Papua are Polynesians and Proto-Austronesians. The Micronesians are found on tiny islets of Indonesia 's eastern borders.
The population of Indonesia is about 210 million, the fourth most populous in the world next to China, India and the United States. One of the biggest current problems is uneven population distribution. For instance, about 62% of the population living in the island of Java, whose land area consitute only 7% of the country’s total territory.
Language and Dialects
Languages and dialects spoken and written over the whole of the Indonesian archipelago, 150 to 250 in number, are usualy clasified according to the above mentioned ethnic denominations. The main district local languages of Indonenesia are among others: the Acehnese, Batak, Sundanese, Javanese, Sasak, Tetum of Timor, Dayak, Minahasa, Toraja, Buginese, Halmahera, Ambonese, Ceramese, several Irianese languages and other such languages. In between these languages there exist many other different dialects.
Indonesia's National Language has been officially introduced since Indonesia 's independence and is called the BAHASA INDONESIA. Its lexicon and structure is mainly based on the Malay language enriched by Indonesia 's lexicon of her multi-local languages and dialects. Although the Bahasa Indonesia has since been regarded as the Lingua Franca, yet local languages are equally valid and no attempt and intention exist to abolish these local languages and dialects. Therefore, the greater part of the Indonesian nationals are bilingual.
In August 1973, Indonesia and Malaysia signed a cultural agreement in which similar spelling of both the Malaysian “Bahasa Persatuan" and the lndonesian "Bahasa Indonesia” has been agreed upon.
The first inhabitant of Indonesia dates back 500,000 years ago, named Pithecanthropus erectus by Eugene Dubois who found the fossils at several places on the island of Java in the vicinity of the BengawanSoloRiver. The fosil found in 1891 and 1892 in the village of Trinil, were called Homo Soloensis, while those found in Wajakkensis. Homo Soloensis with the same characteristic as the Austro Melanosoid people had roamed to the West (Sumatra) and to the East (Papua).
In the period of 3,000-500 BC, Indonesia was inhabited by Sub-Mongoloid migrants from Asia who later inter-married with the indigenous people. ln 1,000 BC, inter-marriage still occurred with Indo-Arian migrants from the South-Asian sub-continent of India. The influx of the Indian settlers until the seventh century AD brought about the Hindu religion spread throughout the archipelago.
Moslem merchants from Gujarat and Persia began visiting Indonesia in the 13th century and established trade links between this country and India and Persia. While conducting trade, the Gujarat and the Arab people also spread the Islamic religion in this area. The first to accept the Islamic religion were the coastal kingdoms, which before had embraced Hinduism.
In Aceh, Islam was widely accepted by the community with the Pasai and PerlakKingdoms becoming the first Moslem kingdoms in the archipelago. First accepted by court circles, Islam found its way to the community at a later stage. Particularly in Java, the "Wali Songo" (Islamic preachers) had played a very important role.
It was in 1511, that Portuguese arrived in Indonesia. The arrival of the Portuguese should be linked to the European demand for spices. They were followed by Spaniards, the Dutch and the British. Besides search for spices, they propagated Christianity. In the rivalry that ensued, the Dutch ultimately succeeded in gaining the trade monopoly in spices throughout the archipelago, thus making the beginning of 350 years of Dutch colonialism over the country.
In the period preceding independence, Indonesia 's community was made up of a large variety of ethnic groups or rural communities. The member of each group are tied to each other by a sense of solidarity and identity which finds its roots in the land, language, art, culture and customs they share.
There are about 500 ethnic groups in Indonesia spread from Sabang (the northernmost tip of Sumatra) to Merauke in Papua. The Javanese community comprises the largest number of Indonesia's total population, followed by the Sundanese, Madurese, Minangkabau, Buginese, Batak and the Balinese. Other ethnic groups are among others the Ambonese, Dayaks, Sasaks, the Acehnese, etc. Apart from the indigenous communities, other subcommunities of foreign descent are the Chinese, Arabs and Indians.
Besides the variety of ethnic groups, different religions are found in Indonesia. One of the special characteristics of the Indonesia culture is the high appreciation of the community towards religion and the faith in One and Only God.
There are five world religions, which have formally been recognized in Indonesia, they are Islamism, Catholicism, Protestanism, Hinduism and Buddhism. Nevertheless, other faiths are found, especially in isolated societies, which have been accepted and are called traditional faith. According to statistics, the majority of the Indonesian people are Moslems.
The 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia, paragraph 2 article 29 ensures freedom of religious practice. Every Indonesian citizen has the right to adhere to the religion of his /her own choice and there shall be no religious discrimination. Every citizen shall respect and be tolerant to each other belief while any form of anti-religious program shall be condemned and prohibited.
Art and Culture
Indonesia is rich in art and culture which are interwined with religion and age-old tradition from the time of early migrants with western thought and cultural values initially brought by Portuguese traders and Dutch colonialist. The basic principles which guide life, include the concepts of mutual assistance or “gotong-royong” and consultation or “musyawarah” to arrive at consensus of “mufakat”. Derived from rural life, this code of behaviour or “adat” law still exists in community life throughout the country, differing from area to area.
Religious influences on the community are evident from island to island. Unlike some countries, art forms in Indonesia is not only based on folklore, as many were developed in the courts of former kingdoms such as in Bali and Java, where they are part of religious ceremonies.
The famous dance dramas of Java and Bali are derived from Hindu Mythology. Highly stylized in movement and costume, dances and the “wayang” (puppet) drama are accompanied by a full “gamelan” orchestra comprising of xylophones, drums, string instruments and flutes. The bamboo instrument called “angklung” of West Java are well known for their unique tinkling notes. The leather shadow puppet, called “Wayang Kulit” of Java is performed with the puppets held by the puppeteer against a white screen, with the shadow of the characters on the screen visible from the other side, where the audience are seated.
The crafts of Indonesia vary in both medium and art form. The people are artistic by nature and express their ideas, inspiration and thought on wood, metal, clay, cloth and stone. Batik is the famous waxed and dyed cloth of Java, produced in some other areas such as in Bali, Jambi and Madura which varies in their respective local creativity and colouring. Other provinces produce hand-woven cloths of gold and silver threads, silks or cottons with intricate designs, such as Lampung, Palembang, Makassar and West Nusa Tenggara.