Indonesia's Independence Day, observed on August 17, celebrates all the brave heroes who helped overcome 300 years of Dutch colonial rule.
Indonesia Independence Day - August 17, 2023
Indonesian Independence Day - Indonesia is an island country in Southeast Asia, situated between the Indian and Pacific oceans. The country had a long bout with colonial rule of the Dutch and Japanese, followed by nationalist struggles to get independence that added to its rich, long history. Indonesia was occupied by the Dutch for 300 years, and the Japanese established control after World War II.
The citizens, led by their prominent leaders, Sukarno and Mohammad Hatta, began the formidable war of independence in the early 20th century. They fought with all their might to end colonial rule. After a long and challenging struggle involving mass protests, civil disobedience, and armed resistance, the country gained independence on August 17, 1945.
However, the Dutch refused to acknowledge the independence, and a long battle ensued between the two countries between 1945 to 1949. Finally, under Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, a ceasefire agreement was filed, and the country attained independence in December 1949. After independence, Sukarno took power as the President, Mohammad Hatta as the Vice President, and Sutan Sjahrir as the Prime Minister.
When is Indonesian Independence Day?
August 17 is commemorated annually as Independence Day in Indonesia. It marks the official end to the three centuries of Dutch rule and the start of the modern, progressive, and independent Indonesian State.
The journey of achieving this independence was long and arduous for the country. The initial call for freedom and the end of the rule began in the early 20th century. Nationalist movements started coming up in every corner of Indonesia, urging citizens to be determined and end the rule.
The Japanese invasion of the country during World War II also served as much-needed momentum in galvanizing the nationalist movement. This was because the Indonesian citizens saw this as an opportunity to eliminate all the colonial powers in the country. After the Japanese troops acknowledged its defeat and surrendered on August 17, 1945, the founders of Indonesia, including Sukarno and Hatta, declared the country independent.
This claim was opposed by the Dutch, who sought to maintain their colonial control over the region. This led to a four-year war for independence, marked by guerrilla warfare and diplomatic negotiations. Finally, on December 27, 1949, the Dutch formally recognized Indonesia as an independent republic.
History of Independence Day in Indonesia
Indonesia has struggled with colonialism and the need for autonomy, first from the Dutch and, subsequently, from the Japanese. Before the arrival of these colonialists, Indonesia was a quaint land consisting of different kingdoms and small states.
The Portuguese arrived in the 16th century and established a trading post in the Moluccas. This was followed by the arrival of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in the 17th century. It was the latter who was responsible for Dutch colonialism. Under colonial rule, the Dutch exploited natural resources like oil and rubber for their gains and betterment. Indonesians were constantly exploited and forced to work as laborers, pay high taxes, and have restrictions on political expression.
It was only in the 20th century that the Indonesian nationalist movements began to emerge, advocating for independence from Dutch colonial rule. Sukarno was one of the most prominent figures who led this battle for Indonesia's independence. He was elected as the country's first president after its independence.
However, their fight was far from over. During World War II, the Japanese invaded Indonesia, forcing the Dutch to give up their colony. They, too, ruled brutally over the country, and several thousand Indonesians lost their lives. After the Japanese surrendered in 1945, the nationalists saw this as an opportunity to proclaim complete independence. On August 17, 1945, Sukarno, accompanied by Hatta, read the proclamation of independence in front of a crowd in Jakarta. This event marked the birth of the Republic of Indonesia.
However, the Dutch refused to give up their colony easily and tried to re-establish control over Indonesia. A bitter and bloody war followed, known as the Indonesian Revolution, which lasted from 1945 to 1949. The Indonesians finally gained their independence after four years of fighting.
How is Indonesian Independence Day celebrated?
The National Day, also known as Hari Kemerdekaan, is celebrated with great joy and enthusiasm throughout the country, with Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, at its epicenter. In Jakarta, the Independence Day celebrations begin a few weeks before August 17. The day is marked as a National Holiday in Indonesia, and the city is doused in patriotic fervor through flag-raising ceremonies, parades, decorations, and events.
The highlight of the entire day is the Independence Day ceremony hosted in the Presidential Palace, Jakarta. The importance of the tradition is marked by the presence of elite government officials, military personnel, and members of the public who gather around to watch the flag hoisting and sing the national anthem, "Indonesia Raya."
Other than this ceremony, different cultural and competitive events are organized by the State or the ordinary citizens across the country. These include traditional dance performances, food stalls and festivals, and sports events like marathon races. Another unique tradition in Jakarta is the "Panjat Pinang" game, which involves climbing up a greasy pole to reach prizes at the top. This game is played in many places across Indonesia on Independence Day but is particularly popular in Jakarta.
A parade, too, is organized on the streets of Jakarta, where people dress up in traditional clothing and remember their heritage and culture. People sing along and dance to patriotic songs. These celebrations highlight the country's cultural diversity, unity, and patriotism and reflect the spirit of freedom and independence that the Indonesian people fought for.
National Flag of Indonesia
The Indonesian flag, the Sang Merah Putih, has two horizontal stripes of equal size - a top red stripe and a white bottom stripe. Red represents Indonesian heroes' courage, bravery, and bloodshed during the struggle for independence. It symbolizes the earth, associated with life and prosperity in Indonesian culture. The color white represents purity, peace, and honesty. It also symbolizes the sky, associated with freedom and independence in Indonesian culture.
During the Independence Day celebrations, the Indonesian flag is hosted nationwide. The special ceremony is usually conducted at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta and at regional and local government offices. The flag-hoisting ceremony begins with lowering the flag flying since last year's Independence Day. The new flag replaces it by raising it to the top of the pole while the national anthem plays in the background.