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Indonesia Independence Day

by Vishal Kumar

Indonesia was proclaimed as an independent nation on 17th August 1945. Indonesia was colonized by the Dutch in the 17th century and by Japan in the years during the Second World War.

When does Indonesia celebrate its Independence Day?

On August 17, 1945, Indonesia declared its independence from the Netherlands. This declaration of independence was met with vehement opposition from the Dutch rulers and was followed by four years of unrest and diplomatic meetings. Finally, in 1949, the Dutch officially recognized the independence of   Indonesia but it was not until 2005 that Dutch accepted August 17, 1945, as Indonesia’s official date of independence.

How is Indonesian Independence Day celebrated?

In Indonesia, Hari Merdeka, or Independence Day is a day filled with festivities and celebrations. The preparations for Hari Merdeka begin well in advance. This time of the year all of Indonesia seems to be draped in red and white, the colors of its flag.

In the run-up to the celebrations, malls and the fences around the presidential building are adorned with red and white buntings. The city of Jakarta wears an air of festivity and the area between Jl. Thamrin and Jl. Sudirman is done up with unique decorations that reflect the spirit of independence. Neighborhood associations arrange Kerja bakti or community service which includes cleaning the residential areas. The residents have also requested host flags for a set duration of time. Finally, on the eve of Independence Day, the President delivers addresses to the nation.

These preparations culminate in the grand celebrations of Independence Day which usually begin with a flag hoisting ceremony in the presidential place. High school students chosen from across the country for their marching skills, put up a colorful show while the Indonesian flag was hoisted. This is followed by parades and fun-filled activities for the public. These include Krupuk (shrimp chips) eating, bike decorating, and cooking contests. One of the popular games played on this day is Panjat Pinang in which participants climb the greased trunk of the Areca palm tree.

What significance does Independence Day hold in Indonesian history?

The arrival of the Dutch in Indonesia can be traced back to the establishment of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in 1602. In 1800, after the bankruptcy of VOC, the Netherlands established Dutch East Indies – the colony that became present-day Indonesia after World War II. Indonesia remained under Dutch control until World War II when the Japanese invaded it and overran the Dutch forces. The Japanese ruled this archipelago from March 1942 until the end of the war in 1945. After the surrender of the Japanese, Indonesian nationalist leader, Sukarno, declared independence on August 17, 1945. Sukarno became the first president of Indonesia.

The Dutch, however, did not accept this declaration of independence. What followed was the Indonesian National Revolution, an armed and diplomatic struggle between Indonesia and Dutch Empire. The revolution came to an end in 1949 when the Netherlands recognized Indonesian independence. The Independence Day of Indonesia marks the occasion when the country declared its freedom from foreign rule.

What does the Indonesian flag represent?

The national flag of Indonesia, also known as Sang Saka Merah-Putih was proudly unveiled on August 17, 1945. It is based on the banner of the 13th Majapahit Empire in East Java. The design of the flag has remained the same since its independence. The flag consists of two horizontal stripes of equal size; the top strip is red, and the bottom one is white. The colors of the flag have special significance for the history and people of Indonesia. While red represents courage, white epitomizes purity.

Who wrote the national anthem of Indonesia?

The national anthem of Indonesia, Indonesia Raya, was composed by Wage Rudolf Supratman. It was introduced for the first time on October 28, 1928, at the Second Indonesian Youth Congress in Batavia, or present-day Jakarta. It was adopted as the national anthem in 1945.

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