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How Indonesia's Name Changed in History

Selasa, 15-Juni-2021 17:00

A border area between Indonesia and Malaysia in North Kalimantan
Foto : Wikimedia
A border area between Indonesia and Malaysia in North Kalimantan

JAKARTA, NETRALNEWS.COM - Prior to having the name Indonesia, it seems that our country had several times another name, before finally it was decided to become Indonesia. What were those names before Indonesia? The following are the names, as gathered from various sources.

According to a Chinese ancient record, they once called Indonesia by the name of Nan-hai, which means the South Sea Islands. Then the Indians also used to refer to Indonesia with Dwipantara, meaning Opposite Land Islands. Meanwhile, the Arabs called our homeland with the name al-Jawi Jaza'ir which means the Islands of Java.

At BC era, the name used to name our country was Indies (Hindia). This name was a creation by Herodotus, a Greek historical scientist (484-425 BC), and the use of Indies name became popular since the arrival of the Portuguese pioneered by Vasco da Gama in 1498.

After the Portuguese, came the Dutch who had controlled Indonesia. Their arrival was preceded by the arrival of Cornelis de Houtman in 1596. The Dutch then gave the name Nederlandsch Oost-Indie for our country, and once was replaced to Nederlandsch Indie.

There were also proposed names for our country’s name. The most famous one was the proposal from Eduard Douwes Dekker, known under the pseudonym Multatuli.

He had proposed a specific name to call our homeland, i.e., Insulinde, which means the Indian Archipelago. But apparently Insulinde name was less popular. For Bandung residents, Insulinde may only be known as the name of a bookstore once existed in Jalan Otista.

In the 1920s, Ernest Francois Eugene Douwes Dekker, who we know as Dr. Setiabudi (he was the grandson of Multatuli’s brother), popularized a name for our land that did not contain the word India. That name was Nusantara, a term that has been sinking for centuries.

Setiabudi took the name from Pararaton, Majapahit’s ancient manuscript found in Bali by the end of the 19th century which was then translated by J.L.A. Brandes and published by Nicholaas Johannes Krom in 1920.

Then in 1847, published in Singapore an annual scientific journal, the Journal of the Indian Archipelago and Eastern Asia (JIAEA), which was managed by James Richardson Logan (1819-1869), a Scot who achieved a law degree from the University of Edinburgh. Then in 1849 an English ethnologist, George Samuel Windsor Earl (1813-1865), joined as the editor of JIAEA magazine.

In the Volume IV of JIAEA of the year 1850, pages 66-74, Earl wrote an article titled "On the Leading Characteristics of the Papuan, Australian and Malay-Polynesian Nations". In the article, Earl insisted that the time has come for the people of the Islands of the Indian or Malay Archipelago to have distinctive names, because the name Indian was not appropriate and often confused with other mentions of India. Earl put forward two names, which were Indunesia or Malayunesia.

Earl said he preferred Malayunesia name (Malay Archipelago) than Indunesia (Indian Islands), because Malayunesia was very appropriate for the Malay race and the language being used, while Indunesia can also be used for Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and the Maldives.

Meanwhile Logan, in an article on the same volume, picked the name Indunesia which Earl discarded, and replaced the letter U with the letter O for better pronunciation. Thus the term Indonesia was born.

Since that time Logan consistently used the name Indonesia in his scientific writings, and gradually the use of the term spread among scientists in ethnology and geography fields. In 1884 a professor of ethnology at the University of Berlin named Adolf Bastian (1826-1905) published five volumes of the book "Indonesien oder die Inseln des Malayischen Archipel", containing the results of his research when wandering into our homeland in 1864-1880.

It was the Bastian book that popularized the term Indonesia among the Dutch scholars, so it raised the notion that the term Indonesia was created by Bastian. Although, Bastian took the term Indonesia from Logan’s writings. Finally, the name Indonesia continues to be used to date. 

Reporter : turkhan
Editor : turkhan

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