Wednesday, December 8, 2010

History of the Java Island

Facts about Java Island

Also known as Jawa Island

Indonesia's 4th largest island

Contains more than half of the country's population. (A fun fact; As of this year, the island has about 136 million in population! That is almost of 2/3 of Indonesia's population)

The capital of Java and Indonesia's largest city: Jakarta

Java is truly extraordinary. Java actually has one of the longest records of human habitation of any place on the earth! The fossilized remains of Homo erectus, or “Java man,” indicate that the island was occupied some 800,000 years ago. Many archaeologists theorized that Java could have been the location of the biblical "Garden of Eden" but no one truly knows.

Much of Indonesia history happened on Java Island. it was the center of powerful Hindu-Buddhist empires, Islamic sultanates, the core of the colonial Dutch East Indies, and was at the center of Indonesia's campaign for independence.

When one think of Java, the first thing that comes to mind is the famous Javanese massage. Javanese massage is well known especially in the Southeast Asia region. It has gained popularity that even the Europeans and westerns are beginning to the adopt it in their spa treatments. In addition, Java is also well known for its Wayang kulit also known as the Javanese shadow play. It is a form of storytelling medium that relates stories that may be historical, religious, political or didactic in nature.

The different waves of cultural and religious influences from the past has contributed to the ethnic diversity in modern Indonesia. In fact, there are over 300 ethnic groups in Indonesia! In Java, the 3 major ethnic groups are the Javanese, Sundanese and Madurese along with smaller groups such as Tenggerese, Badui and also the native inhabitants of Jakarta, The Betawi. The island is divided into four provinces: East Java, West Java, Central Java and Banten, together with Jakarta City (the Jakarta metropolitan district) and Yogyakarta.
(Above information are adapted from Java Indonesia, Periplus Adventure Guides)

The pace of modernization on Java is rapidly quickening. Factories, highways and housing estates are growing up all around the major cities slowly replacing the rural charm of the island. The most dramatic change of the last century has been the expansion of Java's cities. Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia, was once a tiny port surrounded by coastal swamps but now, the influx of people in the city is becoming a strained to its city's resources.

In my upcoming posts, I will discover more of Jakarta, the society and its culture and traditions. In addtion, I'll take a look at the increasing growth of the tourism industry in Jakarta that is now becoming one of the major economy source of the city.

Next up - The people of Java; Ethnic groups and their languages!

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