Indonesia’s new capital is a throwback to the nation’s Hindu heritage
Indonesia on Tuesday passed a law to move its capital to Borneo’s Nusantara from overcrowded and sinking Jakarta. Nusantara, which means archipelago in Javanese, has its roots in the Hindu history of Indonesia.
The name of the new capital dates back to a 14th century story when Gajah Mada, prime minister of the Majapahit empire and its Hindu ruler Hayam Wuruk, took an oath that he would not eat any spice until he had conquered all Nusantara. Mada in all likelihood meant that he would stick to his vow until he had conquered present-day Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, southern Thailand and East Timor as far south as -western Philippines, which he did and unified the entire archipelago – Nusantara, according to a report by the South China Morning Post.
Gajah Mada is also a national hero whose exploits inspired Indonesia’s struggle for independence centuries later.
The history of Indonesia was deeply influenced by Hinduism when Indian traders and priests traveled to the Southeast Asian nation during the 1st century CE. The last of the Hindu kingdoms was Majapahit, which remained in power until the early 16th century when Islamic forces conquered most of Indonesia. Indonesia’s national emblem is Garuda – also a deeply respected symbol in Hindu mythology for being the mount of Lord Vishnu.
Indonesia is home to the largest Muslim population in the world, but it is also home to over 4 million Hindus. Despite Islamic domination, several facets of Indonesian culture reflect the Hindu history of the archipelago. Bali, Sulawesi (Central, South and Southeast), Central Kalimantan and South Sumatra are some of the regions that are home to large Hindu communities. Indonesian Hinduism is a hybrid of Indonesian animist beliefs, Hinduism and Buddhism.
The new capital will cover at least 216 square miles and is located in the province of East Kalimantan. “This (capital) will not only have government offices, we want to build a new smart metropolis that can be a magnet for global talent and a hub of innovation,” Indonesian President Joko Widodo was quoted as saying by Reuters. AFP news agency. The name was chosen from a list of 80 names and due to its recognizable nature, according to Minister Suharso Monoarfa.
Balinese sculptor Nyoman Nuarta, famous for his statue of Garuda Wisnu Kencana (GWK), was commissioned to design the new presidential complex.
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