Jakarta (JAH-kahr-TAH) is located on the northwest coast of Java. Jakarta means “victory city.” It’s the capital of Indonesia and the largest city in the country. It has almost 10 million residents.
The first recorded settlement at what is now Jakarta was the port of Kelapa, near the mouth of the Ciliwung River. Its origin can be traced to a Hindu settlement as early as the 5th Century. By the 12th century, it was a major port for the Hindu kingdom of Sunda. The Portuguese were reportedly the first Europeans to visit the port of Kelapa. A Hindu king granted Portuguese traders permission to build a fort at Kelapa in the early 16th century. Jakarta’s port is still at Sunda Kelapa today.
In 1527, Fatahillah, a young leader from a nearby kingdom from the north, conquered the city. Fatahillah renamed Kelapa to Jayakarta on June 22, 1527, which is regarded as the official birth date of Jakarta.
The Dutch came to Jayakarta at the end of the 16th century. In 1619, the forces of the Dutch East India Company, led by Jan Pieterszoon Coen, conquered the city and changed Jayakarta’s name to Batavia, the Latin name for the Netherlands. Batavia became the capital of the colonial Dutch East Indies. In the early 19th century, the city was expanded as the Dutch began moving south to higher-elevation areas. The British captured Java in 1811, while the Netherlands was preoccupied with the Napoleonic Wars in Europe. The British returned it to the Dutch after just five years on the island.
With Dutch rule expanding across the Indonesian archipelago during the 19th and early 20th centuries, the importance of Batavia (Jakarta) increased. To maintain control and maximize tax revenue, the Dutch required nearly all exports from anywhere in the region to pass through the city, which established an overwhelming political and economic dominance that Jakarta retains today.
Japan controlled the city during World War II and renamed it Jakarta, which helped it gain local support during its occupation. Following Japan’s defeat in 1945, the Dutch reoccupied the city, despite the declaration of independence by the Indonesians on August 17, 1945. Under international pressure, the war for independence ended with the establishment of Indonesia in 1949.
Unlike other cities in Indonesia, Jakarta has a special provincial status, which empowers a governor instead of a mayor. Jakarta is divided into five districts.
So many cultures have passed through Jakarta over the past 300 years, that it has acquired a world-class collection of old sailing ships. The ships are in an area known as Sunda Kelapa, the old Dutch port. In addition to a variety of well-preserved colonial vessels, it also has several examples of native Buginese ships.
Although the city is know for its heavy traffic and high level of pollution it is filled with an exciting nightlife and vibrant shopping areas. The city also is the melting pot of Indonesian culture.