|Jakarta, the capital of the nation, has a
fascinating history. Lots of different aspects have colored
the city history and the life of people today. Since the fifth
century, ships from China and Champa (Vietnam), and from all
islands in the archipelago docked at the mouth of the Ciliwung
river. Indian and Portuguese traders also visited this small
town. Javanese sailors, carrying spices from Molucca, also docked
there. Nearly all people from the East and West left their trails
to blend special flavor of Jakarta.
of old historical buildings and monuments refers to the site
where the city of Jakarta itself begins. All historical evidence
points to the area of the Kota, the old city on the banks of
Ciliwung river. A bit south of the place currently known as
Pasar Ikan or Fish Market was planted the first tiny seed that
developed into a huge city of more than 10 million inhabitants.
When did Jakarta start its journey throughout history? Nobody
If we stand on top of Menara Syahbandar (the
Lookout Tower) across the bridge over the Kali Besar, we enjoy a view
of oldest area of Jakarta. To the north we can see the present old
harbor with its colorful prahu (saliboats) and the Java Sea. Some
300 meters to the south, you can find a renovated old drawbridge.
In the time of the Dutch East-India Company colonialism, the bridge
was called Hoender pasarbrug or Chicken Market Bridge. At that time,
between 17th and early 18 centuries, ships could sail further up to
the river Ciliwung. Towards the south of this drawbridge, the once
busy harbor town of Sunda Kelapa stretched along both sides of the
river between the 12th century and 15th century.
Sunda Kalapa was the main port of the Hindu
Kingdom of Sunda . The capital of the Pakuan Pajajaran kingdom
was located two day journey upriver, now known as Bogor. This
port was often visited by ships from Palembang, Tanjungpura,
Malacca, Maccasar and Madura, and even by merchants from India
and South China. Sunda Kelapa exported, among other items,
pepper, rice and gold.
In 1513 the first European fleet,
four Portuguese ships under the command of Alvin, arrived
in Sunda Kelapa from Mallaca. Mallaca had been conquered two
years earlier by Alfonso d' Albuquerque. They were looking
for spices, especially pepper, to this busy and well-organized
harbor. Some years later, the Portuguese Enrique Leme visited
Kalapa with presents for the King of Sunda. He was well received
and on August 21, 1522 and signed a treaty of friendship between
the kingdom of Sunda and Portugal. The Portuguese received
the right to build a godown (warehouse) and to erect a fort
in Kalapa. This was regarded by the Sundanese as a consolidation
of their position against the encroaching Muslim troops from
the rising power of the Sultanate of Demak in Central Java.
To commemorate this treaty,
they put big stone, called a Padrao, which vanished for some years.
This stone was uncovered later in 1918 during an excavation for
a new house in Kota area on the corner of Cengkeh street and Nelayan
Timur Street. This Padrao can now be seen in the National Museum
on Medan Merdeka Barat street. The original location of the stone
suggests that the coastline in the early 16th century formed a nearly
straight line which is marked by the present of Nelayan street,
some 400 meters south to the The Lookout Tower.
The King of Sunda had his own reasons for great
danger from the expansive Muslim Kingdom of Demak, whose troops
threatened his second harbor town, Banten (west of Jakarta). Sunda
felt squeezed and was in need of strong friends. Thus, the king
hoped the Portuguese would return quickly and help him protect his
important harbor. But they came too late. For in 1527 the Muslim
leader Fatahillah appeared before Kalapa with 1,452 soldiers from
Cirebon and Demak.
According to some historians, this victory of
1527 provided the reason for Fatahillah to rename Sunda Kelapa,
Jayakarta, which means "Great Deed" or "Complete
Victory." On the basis of this victory, Jakarta celebrates
its birthday on June 22, 1527, the day Fatahillah gave the town
a name of victory of over Sundanese Hindus and Portuguese sailor.
Prince Jayawikarta, a follower of the Sultan of
Banten, resided on the west banks of the Ciliwung river, which in
the early 17th century reached the roughly at our starting place,
the Lookout at Pasar Ikan. He erected a military post there in order
to control the mouth of the river and the Dutch who had been granted
permission in 1610 to build a wooden godown and some houses just
opposite there on the east bank. Dutch ships had already come to
Jayakarta in 1596. The Prince tried to keep a close eye on these
To keep its strength equal to that of the Dutch,
Prince Jayawikarta allowed the British to erect houses on the West
Bank of Ciliwung river, across the Dutch godown, in 1615. The Prince
granted permission to the British to erect a fort closed to his
Customs Office post. Jayawikarta was in support of the British because
his palace was under the threat of the Dutch cannons. In December
1618, the tense realtionship between Prince Jayawikarta and the
Dutch escalated. Jayawikarta soldiers besieged the Dutch fortress
that covered two strong godown, namely Nassau and Mauritus. The
British fleet made up of 15 ships arrived. The fleet was under the
leadership of Sir Thomas Dale, former governor of the Colony of
Virginia, now known as Virginia State in the United States.
The British admiral was already old and was indecisive.
After the sea battle, the newly appointed Dutch governor Jan Pieter
Soon Coon (1618) escaped to Molucca to seek support. Meanwhile,
the commander of the Dutch army was arressted when the negotiation
was underway because Jayawikarta felt that he was deceived by the
Dutch. Then, the Prince Jayawikarta and the British entered into
a friendship agreement.
The Dutch army was about to surrender to the British
when in 1619, a sultan from Banten sent soldiers and summoned Prince
Jayawikarta for establishing closed realtionship with the British
without first asking an approval from Banten authorities. The conflict
between Banten and Prince Jayawikarta as well as the tensed relationship
between Banten and the British had weakened the Dutch enemy. Prince
Jayawikarta was moved to Tanara and died in Banten.
The Dutch felt relieved and tried to establish
a closer relationship with the Banten. The Dutch fortress garrison,
along with hired soldiers from Japan, Germany, Scotia, Denmark,
and Belgium held a party in commemoration of the change in situation.
They name their fortress after Batavia to recollect the ethnic group
Batavier, the Dutch ancestor. Since then Jayakarta was called Batavia
for more than 300 years.
Under the relationship of J.P Coen, Dutch army
attacked and destroyed the city and Jayakarta Palace on May 30,
1619. There were no remains of Jakarta except for the Padrao stone
now stored at the National Museum in Jakarta. The Jayakarta grave
was possibly located in Pulau Gadung. If we stand on top of Menara
Syahbandar and look around, we can enjoy the beautiful panorama
in the oldest area of Batavia. Certainly, we can't enjoy the remains
of the city Sunda Kelapa or Jayakarta. Kasteel or the Dutch fortress,
too, has been destroyed. Here we can see several remains from the
mid-17th century. Nearly all of the remains are related to trade
Menara Syahbandar was built 1839 to replace the
old flag pole in ship dock located right on the side across a river.
From the pole and later the tower, officials observed ships about
to anchor gave signals. The tower then is used a meteorology post.
To the West of the Lookout Tower, we can see the view of the present
Museum Bahari. The museum represents a very old and strong edifice
with Dutch architecture. The museum also provides several maps of
the city, with stages of the city development shown. The museum
is part of something in Dutch called Westzijdsche Pakhuizen (Warehouse
on the Westbank). Here nutmegs, pepper. coffee, tea, and cloth in
a large scale were used to be stored.
The areas around Menara Syahbandar was once
the center of Kota Batavia. It was the center of a trading network
with wide spread agents reaching Deshima (Nagasaki) in Japan, Surate
in Persia and Capetown in South Africa. Inter-trade among Asia was
more profitable than inter-trade between Asia and Europe. And the
Pasar Ikan (Market Fish) once was the pulse. Here, the site where
the origin of the capital of Indonesia, Jakarta, came from.