Picture this: It’s August 17, 1945, and the people of Indonesia have gathered with anticipation. They’re about to gain independence after centuries under colonial rule! You can feel the electricity in the air as leaders Sukarno and Hatta prepare to publicly proclaim Indonesia a sovereign nation. Let’s take a look back at Indonesia’s long road to freedom and how they mark their independence today.
Indonesia is an expansive crossroads between Asia and Australia, spread out over 17,000 different islands. Can you imagine how tough it is to govern so many far-flung islands? But Indonesia manages to unite its over 270 million diverse citizens, made up of hundreds of ethnic groups speaking various languages, under one red and white flag.
This fight for unity has been hard won after years of occupation. Back in the 1600s, the Dutch sailed in seeking spices and riches. For the next few centuries, the Netherlands slowly seized control of the many islands one by one. Under the Dutch East India Company, Indonesia was seen as a money-making colony rather than a nation of people.
The Dutch forced locals to grow cash crops like coffee, tobacco and sugar that enriched the Netherlands. They imposed harsh restrictions that limited opportunity and freedom for Indonesians in their own homeland. The locals were merely resources to exploit for Dutch profit.
But the early 1900s saw nationalist movements arise, hungry for liberty. The people wanted to rule themselves! However, the Dutch crushed any push for Indonesian independence. The locals would have to wait for their chance.
Opportunity arose when World War 2 broke out. In 1942, the Japanese military invaded the Dutch East Indies, seizing control from the Dutch with relative ease. At first, Indonesians hoped maybe the Japanese would be more lenient rulers.
But life under Japan during the war was still oppressive. The Japanese continued extracting resources for their own benefit. However, they did allow Indonesian nationalist groups to share anti-Dutch sentiments to gain support from the locals.
By 1945, Japan could see they were losing the war. Before withdrawing on August 17, they enabled leaders Sukarno and Hatta to lay the groundwork for Indonesian independence. The very next day on August 18, Sukarno and Hatta seized the moment and publicly proclaimed Indonesia’s freedom and sovereignty.
You can imagine the joy and excitement sweeping the nation after longing for this day for so long! However, the proclamation alone wasn’t enough. The Dutch still held onto hopes of retaking their profitable colony after the war.
Four years of violent, deadly conflict followed as Indonesia fought to defend its independence from Dutch attempts to recolonize. Under heavy international pressure, the Netherlands finally recognized Indonesia as a free nation in 1949. Freedom had been hard-earned after 350 years of colonial rule.
Today, August 17 is commemorated as Indonesia’s Independence Day, celebrating that historic proclamation. It’s a day to express national unity, remember the sacrifice of lives lost, and find hope for the future.
Indonesians across the far-flung islands dress in traditional regional clothing, proudly waving the beloved red and white flag. Parents gift children colorful new traditional outfits and shoes, sweets, and small firecrackers.
Flag raising ceremonies occur in cities, towns, and villages with citizens solemnly reciting the Pancasila – the national philosophical theory. The president leads the main ceremony at the palace in the capital Jakarta.
Lively cultural parades wind through the streets featuring floats, marching bands, dancers in traditional dress, and performances. Major cities host massive festivals with concerts, carnival rides, and rows of street food vendors.
Friends and families gather for feasts featuring national dishes like nasi kuning (turmeric rice), satay skewers, and ketupat compressed rice cakes. Favorite local dishes are also enjoyed.
This day represents the long fight for freedom and the sacrifices made by so many for future generations to live in a self-ruled nation. It celebrates the diverse cultures united under one flag. Citizens gain pride from commemorating their independence journey while feeling hopeful for the future.
Now 75 years later, Indonesia’s Independence Day remains vital for carrying on the spirit of liberation. August 17 unites Indonesia’s diversity across its 17,000 islands in commemoration, celebration, and optimism. The red and white flag flies high honoring the past and inspiring the future.