Place:Nusantara (archipelago)

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Short description: Sociopolitical term for Maritime Southeast Asia

A gilded map in the Hall of Independence, Indonesian National Monument, Jakarta. Sabah, Sarawak, and Labuan (states and a federal territory of Malaysia), Brunei, and East Timor (sovereign countries) are also included.

Nusantara is the Indonesian name of Maritime Southeast Asia (or parts of it). It is an Old Javanese term that literally means "outer islands".[1] In Indonesia, it is generally taken to mean the Indonesian Archipelago.[2][3] Outside of Indonesia, the term has been adopted to refer the Malay Archipelago.[4]

The word Nusantara is taken from an oath by Gajah Mada in 1336, as written in the Old Javanese Pararaton and Nagarakretagama.[5] Gajah Mada was a powerful military leader and prime minister of Majapahit credited with bringing the empire to its peak of glory. Gajah Mada delivered an oath called Palapa oath, in which he vowed not to eat any food containing spices until he had conquered all of Nusantara under the glory of Majapahit.

The concept of Nusantara as a unified region was not invented by Gajah Mada in 1336. The term Nusantara was first used by Kertanegara of Singhasari in Mula Malurung inscription dated 1255.[6] Furthermore, in 1275, the term Cakravala Mandala Dvipantara was used by him to describe the aspiration of united Southeast Asian archipelago under Singhasari and marked the beginning of his efforts to achieve it.[7] Dvipantara is a Sanskrit word for the "islands in between", making it a synonym to Nusantara as both dvipa and nusa mean "island". Kertanegara envisioned the union of Southeast Asian maritime kingdoms and polities under Singhasari as a bulwark against the rise of the expansionist Mongol-led Yuan dynasty of China.

In a wider sense, Nusantara in modern language usage includes Austronesian-related cultural and linguistic lands, namely, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Southern Thailand, the Philippines , Brunei, East Timor and Taiwan, while excluding Papua New Guinea.[8][9][10]

Ancient concepts

Majapahit Negara Agung (grand state) and Mancanagara (provinces) in eastern and central parts of Java, including the islands of Madura and Bali.
The extent of Majapahit Nusantara according to Nagarakretagama.


Nusantara is an Old Javanese word which appears in the Pararaton manuscript. In Javanese, Nusantara is derived from nūsa 'island' and antara, 'between'. It means "outer islands" or "other islands" (in the sense of "islands beyond Java in between the Indian and Pacific Oceans"), referring to the islands outside of Java under hegemony of the Majapahit Empire. The term is commonly erroneously translated as "archipelago" in modern times.[11] Based on the Majapahit concept of state, the monarch had power over three areas:

  1. Negara Agung, or the Grand State – the core realm of the kingdom where Majapahit formed before becoming an empire. This included the capital city and the surrounding areas where the king effectively exercised his government: the area in and around royal capital of Trowulan, port of Canggu and sections of Brantas River valley near the capital, as well as the mountainous areas south and southwest of the capital, all the way to the Pananggungan and Arjuno-Welirang peaks. The Brantas river valley corridor, connecting the Majapahit Trowulan area to Canggu and the estuarine areas in Kahuripan (Sidoarjo) and Hujung Galuh (Surabaya), is also considered to be part of Negara Agung.
  2. Mancanegara, the areas surrounding Negara Agung – this traditionally referred to the Majapahit provinces of East and Central Java ruled by the Bhres (dukes), the king's close relatives. This included the rest of Java as well as Madura and Bali. These areas were directly influenced by Majapahit court culture and obliged to pay annual tributes; their rulers might have been directly related to, allied with, and/or intermarried with the Majapahit royal family. Majapahit officials and officers were stationed in these places to regulate their foreign trade activities and collect taxes, but beyond this mancanegara provinces enjoyed substantial autonomy in internal affairs. In later periods, overseas provinces which had adopted Javanese culture or possessed significant trading importance were also considered mancanegara. The ruler of these provinces was either a willing vassal of the Majapahit king or a regent appointed by the king to rule the region. These realms included Dharmasraya, Pagaruyung, Lampung and Palembang in Sumatra.
  3. Nusantara, areas which did not reflect Javanese culture, but were included as colonies which had to pay annual tribute. This included the vassal kingdoms and colonies in Malay Peninsula, Borneo, Lesser Sunda Islands, Sulawesi, Maluku, and Sulu archipelago. These regions enjoyed substantial autonomy and internal freedom, and Majapahit officials and military officers were not necessarily stationed there; however, any challenges to Majapahit oversight might have drawn a severe response.[citation needed]

The word Nusantara was not only used by the Javanese and did not disappear after the fall of Majapahit. This word can be found in Malay Annals, a classic Malay literature written as early as 1612, but it remained known even in the 1808 manuscript:[12][13]

Terlalu sekali besar kerajaan Baginda (Majapahit) pada zaman itu, segala seluruh Jawa semuanya dalam hukum Baginda, dan segala raja-raja Nusantarapun setengah sudah ta-luk kepada baginda.

Very big was the kingdom of Baginda (the king of Majapahit) at that time, all of Java was under Baginda's law, and half of the kings of the Nusantara archipelago were submissive to Baginda.[14]

Nusantara concept in the 20th century

Modern Wawasan Nusantara, the Indonesian archipelagic baselines pursuant to article 47, paragraph 9, of the UNCLOS

In 1920, Ernest Francois Eugene Douwes Dekker (1879–1950), also known as Setiabudi, proposed Nusantara as a name for the independent country of Indonesia which did not contain any words etymologically related to the name of India or the Indies.[15] This is the first instance of the term Nusantara appearing after it had been written into Pararaton manuscript.

The definition of Nusantara introduced by Setiabudi is different from the 14th century definition of the term. During the Majapahit era, Nusantara described vassal areas that had been conquered. Setiabudi defined Nusantara as all the Indonesian regions from Sabang to Merauke, without the aggressive connotations of its former imperial usage.

Modern usage


Today in Indonesian, Nusantara is synonymous with the Indonesian archipelago or the national territory of Indonesia.[16] In this sense, the term Nusantara excludes Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, East Timor, and the Philippines. In 1967, it has transformed into the concept of Wawasan Nusantara or "archipelagic outlook", which regards the archipelagic realm of Indonesia, the islands and seas surrounding them, as a single unity of several aspects, mainly socio-cultural, language, as well as political, economic, security and defensive unity.[17]

Nusantara is also the name of the future capital of Indonesia.[18]

Outside Indonesia

In Brunei, Malaysia, and Singapore the term is generally used to refer to the Malay archipelago or the Malay realm (Malay: Alam Melayu) which includes those countries.

In a more scholarly manner without national borders, Nusantara in a modern language usage "refers to the sphere of influence of the Austronesian-related cultural and linguistic islands that comprise Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the southernmost part of Thailand, the Philippines , Brunei, East Timor and perhaps even Taiwan, but it does not involve the areas of Papua New Guinea."[8]

Nusantara studies

The Nusantara Society in Moscow conducts studies on the Nusantara region's history, culture, languages and politics.

See also


  1. Friend, T. (2003). Indonesian Destinies. Harvard University Press. p. 601. ISBN 0-674-01137-6. 
  2. Echols, John M.; Shadily, Hassan (1989), Kamus Indonesia Inggris (An Indonesian-English Dictionary) (1st ed.), Jakarta: Gramedia, ISBN 979-403-756-7 
  3. "Hasil Pencarian - KBBI Daring". 
  4. "Nusantara | Malay to English Translation - Oxford Dictionaries" (in en-GB). 
  5. Mpu, Prapañca; Robson, Stuart O. (1995). Deśawarṇana: (Nāgarakṛtāgama). KITLV. ISBN 978-90-6718-094-8. 
  6. "Kertanagara dan Nusantara" (in id). 18 January 2022. 
  7. Wahyono Suroto Kusumoprojo (2009). Indonesia negara maritim. PT Mizan Publika. ISBN 978-979-3603-94-0. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Evers, Hans-Dieter (2016). "Nusantara: History of a Concept". Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 89 (1): 3–14. doi:10.1353/ras.2016.0004. 
  9. Mohd. Zariat Abdul Rani (2005). "Antara Islam dan Hinduisme di Alam Melayu: Beberapa catatan pengkaji barat". SARI: Jurnal Alam Dan Tamadun Melayu (Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia) 23: 67–82. ISSN 0127-2721. "Seperkara lagi yang perlu dijelaskan ialah perbezaan istilah yang digunakan mereka bagi merujuk daerah yang mereka perkatakan. N. J. Krom (seterusnya Krom), misalnya, menggunakan istilah 'Nusantara', manakala Bernard H. M. Vlekke (seterusnya Vlekke) dan J.C. Van Leur (Van Leur) menamakan daerah kajian mereka sebagai "Indonesia". Meskipun terdapat perbezaan dari segi istilah, namun setelah diteliti adalah didapati cakupan perbincangan mereka rata-rata merujuk kepada daerah yang sama, iaitu daerah yang disebut oleh Al-Attas dalam syarahan pengukuhan beliau yang bertajuk Islam dalam Sejarah dan Kebudayaan Melayu (1972) sebagai "Kepulauan Melayu-Indonesia".". 
  10. Hafizah Iszahanid (11 October 2018). "Istilah Nusantara diguna tanpa semangat penyatuan Melayu". Berita Harian. "Konsep Nusantara dalam pemahaman warga Indonesia sangat berbeza dengan apa yang difahami rakyat Malaysia, bahkan hampir kesemua negara lain di Asia Tenggara termasuk Singapura...ketika kebanyakan penduduk Asia Tenggara merujuk Nusantara kepada wilayah Kepulauan Melayu atau negara di Asia Tenggara, penduduk Indonesia sebaliknya berpendapat Nusantara adalah Indonesia semata-mata." 
  11. Gaynor, Jennifer L. (2007). "Maritime Ideologies and Ethnic Anomalies". in Bentley, Jerry H.; Bridenthal, Renate; Wigen, Kären. Seascapes: Maritime Histories, Littoral Cultures, and Transoceanic Exchanges. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 59–65. ISBN 9780824830274. 
  12. Ismail, Abdul Rahman Haji (1998). "Malay Annals". Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society: 93. ISBN 9789679948134. 
  13. Ahmad, A. Samad (1979). Sulalatus Salatin (Sejarah Melayu). Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka Malaysia. p. 43. 
  14. Nugroho, Irawan Djoko (2009). Meluruskan Sejarah Majapahit. Ragam Media. p. 227. 
  15. Vlekke, Bernard H.M. (1943), Nusantara: A History of the East Indian Archipelago (1st ed.), Netherlands: Ayer Co Pub, pp. 303–470, ISBN 978-0-405-09776-8 
  16. "nusantara | Indonesian to English Translation - Oxford Dictionaries" (in en-GB). 
  17. Butcher, John G.; Elson, R. E. (2017-03-24) (in en). Sovereignty and the Sea: How Indonesia Became an Archipelagic State. NUS Press. ISBN 9789814722216. 
  18. Siregar, Kiki (17 January 2022). "Indonesia minister announces name of new national capital in eastern Kalimantan". 

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