The Republic of Indonesia is a Southeast Asian country with over 17000 islands and 275 million people. The country has deep roots in its cultural heritage created from the influences of original indigenous customs and multiple foreign influences. As a result, a complex cultural mix is prevalent apart from the original indigenous cultures. With the influence of western countries in terms of advanced technology, some religions still preserve their traditional indigenous culture and customs even today. Additionally, UNESCO has marked and inscribed many cultural heritage sites in Indonesia, which defines the country’s overall ethnicity and cultural importance over the years.
Indonesia and its Culture
The culture of Indonesia is commonly defined locally rather than at the national level. The past influences of colonial and immigrant influences have significantly impacted and influenced the present cultural heritage in Indonesia. The culture is focused within the community, following the motto of unity in diversity, acknowledging all its local traditional roots.
Architecture of Indonesia
Vernacular architecture is a big part of Indonesian architecture, and traditional buildings have a common timber structure with a large roof. Indonesian architecture has seen its share of European and Indian influences on its architectural style, and most of the buildings are built on stilts. These are seen in some famous stilt houses of the Dayak people in Borneo and the Rumah Bolon of the Batak people. These houses include essential features such as oversized saddle roofs with large eaves and detailed decorative reliefs in the exterior walls. Further, Indonesia is well known for its ancient temples referred to as Canti.
The largest Buddhist temple in the world, Borobudur temple, is located in Indonesia. This 8th-century temple is well known for incorporating 2672 relief panels with 504 Buddha statues into its structure. The whole design is created around the idea of narrating the journey and life of Buddha through these elements. In addition to this, the Hindu temple architecture can be witnessed from the temple complex at Prambanan, situated in Java. Eight main shrines with 224 smaller shrines are included in the temple complex, making it an attractive heritage site for tourists and locals.
Cultural Heritage Sites in Indonesia
The following are the essential sites under the cultural heritage category in Indonesia inscribed by UNESCO in the list of World Heritage Sites.
The famous Buddhist temple from the 8th century was included as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1991. Along with the serene and beautiful nature surrounding it, this world’s largest Buddhist temple is a prominent historical and cultural spot in Indonesia. The whole temple was renovated from 1975 to 1982 by the Indonesian government and UNESCO. It is an excellent example of splendid human creations from the past.
Both Borobudur and Prambanan temples were designated as World Heritage Sites in the same year, 1991. Indonesia’s largest Hindu temple, Prambanan temple, is one of the most beautiful temples in Southeast Asia. It resembles Hindu architecture with its tall and slender structure. Prambanan temple is a big temple complex with three main temples dedicated to three gods (Tri Murti) in Hinduism and several other temples surrounding them, all built around the 9th century.
Sangiran Early man Site
Sangiran early man site is an archaeological site designated as a UNESCO Heritage Site since 1996. This is an important archaeological site that helps with the study of ancient human fossils. The museum on the site consists of objects related to ancient human beings. It is a site where ancient human fossils such as Meganthropus, Pithecanthropus Erectus, and Homo Erectus were discovered.
Subak Bali Cultural Landscape
The Subak System, situated in Indonesia, is one of the most popular agricultural areas among others in the world. These are a community organization in Bali that regulates the consistent production of rice through the irrigation system. The Subak System is incredibly famous to the point that an anthropologist from the USA studied keenly about it. This was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012.
Ombilin Coal Mining Heritage
Ombilin coal mining heritage site was developed under the rule of the Netherlands’ colonial government from the late 19th to early 20th century. The local population was selected as the labor, and the site was mainly for extracting, processing, and transporting high-quality coal in the region of Sumatra. It became a World Heritage Site under the cultural category in 2019.
The cultural heritage of Indonesia is vast, and it has a lot more to offer than what is included here. All the significant cultural aspects that originated from hundreds of local ethnicities are still thriving as essential elements that define the overall country of Indonesia. 12 cultural heritages are a big part of the cultural preservation led by UNESCO.
These are Wayang Puppet Theatre, a sharp blade-type traditional weapon called Kris, Batik prints and fabrics, and a traditional musical instrument called angklung. Other performing arts included in the list are the Saman dance, three genres of traditional Balinese dances, Pencak Silat, which is a martial arts form, Gamelan, along with a kind of poetry called Pantun, and a traditional bag called Noken. In conclusion, it is evident that Indonesia is filled with various cultures and heritages and is a land rich in traditional ethnicities and religions that significantly influences its tourism and population without a doubt.
- UNESCO World Heritage Convention. (n.d.). Indonesia. [online] Available at: https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/id [Accessed 1 Jan. 2023].
- Authentic Indonesia. (n.d.). 14 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Indonesia. [online] Available at: https://authentic-indonesia.com/blog/14-unesco-world-heritage-sites-in-indonesia/ [Accessed 1 Jan. 2023].
- Wonderful Indonesia. (n.d.). Amazing! Meet These 12 UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritages from Indonesia. [online] Available at: https://www.indonesia.travel/gb/en/trip-ideas/amazing-meet-these-11-unesco-intangible-cultural-heritages-from-indonesia [Accessed 1 Jan. 2023].