82-88% of the population of Indonesia state their religion as being Islam making it numerically by far the largest religion in the nation and Indonesia the largest Muslim-majority country in the world. Nevertheless, Indonesia officially remains a secular state. Although religious orthodoxies do vary across the Indonesia archipelago the strict observance of Islamic dress codes apparent in some countries is generally absent. In larger cities headscarves and overt manifestations of faith are exceptions rather than the rule. In some regional areas and the devout state of Aceh things can be considerably stricter. In fact, despite being nominally Muslim, many local stories and customs which are Hindu, Buddhist or animist in origin are faithfully preserved by much of the population.
The other four state-sanctioned religions are Protestantism 5%, Roman Catholicism 3%, Hinduism 2% and Buddhism 1%. Hindus are concentrated on Bali, while Christians are found mostly in parts of North Sumatra, Papua, North Sulawesi, and East Nusa Tenggara. Buddhism, on the other hand, is mainly practised by the ethnic Chinese in the larger cities. There are also pockets of animism throughout the country, and many strict Muslims decry the casual Indonesian incorporation of animistic rites into the practices of notionally Islamic believers.
Indonesian national law decrees that all citizens of the Republic must declare their religion and that the declared religion must be one of the five that are officially sanctioned by the state. This results in obvious distortions. For example, many animist practitioners notionally call themselves Muslim or Christian for the benefit of the state bureaucracy.
2012 1433: Jul 20 - Aug 18
2013 1434: Jul 9 - Aug 7
2014 1435: Jun 28 - Jul 27
The festival of Eid ul-Fitr is held after the end of Ramadan and may last several days. Exact dates depend on astronomical observations and may vary from country to country.
Multicultural Indonesia celebrates a vast range of religious holidays and festivals, but many are limited to small areas eg. the Hindu festivals of Bali. The following covers public holidays applied nationwide regardless of their belief.
The most significant season of the year is the Muslim fasting month of Ramadhan. During its 30 days, devout Muslims refrain from passing anything through their lips food, drink, smoke between sunrise and sunset. People get up early to stuff themselves before sunrise sahur, go to work late, and take off early to get back home in time to break fast buka puasa at sunset. Non-Muslims, as well as Muslims travelling musafir, are exempt from fasting but it is polite to refrain from eating or drinking in public. Many restaurants close during the day and those that stay open e.g., hotel restaurants maintain a low profile, with curtains covering the windows. During Ramadhan, all forms of nightlife including bars, nightclubs, karaoke and massage parlours close by midnight, and especially in more devout areas quite a few opt to stay closed entirely. Business travellers will notice that things move at an even more glacial pace than usual and, especially towards the end of the month, many people will take leave.
The climax at the end of the month is the two days of Idul Fitri also known as Lebaran, when pretty much the entire country takes a week or two off to head back home to visit family in a ritual known locally as mudik, meaning going home. This is the one time of the year when Jakarta has no traffic jams, but the rest of the country does, with all forms of transport packed to the gills. All government offices including embassies and many businesses close for a week or even two, and travelling around Indonesia is best avoided if at all possible.
Other Muslim holidays include Idul Adha the sacrifice day, Isra Mi'raj Muhammad SAW, Hijra Islamic new year and Maulid Muhammad SAW. Christian holidays include Christmas, Ascension Day, Good Friday, while the Hindu New Year of Nyepi March-April bring Bali to a standstill and Buddhists get a day off for Waisak Buddha's birthday, celebrated with processions around Borobudur. Non-religious holidays include New Year 1 Jan, Imlek Chinese New Year in Jan-Feb and Independence Day 17 Aug.
The dates of many holidays are set according to various lunar calendars and the dates thus change from year to year. The Ministry of Labor may change the official date of holidays if they are close to the weekend. There is another official day off for workers, called cuti bersama taking days off together, which is sometime close to the Idul Fitri holidays.
Upon arrival and disembarking from the plane, you'll immediately notice the sudden rush of warm, wet air. Indonesia is a warm place. It has no spring, summer, fall, or winter, just two seasons: rainy and dry, both of which are relative it still rains during the dry season, it just rains less. While there is significant regional variation, in most of the country including Java and Bali the dry season is April to October, while the wet season is November to March.
In the highlands temperatures will naturally be cooler, and there are even snow-covered peaks in Papua, whose mountains can soar above 5000 meters. Bring along a jacket if planning to visit eg. Mount Bromo on Java or Tana Toraja in Sulawesi.
Since the country is very large, Indonesia is divided into three time zones:
GMT +7: Western Indonesian Time WIB, Waktu Indonesia Barat
Sumatra, Java, west/central Kalimantan
GMT +8: Central Indonesian Time WITA, Waktu Indonesia Tengah
Bali, south/east Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara
GMT +9: Eastern Indonesian Time WIT, Waktu Indonesia Timur
Despite 50 years of promoting Bhinneka Tunggal Ika "Unity in Diversity" as the official state motto, the concept of an "Indonesian" remains artificial and the country's citizens divide themselves along a vast slew of ethnicities, clans, tribes and even castes. If this wasn't enough, religious differences add a volatile ingredient to the mix and the vast gaps in wealth create a class society as well. On a purely numerical scale, the largest ethnic groups are the Javanese 45% of central and eastern Java, the Sundanese 14% from western Java, the Madurese 7.5% from the island of Madura, and Coastal Malays 7.5%, mostly from Sumatra. This leaves 26% for the Acehnese and Minangkabau of Sumatra, the Balinese, the Iban and Dayaks of Kalimantan, and a bewildering patchwork of groups in Nusa Tenggara and Papua — the official total is no less than 3000!
For the most part, Indonesia's many peoples coexist happily, but ethnic conflicts do continue to fester in some remote areas of the country. The policy of transmigration transmigrasi, initiated by the Dutch but continued by Suharto, resettled Javanese, Balinese and Madurese migrants to less crowded parts of the archipelago. The new settlers, viewed as privileged and insensitive, were often resented by the indigenous populace and, particularly on Kalimantan and Papua, led to sometimes violent conflict.
One particularly notable ethnic group found throughout the country are the Indonesian Chinese, known as Tionghoa or the somewhat derogatory Cina. At an estimated 6-7 million they make up 3% of the population and probably constitute the largest ethnic Chinese group in any country outside China. Indonesian Chinese wield a disproportionate influence in the economy, with one famous — if largely discredited — study of companies on the Jakarta Stock Exchange concluding that as many as 70% of its companies and, by extension, the country were controlled by ethnic Chinese. They have thus been subject to persecution, with Chinese forcibly relocated into urban areas in the 1960s, forced to adopt Indonesian names and bans imposed on teaching Chinese and displaying Chinese characters. Anti-Chinese pogroms have also taken place, notably in the 1965-66 anti-Communist purges after Suharto's coup and again in 1998 after his downfall, when over 1100 people were killed in riots in Jakarta and other major cities. However, the post-Reformasi governments have overturned most of the discriminatory legislation, and Chinese writing and Chinese festivals have made a reappearance, with the Chinese New Year having been declared a public holiday nationwide since 2003. While most of the Java Chinese are monolingual in Indonesian, many of the Chinese in Sumatra and Kalimantan continue to speak various Chinese dialects.
There is no one unified Indonesian culture as such, but the Hindu culture of the former Majapahit empire does provide a framework for many of the cultural traditions found across the central islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali and Lombok. Perhaps the most distinctively "Indonesian" arts are wayang kulit shadow puppetry, where intricately detailed cutouts act out scenes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana and other popular folk stories, and its accompaniment the gamelan orchestra, whose incredibly complex metallic rhythms are the obligatory backdrop to both religious ceremonies and traditional entertainment. Indonesia is culturally intertwined with the Malays, with notable items such as batik cloth and kris daggers, and Arabic culture has also been adopted to some degree thanks to Islam.
Modern-day Indonesian popular culture is largely dominated by the largest ethnic group, the Javanese. Suharto's ban on Western imports like rock'n'roll, while long since repealed, led to the development of indigenous forms of music like dangdut, a sultry form of pop developed in the 1970s, and the televised pelvic thrusts of starlet Inul Daratista in 2003 were nearly as controversial as Elvis once was. Anggun Cipta Sasmi is a talented Indonesian singer who became a famous singer in France. Her single "La neige au sahara" became a top hit on the European charts in the summer of 1997.
Most Indonesian films are low budget B movies. "Daun di Atas Bantal" 1998 is an exception; it won the "best movie" award at the Asia Pacific Film Festival in Taipei, Taiwan 1998. The Raid, Redemption Indonesian: Serbuan maut, and also known as The Raid was released in 2011 at the Toronto International Film Festival and has international distribution. This Indonesian action film had a production budget of Â£1.1 million It was written and directed by Gareth Evans UK and starred Iko Uwais. Evans and Uwais released their first action film, Merantau in 2009. Both films showcase the traditional Indonesian martial art Pencak Silat.
Indonesian literature has yet to make much headway on the world stage, with torch-bearer Pramoedya Ananta Toer's works long banned in his own homeland, but the post-Suharto era has seen a small boom with Ayu Utami's Saman breaking both taboos and sales records.
The early, modern history of Indonesia begins in the period from 2500 BCE to 1500 BCE with a wave of light brown-skinned Austronesian immigrants, thought to have originated in Taiwan. This Neolithic group of people, skilled in open-ocean maritime travel and agriculture are believed to have quickly supplanted the existing, less-developed population.
From this point onward, dozens of kingdoms and civilizations flourished and faded in different parts of the archipelago. Some notable kingdoms include Srivijaya 7th-14th century on Sumatra and Majapahit 1293-c.1500, based in eastern Java but the first to unite the main islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali and Borneo now Kalimantan as well as parts of Peninsular Malaysia.
The first Europeans to arrive after Marco Polo who passed through in the late 1200s were the Portuguese, who were given permission to erect a godown near present-day Jakarta in 1522. By the end of the century, however, the Dutch had pretty much taken over and the razing of a competing English fort in 1619 secured their hold on Java, leading to 350 years of colonization. In 1824, the Dutch and the British signed the Anglo-Dutch Treaty which divided the Malay world into Dutch and British spheres of influence, with the Dutch ceding Malacca to the British, and the British ceding all their colonies on Sumatra to the Dutch. The line of division roughly corresponds to what is now the border between Malaysia and Indonesia, with a small segment becoming the border between Singapore and Indonesia.
Various nationalist groups developed in the early 20th century, and there were several disturbances, quickly put down by the Dutch. Leaders were arrested and exiled. Then during World War II, the Japanese conquered most of the islands. In August 1945 in the post war vacumn following the Japanese surrender to allied forces the Japanese army and navy still controlled the majority of the Indonesian archipelago. The Japanese agreed to return Indonesia to the Netherlands but continued to administer the region as the Dutch were unable to immediately return due to massive destabilisation from the effects of war in Europe.