5 Myths about the Regions’ Names in Indonesia: DEBUNKED!

As an Indonesian, you must be wondering, ‘oh, why is the name of my province so boring?’. Don’t worry it’s a valid question to ask. The provinces’ names in Indonesia are rather boring compared to the states in Malaysia or the provinces in Canada. Our regions are mostly named based on their location. For example, West Kalimantan, North Maluku, and South Sumatra. We only have a few provinces with an original name. Due to their original name, there are theories and reasons flying all over the place about their origin. If you want to know about the history of your region’s name, you come to the right place, or… maybe you’re just a big history nerd. Anyway, this article will give you a brief history of Indonesia’s regions’ names.

  1. The Province of Bangka Belitung Islands, coming from a local hero.

            Naming something based on a local hero’s name is a common thing to do. For example, the airport in Pangkal Pinang is based on a royal of Bangka Island, named Depati Amir. But the name of the province is not based on someone else’s name. There are many theories about why they called it Bangka Belitung Island. One famous theory is due to the excessive amount of tin (in Sanskrit, Wangka means tin). As for Belitung, it’s hard to find a believable theory for its name. Thus, we know that the name of the Province of Bangka Belitung Islands derived from its natural resource, which is tin.

  1. The City of Tangerang, coming from a local tribe.

            Very much mistaken! Tangerang is a big city located near West Jakarta. Its origin name should be well-known to Indonesian, but surprisingly, not many people know about it. Tangerang came from the word tangerang, which means a sign. A sign that marks the location for the Banten Sultanate and VOC, that was made by one of the Sultan Ageng Tirtayasa’s sons. The reason it changed from tangeran into what we know today (which is Tangerang), is that there are a lot of Makassarian immigrants in Tangerang that started to call it Tangerang.

  1. The Province of Irian Jaya, coming from the local names of Papua Island.

            You should pay more attention in your history class if you get this one wrong. Before it was changed into Papua during Abdurrahman Wahid’s presidency, it was called Irian Jaya. No need to make a crazy theory based on its name, because the history of Irian Jaya’s name is only an abbreviation of ‘Ikut Republik Indonesia Anti Nederland.’ The abbreviation was created by Frans Kaisiepo, the guy in Rp 10.000,00 bill, to support the Republic during the Netherlands occupation in Papua.

  1. The City of Singkawang, coming from the Chinese traders.

            Due to many Chinese in Singkawang, it’s fair that people are assuming that its name was coming from the Chinese traders. But it’s not. The name of Singkawang was coming from “San Kew Jong” which means a city located between the sea, estuary, mountain, and river. That’s because Singkawang is adjacent to Natuna Ocean and Roban Mountain.

  1. The Province of Bengkulu, coming from a local flower.

            Rafflesia arnoldii is probably a name you would like to think of as the original name of Bengkulu. It’s in their coat of arms and the flower was found in the province too, wouldn’t it be perfect if the name was coming from the flower? Sadly, no. As with any province above, there are many theories about the name. The popular one was because there were a lot of bodies in the river (hulu) due to war, so that’s why they called it Bengkulu (bangkai & hulu).

Those are the explanations about some regions’ names in Indonesia. It’s good that we can learn the history behind our province’s name and have an original name, compared to some provinces that started with any wind direction (north, west, south, and many more). Some of them originate from their historical background and some are because of their geographical location. With this article, I hope you can feel prouder of your city or province and continue to study its history!

Editor: Clara Nathania & Pieter Bagaskara Astadiningrat




Handiko Wijaya