Republik Indonesia






i. The Portuguese

ii. The Dutch

iii. The Colonial Era


Republik Indonesia Serikat

Republik Indonesia

The President



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THE REPUBLIC OF INDONESIA IS THE SUCCESSOR OF THE COLONIAL EMPIRE built by the Dutch from the beginning of the 17th century in the East Indian Archipelago. An empire of the same dimensions has not existed in the archipelago ever before.

In the beginning the Dutch presence was concentrated in Bantam, where the fortress Batavia was founded, and on the Moluccas. With the rulers, in particular with those of Mataram and Bantam, treaties were made which ceded the monopoly of the trade to the East India Company (V.O.C.), established in 1602. As a result the local rulers were considerably hampered in their financial development and in the end also were curtailed in their political power.

In 1795 the V.O.C. was liquidated. Its assets and sovereign rights in the archipelago were transferred to the Batavian Republic.

The Batavian Republic was succeeded by the Kingdom of Holland and in 1811 by Great Britain which surrendered the colonies in 1816IN the time of British rule some important territories were incorporated by armed intervention. The remaining Indonesian archipelago was subjected by the Dutch in the course of the 19th century. Many bilateral treaties were made with the local rulers which in fact made  them under Dutch protectorates. At the beginning of the 20th century the expansion of Dutch colonial rule was finished by the conquest of Bali.

In the meantime Dutch rule was the responsibility of the Ministry of Colonies of the Dutch Government. Initiatives of Governor General Van Heutz (1904-’09), to establish a separate state within the Kingdom came to nothing.

In March 1942 the Netherlands Indies were occupied by Japan. After their capitulation in 1945 the Indonesians proclaimed a sovereign republic on 17 August 1945. Restoration of Dutch rule by means of the so-called politionele acties (Police Raids) failed and on 28 Decemebr 1949 the sovereignty had to be transferred to the Republic.

On this occasion a federation of Indonesian states was established with the name Republik Indonesia Serikat [1]

The R.I.S. was dissolved on 17 August 1950 and replaced by the Republik Indonesia. Most federal states became provinces. For these provinces new coats of arms were adopted.

In 1963 Nederlands Nieuw Guinea was incorporated by the Republic and received the name Irian Barat. From that moment, the territory of the Republic comprises all territory of the former Netherlands Indies.


The symbols of the historical empires of Indonesia are an separate field of study. The symbolism of state is mainly influenced by hinduism and buddhism. Also there are certain Chinese influences which,  maybe even before the beginning of our era, contributed some symbols Chinese influences can be explained by the intensive relations between China and Sumatera and also with Java. The rulers of Mataram moreover often married Chinese princesses. However the Chinese emperors never have been the suzereins of Indonesian rulers.

The most important symbol is the serpent or naga, which certainly is a royal emblem. The naga was a part of the Indonesian state symbolism until far into the twentieth century. It is, for example the decoration of the state krisses of Solo. Also there is the phoenix, a common Chinese symbol, and the sun which is an almost universal symbol of the empire. 

When Islam was introduced a royal cypher or tughra was preferred as a personal emblem and the two-bladed sword of islam (dhu ‘l fakr) was introduced as a military symbol. [2] In the islamic principalities of Aceh and Pontianak, the crescent was used.

In the symbolism of state the royal treasury plays an important role. The royal treasury is composed of precious or special objects to which magical forces are attributed, the socalled pusaka. The posession of these pusaka also implied the legitimacy of rule. In that sense the royal treasures are comparable with some European regalia. Anyway the Indonesian crowns were no pusaka. [3]


The existence of the R.I.S. was too short for most of the federal states to adopt an emblem of state of their own. Nevertheless some arms and flags were adopted by decree. In some cases only a design was made. All these decrees were abolished after the establishment of the Republic of Indonesia.


Colonial Rule


The basic assumption in this essay about the arms of the Republic of Indonesia is the continuity of colonial and republican rule.


In the beginning the Portuguese were exploring the region. In present Jakarta they have left a padrćo or border pole on which is the Portugues armillary-sphere, the symbol of the Portuguese Empire. [4] The arms of this empire were parted per pale of red and white with a golden armillary sphere with a green globe in the center. [5]

The Portuguese were chased away by the Dutch organised in the Compagnie van Verre. On the seal of this company was the cypher C.V.V.. [6]

The Compagnie van Verre was succeeded by the Verenigde Oostindi­sche Compagnie, established  on 20 March 1602. A cypher for the Company was adopted by the Lords XVII on 28 February 1603. It consists of the capitals V, O and C, the O and the C intertwined with the V. [7] The chambers of the Company added their own capital to this cypher.

Not long after the adoption of the cypher an achievement occurred. It represents a three-masted ship with the flag of the Republic of the Netherlands at the stern and a flag with the V.O.C.-cypher at the main. Neptune, the god of the seas and Providence, a virgin with a mirror, are supporting the arms. A picture in full color can be found in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. [8] The three-masted ship was also on the seal of the Company. [9]

The achievement was used until the liquidation of the Company.

In the time of the Batavian Republic the East Indian possessions were administered by the The Council of the Asiatic Possessions and Settlements (Raad der Asiatische Bezittingen en Etablissementen). The seal of this council is identical with the seal of the Republic, the legend changed for the purpose. [10]

In the time of the Kingdom of Holland the arms of King Louis Napoleon were used and later, as demonstrated by a seal, the arms of the French Empire. [11]

Until the transfer of sovereignty the achievement of the Kingdom of the Netherlands was used as adopted in 1815 and 1907. An initiative of Governor General Van Heutz to make the arms of Batavia the arms of the colony came to nothing.


In the 19th and 20th century the King of the Netherlands was represented by a Governor General. His flag was the national flag of the Kingdom, augmented with three white balls in the first breadth, one and two.






Republik Indonesia Serikat


Not long after the proclamation of the Republic in 1945 a commision was composed which should make a design of the arms of the Republic. It appeared that it was not possible to find in history a symbol feasible for the new republic. In the end it was proposed that a bantčng, a crescent, a coconut-tree, and a sun with seven rays should be in the arms.

After the Indonesian War of Independence (1945-1949), followed by the Dutch recognition of Indonesian sovereignty through a round table conference in 1949, felt the need for Indonesia (then still called the Republic of Indonesia States) to have a state symbol.

On 10 January 1950 a Technical Committee was installed with the name of Coordinating Committee for the Emblem of State by the Minister without Portfolio Sultan Hamid II. He commissioned its president to plan, design and formulate a symbol of state. The technical committee consisted of Muhammad Yamin (chairman), and Ki Hajar Dewantara, MA Pellaupessy, Moh Natsir and RM Ng Poerbatjaraka.


Designs for a seal and a coat of arms for the R.I.S.

by Muhammad Yasmin


On some designs whic Dirk Rühl made for Sultan Hamid II however, there is a garuda supporting a quartered shield on which are the head of a bantčng, a waringin, a kris and ears of padi together with a black barrulet over all. [12]





Fig. 1.  First design of the state seal of the United Republic of Indonesia by Dirk Rühl

Fig. 2.  Second design of Dirk Rühl. The name of the republic in latin and arab script.

Fig. 3. Third design of Dirk Rühl.  The name of the republic in latin and arab script the head of the bantčng on an escutcheon.


In a final design described on 7 Februari 1950 accompanied by a drawing dated 12 February 1950 the achievement is:

Fig. 4. Final design of the achievement of the Republik Indonesia Serikat,

approved by decree of the Council of Ministers of 11 February 1950. Drawing Dirk Rühl dd. 12.02.1950


Arms: ¼: 1. Gules a white kapas with green leave and stalk; 2. Argent a waringin proper; 3. Argent a kris per bed, its blade of steel, its hilt vert proper. 4. Gules, an ear of padi Or. Over all a barrulet Or, charged with an escutcheon Or, a bantčng’s head Sable.

Supporter: A garuda.


Dirk Rühl noted that this was the achievement adopted on 11 Februari 1950. [13]


Of the designs presented to the committee the designs of Sultan Hamid II , drawn by Dirk Rühl Jr. and of Muhammad Yamin were selected. [14] Of these the design of Muhammad Yamin was rejected by the government and by parliament argumenting that it showed sun’s rays, reminding too much the sun of Japanese occupation. The design of Sultan Hamid II, visualizing the principles of Pancasila as proposed in a speech of President Soekarno, was approved.



The basic design was intensively debated by Sultan Hamid, President Soekarno and Prime Minister Mohammad Hatta. This resulted in the replacing of the originally red ribbon by a white one and the adding of the motto BHINNEKA TUNGGAL IKA. This design was drafted by Sultan Hamid II and submitted to the RIS Cabinet by President Soekarno through Mohammed Hatta. It was approved by Soekarno on 10 February 1950 and adopted by the RIS Cabinet the next day. [15]

Soekarno however continued to improve the shape of the Garuda. On 20 March 1950 he ordered court painter Dulla to redesign it and to change the shape of the head of the bird and of its legs, thus abandoning the traditional shape of a garuda which was judged to be too much of a Javanese symbol. It was replaced by an eagle, combed, it is said, to avoid a resemblance with the bald eagle of the American achievement. A last design was made by Sultan Hamid II and this was approved by Soekarno on 20 March 1950. A copy of this ultimate design, annotated by Soekarno is still in the Kraton Kadriyah in Pontianak

Photo Max Alkadrie

Copy of he ultimate design in the Kraton Kadriyah


Republik Indonesia


In accordance with the proposals of Soekarno the achievement was changed by Government Order No. 66 of 1951, dated October 17, 1951. The achievement of state of the Republic of Indonesia thus became as follows: [16]


Arms: A barrulet Sable; ¼: 1. Gules, a bantčng’s head Sable; 2. Argent, a waringin proper; 3. Argent an ear of padi and five cotton-leaves embowed Or; 4. Gules, a chain of 10 square and 10 round shackles, Or. And an escutcheon Sable, a five-pointed star Or.

Supporter: The mythical bird Sang Radja Walik, having 17 feathers in each wing and a tail of eight feathers Or.

Motto: bhinneka tunggal ika..


š See illustration in the head of this essay.


The decree follows the the proposal quite accurately but departs, quite arbitrarily, mainly from the heraldic rules which were painstakingly maintained in the earlier designs.


·                     The bantčng’s head Sable on a red field symbolizes the struggle for sovereignty of the people

·                     The waringin symbolizes the vitality of nationalism

·                     The ear of padi and the cotton symbolize the prosperity of the people (food and clothing) and the golden chain symbolizes the belief in the equality of all mankind and the union of territories and peoples into one great Union.

·                     The barrulet symbolizes the equator, reaching over all the territory of Indonesia

·                     The four quarters and the escutcheon, together with the five-pointed star, refers to the Pantja Sila, the five philiosophical principles of State namely: 1. The belief in God; 2. Sovereignty of the People; 3. Nationalism; 4. Social Justice; 5. Humanity.

·                     The 17 feathers of the wings and the eight feathers of the tail remind 17 August (17-8) 1945, the day of the proclamation of the Republic. The gold or yellow of the bird symbolizes the loftiness of the State.

·                     The motto is an ancient Javanese proverb meaning “Unity in Variety” and refers to the union of the territories and peoples of all Indonesia into one great union.


The bird Sang Raja Walik is mentioned in the Ramayana (XXV, 19) and in the Bharatayudaha. The correct translation is Royal Bird Walik and for that reason the bird is comparable with the simurg and the feng huang (phoenix), the Persian and Chinese versions of the same symbol, closely connected with administrative authority. A phoenix occurs in relation with Majapahit and its succeeding empires. In European literature it can be found in Conrad Grünebergs armorial. In that manuscript it has a European shape and thus may be based on oral tradition.


The President



The presidential emblem consists of a five-pointed star surrounded by a garland. It is derived from the golden star of the Japanese Army which ruled Java and Sumatra during  WWII. Such a star, surrounded by a garland was the emblem of the Republican Indonesian Army founded in the first weeks after the proclamation of the Republic on 17 August 1945.

The presidential seal and flag were designed after the dissolution of the United States of Indonesia and the incorporation of all former territories of the Netherlands Indies on 17 August 1950.


The presidential seal shows the national achievement surrounded by the legend REPUBLIC OF INDONESIA and THE PRESIDENT separated by two five-pointed stars.



Presidential Seal, 1950.


The presidential flag, the successor of the flag of the Governor General of the Netherlands Indies, shows the presidential emblem. The flag is of dark-yellow silk and charged with a lemon-yellow presidential emblem. Its fringes are also yellow and the flag-pole is golden with a golden ball. [17]


Presidential flag, 1950


Nowadays the flag is often shown on a 2Ķ3 cloth, the colors reversed, the fringes omitted.



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© Hubert de Vries 2006-06-28 Updated 2009-12-10 / 2011-03-17 / 2011-10-25 / 2015-09-10




[1]  The federation was composed of the following federal states and autonomous territories: On Sulawesi: 1. Negara Indonesia Timoer (Makassar). On Sumatera: 2. Negara Soematera Timoer (Medan); 3. Negara Soematera Selatan;  4. Bangka;  5. Biliton;  6. Riouw. On Java: 7. Negara Pasoendan (Bandoeng);  8. Repoeblik Indonesia (Djokja);  9. Djawa Timoer; 10. Madoera. Op Kalimantan: 11. Kota Waringin; 12. Daerah Istimewa Kalimantan Barat (Pontianak); 13. Federasi Kesoelta-nan Kalimantan Timoer (Samarinda); 14. Dajak Besar; 15. Bandjar; 16. Kalimantan Tengarah. Finally the de Republik Maluku Selatan was established on 25 april 1950.

[2]  See the lemma concerned  in the Encyclopedia of Islam.

[3]  Graaf, H.J. de: Over de kroon van Madja-Pait. In: Bijdragen tot de Taal- Land- en Volkenkunde van Neder­landsch Indiė. 1947-1948 pp. 573-603.

[4]  Border pole with teh arms of Portugal and an armillary-sphere. Readable is POR SE.  Excavated in 1918 in the Prinsestraat Oostzijde,  at the corner with the Groenestraat (Batavia). “De Barros vertelt, dat de Koning van Soenda in 1522 aan Enrique Leme eene plaats liet aanwijzen naast de plaats Kalapa maar aan de rechterzijde der kali, waar eene vesting zou worden gebouwd. (Photo and text n° 9716 11121 2 56 E1 Kon. Inst. T. L.V. Ned.Ind. Leiden.) 

[5]  The Port of Lisbon in th Early 16th Century. Crónica do rei D. Afonso Henriques. Duarte Calvćo Manuscript illuminated on parchment Frontispiece, early 16th century 41.5 x 29.5 x 9 cm. Cascais, M.B.C.C.G. Inv. 14.

[6]  Pama, C.: Lions and Virgins. Heraldic state symbols, coats of arms, flags, seals and other symbols of authority in South Africa, 1487-1962. Cape Town, 1965. Fig 11.

[7]  Schutte, O.: Catalogus der zegelstempels, berustende in het Koninklijk Penningkabi­net en enige andere verzamelingen. In: De Nederlandsche Leeuw. 1971, kol 329-370. n°s 18-28. Ook: Rhede van der Kloot, M.A. van: De Goeverneurs-Generaal en Commissarissen Generaal van Nederlandsch Indiė 1610-1883. ‘s Gravenhage, 1891 Bijlage 4.

[8]  Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. Signed by the Middelburg painter Jeronimus Becx de Jonge, 1651. Cat. van schilderijen Rijksmuseum n° 2988. A sculptured version of 1670 on the Porta de Santiago in Malacca.

[9]  Oud Batavia. Gedenkboek uitgegeven door het Bataviaasch Genoot­schap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen naar aanleiding van het driehon­derdjarig bestaan der stad in 1919. 2 Dln. en Platenalbum. Batavia, 1923. N°s G 1, G 3.

[10]  Schutte op. cit. 1971 n°s 100-103.

[11]  De Haan, op cit. n° H 10, G 2.

[12]  Legacy of  Dirk Rühl. Centraal Bureau voor Genealogie en Heraldiek, Den Haag. These documents are recently given to the Indonesian National Archives.

[13] A decisive role in the design of the arms was played by Sultan Hamid Alkadrie of Pontianak.  In a seminar held in Bandung on 2011-02-11 a new discussion was opened about the adoption of the national achievement and the role of Sultan Hamid. See: (in bahasa)

[14] Hatta, Mohammad: Bung Hatta Menjawab. Gunung Agung, 1978.

[15] Pringgodigdo, A.G.:  Sekitar Pancasila. Malang 1974

[16]  Rühl, Dirk: Vlag en wapen van de Republiek Indonesia. In: Indonesia. 4e jaarg. (1951)    2. pp. 97-105. The motto may also be borrowed from the motto of the United States: E PLURIBUS UNUM.

[17]  Rühl, Dirk: op.cit. 1951, p. 104