Emerald of the Equator

Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world, consisting of 17,508 islands, out of which, 6000 are inhabited. Such a geographical grouping stretches Indonesia’s border to Singapore and Malaysia on its west at the Strait of Malacca, to Australia at the Timor Sea in the west, and to the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean on its northern and southern sides respectively. Among the islands, Sumatra, Java and Sulawesi are the main ones. The capital city of Jakarta is located in Java.

Bali, a beautiful island that is 1153 km away from the capital city Jakarta, is the most famous tourist attraction in Indonesia, but I did not get a chance to be there. My six visits spanning 2007 to 2019 to Indonesia were to Jakarta, thanks to the business nature of the visits. While visiting Jakarta, if you have one free day, then make a visit to Taman Mini Indonesia Indah, a theme park in Timur, East Jakarta. It is worth spending a day out there. The theme park is 18 km away from the central Jakarta. It houses ‘Museum Indonesia,’ a Pagoda and many modern amusement facilities. 

Besides having a part of India in its name, Indonesia, like other countries in South Asia, has many Indian cultural  similarities in its way of living. This is the leftover from the past when Hinduism was the predominant religion in the region. Buddhism replaced Hinduism in the countries of the region, with Islam doing the same in Indonesia, a few hundred years ago. A welcome with folded hands like in Namaste, spicy food named Padang – from Sumatra region of Indonesia – are some of these rudiments. 

Padang Food Plate:

Bali, a predominantly Hindu region, is the living example of the Indian way of living in Indonesia Bollywood is very popular in Indonesia, with songs and dance numbers from Bollywood movies reproduced as video albums that are good choices for screening at popular eateries and pubs. And the Indonesian singers of such albums are very popular in the country. Ramayana and Mahabharatha serials telecast by the Indian television channels were hugely popular in Indonesia. There are statues of Hindu mythological figures erected at many places in Jakarta. There are many other Hindu customs that are being followed. All these show the Indonesians are a tolerant people and respectable to their past.

Mahabharatha monuments from Jakarta:

Coming back to he museum, it also showcases Hindu-era artifacts and sculptors.  

A Chinese monastery at the park:

The museum also houses effigies of bride and groom of all the provinces of Indonesia. Every province of Indonesia has unique wedding attires for bride and groom.

Ache bride and groom:

Java bride and groom:

North Sumadra:

Taman Mini also has a cable-car tour offering sky-views of around.  

A church as seen from the cable-car:

I was surprised to see a palate connection between Indonesia and the Indian state of Kerala. ‘Puttu’ or steam cake is a breakfast food of Kerala and is made by making steam to pass through a cylinder-shaped utensil filled with rice flour sprinkled with scraped coconut and water — hence, the Anglican name: steam cake. This is a unique food of Kerala and not endemic to even other states in India. But Puttu is present in Indonesia. It is also called Puttu here! A surprising link!

One difference in the making is that sprinkling with coconut chips is done on the steamed Puttu in Indonesia.

Besides, Kerala Puttu is longer.

Another Kerala connection: An off-meal delicacy known as ‘Naiappam’ in Kerala is also a delicacy in Indonesia, with almost the same in shape, color, and taste. It is called “Cucur,” pronounced as chuchur, locally. A tasty-connection between India and Indonesia for investigative gourmets!

Indian community comprising both Indonesians and the diaspora plays significant roles in the Indonesian society.  

With my friend and senior from College of Fisheries, Dilip Sathyanath, who has been living in Indonesia for more than 20 years.

Indonesia, known as “Emerald of the Equator,” with its lush, green tropical rainforest as emeralds and the geographic position as the equator, is the country I found much closer to India than any other country. I always felt at home while I was in Indonesia.

One thought on “Emerald of the Equator

  1. Nice article…it gives a good insight into to the places mentioned…for people who would like to travel there and what places they could to visit.

    Liked by 1 person

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