The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Java (island)

Java (Indonesian: Jawa), area 132,000 square km, has 114 million inhabitants and is the most densely populated island in Indonesia, with 864 people per kmē. It is the most populous island in the world. If it were a country it would be the second most densely populated country of the world, except for some very small countries (after Bangladesh).



Java is divided into 4 provinces, 1 special region* (daerah istimewa), and 1 special capital city district** (daerah khusus ibukota):



Java is located in a chain of islands with Sumatra to the northwest, Bali to the east, Borneo to the northeast and Christmas Island to the south. It is the world's 13th largest island.

Java is almost entirely of volcanic origin, and contains no less than thirty-eight mountains of that conical form which indicates their having at one time or other been active volcanoes. See Volcanoes of Java.


Java contains the capital of Indonesia, Jakarta. Popular tourist destinations include the city of Yogyakarta, a massive pyramid-like monument to Buddhism known as Borobudur, and Prambanan, the largest Hindu temple in Java.

Java is also the most densely populated island in Indonesia, with nearly half of the overall population of the country residing on Java and Bali. Since the 1980s the Indonesian government has started a transmigration program aimed at resettling the population of Java on other less-populated islands of Indonesia, many of which are in need of development. However, a highly corrupted bureaucracy ensured poor results, and in many instances ethnic tension between the native people and the settlers. Recent examples include the ethnic/religious wars in southern Borneo between the native animistic population and the settlers from Madura.



The island of Java is also famous for the Java man, a set of fossil remains of Homo erectus found near the Brantas river in East Java. Two million years ago, the rainfall in the Sunda and Digul plateaus were very heavy, and allowed heavy tropical vegetation to thrive. This in turn allowed many prehistoric cultures to emerge, as evidenced in many fossil findings in this region.

Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms

The island of Java is the site of many Hindu and Buddhist temples, such as the Borobudur temple. Indeed, the Javanese culture, and language itself, was heavily influences by the Indian continental culture and language. In the 6th and 7th centuries many maritime kingdoms arose in Sumatra and Java which controlled the waters in the Straits of Malacca and flourished with the increasing sea trade between China and India and beyond. During this time, scholars from India and China visited these kingdoms to translate literary and religious texts.

The most prominent of the Hindu kingdoms was the Majapahit kingdom based in Central Java. Its control of a large portion of Indonesia has been used by the current Indonesian government to promote their national unity campaign.

The remnants of the Javanese Hindu kingdom Majapahit moved to Bali during the 16th century, away from the growing influence of the Muslim kingdoms to the west of their territory. They remained isolated until the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when the Dutch mounted military expeditions to gain control of the island. Today Bali's native population is still overwhelmingly Hindus.

Muslim kingdoms and the Dutch colonization

The earliest Muslim evangelists were called the Wali Songo , the nine ambassadors. Several of them were of Chinese origin, leading to speculation of Zheng He's influence on the trade in the Straits of Malacca. Many of their tombs are still well-preserved, and often visited for superstitious and religious reasons.

Most of the brand of Islam that is adopted in Java is mixed with the local superstitions, and has a decidedly local flavor. For example, the legend of Nyi Roro Kidul was invented as a mix of the superstition common in the southern banks of Java and Islamic influences. Islam was also used as a political motive in support of the resistance of the later Java kingdoms against the Dutch colonials.

The Dutch East India Company established its trading and administrative headquarters in Batavia, and ruled Java through control of the Javanese courts in Yogyakarta and Surakarta. Despite several insurgencies, the Dutch maintained control until the Japanese invasion in World War II.

The Dutch started coffee and tea plantation on the island of Java, hence the term java is often used in place of coffee. These plantations still exist to today, and while the tea products are not considered gourmet, the coffee products are highly sought-after. The culture of coffee so permeates the Javanese culture that upon visiting a house, one is often automatically served a cup of coffee (often with a lot of sugar and/or milk) without asking.

The 19th century saw the Dutch government take over administration of the East Indies from the Dutch East India Company, and in the mid-19th century they implemented the cultuurstelsel and cultuurprocenten policies, which caused widespread famine and poverty. A Dutch author Douwes Dekker wrote a novel Max Havelaar to protest these conditions, and in turn the political and social movement spurned by this protest resulted in the Ethical Policy , by which many Javanese elites were given a chance to earn Dutch education both in Java and in the Netherlands itself.

Post-Indonesian independence

Jakarta was made the capital of Indonesia upon her indepence, and an overwhelming majority of the figures of Indonesian independence are from Java as a result of the ethical policy from the beginning of the 20th century. This ensures political dominance that continues to today. The respected Indonesian author Pramoedya Ananta Toer once recommended that the Indonesian capital be moved outside the island of Java in order to free the Indonesian nationalist movement off its Java-centric character.

Being the location of the capital means that Java, and Bali, are the most developed regions of Indonesia. However, overpopulation means that most facilties are overused, and since the mid-1980s the government has started a transmigration program to resettle people from Java to other less-populated, and less-developed, regions such as in Kalimantan and Sumatra.


Generally speaking, the three main cultures of Java are the Sunda culture of West Java, the Central Java culture, and the East Java culture. Central Java was the seat of the later Islamic kingdoms that still continue to today - although they have only symbolic roles - and is still a major factor in the Indonesian national politics.

Java was the site of many influential kingdoms in the Southeast Asian region, and as a result many literary works have been written by Javanese authors. These include Ken Arok and Ken Dedes, the story of the orphan who usurped his king and married the queen of the ancient Javanese kingdom, and translations of Ramayana and Mahabarata. Today Pramoedya Ananta Toer the most famous Indonesian author has written many stories based on his own experiences of having grown up in Java, and takes many elements from Javanese folklore and historical legends.


Most of the Javanese are Muslims, either of the Abangan (nominal) type or orthodox muslims. Small Hindu enclaves are scattered throughout Java, but a large Hindu population prevails along the eastern coast of Java facing Bali, especially in the municipilaty Banyuwangi.

There are also christian communities - mostly in the major cities - although they are in the minority. Certain rural areas of central Java have strong christian influence. Buddhism communities also exist in the major cities, primarily among the Indonesian Chinese.

Ethnic Groups

Provinces of Indonesia Flag of Indonesia
Sumatra (Sumatera):

DI Aceh | North Sumatra (Sumatera Utara) | West Sumatra (Sumatera Barat) | Bengkulu | Riau | Riau Islands (Kepulauan Riau) | Jambi | South Sumatra (Sumatera Selatan) | Lampung | Bangka-Belitung

Java (Jawa):

DKI Jaya | West Java (Jawa Barat) | Banten | Central Java (Jawa Tengah) | DI Yogyakarta | East Java (Jawa Timur)


West Kalimantan (Kalimantan Barat) | Central Kalimantan (Kalimantan Tengah) | South Kalimantan (Kalimantan Selatan) | East Kalimantan (Kalimantan Timur)

The Lesser Sunda Islands (Nusa Tenggara):

Bali | West Nusa Tenggara (Nusa Tenggara Barat) | East Nusa Tenggara (Nusa Tenggara Timur)


West Sulawesi (Sulawesi Barat) | North Sulawesi (Sulawesi Utara) | Central Sulawesi (Sulawesi Tengah) | South Sulawesi (Sulawesi Selatan) | South East Sulawesi (Sulawesi Tenggara) | Gorontalo

The Maluku Islands and New Guinea (Irian):

Maluku | North Maluku (Maluku Utara) | West Irian Jaya (Irian Jaya Barat) | Papua

Last updated: 02-03-2005 12:39:17
Last updated: 04-25-2005 03:06:01