From the long histories sequence is finally formed Indonesian culture which is a mixture or a unique blend of culture. One example of a unique blend of culture that is produced is the art of Wayang Kulit. In this art, stories are presented as Ramayana or Mahabharata stories originating from India which is the origin of Hindu religion, while Wayang Kulit is the indigenous culture of the local community that is Java society.
History of Indonesian culture
History of Indonesian culture started since prehistoric era that is Neolithic era or New Stone Age civilization and The Bronze. In the course of the next history, Indonesian culture is also influenced by several religions, namely Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. European culture also influenced the art of Indonesian culture, that is when Indonesia experienced another nation colonization of the Dutch, English, and Portugal.
According to the theory promulgated by the scholar Kern and Von Heine Geldern, the ancestors of the present-day Indonesian came to these islands at around 3000 to 2000 B.C. They traveled in waves from the southern regions of China over Indonesia, bringing with them first the Neolithic, or New Stone Age civilization, then the bronze.
The Neolithic or New Stone Age Civilization
Those people had Mongoloid features and spoke a tongue that belonged to the Kadai language family, still used in a number of areas in Southern China, and on the islands of Hainan and Taiwan. The Cham language of Central Vietnam and the Austronesian language is spoken among peoples of some of the islands in the Pacific and Indian, Oceans are also related to the same family. Today, this family of languages is known as the proto-Austronesian.
Those people knew agriculture, although not irrigation. They used axes to fell trees and hoes to till the land, fashioning their axes of stone in tapering and quadrilateral shapes. The sharpened stones were fastened to sticks with fiber.
From the plains and valleys of south China, they wandered along the big rivers in a southwesterly direction until they reached of the downstream reaches of the Mekong rivers. There they developed their maritime skills, building outriggers to cross the sea. So they eventually arrived in the eastern regions of Indonesia – North Sulawesi, Halmahera, and South Maluku.
They also settled in western parts of this archipelago, as archaeological finds have shown. On the basis of those finds, mostly in the form of stone axes, archaeologists believe that the spread of the Neolithic civilization must have occurred between 3000 and 2000 B.C.
Although those early Indonesians knew the art of raising crops, there is no historical evidence that they were farmers of rice, which is now the staple food of the peoples of Southeast Asia.
The Indonesian anthropologist, Koentjaraningrat, who wrote the book “Man and Culture in Indonesia”, rice planting was first known in the northern Assam mountains or northern Myanmar. There, the slash and burn technique was apparently introduced. From there it spread towards southern China across the Yangtze and Mekong rivers.
The Chinese further developed the technique by introducing irrigations. Only after that stage was reached did the rice culture apparently come to the rest of Southeast Asia, including Indonesia and the Philippines. But even though it took rather long to come to Indonesia, the technique was mastered at an early stage in history. The Javanese, for example, is believed to have known the “wet” rice cultivation technique long before the arrival of the Hindu.
The Bronze Culture
Remains of the bronze culture in the shape of funnel-shaped axes and nekara kettle drums have been found in several places in Indonesia
The skill of shaping bronze items as known in Indonesia originated in the Tonkin Delta, in what is now Vietnam. It was in the region that the various bronze item such as the “nekara” kettle drum, were first made. According to Von Heine Geldern, this civilization, known as the youngest Dong-so culture, dates back to around 300 B.C. His views were apparently supported by the observation that the ornaments found on the nekara kettle drums are very different from those I vogue in China during the Han Dynasty. In addition, although Vietnamese culture is strongly influenced by that of China, the Vietnamese have always maintained their own cultural characteristics.
Remains of the bronze culture in the shape of funnel-shaped axes and nekara kettle drums have been found in several places in Indonesia, mainly in South Sumatra, Java, Bali, Sulawesi, Selayar Island and in Papua near Lake Sentani. The bronze funnel-shaped ax as it was known in Indonesia is curiously shaped, and is known as the “shoe ax”.
The Hindu Influence
Hinduism already carried a strong influence in Indonesia during an early stage in this country’s history
From the historical evidence in the form of inscriptions on stone in Sankrit, using the Palawa script, dating from as early as the fourth century A.D. it is known that Hinduism already carried a strong influence in Indonesia during an early stage in this country’s history.
Those kingdoms mentioned by Indonesians who had adopted the Hindu faith and culture. They appeared to have prospered because of their trade relationships with states in southern India.
The Brahman priests played a very important role as royal advisors and confidants who counseled the king on matters of both state and religion. Hindu influence, however, was limited to the highest layers of the society, particularly the courts.
Relics of what must have been the oldest Hindu kingdom in Indonesia were found in the Kutai region of East Kalimantan, along with the banks of the Mahakam river. There, four stone monuments were found, dating from the fourth century A.D. From the inscriptions archaeologists have come to know the names of the kings who ruled the kingdom at around the time was established.
The ancient kingdoms were usually located I fertile plains surrounded by volcanoes. Being mostly agricultural states, this is understandable as their very existence depended on the yields of the land.
Even as it took root, however, the Hindu influence in Indonesia became strongly infused with local values and has remained so to this day.
The Influence of Islam
Through contact with those respected traders, many Indonesian were converted to Islam
By the beginning of 14th century, along the coastal regions of Java and some other areas outside Java the trade with merchants from abroad had reached a culmination point. Among those merchants were many who came from Persia and Gujarat, who embraced the Islamic faith. Through contact with those respected traders, many Indonesians were converted to Islam. Not surprisingly, it was around that time that some influential Moslem coastal states arose.
While the older Hindu influence was mostly limited to the upper classes of the society, Islam, perhaps due to its egalitarian principles, gained its initial foothold among the masses of the people.
Especially in regions where the Hindu influence had not taken hold, notably in areas outside Java and Bali, the Islamic religion was readily received by the people. In Aceh, for instance, Islam was already firmly established in the 12th century A.D. Other areas where the Islamic influence has taken a strong hold are South Sulawesi, East Sumatra, West Sumatra and coastal regions of Kalimantan.
Even so. remnants of Hinduism and the still older local beliefs often remain to lend local color to custom and traditions.
Gradually, the lot of the indigenous Indonesian population under the Dutch colonial administration improved
Among the most important of the more recent influences that have left a lasting imprint on life in Indonesia is that of Europe, and more particularly that of Holland. And while profit was the main initial motive that had brought the Europeans to this archipelago, it cannot be denied that the impact of their presence has far transcended the boundaries of business and commercial interests.
After the demise of the Dutch United East India Company (VOC) near the end of the 18th century, the administration of the East Indies was taken over by the state. The era of unadulterated mercantilism was over. Gradually, a lot of the indigenous Indonesian population under the Dutch colonial administration improved, particularly after at around the turn of the last century new progressive ideas made their emergence on the political scene in Holland.
One of the beneficial impacts for Indonesia was the introduction of modern education, and although the best schools were even until the outbreak of World War II reserved for Europeans and Indonesian of the privileged classes, it caused the emergences of a new educated layer of young people. That layer was later to produce the leaders of Indonesian independence movement.
The European cultural environment which had dominated colonial life in the East Indies ended abruptly in 1941 when Japanese forces occupied the former Dutch possessions at the beginning of the war in the Pacific.