Did you know that over the centuries, the city of Jakarta has been called by many different names? Each name was given by the authorities who ruled at that given period.
From the 13th century on, this busy trading port was first known as Sunda Kelapa, the name given to it by the Kingdom of Sunda in West Java. On 11 June 1527, prince Fatahillah of neighboring Banten Sultanate attacked the port and razed Sunda Kelapa to the ground, on which he built a new port, naming it Jayakarta, or victorious city. This date is until today commemorated as the start of Jakarta’s anniversary, which is annually celebrated with great festivities.
Towards the end of the 16th century, merchants of the Dutch East India company sailed from Europe into this harbor in quest of lucrative spices. Jan Pieterszoon Coen again attacked the town, and burned it down in 1619. When he became Governor, Coen rebuilt the town made it into a typical Dutch styled city complete with City Hall, plaza and canals. This city he called Batavia, to the Dutch ancestors called the Batavieren. In time, the indigenous inhabitants who lived in the vicinity came to be known as the Betawi ethnic group, who were in fact a fusion of different Indonesian ethnic groups, who had settled in this area for generations.
And, when during World War II, Japanese trooops invaded and occupied the city in 1942, its name was again changed to Djakarta. And, at the Proclamation of Independence of the Republic of Indonesia on 17 August 1945, Djakarta became the capital city of the young Republic, but with the change in spelling in the Indonesian language, it is today spelled: Jakarta.
Governor Jan Pieterszoon Coen began construction of Batavia at the northern coast of Java, making this the most important entrepôt of the VOC, the Dutch East India Company in the Far East.
Today this original city has been revamped, revitalized, and earmarked to become a creative center and heritage city covering a historic area that today is called Kota Tua, or Old Batavia. This area comprises the original Dutch administrative enclave, now called the Fatahillah Square, the old harbor of Sunda Kelapa, and the surrounding Chinatown, now called Petak Sembilan and Glodok, where brisk trade continues to take place until today.
In time because of its unhealthy surrounding swamps, the Old Batavia was abandoned by the Dutch and a new town was built further south, which is today called the Menteng area in Central Jakarta, starting at the Palace of the Dutch Governor General, now the Presidential Palace, and its main Square facing it, then called Koningsplein or the King’s Square, now called the Merdeka Square. In 1961 the Special Capital Region of Jakarta was created, from which time the city spread out to grow into today’s sprawling, modern megapolitan city called Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia.
Today especially on weekends and public holidays, Kota Tua - or Old Batavia - draws large crowds, who take leisurely strolls or play at the plaza, admire the artifacts in the many Museums found here, or enthusiastically ride bikes to go cycling around this huge historic area.