Flag of Indonesia

Republic of Indonesia
Names Sang Saka Merah-Putih, Bendera Merah-Putih or Merah-Putih
Use National flag and ensign
Proportion 2:3
Adopted 17 August 1945 (Original)
17 August 1950 (Official)
Design A horizontal bicolour of red and white

Variant flag of Republic of Indonesia
Name Ular-Ular Perang (Naval Jack)
Use Naval ensign

The Flag of Indonesia is a simple bicolour with two equal horizontal bands, red (top) and white (bottom) with an overall ratio of 2:3.[1] It was introduced and hoisted in public at the Indonesian Independence declaration ceremony on 17 August 1945 in Pegangsaan Timur street and Independence from the Netherlands on 17 August 1950. The design of the flag has remained the same ever since.

The flag is similar to the flag of Poland, which is white (top) and red (bottom), and the flag of Singapore, which has a half crescent and 5 stars in the top red band. The flag is identical to the historical flag of Alsace (former region of France), the flag of Hesse (a German state) and the flag of Monaco, excluding the ratio.

The Naval Jack of Indonesia is reserved for sole use by the Indonesian Navy. It flies from every active Indonesian war ship mast.[2] The design of the jack is described as nine alternating stripes of red and white. It is nicknamed Ular-ular Perang (War Pennant or literally "War Snakes"), probably due to the stripes' design. The naval jack dates to the age of Majapahit Empire. The Majapahit Empire, which was renowned for its great maritime strength, used to fly similar jacks on its vessels.[3]


See also: Bendera Pusaka
Hoisting of the original flag moments after the declaration of independence on 17 August 1945.

Its colours are derived from the banner of the 13th century Majapahit Empire.[4] However it was suggested that the reverence for the colours red and white can trace its origin to older common Austronesian mythology of Mother Earth and Father Sky; both symbolise in colours red (earth) and white (sky). This is one of the reasons why the colours red and white appears in many of the flags throughout Austronesia — from Tahiti to Indonesia and Madagascar. White and Red would also later on symbolise the duality of nature.[5] The earliest record of the use of red and white panji or pataka (long flag along curved bamboo pole) were written in Pararaton; according to this source, the troops of Jayakatwang from Gelang-gelang hoisted the red and white banner during their invasion to Singhasari. This suggested that even before Majapahit era, the red and white colours already revered and used as kingdom's banner since Kediri era. The application of red and white textile colouring is available in ancient Indonesia. White is the natural colour of woven cotton fabrics, while red is one of the earliest natural dye discovered by native acquired from the teak leaves, the flowers of Averrhoa bilimbi or the skin of mangosteen fruits.

Not only Javanese kingdoms that used red and white colours, the battle flag of King Sisingamangaraja IX of Batak lands also uses red and white as emblem; with the image of white twin swords called piso gaja dompak against red background.[6] During Aceh War, Aceh warriors also used red and white battle flag, with the image of sword, star and crescent, sun, and also part of Quranic script.[7] Red and white flag is also used as the flag of Buginese Bone kingdom in South Sulawesi, the flag is called Woromporang.[8] The Balinese Badung (Puri Pamecutan) royal banner also contains red and white element, their flag is red, white, and black[9] that probably also derived from Majapahit origin. During Java War (1825–1830) Prince Diponegoro also used red and white banner.

Later, these colours were revived by students and then nationalists in the early 20th century as an expression of nationalism against the Dutch. The red-white flag was flown for the first time in Java in 1928. Under Dutch rule, the flag was prohibited. It was adopted as the national flag on 17 August 1945, when independence was declared and has been in use since then.[10]

Alternative origin

There is also another story about the flag of Indonesia, which is significantly related to the flag of the Netherlands. Under Dutch colonialism, every administration used the Netherlands (Red-white-blue) flag. The flag of Indonesia was prohibited. To symbolise the intention of forcing out the Dutch, the Indonesian nationalists and independence movement tore apart the Dutch flag. They tore off the bottom third of the flag, and separated the red and white colours from the blue colour. A famous flag tearing incident, the "Hotel Yamato incident" happened on 19 September 1945 on top of Hotel Majapahit in downtown Surabaya, where young Indonesian revolutionaries tore the blue part of the Dutch flag flown in the hotel to change it to the Indonesian flag in the lead up to the Battle of Surabaya. The main reason was because blue in the Dutch flag was understood as standing for the "blue blooded" aristocracy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Conversely, the red colour represented the blood shed in the War of Independence, while the white could be understood to symbolise the purity of the Indonesians.[10]


The official name of the flag is Sang Merah-Putih (The Red-and-White) according to Article 35 of the 1945 Constitution. The flag is commonly called Bendera Merah-Putih (Red-and-White Flag). Occasionally, it is also called Sang Dwiwarna (The bicolor). Sang Saka Merah-Putih (The Lofty Red-and-White) refers to the historical flag called Bendera Pusaka (heirloom flag) and its replica. The Bendera Pusaka is the flag that was flown in front of Soekarno's house a few moments after he proclaimed Indonesia's independence on 17 August 1945. The original Bendera Pusaka was sewn by Mrs. Fatmawati Soekarno, and was hoisted every year in front of the presidential palace during the independence day ceremony. It was hoisted for the last time on 17 August 1968. Since then it has been preserved and replaced by a replica since the original flag was deemed to be too fragile.[1]


Several opinions have been expressed on the meaning of the red and white in the Indonesian flag. One opinion is that the red stands for courage, while the white stands for purity. Another is that red represents the human body or physical life, while white represents the soul or spiritual life; together they stand for a complete human being.[10]

Traditionally, most Indonesians have used red and white as their ceremonial colours, mixing the colour of sugar (the red colour comes from palm sugar or gula aren) and rice (white in colour). Inarguably, until today, both of these are the major components of daily Indonesian cuisine or cooking. The Majapahit Empire have the same colours in its flag.[10]

The National Monument with a row of Indonesian flags


In 2003, the governor of Jakarta, Sutiyoso announced his plan to relocate the original Bendera Pusaka from the State Palace to the National Monument. For security and financial reasons, the Rp 3.5 billion (US$388,889) project was delayed for one year. Of the Rp3.5 billion, only Rp 500 million was allocated for the actual relocation ceremony, while most of the remaining Rp 3 billion was spent on procuring around 15 kilograms of gold for the conservation room and on security measures such as alarms and security cameras. The spending was proposed in the 2003 revised city budget. The plan was to install the flag in a 24-carat gold plated case in the Independence Room inside the National Monument. Inside the Independence Room, there are three most important relics from Indonesia's history: the Garuda Pancasila statue, the Nusantara (Archipelago) map and the original text of the Proclamation of Independence, which all are kept in the gold plated cases.[10]


The state flag is set according to the UUD 1945 (constitution), article 35 which states "The state flag of Indonesia is red and white", UU No. 24/2009, and government regulation No.40/1958 on the National Flag of the Republic of Indonesia.

Similar flags

See also


  1. 1 2 "National Flag, Coat of Arms, Anthem". Embassy of Indonesia, Oslo, Norway. 1 May 2007. Archived from the original on 19 October 2007. Retrieved 22 June 2009.
  2. "(Indonesian) KRI Karang Unarang-985 Akhiri Pengabdian". Pikiran Rakyat. 22 October 2010. Retrieved 21 December 2010.
  3. "(Indonesian) TNI : terima kasih ku terdalam padamu". Connie Rahakundini on Multiply.com. Retrieved 21 December 2010.
  4. Britannica Facts about Majapahit empire: association with Indonesian flag
  5. Austronesianist
  6. Ke Bakkara: Ziarah Sisingamangaraja.Kompas, Minggu, 14 Agustus 2005.http://www.kompas.com/kompas-cetak/0508/14/perjalanan/1940067.htm
  7. http://suryantara.wordpress.com/2007/10/30/sejarah-bendera-merah-putih/
  8. Makna Saudagar bagi Saudagar yang tak Hadir :: Azhariah Rachman :: Panyingkul,Senin, 13 November 2006, http://www.panyingkul.com/view.php?id=249&jenis=kabarkita
  9. ian macdonald. "Flags in Bali". Retrieved 20 September 2012.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 "Indonesia". Flags of the World. 6 September 2006. Retrieved 26 December 2007.
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