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Indonesia: Coat of Arms

Republik Indonesia

Last modified: 2009-02-28 by ian macdonald
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[coat of arms of Indonesia]

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Coat of arms

The Indonesian coat of arms consists of a golden eagle, called "GARUDA," that is a figure from ancient Indonesian epics. It is also pictured on many temples from the 6th Century. The eagle is a symbol of creative energy. Its principal color, gold, suggests the greatness of the nation. The black color represents nature. There are 17 feathers on each wing, 8 on the tail and 45 on the neck. These figures stand for the date of Indonesia's independence proclamation: 17 August, 1945.

The motto, "Bhinneka Tunggal lka" (Unity in Diversity), is enshrined on a banner held in the eagle's talons. This old Javanese motto was introduced by Empu Tantular, a saint of the Majapahit Kingdom, in the 15th Century. It signifies the unity of the Indonesian people despite their diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The shield symbolizes self-defense in struggle and protection of oneself. The red and white colors on the shield's background denote the colors of the Indonesian national flag. The five symbols on the shield represent the state philosophy of Pancasila, the foundation of the Indonesian state.

The bar across the center indicates the equator which passes through the islands of Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Halmahera. This is a reminder of the fact that the Republic of Indonesia is the only tropical country in which the people have built a free and sovereign state by their own hands. The golden star on the black background in the center of the shield represents the first principle of Pancasila, belief in the One and Only God. The chain symbolizes successive human generations. The round links represent women and the square ones men. It is the symbol of the second principle, just and civilized humanity. The "beringin," or banyan tree, symbolizes the third principal, the unity on Indonesia. The head of the "banteng," or wild bull (bos javanicus), which is black on a red background, represents the fourth principle, democracy guided by the inner wisdom of deliberations of representatives. The fifth principle, social justice for all Indonesian people, is symbolized by the gold and white paddy and cotton ears.

From located by Jarig Bakker, 17 May 1999

In an article "Vlag en wapen van de republiek Indonesia" (published in the magazine "Indonesie", September 1950) Dirk Rühl (who designed the arms under the direction of President Soekarno) writes that the bird behind the shield in Indonesia is wrongly called Garuda. It is however the mythical bird Sang Radja Walik (see translation). The walik is a real existing bird living in Indonesia, while the garuda is half human half bird.
Mark Sensen, 14 September 2000

I'm not totally sure that Mr. Rühl designed the current coat of arms. Indonesia has had several versions of a coat of arms, each one succeeding the previous one. Mr. Rühl wrote that article in 1950, while in the 1951 law about the National Coat of Arms, it is clearly said that the bird in the coat of arms is a "Garuda - a mythological bird - the symbol of creative energy." Furthermore, it is often taught to Indonesian pupils that the designer of the current coat of arms was the late Mr. Muhammad Yamin, an Indonesian historian who also wrote the "6000 tahun Sang Merah-Putih" (6000 years The Red-White).

In the term Sang Radja Walik, "raja" (radja is old language) means "king", while "sang" is a prefix which can be compared to the word "the" in English, but not as plain as the, sang is "the" with a positive nuance, used to name an honoured things/human.
Sammy Kanadi, 16 September 2000

Evolution of the Coat of Arms

Below are four earlier variants of the coat of arms. Some of these may have been proposals and were never officially used. You can see the evolution of the RIS-United States of Indonesia) to the present form. Note that three of the coats of arms used the Garuda in its mythical form.
Sammy Kanadi, 18 September 2000

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