Indonesia’s official coat of arms is centered on the Garuda, and ancient, mythical bird from the country’s historical epics. Like the Bald Eagle in the United States, the Garuda is often used to represent Indonesia.
A great deal of symbolism runs through the Garuda. The eagle is a symbol of creative energy. Its principal color, gold, symbolizes 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 numbers stand for the date Indonesia proclaimed its independence: 17 August 1945. The shield symbolizes self-defense and protection in struggle. The five symbols on the shield represent the state philosophy of Pancasila. The motto Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (“Unity in Diversity”) is enshrined on a banner held in the eagle’s talons, signifying the unity of the Indonesian people despite their diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
The Indonesian national flag is called Sang Saka Merah Putih or “the red and white treasure.” As provided for in Article 35 of the 1945 Constitution, the flag is made up of two colors, red on top of white. By law, its width must be two-thirds of the length.
Like the country’s coat of arms, its flag is also symbolic. The flag’s red stripe represents bravery, and its white stripe stands for spirituality.
The National Anthem
The national anthem is called Indonesia Raya, which means “Great Indonesia.” The song was composed by Wage Rudolf Supratman at the second All Indonesian Youth Congress in October 1928 in Batavia, now Jakarta. It was at this moment when Indonesian youth of different ethnic, linguistic, religious, and cultural backgrounds resolutely pledged allegiance to:
One native land, Indonesia;
One nation, the Indonesian nation;
One unifying language, the Indonesian language.
Pancasila is a creed that Indonesia’s first leader, President Sukarno, presented on June 1, 1945. To this day, it remains the philosophical basis of the Indonesian state.
Pancasila is based on two Sanskrit words: panca, or “five,” and sila, which means “principles.” It stands for the five inseparable and interrelated principles at the heart of Indonesia:
- Belief in the one and only God
- Just and civilized humanity
- The unity of Indonesia
- Democracy guided by the inner wisdom in the unanimity arising out of deliberations amongst representatives
- Social justice for the whole of the people of Indonesia
These are often generalized to refer to religious devotion, humanitarianism, nationalism, consultative democracy, and social justice.