Indonesia is the world’s largest island country. This tropical nation spans 1,904,569 square kilometers and contains more than 17,000 individual islands. It has the 4th highest population in the world and is the 14th largest country based on its land area. In a country so big, there are bound to be many fascinating facts hidden in its culture, history, and traditions. Read on to discover 10 interesting facts about Indonesia.
1. The world’s largest flower grows in Indonesia
Rafflesia tuan-mudae is a giant flower found in a West Sumatran forest in Indonesia. It has a diameter of 3.5 feet and weighs around 15 pounds. Its massive size isn’t the only strange thing about this flower. It has also earned the nickname of “corpse flower” because of the smell of rotting meat it emanates to attract insects to pollinate it, a fun Indonesia fact. It’s a parasitic plant so it relies on a host plant for growth and nutrition. It takes the corpse flower about nine months to fully bloom and when it does, it only lives for one week before rotting and dying.
2. The fossils of early humans have been found on the island of Java
One of the most popular examples of human fossils, known as the bones of the Java Man, was found in an island in Indonesia. Archaeologists estimated that the bones could be anywhere between 700,000 and 1,000,000 years old. What experts found most interesting about the fossils was the fact that they seemed almost like a cross between human and ape bones. Older human fossils were also found in Java later on. There are many theories about the fossils to this day. Some scientists believe the fossils are proof of the evolutionary link between apes and humans while some believe the original creature was a subspecies of Homo erectus.
3. There are more than 700 languages spoken in Indonesia
The official and most commonly spoken language In Indonesia is a version of Malay known as Bahasa. But most Indonesians can also speak one or more indigenous Indonesian languages. An interesting fact about Indonesia is that there are more than 700 of these languages, most coming from the local communities of the many islands. Some popular examples include Javanese from the island of Java, Sundanese from the Sunda Islands, and Balinese from the island of Bali.
4. Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world
The dominant religion in Indonesia is Islam. There are 225 million Muslims in this island nation, making up approximately 87.2% of its large population. Though 99% of Muslims in Indonesia are Sunnis, there are actually three branches of Islam practiced in Indonesia: Sunni Islam, Shia Islam, and Ahmadiyya. Islam plays a large part in Indonesian culture and politics. Its influence can be seen in the art, music, and values of the Indonesian people.
5. It is a custom for Balinese people to file down their teeth
The Mepandes or Metatah ceremony in Bali is an event in which Balinese teenagers have their teeth filed. The purpose of this process is spiritual; Balinese people believe that filing the teeth can help reduce negative traits from adulthood such as intoxication, lust, greed, pride, jealousy, and wrath. The ritual is an expensive and important event. Local teenagers wear vibrant costumes for the process and families will sometimes postpone it if they haven’t saved up enough money. An interesting Indonesia fact is that this practice symbolizes the transition into adulthood so all Balinese people need to undergo the tooth filing before getting married.
6. In North Sulawesi, locals eat roasted mice
Tikas panggang is a dish of barbecued wood rodent. Though it looks similar to the household pests, the rodent used to make this smoky snack is a native island animal that can usually be found in forests or fields. Locals say the meat is tender and has a delicate flavor similar to chicken.
7. Barack Obama lived in Indonesia for some time as a child
When former U.S. President Barack Obama was six years old, he and his mother moved to Jakarta to live with his Indonesian stepfather, Lolo Soetoro. Barack Obama lived and studied in Indonesia from 1967 to 1970. There, his school friends called him “Barry” and he had an Indonesian caretaker named Turdi, a fun Indonesia fact. He moved to Hawaii in the mid-1970s and remained there to study and work.
8. Indonesians sniff instead of kissing
Cium is an Indonesian word that means both “to kiss” and “to smell.” Because public displays of affection are often frowned upon in Indonesia, locals instead show affection using their noses. For example, instead of a kiss on the cheek, Indonesian friends may greet each other by sniffing one another’s cheeks. Relatives or lovers can also rub noses.
9. Javanese daughters are often confined in the home until marriage
The traditional practice of pingit in Javanese culture involves keeping girls in confinement in the home until the wedding day. The process usually starts a couple of months before the wedding ceremony. This event was originally a precursor to an arranged marriage but is now also practiced before self-selected marriages. During this period of seclusion, Javanese girls are often made to study or reflect and are kept from any form of sickness or stress.
10. Indonesians have many words for rice
Rice is a staple in Indonesia and is eaten for almost every meal. An interesting fact about Indonesia is that Indonesians consume an average of 135 kilograms of rice per person annually. Because of the importance of rice in the country, Indonesians have different words for rice in addition to the several kinds of rice sold there. Padis refers to rice in the field, gabah refers to rice grains that still have a husk, beras refers to uncooked rice, and nasi refers to cooked rice.
Indonesia is a large country with a vibrant culture and interesting traditions. There is so much variety in Indonesia, from the kinds of food to the local dialects to the rituals of the different islands. This tropical land is as rich in fascinating facts as it is in flora and fauna.
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