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Republic of Indonesia
Flag of Indonesia.svg
Names Sang Saka Merah-Putih, Bendera Merah-Putih or Merah-Putih
Use National flag and ensign National flag and ensign
Proportion 2:3
Adopted 17 August 1945
Design two equal horizontal bands, red (top) and white (bottom)
Designed by unknown
(inspired by the banner of Majapahit Empire)
Naval Jack of Indonesia.svg
FIAV 000001.svg
Naval Jack of Indonesia
(nicknamed Ular-ular Perang)

The national flag of Indonesia, which is known as Sang Saka Merah-Putih ("The Sacred Red-and-White") or Bendera Merah-Putih ("The Red-and-White Flag") or simply Merah-Putih ("The Red-and-White") in Indonesian,[1] is based on the banner of the 13th century Majapahit Empire in East Java. The flag itself was introduced and hoisted in public at the Indonesian Independence Day ceremony, on 17 August 1945. The design of the flag has remained the same ever since.

The design of the flag is simple with two equal horizontal bands, red (top) and white (bottom) with an overall ratio of 2:3.[1] The flag is similar to the flag of Poland and flag of Singapore. The flag is identical to the flag of Hesse (a German state) and flag of Monaco, excluding the ratio. Red represents courage, while white represents purity of intent.

The Naval Jack of Indonesia is reserved for sole use by 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]


Hoisting of the original flag moments after the declaration of independence on 17 August 1945.

Its colors are derived from the banner of the 13th century Majapahit Empire.[4] However it was suggested that the reverence for the colors red and white can trace its origin to older common Austronesian mythology of Mother Earth and Father Sky; boths symbolize in colors red (earth) and white (sky). This is one of the reasons why the colors red and white appears in many of the flags throughout Austronesia — from Tahiti to Indonesia and Madagascar. White and Red would also later on symbolize 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 colors already revered and used as kingdom's banner since Kediri era. The application of red and white textile coloring is available in ancient Indonesia. White is the natural color of woven cotton fabrics, while red is one of the earliest natural dye discovered by native acquired from the teak leafs, the flowers of Averrhoa bilimbi or the skin of mangosteen fruits.

Not only Javanese kingdoms that used red and white colors, 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] During Java War (1825–1830) Prince Diponegoro also used red and white banner.

Later, these colors 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.[9]

Alternative history

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 symbolize 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 colors from the blue color. The famous flag toring incident called "Hotel Yamato incident" happened in 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 Kingdom of the Netherlands. Conversely, the red color represented the blood shed in the War of Independence, while the white could be understood to symbolize the purity of the Indonesians.[9]


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 because the original flag was deemed to be too fragile.[1]


The red stands for courage, while the white stands for purity. The red represents human's body or physical life, while white represents human's soul or spiritual life. Together they stand for a complete human being.[9]

Traditionally, most Indonesians have used red and white as their ceremonial colors, mixing the color of sugar (the red color comes from palm sugar or gula aren) and rice (white in color). Inarguably, until today, both of these are the major components of daily Indonesian cuisine or cooking. The Majapahit Empire the same colours in its flag.[9]


The National Monument with a row of Indonesian flags

Flag protocols

Similar to most national flags, the etiquette covering Indonesia's flag is very strict and must be adhered to.[citation needed]

  • Etiquette relating to the order of precedence for the flag. Often more than one type of flag is flown simultaneously, for example the flag of Indonesian military. Below is the order of precedence for the flags:
    • National Flag of Indonesia
    • State Flag of Indonesia
    • Military Flag of Indonesia (in order of creation date)
    • Other Flag of Indonesia
  • The United Nations uses alphabetical order when flying national flags, including the national flag of Indonesia. This etiquette ensures that there is no one country's flag has precedence over another country's flag.
  • The Indonesian flag should never be allowed to drag along the ground as it is disrespectful to the history of the flag and the history of Indonesia in general.
  • When the flag is tattered or faded, that flag must be replaced with a new flag in a good condition.
  • It is very important to ensure the flag is always flown the correct way up. Care must be taken to ensure it is.
  • When in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, the flag should be destroyed in a respectful and dignified way, preferably by burning in private with appropriate care and respect.[clarification needed]

Flag display

  • The flag should be hoisted with the correct way up, preferably with a pole. However, if it is not possible, the act of hoisting could be done with a rope.
  • "Half Staff" or "Half Mast" - The flag is hoisted halfway up the pole to denote grief and mourning. In this case, the flag should be raised to the top of the pole first, then lowered halfway.
  • Manner of hoisting - The Indonesian flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously. Usually, the flag raising ceremony is accompanied by the national anthem of Indonesia (Indonesia Raya), and people should salute the flag. The hoisting should be timed so the flag reaches the top of the pole as the national anthem ends.[10]
  • The Indonesian flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way. Furthermore, there cannot be anything on the flag such as drawings, words, pictures and marks, nor can objects be placed on the flag.


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 Rp3 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.[9]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "National Flag, Coat of Arms, Anthem". Embassy of Indonesia, Oslo, Norway. 01-05-2007. Archived from the original on 2007-10-19. Retrieved 2009-06-22. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. "(Indonesian) KRI Karang Unarang-985 Akhiri Pengabdian". Pikiran Rakyat. 22-10-2010. Retrieved 2010-12-21. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. "(Indonesian) TNI : terima kasih ku terdalam padamu". Connie Rahakundini on Retrieved 2010-12-21.
  4. Britannica Facts about Majapahit empire: association with Indonesian flag
  5. Austronesianist
  6. Ke Bakkara: Ziarah Sisingamangaraja.Kompas, Minggu, 14 Agustus 2005.
  8. Makna Saudagar bagi Saudagar yang tak Hadir :: Azhariah Rachman :: Panyingkul,Senin, 13-11-2006,
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 "Indonesia". Flags of the World. 06-09-2006. Retrieved 2007-12-26. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  10. "Pemaknaan Lagu Indonesia Raya" (in Indonesian). Indosiar. 2006-08-08. Retrieved 2009-06-22. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)


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