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West Kalimantan - A Short History: Kalimantan

Username By Wombat | March 31st, 2006 | Comments No Comments

Laying directly across the equator and the main gate way into the Province of West Kalimantan is the provincial capital of Pontianak.

This rapidly developing and surprisingly large city was founded in 1771 by Syarif Abdul Rahman Al-Kadri of Saudi Arabia and is now a bustling economic hub as well as home to a sizeable university and a giant indoor sports stadium. Canals crisscross the city and one of Indonesia’s longest rivers, the Kapuas 1.143 km long, divides the town in two, providing an essential and historical communications link. Like Java and Sumatra, West Kalimantan was once an important cultural crossroads.

Hinduism reached West Kalimantan by about the year 400 and evidence of both early Hindu and Buddhist civilizations in the region have been discovered. Stone carvings and ceramics can be traced as far back as the 5th century, but it is the influence of Islam that has had the most impact on this region.

The advent of Islam in West Kalimantan occurred at about the same time as the rise of the first Islamic Kingdom in Aceh in the 15th century and was introduced primarily from South Sumatra and North Kalimantan, and the country of Brunei. Islam was rapidly embraced and various kingdoms grew in strength and power particularly because of Kalimantan’s strategic importance along trade routes to China and the Philippines.

West Kalimantan covers an area of over 146.807 sq km, which is rich in a variety of minerals and precious stones and remains largely unexplored. Coastal areas are mainly swamp lands with more than 100 rivers sculpting the flat plains, but in the mountainous eastern parts of the province, away from the city and plains, there are many Dayak villages.

The Dayaks have ancient traditions and beliefs which are expressed in various forms; earlobes elongated by heavy earings, tattoos intricate paintings, designs and carvings and wonderful dances of respect, heroism, welcome and cure. A large Chinese population, Malays and other Indonesian ethnic groups account for the rest of the inhabitants of the province.

West Kalimantan is easily accessible from Jakarta or Singapore by air and boat and over land journeys provide a rare opportunity to see the interior of one of the world’ largest and richest islands.

Source: indo-tourism

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