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Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (R)

Sumatra on Map of Asia

Sumatra (सुमात्रा) is one of the Sunda Islands of western Indonesia. It is the largest island that is fully within Indonesian territory, as well as the sixth-largest island in the world.



Sumatra is an elongated landmass spanning a diagonal northwest-southeast axis. The Indian Ocean borders the west, northwest, and southwest coasts of Sumatra, with the island chain of Simeulue, Nias, Mentawai, and Enggano off the western coast. In the northeast, the narrow Strait of Malacca separates the island from the Malay Peninsula, which is an extension of the Eurasian continent. In the southeast, the narrow Sunda Strait, containing the Krakatoa Archipelago, separates Sumatra from Java. The northern tip of Sumatra borders the Andaman Islands, while off the southeastern coast lie the islands of Bangka and Belitung, Karimata Strait and the Java Sea. The Bukit Barisan mountains, which contain several active volcanoes, form the backbone of the island, while the northeastern area contains large plains and lowlands with swamps, mangrove forest and complex river systems. The equator crosses the island at its centre in West Sumatra and Riau provinces. The climate of the island is tropical, hot, and humid. Lush tropical rain forest once dominated the landscape.


Sumatra was known in ancient times by the Sanskrit names of Suvarnadvipa ("Island of Gold") and Suvarnabhumi ("Land of Gold"), because of the gold deposits in the island's highlands.[1] The first mention of the name of Sumatra was in the name of Srivijayan Haji (king) Sumatrabhumi ("King of the land of Sumatra"),[2] who sent an envoy to China in 1017. Arab geographers referred to the island as Lamri (Lamuri, Lambri or Ramni) in the tenth through thirteenth centuries, in reference to a kingdom near modern-day Banda Aceh which was the first landfall for traders. The island is also known by other names namely, Andalas[3] or Percha Island.[4]

Late in the 14th century the name Sumatra became popular in reference to the kingdom of Samudra Pasai, a rising power until replaced by the Sultanate of Aceh. Sultan Alauddin Shah of Aceh, in letters addressed to Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1602, referred to himself as "king of Aceh and Samudra".[5] The word itself is from Sanskrit "Samudra", (समुद्र), meaning "gathering together of waters, sea or ocean".[6] Marco Polo named the kingdom Samara or Samarcha in the late 13th century, while the 14th century traveller Odoric of Pordenone used Sumoltra for Samudra. Subsequent European writers then used similar forms of the name for the entire island.[7][8]


The Melayu Kingdom was absorbed by Srivijaya. [9]

Srivijayan influence waned in the 11th century after it was defeated by the Chola Empire of southern India. At the same time, Islam made its way to Sumatra through Arabs and Indian traders in the 6th and 7th centuries AD.[10] By the late 13th century, the monarch of the Samudra kingdom had converted to Islam. Marco Polo visited the island in 1292.

Ibn Battuta visited with the sultan for 15 days, noting the city of Samudra was "a fine, big city with wooden walls and towers", and another two months on his return journey.[11] Samudra was succeeded by the powerful Aceh Sultanate, which survived to the 20th century. With the coming of the Dutch, the many Sumatran princely states gradually fell under their control. Aceh, in the north, was the major obstacle, as the Dutch were involved in the long and costly Aceh War (1873–1903).


विजयेन्द्र कुमार माथुर[12] ने लेख किया है ... श्रीविजय (AS, p.924) सुमात्रा (इंडोनेशिया) द्वीप में बसा हुआ सर्वप्रथम भारतीय उपनिवेश, जिसका वर्तमान नाम 'पेलंबंग' है। इस राज्य की स्थापना चौथी शती ई. में या उससे भी पहले हुई थी। सातवीं शती में 'श्रीविजय' या 'श्रीभोज' वैभव के शिखर पर था। 671 ई. में चीनी यात्री इत्सिंग श्रीभोज (=श्रीविजय) होते हुए भारत आया था। उसने यहां की राजधानी 'भोज' लिखी है। इस समय इसके अधीन एक अन्य हिन्दू राज्य 'मलयू' तथा निकटवर्ती द्वीप 'बांका' भी थे। 684 ई. में श्रीविजय पर बौद्ध राजा या उसके उत्तराधिकारी ने जावा के विरुद्ध सैनिक अभियान भेजा था और एक घोषणा प्रचारित की थी, जिसकी दो प्रतिलिपियां प्रस्तर लेखों के रूप में आज भी सुरक्षित हैं। चीनी यात्री इत्सिंग के लेख के अनुसार श्रीविजय बौद्ध संस्कृति तथा शिक्षा का केन्द्र था। श्रीविजय के राजा के पास व्यापारिक जलयानों का एक बड़ा बेड़ा था, जिससे भारत और श्रीविजय के बीच व्यापार होता था। 7वीं शती ई. में मलय प्रायद्वीप में भी श्रीविजय की राज्य सत्ता स्थापित हो गई थी। श्रीविजय का नामांतर 'श्रीविषय' है।


विजयेन्द्र कुमार माथुर[13] ने लेख किया है ...कशेरु (AS, p.152) 'इंद्रद्वीपं कशेरुं च ताम्रद्वीपं गभस्तिमत् गांधर्ववारुणं द्वीपं सौम्याक्षमिति च प्रभु': महाभारत सभापर्वा 38, दक्षिणात्य पाठ . अर्थात शक्तिशाली सहस्रबाहु ने इंद्रद्वीप, कशेरु, ताम्रद्वीप, गभस्तिमत्, गंधर्व, वारुण और सौम्याक्ष द्वीप को जीत लिया था. प्रसंग से यह इंडोनेशिया का कोई द्वीप जान पड़ता है. क्योंकि इंद्रद्वीप = सुमात्रा का एक भाग, ताम्रद्वीप = लंका, वारुण = बोर्नियो


  1. Drakard, Jane (1999). A Kingdom of Words: Language and Power in Sumatra. Oxford University Press. ISBN 983-56-0035-X.
  2. Munoz. Early Kingdoms. p. 175.
  3. Marsden, William (1783). The History of Sumatra. Dutch: Longman. p. 5.
  4. Cribb, Robert (2013). Historical Atlas of Indonesia. Routledge. p. 249.
  5. Sneddon, James N. (2003). The Indonesian language: its history and role in modern society. UNSW Press. p. 65. ISBN 9780868405988.
  6. Macdonell, Arthur Anthony (1924). A Practical Sanskrit Dictionary with Transliteration, Accentuation, and Etymological Analysis. Motilal Banarsidass Publications. p. 347. ISBN 9788120820005.
  7. Sir Henry Yule (ed.). Cathay and the Way Thither: Being a Collection of Medieval Notices of China, Issue 36. pp. 86–87.
  8. Marsden, William (1811). The History of Sumatra: Containing an Account of the Government, Laws, Customs and Manners of the Native Inhabitants, with a Description of the Natural Productions, and a Relation of the Ancient Political State of That Island. pp. 4–10.
  9. Coedès, George (1968). Vella, Walter F. (ed.). The Indianized States of Southeast Asia. Translated by Cowing, Susan Brown. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-0368-1. pp.79–80
  10. G.R. Tibbets,Pre-Islamic Arabia and South East Asia, in D.S. Richards (ed.),1970, Islam and The Trade of Asia, Oxford: Bruno Cassirer Pub. Ltd, p. 127 nt. 21; S.Q.Fatimi, In Quest of Kalah, in D.S. Richards (ed.),1970, p.132 n.124; W.P. Groeneveldt, Notes in The Malay Archipelago, in D.S. Richards (ed.),1970, p.129 n.42
  11. Battutah, Ibn (2002). The Travels of Ibn Battutah. London: Picador. pp. 256, 274, 322. ISBN 9780330418799.
  12. Aitihasik Sthanavali by Vijayendra Kumar Mathur, p.924
  13. Aitihasik Sthanavali by Vijayendra Kumar Mathur, p.152