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Bandung is the capital of West Java province in Indonesia, and the country's fourth largest city. Located 768 meters above sea level, Bandung has relatively year-around cooler temperature than most other Indonesian cities. The city lies on a river basin and surrounded by volcanic mountains. This topology provides the city with a good natural defense system, which was the primary reason of Dutch East Indies government's plan to move the colony capital from Batavia to Bandung.

History of Bandung
The Great Postroad as the start of Bandung

This article details the history of Bandung from the first settlement until the 21st century. Bandung is a city in the western part of Java island in Indonesia. Beside its own city administration, Bandung also serves as the capital of the West Java province and the seat of the chief (bupati) of Bandung regency.

Early settlement

Although the oldest reference to the city dates back to 1488, where it was the capital of the Kingdom of Pajajaran, there have been some archaeological findings of Austropithecus or Java Man, living in the banks of Cikapunding river and around the old lake of Bandung.

Dutch East Indies Company

During the 17th-18th centuries, the Dutch East Indies company (VOC), made small plantation area in the fertile and prosperous Bandung area. A supply road connecting Batavia (now Jakarta), Bogor, Cianjur, Bandung, Sumedang and Cirebon was built in 1786.

In 1809, Louis Napoleon, the ruler of the Netherlands and its colonies, ordered the Dutch Indies Governor H.W. Daendels to increase the defense system of Java island against British. Daendels built a road, stretching about 1000 km from the west coast to the east cost of Java. Since the northern part of West Java at that time was only swamp and marsh, the road was diverted through Bandung. The Great Postweg (now Jalan Asia-Afrika) was laid down in 1810.

There is a story when Daendels was walking along the edge of Cikapundung river. He was amazed by the site where he stood and then he put a stick at the edge of Cikapundung, and said: "Zorg, dat als ik terug kom hier een stad is gebouwd!" ('If I come again here, a city must be built!'). Now, it is the center of Bandung, the kilometer zero of the city. R.A. Wiranatakusumah II, the regent of Bandung regency at that time, moved its office from Krapyak, in the south, to a place near a pair of holy city wells (sumur Bandung), now it is alun-alun (city square). He built his istana (palace), masjid agung (the grand mosque) and pendopo (pavilion) in the classical orientation. The pendopo faces Tangkuban Perahu mountain, who was believed to have a mystical ambience.

In 1880, the first major railroad between Batavia and Bandung was laid down. It gave a big boost of light industry in Bandung. Chinese who had never lived in that area before flocked in to help run the facilities, services and vendor machines. Small old chinatown district in Bandung can still be recognized in the vicinity of the railroad station. In 1906, Bandung was given the status of gemeente (municipality) and then later as stadsgemeente (city municipality) in 1926.

Being located in a lowland area, surrounded by a ring of mountains, Bandung is strategically advantageous for military defense. In 1930s, Dutch East Indies government had planned to move the capital from Batavia to Bandung. The Dutch East Indies government built military barracks, the central government building (Gouvernments Bedrijven, now nicknamed Gedung Sate) and other buildings. However, this plan has never been realized as the failure of the Dutch to reclaim Indonesia after the World War II.

The growth of plantation areas

The fertile area of the Parahyangan mountains surrounding Bandung has made productive tea plantations. In the 19th century, cinchona (kina) plants was introduced by Franz Junghuhn. Cinchona is a plant that can be used for the treatment of malaria and the old pharmacy factory of cinchona still exists in the city.

Bandung had developed itself into an exclusive European resort style with hotels, cafes and shops. Rich plantation owners came during the weekends and so did girls and businessmen from the capital, Batavia. The promenade Braga Street grew into an elite area of cafes, restaurants and boutique shops. Two art-deco style hotels, Savoy Homann and Preanger, became two major accommodations there. The Concordia Society (now known as Merdeka Building) was built as a club house of these rich people, complete with a large ballroom and a theater. The title of "Parijs van Java" was given to this city.

Struggle for independence

Bandung was decided as the provincial capital of West Java, after the independence. Beginning October 1945, there were several extremist moslem groups in West Java with the main goal of establishing an Islamic nation in Indonesia (DI/TII). One of this movement is "Laskar Hitam" (black group), a militia group that kidnapped and killed Otto Iskandardinata, Indonesia's Minister of State in 1945. Other victims of similar groups: Poerdiredja, the regent of Priangan, Oekar Bratakoesoemah, the mayor of Bandung and Niti Soemantri, the leader of Indonesian national committee (KNI) in Priangan.

During the Dutch Politionele acties (police actions), there was an ultimatum for the Indonesian combatants in Bandung to leave. As for the answer, on March 24 1946, the southern part of Bandung was deliberately burned down as they were leaving. This event is known as Bandung Lautan Api or Bandung as the sea of flame. A heroic song "Halo-halo Bandung" was sang along by these hundreds of patriots. During the evacuation process on March 1946, Mohammad Toha, a member of Indonesian militia smuggled several sticks of dynamite to a large scale ammunition dump guarded by Japanese and Dutch troops, near the Dutch military headquarters in Dayeuh Kolot.

After overpowering the guards, he put the dynamites in several warehouses full of ammunition. He then committed suicide by igniting the dynamites. The massive violent explosion killed him and several Dutch, Japanese troops in the area. The explosion created a small lake in Dayeuh Kolot. The main street in the area is called "Mohammad Toha Street".


On January 23, 1950, a rebel group called Angkatan Perang Ratu Adil (The Just King Armed Forces, APRA) led by Captain Raymond Westerling, a former Dutch military officer, and King Sultan Hamid II from Kalimantan (Borneo) attacked Indonesian army's Siliwangi Division headquarters in Bandung. Lt. Col. Lembong and 93 other Indonesian soldiers and officers were killed. On January 24, 1950, the rebels tried to attack Jakarta, but the rebellion was quashed in a fierce battle in Pacet, near Jakarta. Sultan Hamid II was arrested, but Capt. Westerling managed to escape to Singapore.

In 1955, the first Asian-African Conference (Konperensi Asia Afrika) was held in Bandung. Twenty-nine countries attended the conference. The Asian-African leaders who attended the summit are Nehru (India), Nasser (Egypt), Tito (former Yugoslavia), Nkrumah (Ghana), U Nu (Myanmar), and others. This conference is one of the preparation for the establishment of the Nonaligned Movement block in Beograd (former Yugoslavia) in 1961.

After the 1955 general elections, there was a new parliament body called "Constituante" with the main task of creating new constitution to replace 1950 RIS constitution. This new body held meetings in Bandung for several years without any result. The Constituante was disbanded by President Soekarno on July 5, 1959. President Soekarno declared that Indonesia will use the old 1945 Constitution again starting on July 5, 1959.

The leaders of "Dewan Mahasiswa" (student council) at ITB such as Muslimin Nasution (who would later become a minister), Siswono Yudohusodo (also to become a minister), and Sutjipto (later becoming a leader of PKS party) use this event as the start of a movement against the establishment of ethnic Chinese tribe by Baperki (an ethnic Chinese organization influenced by Indonesian Communist Party PKI). This movement was also directed against NASAKOM (Nasionalis, Agama dan Komunis, Nationalism, Religion and Communism) ideology from President Soekarno. The movement disagreed with the Communist part of NASAKOM and they assumed that all ethnic Chinese community supported Baperki or the Indonesian Communist Party.

On the next day, there was a large scale public demonstration by this movement against Baperki and ethnic Chinese. Unfortunately there are other organizations who use this event to start a large scale racial riot in Bandung that spread to other cities: Jogjakarta, Surabaya, Malang and Medan. Muslimin Nasution and other leaders of Student Council were arrested by the police. Muslimin was sentenced to 3 years in prison for starting the riot.

On September 30, 1965, there was a failed coup attempt by revolutionary council, better known as G30S, the 30 September Movement. The Military Chief Of Staff, General Nasution escaped and went to Bandung for protection from the loyal Siliwangi division. According to General Nasution, near his mothers residence in Bandung, members of Indonesian communist party PKI dug wells for burying their enemies.

On September 6, 1970 there was a football match between ITB students and cadets from military academy. The game ends in a riot and brawl. Rene L. Conrad, an ITB student was kidnapped and murdered by the military cadets. Unfortunately the case remain unsolved today.

In 1976, Doctor Habibie (later becoming the third president of Indonesia) established a state owned aircraft manufacturing company called Industri Pesawat Terbang Nusantara, IPTN. Later this company was renamed into PT Dirgantara Indonesia, PT DI.

In 1978, after the Peoples Consultative Assembly session in Jakarta, there were demonstrations by ITB students against the re-election of President Soeharto. Police disbanded the "Dewan Mahasiswa" (Student council) movement in ITB and the leaders were arrested. The university was closed for 3 months and the new Minister of Education announced "Normalization of University Life" (NKK) to quell the student movement.

On March 11, 1981, an extremist moslem group called "Jamaah Imron" attacked the Cicendo police station in Bandung. The movement was quashed by Indonesian police, but several members escaped to Medan, North Sumatra and hijacked a Garuda airplane to Bangkok two weeks later. The passengers and crews were rescued by Indonesian special forces at the Don Muang airport, Bangkok, Thailand. The pilot and a soldier were shot death during the rescue attempt.

From April 5, 1982 to January 8, 1983, there were several eruptions at Mount Galunggung in nearby Tasikmalaya.

On December 24, 2000, there were bomb attacks against churches in Bandung. Fortunately the bombs exploded prematurely and the perpetrators were arrested.

On February 21, 2005, a landslide occurred at the garbage dumpsite in Leuwigajah, Bandung. 143 people were killed by the landslide. After this fatal accident, the Leuwigajah dumpsite was closed down and Bandung had a major problem in garbage management. The entire city was turned into a giant garbage dump. The major of Bandung was unable to solve the problem and the gorvernor of West Java was forced to search for new garbage dumpsites.

Last revised on September 25, 2009
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