What Was Indonesia Called in Ancient Times?

Indonesia, a Southeast Asian country with more than 17,000 islands, has a rich cultural and historical background. The country has undergone several name changes over the centuries. In this article, we will delve into the history of Indonesia’s name and its evolution over time.

What was Indonesia called in Ancient Times?

Before we proceed further, let’s first understand what “ancient times” refers to. Ancient times typically refer to the period before the Middle Ages (500-1500 AD). During this era, Indonesia was ruled by several kingdoms that existed across different regions of the archipelago.

In ancient times, Indonesia was referred to as ‘Suvarnabhumi’, which translates to ‘Land of Gold.’ This name originated from India and was used to describe Southeast Asia’s fertile landmass with abundant resources such as gold, spices, and timber.

Indonesia’s Name Evolution

Over time, Indonesia underwent various changes in its name as different kingdoms ruled over it. Let’s take a closer look at these changes:

1. Suvarnabhumi

As mentioned earlier, Suvarnabhumi was the earliest name given to Indonesia by Indian traders who visited the region during ancient times.

2. Nusantara

The term ‘Nusantara’ is believed to have originated during the Majapahit Kingdom (1293-1520).

It refers to an archipelago or island chain between mainland Asia and Australia. This term is still used today by Indonesians to refer to their country.

3. Malay Archipelago

During colonial times (1600-1900), Indonesia came under Dutch control and was referred to as the ‘Malay Archipelago.’ This name came from the Malay language spoken in some parts of Indonesia and was used by the Dutch to describe the region’s vast chain of islands.

4. Dutch East Indies

In the 19th century, Indonesia was colonized by the Netherlands and became known as the ‘Dutch East Indies.’ This name remained in use until Indonesia gained its independence in 1945.


To sum up, Indonesia’s name has undergone several changes throughout history, reflecting its diverse cultural and historical background. From Suvarnabhumi to Nusantara, Malay Archipelago to Dutch East Indies, each name reflects a different era and aspect of Indonesia’s rich past.

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