Past Cities

Bandjarmasin, South Kalimantan, Indonesia

Bandjarmasin, also known as Banjarmasin, is a vibrant city located in South Kalimantan, Indonesia. With a rich history that spans centuries, Bandjarmasin has been deeply influenced by its political environment and geographical setting. From its humble beginnings as a small fishing village to its current status as a bustling urban center, Bandjarmasin's history is a fascinating tale of growth, trade, and cultural diversity.

The earliest records of human habitation in the region date back to the 14th century, during the time of the Hindu-Majapahit Kingdom. At that time, the area around Bandjarmasin was inhabited by the indigenous Banjar people. The Banjar people had a strong connection to the river and relied on it for their livelihoods. They were skilled fishermen and traders, harnessing the potential of the Martapura and Barito rivers, which flow through the city.

Bandjarmasin's strategic location on the rivers made it an important trading hub. During the 15th century, the city began to flourish as a center for the lucrative trade in spices, such as pepper, nutmeg, and cloves. The Banjar people established trade links with merchants from neighboring kingdoms, as well as with traders from China, India, and the Middle East. This cosmopolitan trade network contributed to the city's cultural diversity, as different ethnic groups settled in Bandjarmasin, enriching its social fabric.

In the 16th century, Bandjarmasin fell under the influence of the Islamic Sultanate of Banjar. Islam had been introduced to the region by Arab traders, and it gradually became the dominant religion. The Sultanate of Banjar brought stability and governance to the area, further facilitating trade and economic growth. The Sultanate encouraged the development of agriculture and introduced new crops, such as rice and sugar cane, which became vital to the local economy.

Throughout its history, Bandjarmasin faced several political challenges. In the 17th century, the city came under the control of the Dutch East India Company (VOC). The Dutch exploited the region's natural resources, particularly timber, and established a monopoly on the spice trade. This period witnessed a decline in the power of the Sultanate and a shift in the city's political landscape. The Dutch influence continued until Indonesia gained independence in the 20th century.

In the early 20th century, Bandjarmasin became part of the Dutch colonial administration, and significant infrastructure development took place. The city saw the construction of roads, bridges, and public buildings, which transformed it into a modern urban center. However, during World War II, Bandjarmasin was occupied by the Japanese forces. The war had a profound impact on the city and its inhabitants, disrupting trade and causing widespread hardship.

After Indonesia gained independence in 1945, Bandjarmasin became part of the newly formed Republic of Indonesia. The city experienced rapid urbanization and population growth as people from rural areas migrated in search of better economic opportunities. Today, Bandjarmasin is one of the largest cities in Kalimantan, with an estimated population of over 700,000 people.

The geography of Bandjarmasin, characterized by its rivers and canals, continues to shape the city's development. The rivers are not only vital for transportation but also serve as a source of livelihood for many residents who rely on fishing and farming. The famous floating market of Bandjarmasin, where vendors sell fresh produce from boats, is a testament to the city's close relationship with the waterways.