Sumatra 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 at 473,481 km2
), not including adjacent islands such as the Simeulue
, Riau Islands
, Bangka Belitung
and Krakatoa archipelago
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
, 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
provinces. The climate of the island is tropical
, hot, and humid. Lush tropical rain forest
once dominated the landscape.
Sumatra has a wide range of plant and animal species but has lost almost 50% of its tropical rainforest in the last 35 years. Many species are now critically endangered
, such as the Sumatran ground cuckoo
, the Sumatran tiger
, the Sumatran elephant
, the Sumatran rhinoceros
, and the Sumatran orangutan
on the island has also resulted in serious seasonal smoke haze over neighbouring countries, such as the 2013 Southeast Asian haze
which caused considerable tensions between Indonesia and affected countries Malaysia
Sumatra was known in ancient times by the Sanskrit
names of ''Suwarnadwīpa'' ("Island of Gold") and ''Suwarnabhūmi'' ("Land of Gold"), because of the gold deposits in the island's highlands
. The earliest known mention of the current form "Sumatra" was in 1017, when the local
king Haji Sumatrabhumi
("King of the land of Sumatra") sent an envoy to China
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 has also been known by other names, including Andalas or Percha Island.
In the late 13th century, Marco Polo
referred to the kingdom as "Samara", while his contemporary fellow Italian traveller Odoric of Pordenone
used the form "Sumoltra". Later in the 14th century the local form "Sumatra" became popular abroad due to the rising power of the kingdom of Samudera Pasai
and the subsequent Sultanate of Aceh
From then on, subsequent European writers mostly used "Sumatra" or similar forms of the name for the entire island.
By the year 692
, the Melayu Kingdom
was absorbed by Srivijaya
n 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
traders in the 6th and 7th centuries AD. By the late 13th century, the monarch of the Samudra
kingdom had converted to Islam. Marco Polo
visited the island in 1292, and his fellow Italian Odoric of Pordenone
scholar 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.
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
The Free Aceh Movement
fought against Indonesian government forces in the Aceh Insurgency
from 1976 to 2005. Security crackdowns in 2001 and 2002 resulted in several thousand civilian deaths.
The island was heavily impacted by both the 1883 Krakatoa eruption
and the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami
Sumatra is not particularly densely populated, with 123.46 people per km2
– about 58.5 million people in total (in mid 2019).
[Badan Pusat Statistik, Jakarta, 2019.]
Because of its great extent, it is nonetheless the fifth most populous island in the world
File:Minangprocession.jpg|Minangkabau women carrying platters of food to a ceremony
File:House in Nias North Sumatra.jpg|Traditional house in Nias North Sumatra
There are over 52 languages
spoken, all of which (except Chinese and Tamil) belong to the Malayo-Polynesian
branch of the Austronesian
language family. Within Malayo-Polynesian, they are divided into several sub-branches: Chamic
(which are represented by Acehnese
in which its closest relatives are languages spoken by Ethnic Chams
in Cambodia and Vietnam), Malayic
and other closely related languages), Northwest Sumatra–Barrier Islands
and others), Lampungic
(includes Proper Lampung and Komering
) and Bornean
(represented by Rejang
in which its closest linguistic relatives are Bukar Sadong
and Land Dayak
spoken in West Kalimantan
)). Northwest Sumatra–Barrier Islands and Lampungic branches are endemic to the island. Like all parts of Indonesia, Indonesian
(which was based on Riau Malay) is the official language and the main lingua franca. Although Sumatra has its own local lingua franca, variants of Malay
like Medan Malay and Palembang Malay
are popular in North and South Sumatra, especially in urban areas. Minangkabau (Padang dialect) is popular in West Sumatra, some parts of North Sumatra, Bengkulu, Jambi and Riau (especially in Pekanbaru
and areas bordered with West Sumatra
) while Acehnese is also used as an inter-ethnic means of communication in some parts of Aceh province.
The majority of people in Sumatra are Muslims (87.1%), while 10.7% are Christians, and less than 2% are Buddhists and Hindus.
Sumatra (including its adjacent islands) were one province between 1945 and 1948. It now covers ten of Indonesia's 34 provinces
, which are set out below with their areas and populations.
The longest axis of the island runs approximately northwest–southeast, crossing the equator near the centre. At its widest point, the island spans . The interior of the island is dominated by two geographical regions: the Barisan Mountains
in the west and swampy plains in the east. Sumatra is the closest Indonesian island to mainland Asia.
To the southeast is Java
, separated by the Sunda Strait
. To the north is the Malay Peninsula
(located on the Asian mainland), separated by the Strait of Malacca
. To the east is Borneo
, across the Karimata Strait
. West of the island is the Indian Ocean
The Great Sumatran fault
fault), and the Sunda megathrust
(a subduction zone
), run the entire length of the island along its west coast. On 26 December 2004, the western coast and islands of Sumatra, particularly Aceh
province, were struck by a tsunami
following the Indian Ocean earthquake
. This was the longest earthquake recorded, lasting between 500 and 600 seconds. More than 170,000 Indonesians were killed, primarily in Aceh. Other recent earthquakes to strike Sumatra include the 2005 Nias–Simeulue earthquake
and the 2010 Mentawai earthquake and tsunami
is the site of a supervolcanic eruption
that occurred around 74,000 years ago, representing a climate-changing event.
To the east, big rivers carry silt from the mountains, forming the vast lowland interspersed by swamps. Even if mostly unsuitable for farming, the area is currently of great economic importance for Indonesia. It produces oil from both above and below the soil – palm oil
Sumatra is the largest producer of Indonesian coffee
. Small-holders grow Arabica coffee (''Coffea arabica
'') in the highlands, while Robusta (''Coffea canephora
'') is found in the lowlands. Arabica coffee from the regions of Gayo, Lintong and Sidikilang is typically processed using the Giling Basah
(wet hulling) technique, which gives it a heavy body and low acidity.
Sumatra is a highly seismic island, huge earthquakes have been recorded throughout history, in 1797 an 8.9 earthquake shook Western Sumatra, in 1833 a 9.2 earthquake shook Bengkulu and Western Sumatra both events caused large tsunamis. They are very common throughout the coastal area of the west and center of the island, tsunamis are common due to the high seismicity in the area.
By population, Medan is the largest city in Sumatra.
[Biro Pusat Statistik, Jakarta.]
Medan is also the most visited and developed city in Sumatra.
Flora and fauna
Sumatra supports a wide range of vegetation types which are home to a rich variety of species, including 17 endemic genera of plants.
Unique species include the Sumatran pine
which dominates the Sumatran tropical pine forests
of the higher mountainsides in the north of the island and rainforest plants such as ''Rafflesia arnoldii
'' (the world's largest individual flower), and the titan arum
(the world's largest unbranched inflorescence
The island is home to 201 mammal species and 580 bird species, such as the Sumatran ground cuckoo
. There are nine endemic mammal species on mainland Sumatra and 14 more endemic to the nearby Mentawai Islands
There are about 300 freshwater fish species in Sumatra. There are 93 amphibian species
in Sumatra, 21 of which are endemic to Sumatra.
The Sumatran tiger
, Sumatran rhinoceros
, Sumatran elephant
, Sumatran ground cuckoo
, and Sumatran orangutan
are all critically endangered, indicating the highest level of threat to their survival. In October 2008, the Indonesian government announced a plan to protect Sumatra's remaining forests.
The island includes more than 10 national parks, including three which are listed as the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra World Heritage Site
– Gunung Leuser National Park
, Kerinci Seblat National Park
and Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park
. The Berbak National Park
is one of three national parks in Indonesia listed as a wetland
of international importance under the Ramsar Convention
Several unconnected railway networks built during Netherlands East Indies
exist in Sumatra, such as the ones connecting Banda Aceh
-Rantau Prapat in Northern Sumatra (the Banda Aceh-Besitang section was closed in 1971, but is currently being rebuilt).
in West Sumatra
, and Bandar Lampung
-Lahat-Lubuk Linggau in Southern Sumatra.
* Architecture of Sumatra
* Bukit Seguntang
* Communism in Sumatra
* Music of Sumatra
* William Marsden''The History of Sumatra''
(1783); 3rd ed. (1811) freely available online.
Category:Greater Sunda Islands
Category:Maritime Southeast Asia