Some places in Jakarta were named after unique or extraordinary historic events; others have more humble monikers. Residents of Batavia, the old name for Jakarta, might have believed that simplicity was best when naming their neighborhoods. Below are five commonly found names in the city, based on five common things.
Pasar Minggu. JP/Desy Nurhayati
Although it was the entrepôt and political center of the Dutch East Indies, Batavia, surprisingly, was not a comfortable city in which to live. Parts of the city were (and remain) lower than the sea level, which lead to the presence of swamps the closer one moved to the sea.
The swamps had to be filled or cleared before people could build settlements. Some swamps were so vast that people referred to the surrounding area as a “rawabadak”, a portmantaeu of rawa, the Indonesian word for swamp, and badak, the Sundanese word for big.
Areas of the capital built on swamps include Rawamangun in East Jakarta, now a densely populated area, and Rawabelong, home to Pasar Bunga, a ‘round-the-clock flower market and famed as the home of Si Pitung, the legendary Betawi “Robin Hood”.
Some districts are named after the markets that have been in existence for centuries.
For example, in 1730, Justinus Vinck, a Dutch landlord, built Vincke Passer, the first modern market in the city. The market is called modern as it was the first to operate using currency instead of barter. As the market operated only on Mondays, local residents called it the Monday Market or Pasar Senen.
In the 1800s, more weekly markets developed throughout the city.
Tuesday Market, or Pasar Selasa, is now better known as Koja Market in North Jakarta, while Wednesday Market, or Pasar Rebo, now refers to the neighborhood around Kramatjati Market in East Jakarta. Shoppers in East Jakarta now go to Jatinegara Market, although few know it by its original name, Thursday Market (Pasar Kamis).
Markets open on Fridays can be found in several places, such as Lebakbulus and Kelender, but only one neighborhood near Lebakbulus, south of Jakarta, is still known as Pasar Jumat.
Turning to the weekend, Tanah Abang, the largest wholesale market in Asia, was formerly known as the Saturday Market, while the area of South Jakarta previously known as Tanjung Oost Passer is now called Pasar Minggu.
Until 1900s, betel chewing was common among the elderly in Batavia. They combined betel leaf with areca nuts to create betel quid and consumed it regularly after eating.
In that era, betel plants grew near Gambir in Central Jakarta. There were many betel sellers and the area was later named Kebon Sirih, the garden of betel. Other places named after plants that once grew in nearby gardans include Kebon Pala (nutmeg), Kebon Kacang (peanuts), Kebon Jeruk (oranges), and Kebon Nanas (pineapples).
Years later, however, there are no more gardens, and the kebun have been transformed into housing complexes or have been paved over with concrete and asphalt. Kebon Sirih, for instance, has changed into a busy one-way street where the City Council is located.
It was soon after Indonesian Independence that out-of-towners started to move to Jakarta, looking for jobs. Poor and unskilled, they built their shacks in some garden areas, including Kebon Kacang in Central Jakarta.
From a small complex, Kebon Kacang has been transformed into a densely populated area with many sad stories of evictions. Similar stories can be found in Kebon Pala and Kebon Nanas in East Jakarta.
You can take a man out of the kampung (village), so the adage goes, but you can’t take the kampung out of the man. Jakarta has been the nation’s melting pot, mixing cultures and ethnicities from throughout the archipelago — and the world — for centuries.
In 1618, the Dutch East India Company (VOC), a business entity authorized by the Dutch crown to raise armies and sign treaties, looked to protect its trade monopoly in the archipelago against Britain. Local VOC governor Coen planned an expedition to distant Ambon in Maluku to secure the spice trade there, and housed his men temporarily in Rawamangun, East Jakarta, in the place that has since been called Kampung Ambon.
In 1686, a rebellion led by Sultan Hasanuddin of Gowa in Makassar was put down by VOC soldiers, along with their local allies from the kingdom of Bone in Sulawesi. The Dutch took their prisoners of war to Batavia, resettling them in a part of East Jakarta that has since been called Kampung Makassar.
Today, Jakarta is home to several other areas named after its original residents, such as Kampung Melayu and Kampung Khoja, or Pekojan, which was known as a place for traders from Khoja, India.
Flowers and plants
The simplest way to name an area is by looking at the flower or plants nearby. Watch what grows and then name it just the way it is.
Bintaro, an area in southern Jakarta was named after the bintaro tree (cerbera manghas). The small evergreen coastal tree can grow up to 12 meters high, but be careful: its flowers and fruits are poisonous. Other areas that named after plants are include Gandaria; Srengseng and Pegadungan. — JP