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For other uses, see Sumatra (disambiguation).

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Native name
?????? (Jawi)
Sumatra Topography.png
Topography of Sumatra
Location Indonesia
Coordinates 00N 102ECoordinates 00N 102E
Archipelago Greater Sunda Islands
Area 473,481 km2 (182,812 sq mi)
Highest elevation 3,805 m (12,484 ft)
Highest point Kerinci
Provinces Aceh, Bengkulu, Jambi, Lampung, Riau, West Sumatra, South Sumatra,
North Sumatra
Largest settlement Medan (pop. 2,097,610)
Population 50,180,000 (2014)
Pop. density 105 km2 (272 sq mi)
Ethnic groups Acehnese, Batak, Minangkabau, Malay, Chinese
Sumatra (Indonesian Sumatera) is a large island in western Indonesia that is part
of the Sunda Islands. It is the largest island that is entirely in Indonesia (after
Borneo and New Guinea, are shared between Indonesia and other countries) and the
sixth-largest island in the world at 473,481 km2 (not including adjacent islands
such as the Riau Islands and Bangka Belitung Islands).

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, Nias and Mentawai 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
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 center in West Sumatra and
Riau 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. Deforestation on the
island has also resulted in serious seasonal smoke haze over neighbouring
countries, such as the 2013 Southeast Asian haze causing considerable tensions
between Indonesia and affected countries Malaysia and Singapore.[1]
Contents [hide]
1 Etymology
2 History
3 Administration
4 Geography
5 Largest cities
6 Flora and fauna
7 Demographics
7.1 Ethnic groups
7.2 Languages
7.3 Religion
8 Rail transport
9 See also
10 References
11 Further reading
12 External links
Sumatra was known in ancient times by the Sanskrit names of Swarnadwipa (Island of
Gold) and Swarnabhumi (Land of Gold), because of the gold deposits in the island's
highlands.[2] The first mention of the name of Sumatra was in the name of
Srivijayan Haji (king) Sumatrabhumi (King of the land of Sumatra),[3] who sent an
envoy to China in 1017. Arab 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 is also known by other names namely, Andalas [4]or Percha Island[5].

Late in the 14th century the name Sumatra became popular in reference to the
kingdom of Samudra Pasai, a rising power until replaced by the Sultanate of Aceh.
Sultan Alauddin Shah of Aceh, in letters addressed to Queen Elizabeth I of England
in 1602, referred to himself as king of Aceh and Samudra.[6] The word itself is
from Sanskrit Samudra, (??????), meaning gathering together of waters, sea or
ocean.[7] Marco Polo named the kingdom Samara or Samarcha in the late 13th century,
while the 14th century traveller Odoric of Pordenone used Sumoltra for Samudra.
Subsequent European writers then used similar forms of the name for the entire

European writers in the 19th century found that the indigenous inhabitants did not
have a name for the island.[10]

Historical population
Year Pop. %
1971 20,808,148
1980 28,016,160 +34.6%
1990 36,506,703 +30.3%
1995 40,830,334 +11.8%
2000 42,616,164 +4.4%
2005 45,839,041 +7.6%
2010 50,613,947 +10.4%
The Melayu Kingdom was absorbed by Srivijaya.[12]7980

Srivijaya was a Buddhist monarchy centred in what is now Palembang. Dominating the
region through trade and conquest throughout the 7th to 9th centuries, the empire
helped spread the Malay culture throughout Nusantara. The empire was a
thalassocracy or maritime power that extended its influence from island to island.
Palembang was a center for scholarly learning, and it was there the Chinese
Buddhist pilgrim I Ching studied Sanskrit in 671 CE before departing for India. On
his journey to China, he spent four years in Palembang translating Buddhist texts
and writing two manuscripts.

Batak warriors, 1870

Srivijayan 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 and Indian traders in the 6th and 7th centuries AD.[13] By the late 13th
century, the monarch of the Samudra kingdom had converted to Islam. Marco Polo
visited the island in 1292, and Ibn Battuta visited twice during 13451346. 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 (18731903).

Sumatra came under the control of the Dutch East Indies and became a major producer
of pepper, rubber, and oil. In the early and mid-twentieth century, Sumatran
academics and leaders were important figures in Indonesia's independence movements,
such as Mohammad Hatta (the first vice-president) and Sutan Sjahrir (the first
prime minister).

The Free Aceh Movement fought against Indonesian government forces in the Aceh
Insurgency from 1976 to 2005.[14] Security crackdowns in 2001 and 2002 resulted in
several thousand civilian deaths.[15]


Traditional house in Nias North Sumatra

Rumah Gadang, Minangkabau traditional house in West Sumatra

A Malay traditional house in Bangkinang, Riau

The ten administrative Provinces (provinsi) of Sumatra including the smaller
islands nearby are listed below with their populations at the 2000 and 2010
Censuses.[16] Note some 4 million of these residents of Sumatra do not live on the
island itselfbut on nearby islands administered collectively as Sumatra. The final
two of the provinces below do not have territory on the actual island.

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