Aerial view of Bengkulu City with Fort Marlborough in the middle.
|Founded||March 18, 1719|
|• Mayor||Helmi Hasan|
|• Total||144.52 km2 (55.80 sq mi)|
|• Land||144.52 km2 (55.80 sq mi)|
|• Density||2,100/km2 (5,500/sq mi)|
|Time zone||WIB (UTC+7)|
|Area code(s)||+62 736|
Bengkulu City (Indonesian: Kota Bengkulu; English historic name: Bencoolen, Dutch historic: Benkulen or Benkoelen) is a city on the west coast of Sumatra in Indonesia. With a population of 308,756 (2010 Census), the city is the capital and largest city of Bengkulu Province.
In the seventeenth century, the Lampung region of southern Sumatra was under the possession Fort Marlborough. In 1682, a troup of the Dutch East India Company attacked Banten. The crown prince, who had headed the government submitted to the Dutch, recognized him as Sultan. The Dutchman expelled all other Europeans present in Banten. As a result the British withdrew and the British East India Company founded Bengkulu as a commercial establishment (named Bencoolen) in 1685.
In 1714, the British built Fort Marlborough. However, it was never financially viable, because of its remoteness and the difficulty in procuring pepper. Despite these difficulties, the British persisted, maintaining the presence there for 150 years before ceding it to the Dutch as part of the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 to focus their attention on Malacca. Edmund Roberts visited Bengkulu in 1832.1 Like the rest of present-day Indonesia, Bengkulu remained a Dutch colony until World War II.
During Sukarno's imprisonment by the Dutch in the 1930s, the future first president of Indonesia lived briefly in Bengkulu. Here he met his wife, Fatmawati. They were the mother and father of Megawati Sukarnoputri.
Bengkulu lies near the Sunda Fault and is prone to earthquakes and tsunamis. In June 2000 a quake caused damage and the death of at least 100 people. A recent report predicts that Bengkulu is "at risk of inundation over the next few decades from undersea earthquakes predicted along the coast of Sumatra"3 A series of earthquakes struck Bengkulu during September, 2007, killing 13 people.4
As of 1832, the population of Bengkulu, and its surrounding area, was estimated at 18,000 people. During that time, the region had a varied population: Dutch, Chinese, Javanese, Indians, and more. Chinatown was located in the center of the city. 2
When under Dutch rule, Bengkulu had plantations. Parsi people harvested and processed nutmeg and mace. The nutmeg would be processed into confectionaries. Pepper was a large export, too. The area also produced smaller amounts of coffee and rice, however, both were primarily imported from Padang. Fruit and animal labor was also significant.2
Each year, in the Muslim month of Muharam, Bengkulu hosts the ceremony Tabot. The two centuries old ritual was made by artisans from Madras in India for the construction of Fort Marlborough. It celebrates the martyrdom of Imam Shiite Hussein's death at the Battle of Karbala. The Tabot is an opportunity for a grand procession, accompanied by songs and dances performed by young girls.
As of 1832, the city had two Lancasterian method Dutch schools. At one school, students were taught math, religion and the Malay language. The students frequently used a Malay version of The New Testament to learn Malayan, which was created by Robert Boyle when the British occupied Bengkulu. The other school was located at an orphanage.2
In this town lies the only state university in the province of Bengkulu, the Universitas Bengkulu (UNIB).
- Roberts, Edmund (1837). Embassy to the Eastern Courts of Cochin-China, Siam, and Muscat. New York: Harper & Brothers. p. 34.
- Roberts, Edmund (1837). Embassy to the Eastern Courts of Cochin-China, Siam, and Muscat. New York: Harper & Brothers. pp. 38–40.
- Andrew C. Revkin (5 December 2006). "Indonesian Cities Lie in Shadow Of Cyclical Tsunami". New York Times (Late Edition (East Coast)) p. A.5.
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- Ricklefs, M. C., A History of Modern Indonesia since c. 1300 (2de édition), 1993