The Indonesian coat of arms consists of a golden eagle, called Garuda, which is a figure from old Indonesian legends. It is also found on many temples from the sixth century. The eagle is a symbol of the creative energy. The main color which is gold alludes to the greatness of the nation. The black color represents character. There are 17 feathers on each wing, 8 on the tail and 45 on the neck. These figures stand for the date when the country declared its independence, 17 August 1945.
The motto and the symbolism
The motto, “Bhinneka Tunggal lka” (Unity in Diversity), appears on the banner held by the eagle in its talons. This ancient Javanese motto was introduced by Empu Tantular, a saint of the Majapahit Kingdom in the fifteenth century. It expresses the unity of the Indonesian people despite their very different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The shield symbolizes self-defense in battle and the protection of oneself. The red and white color on the background of the shield indicates the colors of the Indonesian flag. There are five symbols on the shield that represent the state philosophy Pancasila which is the foundation of the Indonesian state.
The bar through the center indicates the equator passing through the islands of Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Halmahera. This is a reminder of the fact that the Republic of Indonesia is the only tropical country where the people have built a free and independent state with their own hands. The gold star on the black background in the center of the shield represents the first principle of Pancasila, the belief in an almighty God. The chain symbolizes the unbroken unity of humanity. The round joints represent the women and the square joints represent the men. It is a symbol of the second principle, which is just and civilized love of humanity. The banyan tree or “beringin” symbolizes the third principle, unity in Indonesia. The head of “banteng”, or the wild bull (bos javanicus) which is black on a red background represents the fourth principle, democracy guided by inner wisdom through representative deliberation. The fifth principle is social justice for all the Indonesian people and is symbolized by the white and golden rice straw.
The designer of the coat of arms
Some claim that it is Dirk Rühl who designed the coat of arms, but most likely he designed an earlier coat of arms for Indonesia and not the one used today. The reason why one can with great probability state that he did not design the current one can be found in an article he wrote on 14 September 1950. In the magazine “Indonesia” he writes that the bird behind the shield is mistakenly called Garuda, as it is actually a mythical bird named Sang Radja Walik. But the 1951 Coat of Arms Act clearly states that the bird behind the coat of arms is a “Garuda – a mythological bird – the symbol of creative energy”. Indonesian school children learn that the designer behind the current coat of arms is the now deceased Mr. Muhammad Yamin, an Indonesian historian who also wrote the book “6000 tahun Sang Merah-Putih” (6000 Years – Red-White).
On this page, in addition to the current coat of arms, we have attached images of some earlier variants of the coat of arms. Some of these have been in use, while others have been proposed without being officially adopted. One can see the evolution of the coat of arms, note that most of the shields use Garuda in his mythological form.