Let’s Get to Know the History of Raja Ampat in West Papua

Raja Ampat
Sumber : Papua Explorers

Raja Ampat is one of the most famous attractions in West Papua, Indonesia. The islands of Raja Ampat bring such a lot of pride for West Papuans and Indonesian in general. 

About 75% of the hard coral species in the world are discovered there. This makes Raja Ampat a favorite underwater paradise within the world, having possibly the richest underwater biodiversity. 

Not only being a great and pride region for tourism, but Raja Ampat in West Papua also has an important history everyone should know. To begin with, let’s learn a touch about how the name Raja Ampat or the Four Kings happened. And we will also get to know the history of Raja Ampat completely. Let’s have a read.

Raja Ampat
Sumber : CN Traveller

The History of Raja Ampat

The name Raja Ampat, which literally means “Four Monarchs,” was derived from the names of the four kings who ruled over the region’s four main islands. These four islands—Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati, and Misool—are surrounded by around 1,500 tiny islands and are named after the rulers.

Although the Portuguese were the first to claim discovery in the 16th century, the region had already been inhabited for tens of thousands of years prior to that. This is commonly demonstrated by palm prints discovered in a variety of rocks on Raja Ampat’s beaches.

So, who are these four kings, and where did they come from?

Seven eggs were supposed to have been discovered, according to local legend. After four of these eggs hatched into the four kings, the other three became a ghost, a lady, and a stone.

Regardless, while being a part of West Papua today, the people of Raja Ampat do not look exactly like the rest of the Papuans. They resemble Ambonese more than anything else. What route did the Ambonese take to reach Raja Ampat?

Raja Ampat Under the Sultanate’s Rule

The Sultanate of Tidore ruled the island territory for a century after the Portuguese discovered Raja Ampat. Unfortunately, through its quasi-state trading firm—the VOC—the Dutch colonial government entered and took control of the sultanate shortly after. Not only did the Dutch have a monopoly on spice commerce, but they also had a large say in politics, deciding who should be raised to be sultan and who should be imprisoned. Sultan Muhammad Mashud Jamaluddin, Prince Nuku’s father, was arrested and exiled from the island in 1779.

The VOC then named Nuku’s cousin—Patra Alam—as the next sultan, inflaming Nuku’s rage even further.

The VOC and Patra Alam attempted to catch and assassinate Nuku, but he managed to leave. During this adventure, Prince Nuku formed strong alliances with the neighboring territories, especially the kings of the Raja Ampat region across the ocean.

The Pirates of Raja Ampat’s Role in the Battle Against the VOC

Raja Ampat’s inhabitants were skilled sailors at the time. They relied on fishing for a living, so the oceans and islands were their playgrounds. They were known for being ruthless on their journeys and for being extremely adept with traditional weapons.

When Prince Nuku made partnerships with the Raja Ampat monarchs to send the VOC far away from their domains, the kings backed him up with up to 150 coracora and 7,500 troops and seamen. Despite only having traditional weaponry compared to the Dutch artilleries, they could compel Tidore in 1801.

Raja Ampat, like the sultanate’s other domains, prospered during Prince Nuku’s rule.

They somehow succeeded in reclaiming Tidore from Prince Nuku’s grasp using traditional weapons. Imagine the bravery and skill with which these pirates defeated the VOC’s artilleries! 

Who Are the Pirates?

One of the Dutch historians claimed that the Raja Ampat pirates were ruthless seafarers. They were not only greedy, but they had no qualms about murdering those who stood in their way.

Raja Ampat’s pirates were Biak islanders who belonged to the Omkai clan. Sekfamneri was one of their heroic figures, who, along with his sailors, were superb sea warriors and had magical talents. Prince Nuku, impressed by his prowess and service in winning wars, wedded one of his daughters to the famed warrior and crowned him king of Waigeo. Tidore and Raja Ampat’s connection was enhanced as a result of this transfer.

Although the Dutch retook sovereignty over the sultanate after a few sultans, the intermingling of Tidore and Raja Ampat people has allowed both Islam and Christianity to flourish in the region since then.

Many tribes in Raja Ampat now have Muslim and Christian populations coexisting together. This should remind the Ambonese and Raja Ampat people’s shared legacy of bravery and resilience. Raja Ampat is now part of West Papua. Along with the Ambonese, the West Papua people can feel confident in their shared past as one Indonesia.