Bhinneka Tunggal Ika

The national emblem of the Republic of Indonesia, GARUDA PANCASILA, is emblazoned with the words BHINNEKA TUNGGAL IKA. Translated, they mean 'Unity in Diversity' or, 'We are of many kinds, but we are one'. This motto is a founding principle of the modern Indonesian nation, which declares the essential unity of its members despite ethnic, regional, social or religious differences.

The concept of BHINNEKA TUNGGAL IKA is not new to Indonesian history. It can be traced back to the time of the construction of Borobudur, when the Sailendra dynasty ruled on the plains of Central Java in the eighth and ninth centuries. Two hundred years later, in the Brantas Valley in East Java, King Airlangga built a united kingdom based on this same principle.

It was, however, the 14th century poet sage of Majapahit, Mpu Tantular, who is said to have committed the phrase to writing for the first time. In his religious poem Sutasoma, composed during the reign of King Rajasanagara (Hayam Wuruk), Mpu Tantular expounded a doctrine of reconciliation between the Hindu and Buddhist faiths. Such a spirit of religious tolerance was an essential element in the foundation and security of the newly emerging State of Majapahit, which reached the height of its power and influence under the guiding hand of the prime minister Gajah Mada.

In more recent years, the words of Mpu Tantular were an inspiration to the founders of the first Independent Government of the Republic of Indonesia, and today they are found immortalized on the national emblem.

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