‘Sang Dwiwarna‘ which means the bicolored or commonly called ‘Bendera Merah Putih’ (Red and White flag) or ‘Sang Saka Merah Putih’ (the lofty Red and White) are some of the official names of the Indonesian flag. Its history dates back to the glorious era of the Majapahit Empire circa the 13th century.
The original flag of the Majapahit Empire was described as nine alternating stripes of red and white or also called ‘Getih Getah’. Red and white textile coloring was available in ancient Indonesia. White is the natural color of woven cotton fabrics, while red is one of the earliest natural dyes, acquired either from teak leaves, the flowers of Averrhoa Bilimbi, or the skin of mangosteen fruits.
The earliest records of the red and white ‘Panji’ (banner) or ‘Pataka’ (a long flag on a curved bamboo pole) can be found in the Pararaton chronicle; according to this source, the Jayakatwang troops from Gelang-Gelang kingdom hoisted the red and white banner during their invasion of Singhasari kingdom in the early 12th century. This suggests that even before the Majapahit era, the red and white colors were already revered and used as the kingdom’s banner in the Kediri era (1042-c.1222).
Even today, the Indonesian Navy still uses the nine alternating stripes of red and white as the naval Jack flag and flies from the mast of every active Indonesian warship. The spirit of ‘Getih Getah’ or the nine alternating stripes of red and white is also being used in every Sasana (gym/dojo) and in the heart of every active member of Kali Majapahit Indonesia to remember and respect the Majapahit empire.
Several opinions have been expressed on the meaning of the red and white in the Indonesian flag. One opinion is that the red stands for courage, while the white stands for purity. Another is that red represents the human body or physical life, while white represents the soul or spiritual life; together they stand to become a complete human being.
As the late President Soekarno said:
” Red is the symbol of courage, White is the symbol of purity. Our flag has been there for 600 years. “