1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Sumatra
SUMATRA, the westernmost and, next to Borneo, the largest of the Great Sunda Islands in the Malay Archipelago. It stretches N.W. to S.E. from Malacca Passage to Sunda Strait, between 5° 40′ N. and 5° 59′ S., and 95° 16′ and 106° 3′ 45″ E. Its length is about 1100 m., its extreme breadth 250 m., and its area, including the neighbouring islands, except Banka and Billiton, is 178,338 sq. m. The northern half runs roughly parallel to the Malay Peninsula, from which it is separated by the Strait of Malacca, and the southern end is separated by the narrow Sunda Strait from Java. Unlike Java, Sumatra has a series of considerable islands (Nias Islands, Mentawi Islands, &c.) arranged like outworks in front of the west coast, which faces the open Indian Ocean. The general physical features of the island are simple: a chain of lofty mountain ranges extends throughout its length, the western slopes descending rapidly towards the ocean and the eastern looking out over a vast alluvial tract of unusual uniformity.
|Emery Walker sc.|
Towards the north end of the island the spurs of the main chain sometimes extend towards the neighbourhood of the east coast and the eastern plain widens from north to south. Owing to this configuration of the island the watercourses of the western side are comparatively short: only very few of them are large enough to be navigable. Those of the eastern slope, on the other hand, such as the Musi, Jambi, Indragiri, Kampar, Siak, Rokan, Panei, Bila and Asahan, are longer, and with many of their affluents are navigable in their middle and lower courses over considerable stretches for craft drawing 6 to 10 ft. The Musi and Jambi are navigable for 372 and 497 m. respectively. As waterways all the rivers labour under the drawbacks of rapids, mud-banks at their mouths, banks overgrown with forest, sparse population, and currents liable to serious variations due to irregularity of supply from the mountains and sudden rainfalls. In their lower courses some of them form enormous intercommunicating deltas. The mountainous regions contain numerous lakes, many evidently occupying the craters of extinct volcanoes. When, as sometimes happens, two or three of these craters have merged into one, the lake attains a great size. Among the larger lakes may be mentioned Toba; Maninyu, west of Fort de Kock; Singkara, south-east of Fort de Kock; Korinchi, inland from Indrapura; and Ranua in the south-west.
Orography.—In order to appreciate the orography of the island the following sections of Sumatra should be discriminated one from another: (1) The valley of the Achim or Atjeh River. (2) The plains around the lake of Toba, which are of varied level and physical character. Those on the south and north lie at an elevation of 4000 ft., having the character of steppes, with scanty forest-cover, and, save in the narrow valleys and river-courses, are suitable for cattle-rearing. The plains on the east and west lie at a lower level and are eroded by larger rivers, clothed with forest, showing more sawahs and ladangs, or dry rice fields, and, near the rivers, planted with jagong (maize), coffee and fruits. Except on the south-east, where the Asahan flows away to the east coast, Toba Lake is surrounded by steep shores. According to R. D. M. Verbeek, P. van Dyk, B. Hagen and W. Volz, the lake had its origin in the collapse of a volcano. (3) The valley of the Batang Toru, with the plateau of Sipirok in the east and the mountain chain of Tapanuli in the west. On the south and south-east the valley is bounded by two volcanoes, Lubuk Raja and Si Buwal Buwali, whence were derived the volcanic tuffs of the valley and of the plateau of Sipirok, with their lakes, which are drained by the Batang Toru and its affluents. The valley varies in breadth from 5½ m. to half a mile and less. Flowing in a deep bed cut in the tuff strata, the river is not navigable. (4) The longitudinal valley of the Batang Gadis, with its affluent the Angkola, and in the south the valley of the Sumpur, the upper course of the Rokan, between Lubuk Raja in the north and Mt Merapi in the south. This valley is 64 m. long, with a mean breadth of 4 to 5 m. All the rivers of this valley, flowing in deep beds of eroded diluvial tuffs, with a fall as much sometimes as 330 to 660 ft. a mile, are unnavigable. The valley is bounded east and west by chains of slate and Palaeozoic rocks. The bottom is in many parts the diluvium of lakes drained by the rivers. (5) The section of middle Sumatra between the line of the three volcanoes, Singalang-Tandikat, Merapi and Sago on the north, and that of the three mountains Patah Sembilan, Korinchi and Tujuh on the south. This section is divided by the Middengebergte or middle chain into a northern half watered by the Ombilin or upper Indragiri with its affluents, and a southern half traversed by the Batang Hari or upper Jambi. To the north of the volcanoes, which rise to 9500 ft. or more, there is a high plateau of volcanic formation, whose elevation declines in a direction from west to east from 2950 to 1640 ft., with the lake of Maninyu (about 40 sq. m. in area) filling the hollow of an old volcano, and with rivers which have eroded their beds in the tuffs to a depth of 300 ft. and more. South of the volcanoes the northern affluents of the Ombilin—Sumpur, Sello and Sinamar—flow through valleys parallel to one another in a north-west to south-east direction. Here too are found fertile tuffs, and the valleys are densely populated. The rivers, like those already characterized, and for the same reason, are not available as waterways. Singkara Lake (44 sq. m.) is of origin similar to that of Maninyu. The Ombilin, issuing out of the lake on the east side and flowing through a plateau of Eocene sandstone, has on its banks the coalfields of Sungei Durian, &c., but is not serviceable as waterway for that part of Sumatra. The coal has to be transported by railway via Solok to Padang (Emmahaven), a seaport on the west coast. Solok lies on the Sumami, which, flowing from the south to the lake of Singkara, prolongs the valley of the Sumpur to the Middengebergte. Unlike the northern, the southern affluents of the Ombilin do not follow longitudinal valleys hemmed in by the Barisan range and ranges of slate, limestone and sandstone. Here prevailing granite and diabase give rise to a complicated mountain system through which the rivers cleave their way in a curved and irregular course. South of the Middengebergte, however, the northern affluents of the Batang Hari, the Seliti, Gumanti, Si Potar, Mamun and Pangean, at least those in the west, again run in longitudinal valleys. These affluents and the Batang Hari itself (except the part at the mouth, Mamun-Simalidu) are navigable only by praus drawing not more than 12 in. (6) South Sumatra, so far as known, presents everywhere in its valleys the same character as that of the Batang Toru, Batang Gadis, Sumpur, &c. They also are closed in on the north and south by volcanoes which have here produced similar masses of tuff, with lakes and rivers of the same formation as in the north. Such are the valley of Korinchi, with the river of the same name, between the peak of Korinchi and Mt Raja; the valleys of Serampei and Sungei Tenang (as imperfectly known as that of the Korinchi), in which are to be sought the sources of the Tambesi and Asei, both affluents of the Jambi; the longitudinal valley of Ketaun, in Lebong, flowing to the west coast, and of the upper Musi, flowing to the east coast; the valleys of Makakau and Selabung or the upper Komering, an affluent of the Musi, between Sebelat and Kaba. The Makakau and Selabung drain into Lake Ranau, which on the south side is dammed by the volcano Seminung. The southernmost longitudinal valley of Sumatra is that of the Semangka, which flows into the bay of the same name. Generally the lower valleys of the rivers lie at elevations of 600 to 1000 ft.; higher up they rise to 2500 or 3000 ft.; the mountain chains rise to 5500 ft.; the volcanoes tower up from 6500 to nearly 10,000 ft. (7) The section of south Sumatra between the eastern chain of old rocks and the east coast with its numerous river mouths is formed of the alluvium of sea and rivers. In the river-beds, however, and at some distance from the sea, older strata and eruptive rocks underlie the alluvium. The strata near the mountain chains and volcanoes consist of diluvial tuffs.
Geology.—The oldest rocks are gneiss, schist and quartzite, the schist often containing gold. They probably belong to several geological periods, but all were folded and denuded before the Carboniferous beds were deposited. They form the backbone of the island, and crop out on the surface at intervals along the mountain chain which runs parallel to the west coast. Here and there they are penetrated by granitic intrusions which are also Pre-Carboniferous. The next series of rocks consists of slates below and limestones above. It lies unconformable upon the older rocks; and the limestone contains Fusulina, Phillipsia and Productus, indicating that it belongs to the Upper Carboniferous. These beds are found only in northern Sumatra. They are accompanied by intrusions of diabase and gabbro, and they are sometimes folded, sometimes but little disturbed. No Permian beds are known, and for many years Mesozoic deposits were supposed to be entirely absent, but Triassic clays and sandstones with Daonella have been found in the upper part of the basin of the Kwalu (East Sumatra). They rest unconformable upon the Carboniferous beds, and have themselves been tilted to a steep angle. Cretaceous beds also have been recorded by Bücking. Tertiary deposits are very widely spread over the plains and low-lying country. They consist of breccias, conglomerates, sandstones, marls, and limestones, with seams of coal and lignite. The most valuable coal occurs in the Eocene beds. At the close of the Eocene period great eruptions of augite-andesite took place from two fissures which ran along the west coast. The Miocene consists chiefly of marls, with occasional beds of lignite and limestone. On the east coast it sometimes yields petroleum. The Pliocene occurs chiefly in the low-lying land and is generally covered by drift and alluvium. Sometimes it contains thick seams of lignite or brown coal.
The present volcanoes lie along a line (with offshoots) which runs parallel to the west coast, but some distance to the east of the fissures from which the early Tertiary lavas were poured. Lava streams are seldom emitted from these volcanoes, the material erupted consisting chiefly of ash and scoriae, which are spread over a very wide extent of country. Augite-andesite predominates, but basalt and rhyolite also occur.
Climate.—As throughout the whole of the Malayan Archipelago, so in Sumatra, which lies about equally balanced on both sides of the equator, the temperature stands at a high level subject to but slight variations. The monthly temperature mounts only from 77° F. in February to 80.6° in May, August and November. In the distribution of the rainfall, as dependent on the direction of the winds, the following parts of Sumatra must be distinguished: (1) south-east Sumatra, on which, as on Banka and Billiton, the heaviest rainfall occurs during the north-west monsoon, the annual volume of rainfall increasing from 98.4 in. in the east to 139 in. in the west. Of the 139 in. of yearly rainfall, 91.7 in. are brought by the north-west and 47.3 in. by the south-east monsoon. (2) The west coast. Here the rainfall for the year increases from the southern and northern extremities towards the middle. Benkulen, e.g. gets 126 in.; Singkel (2° 15′ N.), 172 in.; and Padang 184 in. in the year. Here, too, the prevailing rainfall is brought by the north-west monsoon, but in this belt its prevalence is not so pronounced, Padang getting 94 in. of rain during the north-west monsoon, against 90 in. during the south-east. The mountain chain immediately overhanging it, the high temperature of the sea washing it, the frequent thunderstorms to which it is subject, the moist atmosphere of its equatorial situation, and the shorter régime of the dry south-east wind are the principal causes of the heavier rainfall on the west coast. The higher stations of middle Sumatra, on the lee side of the western mountain chain, have a yearly rainfall of only 78.7 in. (3) The northern and north-eastern parts of Sumatra are swept by a variety of winds. The south-east wind, however, predominates. Blowing over land and in the direction of the longitudinal valleys, the south-east wind is comparatively dry, and thus favours the formation of steppes in the north such as the Toba plains. The north-east and south-west winds, on the other hand, being laden with the moisture of the sea, bring rain if they blow for any length of time.
Fauna.—Though Sumatra is separated from Java by so narrow a strait, both the zoologist and the botanist at once find that they have broken new ground on crossing to the northern island. The Pachydermata are strongly characteristic of the Sumatran fauna: not only are the rhinoceros (Rh. sumatranus), the Sus vittatus, and the tapir Common, but the elephant, altogether absent from Java, is represented in Sumatra by a species considered by some to be peculiar. The Sumatran rhinoceros differs from the Javanese in having two horns, like the African variety. It is commonest in the marshy lowlands, but extends to some 6500 ft. above sea-level. The range of the elephant does not extend above 4900 ft. The wild Bos sundaicus does not appear to exist in the island. An antelope (kambing-utan) occurs in the loneliest parts of the uplands. The common Malay deer is widely distributed, Cervus muntjac less so. The orang-utang occurs, rarely, in the north-east. The siamang (Siamanga syndactyla) is a great ape peculiar to the island. The ungko (Hylobates agilis) is not so common. A fairly familiar form is the simpei (Semnopithecus melalophus). The chigah (Cercocebus cynomolgus) is the only ape found in central Sumatra in a tame state. The pigtail ape (Macacus nemostrinus)—as Raffles described it in his “Descriptive Catalogue of a Zoological Collection made in Sumatra,” Trans. Linn. Soc. (1820), xiii. 243—is trained by the natives of Benkulen to ascend coco-nut trees to gather nuts. The Galeopithecus volans (kubin, flying cat or flying femur) is fairly common. Bats of some twenty-five species have been registered; in central Sumatra they dwell in thousands in the limestone caves. The Pteropus edulis (kalong, flying fox) is to be met with almost everywhere, especially in the durian trees. The tiger frequently makes his presence felt, but is seldom seen; he prefers to prowl in what the Malays call tiger weather, that is, dark, starless, misty nights. The clouded tiger or rimau bulu (Felis macroscelis) is also known, as well as the Malay bear and wild dog. Paradoxurus musanga (“coffee-rat” of the Europeans) is only too abundant. The Sumatran hare (Lepus netscheri), discovered in 1880, adds a second species to the Lepus nigricollis, the only hare previously known in the Malay Archipelago. The Manis javanicus is the only representative of the Edentata. Some 350 species of birds are known, and the avifauna closely resembles that of the Malay Peninsula and Borneo, including few peculiar species.
Flora.—Rank grasses (lalang, glaga), which cover great areas in Java, have an even wider range in Sumatra, descending to within 700 or 800 ft. of sea-level; wherever a space in the forest is cleared these aggressive grasses begin to take possession of the soil, and if once they are fully rooted the woodland has great difficulty in re-establishing itself. Among the orders more strongly represented in Sumatra than in Java are the Dipterocarpaceae, Chrysobalanaceae, selerocarp Myrtaceae, Melastomaceae, Begonias, Nepenthes, Oxalidaceae, Myristicaceae, Ternströmiaceae, Connaraceae, Amyridaceae, Cyrtandraceae, Epacridaceae and Eriocaulaceae. Many of the Sumatran forms which do not occur in Java are found in the Malay Peninsula. In the north the pine tree (Pinus Merkusii) has advanced almost to the equator, and in the south are a variety of species characteristic of the Australian region. The distribution of species does not depend on elevation to the same extent as in Java, where the horizontal zones are clearly marked; and there appears to be a tendency of all forms to grow at lower altitudes than in that island. A remarkable feature of the Sumatran flora is the great variety of trees that vie with each other in stature and beauty, and as a timber-producing country the island ranks high even among the richly wooded lands of the archipelago. Forest products—gums and resins of various sorts, such as gutta-percha—are valuable articles of export. The process of reckless deforestation is perceptible in certain districts, the natives often destroying a whole tree for a plank or rafter. The principal cultivated plants, apart from sugar-cane and coffee, are rice (in great variety of kinds), the coco-nut palm, the areng palm, the areca and the sago palms, maize, yams, and sweet potatoes; and among the fruit trees are the Indian tamarind, pomegranate, guava, papaw, orange and lemon. Even before the arrival of Europeans Sumatra was known for its pepper plantations; and these still form the most conspicuous feature of the south of the island. For the foreign market coffee is the most important of all the crops, the Padang districts being the chief seat of its cultivation. Benzoin was formerly obtained almost exclusively from Sumatra from the Styrax benzoin.
Population.—The following table gives the area and estimated population of the several political divisions of Sumatra and of the island as a whole (excluding the small part belonging to the Riouw-Lingga residency):—
|Division.||Area in sq. m.|| Population. |
|Sumatra, West Coast||31,649||1,527,297|
|Sumatra, East Coast||35,312||421,090|
Of the total population, about 5000 are Europeans, 93,000 Chinese, 2500 Arabs, 7000 foreigners of other nations, and the rest natives. In 1905 the total population was given as 4,029,505.
The natives of the mainland of Sumatra are all of Malay stock (those of the north being the most hybrid), but it is doubtful to what extent Malay has here absorbed pre-Malay blood. The different tribes vary in language, customs and civilization. No race of true Negrito type has been found. The Kubus (q.v.), a savage forest people of the highlands, were believed by some to be Negrito owing to the frizzled character of their hair, but it appears certain that they are Malayan. The north of Sumatra is occupied by the Achinese (see Achin). South of Achin and west of Lake Toba is the country of the Battas (q.v.) or Battaks. In the hill-country south of the lake are two forest tribes, Orang-ulu and Orang-lubu, pure savages of whom practically nothing is known, affiliated by most authorities to the Battas. The plains east of this territory are occupied by the Siaks, and farther south on the east coast are the Jambis, both Malays. Above Padang are the several tribes of the prosperous and comparatively civilized Menangkabos (q.v.). The Korinchis live among the mountains south of Padang, and farther south on the borders of Palembang and Benkulen are the Rejangers, a peculiar tribe who employ a distinctive written character which they cut with a kris on bamboo or lontar. The same character is employed by their immediate neighbours to the south, the Pasumas, who bear traces of Javanese influence. In the extreme south are the Lampong people, who claim descent from the Menangkabos, but have also an admixture of Javanese blood. The inhabitants of the islands west of Sumatra are of mixed origin. Simalu is peopled partly by Achinese and partly by Menangkabo settlers. They profess Mahommedanism but are practically savages. Nias (q.v.) has an interesting native population, apparently of pre-Malayan origin; and the Mentawi islands (q.v.) are inhabited by a race generally held to be a Polynesian settlement which has escaped fusion with Malayan stock. As regards education and the spread of Christianity among the natives, the west coast division is far in advance of the rest of the island. Here about 32,000 natives profess Christianity and there are about 300 schools; elsewhere schools are comparatively few and the adhesion to Christianity very slight.
Administrative Divisions and Towns.—In the west coast lands European influence, fertile soil, comparatively good roads, agriculture, timber, and coalfields have created populous settlements on the coast at Padang (the capital of the west coast, with 35,158 inhabitants in 1897, of whom 1640 were Europeans), Priaman, Natal, Ayer Bangis, Siboga, Singkel, and also on the plateaus at Fort de Kock, Payokombo, &c. In the east coast lands it is only at the mouths of rivers—Palembang at the mouth of the Musi, with 53,000 inhabitants, and Medan in Deli, the residence of the highest civil and military officials of the east coast, in which a fine government house has been erected—that considerable centres of population are to be found. Nine-tenths of the natives of Sumatra live by agriculture, the rest by cattle-rearing, fishing, navigation, and, last but not least, from the products of the forests; they are therefore little concentrated in towns.
The Dutch government of the west coast, extending along the shore of the Indian Ocean from 2° 53′ N. to 2° 25′ S., comprises the residencies of the Padang lowlands, Tapanuli and the Padang highlands. The governor has his residence at Padang, which is also the capital of the lowlands residency. Padang Sidempuan, the chief town of Tapanuli, lies inland, south of Mt Lubu Raja. The town of Siboga has considerable commercial importance, the bay on which it stands being one of the finest in all Sumatra. Bukit Tinggi, or, as it is commonly called, Fort de Kock, is the capital of the residency of the Padang highlands. To the government of the west Coast belong the following islands: Simalu; Banyak Islands, a small limestone group, well wooded and sparsely peopled; Nias; Batu Islands (Pulu Pini, Tana Masa, Tana Bala, &c.); Mentawi and Pegeh or Nassau Islands. The residency of Bankulen (i.e. Bang Kulon, “west coast”) lies along the west coast from the southern extremity of the west coast government to the south-western end of the island. The capital, Benkulen, is on the coast near Pulu Tiku, or Rat Island, in a low and swampy locality, and on an open roadstead. This was the chief establishment possessed by the British East India Company in Sumatra. Among other noteworthy places are Mokko-Mokko, with the old British fort Anna; Pasar Bintuhan, and Lais (Laye), the former seat of the British resident.
The residency of the Lampong districts is the -southernmost in the island, being separated from Palembang by the Masuji River. It is partly mountainous, partly so flat as to be under water in the rainy season. The more important places are Telok Betong, chief town of the residency, Menggala (with a good trade), Gunung Sugi, Sukadana, Tanjong Karan, and Kota Agung.
The residency of Palembang consists of the former kingdom of this name and various districts more or less dependent on that monarchy. Between the mainland dependency of the Riouw-Lingga residency and the residency of Palembang lies Jambi, an extensive sultanate, of which a portion belongs to the residency of Palembang as a protectorate, the sultan having in his capital (also called Jambi) a Dutch “comptroller,” who represents the resident of Palembang; another portion is claimed by a quasi-independent sultan who reigns in the interior. Of this interior very little was known until the scientific expedition dispatched by the Dutch Royal Geographical Society towards the end of the 'seventies, but in 1901 an armed Dutch expedition, necessitated by frequent disturbances, penetrated right into the Jambi hinterland, the Gajo districts, where until then no European had ever trod. The town of Palembang is a large place on the river Musi, with 50,000 inhabitants (2500 Chinese), extensive barracks, hospitals, &c., a mosque (1740), considered the finest in the Dutch Indies, and a traditional tomb of Alexander the Great. The residency of Riouw, which embraces many hundreds of islands, great and small, also includes a portion of the Sumatra mainland, between the residencies of Palembang to the south and the east coast of Sumatra to the north. This is the old kingdom of Indragiri, and lies on either hand of the river of that name.
The residency of the east coast was formed in 1873 of the territory of Siak and its dependencies and the state of Kampar. In includes perhaps the richest and best-developed districts of northern Sumatra, namely, Deli (with an assistant-resident), Langkat, Serdang, &c.—districts little known in 1873, but by the beginning of the 20th century famous among the chief tobacco-producing countries in the world. Belawan is the harbour to Deli, but the capital is Medan, where the sultan and the Dutch resident reside. Belawan is connected with Medan by a railway, constructed before 1890 by a private company, almost entirely dependent for its earnings upon the numerous tobacco plantations, several of which belong to British corporations. The plantation labourers are almost entirely alien coolies, largely Chinese, and the Malays are comparatively few in number. The tobacco plantations of British North Borneo were nearly all started by planters from Deli.
The government of Achin (q.v.) occupies the northern part of the island. No little progress has been made by the Dutch even in this war-ridden territory. There is a railway in the lower valley of the Achin River, connecting the capital, Kotaraja, and neighbourhood with Olehleh, a good, free port, with an active trade, carried on by numerous steamers, both Dutch and foreign. Edi on the north-east coast, with another harbour, is capital of a sultanate which formerly owed allegiance to the sultan of Achin, but has formed a political division of the government of Achin since 1889, when an armed expedition restored order. Edi is a centre of the still extensive pepper trade, carried on mainly with the Chinese at Singapore and Penang, which island faces Edi.
Products and Industry.—Forests and natural vegetation cover a much larger part of Sumatra than of Java. Whereas in Java tall timber on the mountains keeps to altitudes of not less than 3000 ft., the tall timber on the mountains of Sumatra commonly descends below 1000 ft., and in many cases right down to the coast. In Sumatra, as in Java, the vegetation of the lowlands up to nearly 1000 ft. is distinct from the vegetation of the mountain slopes and plateaus from that elevation up to 4000 ft. and over. The principal exports from all the regencies alike are black and white pepper, bamboo (rotan), gums, caoutchouc, copra, nutmegs, mace and gambir. From the west coast and Palembang coffee is also exported, and from Deli, tobacco. The system of compulsory cultivation of coffee was abolished in Sumatra in 1908.
Sumatra possesses various kinds of mineral wealth. Gold occurs in the central region, where it is worked at a profit, and it has also been worked in the Menangkabo district and the interior of Padang. Tin is known, especially in Siak. Copper has been worked in the Padang highlands (most largely in the district of Lake Singkara) and at Muki in Achin. Iron is not infrequent. The most important mineral economically, however, is coal. Coal seams exist in the Malabuh valley (Achin), in the Sinamu valley, and on both sides of the Ombilin River; the Ombilin field was brought into especial notice by D. D. Veth of the 1877-79 expedition. The production of this field increased from 1730 tons in 1892 to 78,500 metric tons in 1899. The profit on the working, which is carried on by the state, is slight. Lignite of good quality is found in several localities. The production of petroleum began to be strongly developed towards the close of the 19th century; on the Lepan River in Langkat it mounted from 362,880 gallons in 1891 to 20,141,000 gallons in 1899. Muara Enim in Palembang also produces petroleum. Perlak, formerly a tributary state of Achin and now a political division of the Achin government, has become one of the chief centres of the petroleum industry. The crude oil is conveyed in pipes to Aru Bay, on the east coast, and refined in the island of Sembilan. Arsenic, saltpetre, alum, naphtha and sulphur may be collected in the volcanic districts. A systematic mineralogical survey has been undertaken in central Sumatra.
Roads and Railways.—In the west, with its long line of coast and numerous valleys, the transport of coffee has induced the construction of very good roads as far as the Lake of Toba, owing to the want of navigable rivers. There is a railway connecting not only the coalfields of the Ombilin valley with Padang, but a1so the Ombilin river and the Lake of Singkara with the most productive and densely populated plateaus and valleys, north and south of the line of the volcanoes Singalang, Merapi and Sago. A second railway in the district of Deli connects the inland plantations with the coast; and there is another, as already indicated, in the lower Achin valley. Good roads traverse the broad plains of Benkulen, Palembang and the Lampong districts.
History.—As far as is known, Sumatran civilization and culture are of Hindu origin; and it is not improbable that the island was the first of all the archipelago to receive the Indian immigrants who played so important a part in the history of the region. Certain inscriptions discovered in the Padang highlands seem to certify the existence in the 7th century of a powerful Hindu kingdom in Tanah Datar, not far from the site of the later capital of Menangkabo. In these inscriptions Sumatra is called the “first Java.” The traces of Hindu influence still to be found in the island are extremely numerous, though far from being so important as those of Java. There are ruins of Hindu temples at Butar in Deli, near Pertibi, on the Panbi river at Jambi, in the interior of Palembang above Lahat, and in numerous other localities. One of the principal Hindu ruins is at Muara Takus on the Kampar river. The buildings (including a stupa 40 ft. high) may possibly date from the 11th century. Ar Pagar Rujung are several stones with inscriptions in Sanskrit and Menangkabo Malay. Sanskrit words occur in the various languages spoken in the island; and the Ficus religiosa, the sacred tree of the Hindu, is also the sacred tree of the Battas. At a later period the Hindu influence in Sumatra was strengthened by an indux of Hindus from Java, who settled in Palembang, Jambi and Indragiri, but their attachment to Sivaism prevented them from coalescing with their Buddhist brethren in the north. In the 13th century Mahommedanism began to make itself felt, and in course of time took a firm hold upon some of the most important states. In Menengkabo, for instance, the Arabic alphabet displaced the Kavi (ancient Javanese) character previously employed. Native chronicles derive the Menangkabo princes from Alexander the Great; and the Achinese dynasty boasts its origin from a missionary of Islam. The town of Samudera was at that period the seat of an important principality in the north of the island, whose current name is probably a corruption of this word. There is a village called Samudra near Pasei which possibly indicates the site.
Sumatra first became known to Europeans through the Portuguese, Diogo Lopes de Sequeira, in 1508. The Portuguese were the first to establish trading posts on the island, but at the end of the century they were driven out by the Dutch. At this time the most powerful native state in the island was Achin (q.v.). Elsewhere Dutch sovereignty was gradually extended—in 1664 over Indrapura; in 1666 over Padang, until by 1803 it was established over much of the southern part of the eastern lands, including Palembang. Meanwhile, in 1685 the British had acquired a footing in Benkulen, and between them and the Dutch there was always much jealousy and friction until in 1824 a treaty was made under which the British vacated Sumatra in favour of the Dutch, who reciprocated by giving up Malacca. In May 1825 Benkulen was taken over from the British. In the second half of the 19th century the Dutch found a succession of armed expeditions necessary to consolidate their power. Thus in 1851 a revolt was suppressed in Palembang, and an expedition was sent to the Lampong districts. In 1853 Raja Tiang Alam, ringleader of the revolt in Palembang, surrendered. In 1858 an expedition was sent against Jambi; the sultan was dethroned and a treaty made with his successor. In 1860 Rejang was added to the Palembang residency. In 1863 there was an expedition against Nias, and in 1865 another against Asahan and Serdang (east coast). In 1873 war was declared against Achin. In 1876 there was an expedition against Kota Jutan (east coast) and the emancipation of slaves was carried out on the west coast. In 1878 Benkulen was made a residency, and the civil administration of Achin and dependencies was entrusted to a governor. From 1883 to 1894 the government, with the help of missionaries, extended its authority over the south-east and south-west of the island, and also over some of the lands to the east and north of Toba lake, including the districts of Toba, Silindong and Tanah Jawa, and in 1895 over the southern part of the peninsula of Samosir in Toba lake. Its jurisdiction was also extended over Tamiang, till then the northern frontier of the Dutch east coast of Sumatra. By military expeditions (1890-95) the Dutch influence on the Batang Hari, or Upper Jambi, was increased; as also in 1899 in the Lima, Kotas in central Sumatra, included within the territory of Siak. The war in Achin did not materially retard the development of Sumatra, and although the titular sultan of Achin continued a desultory guerrilla warfare against the Dutch in the mountainous woodlands of the interior, the almost inaccessible Pasei country, really active warfare has long ceased. All along the main coasts of the former sultanate of Achin military posts have been established and military roads constructed; even in Pedir, on the north coast, until 1899 the most actively turbulent centre of resistance of the sultan's party, and still later only paciiied in parts, Dutch engineers were able to build a highway to connect the west with the east coast, and other works have been successfully carried out. Practically the whole of the island is now more or less explored and under control.
The literature dealing with Sumatra is very extensive. Of the older works the best known is W. Marsden, History of Sumatra (London, 1811). A full list of other older authorities will be found in P. J. Veth's Aardrijkskundig Woordenboek van Nederl. Indië (1869), Among later works one of great importance is Midden-Sumatra; Reizen en Onderzoekingen der Sumatra Expeditie, 1877-1879 (Leiden, 1881, sqq.), edited by P. J. Veth. See also Brau de Saint-Pol Lias, Île de Sumatra (Paris, 1884); E. B. Kielstra, Beschrijving van der Atjeh Oorlog (1885-1886), and “Sumatras West-Kust van 1819-1825,” in Bijd. tot Land-, &c., Kunde (1887); on the history of Palembang, west coast and the war in Achin, in Indisch militair Tijdschrift (1886-1889); Tijdschr. bat. Gen. (1887-1892). For topography and geology, see R. Fennema, “Topographische en geologische Beschrijving van het Noordelijk gedeelte . . . Westkust, &c.,” Jaarb. v. het Mijnwezen (1881); R. D. M. Verbeek, Topographische en geologische Beschrijving van een Deel van Sumatra's Westkust, with atlas (Batavia, 1883); similar work dealing with south Sumatra, Jaarb. v. het Mijnwezen (1881), and Supplement (1887). W. Volz, “Beiträge zur geologischen Kenntniss von Nord-Sumatra,” Zeitschr. deutsch. geol. Gesell. (1899), vol. li.; H. Bücking, “Zur Geologie von Nord- und Ost-Sumatra,” Samml. geol. Reichs-Mus. 1st series, vol. viii., with map and five plates (Leiden, 1904); D. J. Erb, “Beiträge zur Geologie und Morphologie der südlichen West-Küste von Sumatra,” Z. Ges. E. Berlin (1905); J. F. Hoekstra, Die Oro- und Hydrographie Sumatras (Groningen, 1893); J. W. Ijzerman, &c., Dwars door Sumatra, Tocht van Padang naar Siak (Haarlem, 1895); A. Maas, Quer durch Sumatra (Berlin, 1904); E. Otto, Pflanzen- und Jägerleben auf Sumatra (Berlin, 1903); B. Hagen, “Die Gajo-Länder,” Jahresb. Frankfurter V.G., lxvi., lxvii. (1901-1903); Climate: J. P. van der Stok, Regenwaarnemingen and Atlas of Wind and Weather (Batavia, 1897). Consult further Tijd. Aardr. Gen., Tijd. Batav. Gen., Jaarb, van het Mijnwezen, and Koloniale Verslagen, passim. (See also Malay Archipelago.)
- “Kota” means settlement or township, and a great many districts have been named from the number of kotas they contain; e.g. the VII. Kotas, the VIII. Kotas, &c.