The National Monument
(locally known as Monas) is one of the most popular tourist attractions in
Jakarta, a 132 m tower topped by a 14.5 ton, gold plated bronze flame,
situated at the heart of Merdeka Square. It was built to commemorate the struggle for Indonesian
independence, and a good place to get a grasp of Indonesian history. Its
construction was equally historic, spanning two presidents and surviving a coup.
After the Indonesian government returned to Jakarta from Yogyakarta in 1950 following the Dutch recognition of Indonesian independence, President Sukarno contemplated the construction of a national monument comparable to the Eiffel Tower on the square in front of the Presidential Palace.
On 17 August 1954, a National Monument Committee was established and a design competition was held in 1955.
The winner was architect Frederich Silaban. After he presented his design to Sukarno, the president expressed his wish for the monument to be in the form of a linga (a Hindu symbol of divine generative energy) and yoni (a Hindu symbol of divine procreative energy) instead.
Silaban revised his design, but it was for a monument so large that it would have been too expensive given the economic conditions at the time. Silaban refused to design a smaller monument, suggesting that construction be delayed until the Indonesian economy improved. Sukarno then asked the architect R.M. Soedarsono to continue with the design. Soedarsono incorporated the numbers 17, 8 and 45 (representing the 17 August 1945 Declaration of Indonesian Independence) in the dimensions of the monument.
The construction of Monas proceeded started in 1961 with Sukarno laying the first concrete pegs.
The tower is topped by a platform, on which will sit the Flame of Independence.
The Flame of Independence is made of 14.5 tons of bronze gilded with 50 kg of pure gold.
An elevator is placed within the cavity of this structure.
The monument is surrounded by 80 hectares of green area, the biggest in Southeast Asia, a popular urban park that is also the lungs of the busy metropolis. Scattered across the park are sculptures of national heroes.
After construction was interrupted by the 30 September coup attempt, work resumed. On its final stage, some construction glitches fixed and a collection of dioramas depicting Indonesian history were added for the history museum located on the ground floor.
The man responsible is sculptor and lecturer Edhi Sunarso from Yogya. After the dioramas were finished, then-president Soeharto inaugurated the Monas complex.