Origin of the name and other interesting things about the capital of West Java

There are many versions of the origin of the name “Bandung”. This article is trying to compile a few said versions and several uniqueness found in the City of Bandung, West Java, Indonesia. Hopefully this could be a useful addition to the knowledge-pot of those who want to know more about the beautiful city of Bandung and its history.

In one popular version, “bandung” came from the word “bendung” (to hold off, or ‘a weir’) or “bendungan” (a dam). This is due to the location of Bandung, which is surrounded by mountains that act as a natural dam. As it is said that the Bandung plateau was once a prehistoric lake that was formed when the ancient Tangkuban Parahu mountain errupted, and its hardened lava built a dam that stemmed the mighty Citarum river.

But in his version of the origin of the name, prominent Sundanese writer and humanist KH Hasan Mustopa, who was also a politician in the Dutch Colonial era, said that on the remains of what was once vast ancient lake of Bandung, people often used two boats that were tied together side by side and thus made sturdier. These kind of boats were called “bandungan” boats; in which “bandungan” means “in a pair” or “side by side”.

That “bandungan” means “in a pair” or “side by side” also is mentioned in the Indonesia Dictionary (KBBI, Kamus Besar Bahasa Indonesia, 1994) and Sundanese-Bahasa Indonesia Dictionary (1996).

The sixth _Dalem_ (Regent) of Bandung, RA Wiranatakusumah II (1724-1894), popular with his nickname of “Dalem Kaum”, were once said had gone downstream the Citarum river using one of the _bandungan_ boat in search of a new capital city for his regency, to replace the old one, that is Dayeuh Kolot (literally means “Old City”).

The modern day Dayeuh Kolot is still situated in the southernmost part of Bandung Regency, and accessible through Jalan (Street) Mohamad Toha, and Jalan Cibaduyut. From here, we can go to the towns of Bale Endah and Banjaran. And if we chose to, we can continue our journey to Ciwidey tea plantation, Kawah Putih (literally means “white crater”), a beautiful, teal-colored crater lake surrounded by stark white boulders and grounds. There are also beautiful tea plantations of Ciwalini and Ranca Upas, all of them are popular tourists’ destination.

Kawah Ciwidey between 1920 and 1932 @wikimedia.org

Flower City

Like the official name “bandung”, the origin of the city’s famous nickname of “Flower City” also has several version of origin.One of them rooted in a naughtier meaning of “flower”.

Like the late Haryoto Kunto, ” _the Caretaker of Bandung_ ” wrote in his book “Bandoeng Tempo Doeloe” (Old Time Bandung), in the year of 1896, _Bestuur Van De Vereniging van Suikerplanters_ or the Sugar Entrepreneur Club with its headquarter in Surabaya, held its first congress in Bandung.

Committee of the congress provided entertainment for the businessmen, participants of the congress. The entertainments included providing several dozens sex workers, of local, Chinese and Dutch origin, placed in destined special places near where the congress’ participants were staying. These notably dressed-up, make up wearing ladies of the night were called “kembang”, or flower. And that is the origin of the wildly popular nickname, Flower City. This version, understandably, is the most unpopular version among the proud people of Bandung.

West Hall of Technische Hogere School (Bandung Institue of Technology), circa 1924 @jazzaulabarat.org

The more romantic, more widely accepted version is that the mild-climated Bandung with its cool, fresh air, were once had been a site of many parks that were fully-packed by thousands of colorful flowers. And indeed, up till the end of the seventies, many corners of this pleasant city were used by fresh-flowers seller to display their pretty, sweet smelling goods. Which, too bad, are now have completely disappear, except for one or two places destined by the City to be a flower market.

The many parks of Bandung had gathered her another nickname, and that is Parijs van Java (Paris from Java). We can also attribute this nickname to the numerous beautiful  buildings very valuable in means of architecture history. The Hotel Savoy Homann and Preanger, for example. These two old hotels were built in the Art Deco style popular in the twenties. And then there is the magnificent West Hall of Bandung Institute of Technology, which boasts a harmony between the ancient, tropical, traditional houses of Indonesia with the more recent European (Dutch) architecture. And don’t forget the Indonesia Menggugat building, the court building where Sukarno once stood to read his defense.

The Savoy Homann Hotel architectural design by Albert Aalbers in 1939 is one of the most significant examples of the Art Deco style for which Bandung is renowned @wikimedia.org

Based on a survey by the _Time_ magazine held in 1990, Bandung even acquired the title of one of the safest cities in the world (Rafael V. L. Mrázek R,1990)

Jalan Ir. H Juanda or Dago

Jl.Ir. H Juanda is one of the most important street in Bandung, which connects the north part of the city with its south part.

This once picturesque street with tall, slim agathis tree grew on both sides, are the main access for students of two prominent school, the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) and University of Padjadjaran, to reach their campuses. The street also dotted by several other smaller campuses, and two high schools. Nowadays, an overwhelming number of factory outlets, distros, cafes and hotels crowd both sides of this street.

For citizens of Bandung, this old street is more famously known as Jalan Dago.

It is said that once in a time long gone, this street was merely a dirt road cutting through the woods of upper Bandung. This road connected the northern part of Bandung with the agricultural town of Lembang, and with mount Tangkuban Parahu. The jungle surrounding the mountain was a source of huge trees which were cut down by traditional loggers and brought down to the city. To save time and energy, the loggers who would carry down the cut tree to Bandung would wait for their friends and the logs in this dirt road, sometimes up until dusk. In Sundanese, the act of waiting is called ‘ngadagoan’. And this—at least according to people’s tradition—is the origin of the name, Dago.

Those who lived their teens in Bandung in the eighties and nineties must have remembered the times when Jalan Dago transformed into an illegal racing track. Teenagers would gather every Saturday nights, some of them acted as the spectators, while the ones with motorcycles roared along the road under the cheers of the teenagers.

Dago Waterfall circa  1920 and 1932 @wikimedia.org

This historical road is now named Jalan Ir H Djuanda, after the 10th Prime Minister of Indonesia, Ir H Raden Djoeanda Kartawidjaja (in office 1957-1959). A protected forest in the area of Dago, which was called Dago Pakar, is now also bearing the name of the former Prime Minister, Taman Hutan Raya Ir H Djuanda. This park has many beautiful place to set a tent upon or just to sit and enjoy the sunrise, as well as several historical places. One of them is The Japanese Military Bunker. These many intersected tunnels were dig by the Japanese military, on gigantic volcanic rocks by the foot of mount Tangkuban Parahu. Another mysterious place loved by tourists in Taman Hutan Raya Ir H Djuanda is the Dutch cave.

What was once the tunnel to the Dago Hydroelecytric Power Plant built by the Dutch Colonial in 1911, is now a tourist attraction. The ghost stories that adorn this place is more to the appeals of tourists than to scare them.

Bandung is just amazing, with its beautiful parks and buildings, creative people and wonderful Sundanese culture and cuisine.This city is truly a gem of West Java—herself is a very pretty, lush province with myriad point of interests. If you haven’t visited Bandung once in your life, you live a hollow life.


  1. PPID, Diskominfo Kota Bandung
  2. http://dongengceritarakyat.com/kumpulan-dongeng-sunda-cerita-rakyat-bandung
  3. Rafael V. L., Mrázek R., (1990), Figures of criminality in Indonesia, the Philippines, and colonial Vietnam, SEAP Publications, ISBN 978-0-87727-724-8
  4. KH. Hasan Mustafa, Bale Bandung, 10 Agustus 1924
  5. Faiz Syahrial Akbar, https://www.inspirasi.co/faiz_sa/33797_sejarah-kota-bandung-dengan-julukan-kota-kembang
  6. Kunto, Haryoto., Bandoeng Tempo Doeloe., Granesia: 1988


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.