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The province



The sultanate


Flags and banners

Sultans of Aceh

Gouvernement Atjeh en Onderhoorigheden

Corps Marechaussee te Voet

Aceh Sumatera National Liberation Front

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Islam first entered Southeast Asia through Aceh in the 8th century. The first Islamic Kingdom of Peureulak was established around 850 AD in what is today East Aceh district with Banda Khalifah as its capital. Then follows Samudra Pasai (from which the name Sumatara derives) in what is today North Aceh district, which was recorded by Marco Polo and Ibn Batutah during the reign of Sultan Malik uz Zahir.

The Kingdom of Aceh was established initially as a small Islamic kingdom in what is today Banda Aceh during the 12th century AD. During its golden era, its territory and political influence expanded as far as Satun in southern Thailand, Johor in Malay Peninsula, and Siak in what is today Riau province. From the beginning of the 16th century, the Sultanate of Aceh was involved in an almost continuous power struggle first with Portugal, then, from the 18th century, against British and Dutch colonial interests. At the end of the 18th century, Aceh had to give up its traditional territory of Kedah and Pinang on the Malay Peninsula to the British.

By the early nineteenth century, however, Aceh had become an increasingly influential power due to its strategic location for controlling regional trade.

Under the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 the British ceded their colonial possessions on Sumatra to the Dutch. In the treaty, the British described Aceh as one of their possessions, although they had no actual control over the sultanate. Initially, under the agreement the Dutch agreed to respect Aceh's independence. In 1871, however, the British dropped previous opposition to a Dutch invasion of Aceh, possibly to prevent France or the United States from gaining a foothold in the region. Although neither the Dutch nor the British knew the specifics, there had been rumors since the 1850s that Aceh had been in communication with rulers of France and of the Ottoman Empire.

The Dutch colonial government declared war on Aceh on 26 March 1873; the apparent immediate trigger for their invasion being discussions between representatives of Aceh and the United States in Singapore during early 1873.

After a thirty-years struggle by 1904 most of Aceh was under Dutch control, and had an indigenous government that cooperated with the colonial state. Estimated total casualties of the war on the Aceh side range from 50,000 to 100,000 dead, and over a million wounded.

Colonial influence in the remote highland areas was never substantial, however, and limited guerrilla resistance remained. Lead mostly by the religious ulema, intermittent fighting continued until about 1910, and parts of the province were still not pacified when the Dutch Indies became independent Indonesia following the end of the Japanese occupation of Indonesia.



During the Indonesian National Revolution after World War II, when the Dutch military attempted to regain control of its former colony, Dutch forces did not attempt to invade Aceh. Upon independence, Indonesian troops were dispatched to annex the region, causing resentment over what some Acehnese viewed as foreign occupation by forces from Java. From then there were periodic armed conflicts between the Indonesian military and local forces fighting for greater autonomy and independence.

In 1959 the Indonesian government yielded in part and gave Aceh a "special territory" (daerah istimewa) status, giving it a greater degree of autonomy from the central government in Jakarta than most other regions of Indonesia have. [1]







The coat of arms or emblem of the province of Aceh is a five-sided white shield, point upwards, rising from the base a green silhouette of a chimney of a factory and two cupola´s of a mosque, charged with a golden feather per pale and an open book in base. In chief are two golden swords and hanging therefrom are two scales of a balance. The chimney is surrounded by a garland of cotton, pepper and rice. In base is the motto PANCACITA (also: PANTJATJITA in ancient spelling).


â The five sides of the shield and the motto refer to the Pancacita, the five principles of the Indonesian state philosophy.


·         The chimneyshaft symbolizes industrialisation

·         The cotton  symbolizes the main trade crop

·         The pepper symbolizes the wealth of the past

·         The rice symbolizes the staple food of the population


Together they symbolize the prosperity of the province.


·         The mosque-domes symbolize the harmony caused by Islam

·         The swords symbolize the heroism of the struggles in the past

·         The balance symbolizes justice

·         The pen and book symbolize the welfare of the people


The tinctures symbolize:


·       White symbolizes purity

·       Gold symbolizes glory

·       Green symbolizes welfare and prosperity


ð See illustration in the head of this essay


This emblem was probably adopted when the province was granted farreaching autonomy in 1959.



Obsolete version with ancient spelling


See also: Lambang Aceh









Kodam Iskandar Muda, oversees Aceh province by Aceh special autonomy law. Previously Aceh was under Kodam I / Bukit Barisan.





Aceh Shield

Brass, Æ 43 cm


Sultans of Aceh

1. Radja Inajat Shah


2. S. Muthaffar Shah


3. Sjamsu Shah bin Munawar Shah


4. S. Ali Mughajat Shah


5. S. Salah ad-din


6. S. Ala ad-din Riajat Shah al Kahhar


7. S. Husen as S. Ali Riajat Shah


8. S. Muda


9. S. Sri Alam


10. Zainul Abidin as Radja Djainal


11. S. Ala ad din Mansur Shah


12. S. Bujong as S. Alaad- din Riajat Shah


13. S. Ala ad din Riajat Shah


14. S. Ali Riajat Shah


15. S. Iskandar Muda


16. S. Iskandar Thani Ala addin Mughajat Shah


17. S. Tadjal alam Safiat ad din Shah


18. S. Nur al alam Nakiat ad din Shah


19. S. Inajat Shah Zakiat ad din Shah


20. S. Kamalat Shah


21. S. Badr al alam Sjarif Hasjim Djamal ad din


22. S. Perkasa Alam Sjarif Lamtui ibn Sjarif Ibrahim


23. S. Djamal al alam Badr al Munir


24. S. Djauhar al alam Ama ad din Shah


25. S. Sjam al alam


26. S. Ala ad din Ahmad Shah


27. S. Ala ad din Djohan Shah


28. S. Mahmud Shah


28a. S. Badr ad din Djohan Shah


28. S. Mahmud Shah


28b. S. Suleiman Shah


28. S. Mahmud Shah


29. S. Ala ad din Muhammad Shah


30. S. Ala ad din Djauhar al alam Shah


30a. S. Sjarif Saif al alam Shah


30. S. Ala ad din Djauhar al alam Shah


31. S. Muhammad Shah


32. S. Suleman Ali Iskandar Shah


33. S. Ibrahim Mansur Shah


34. S. Mahmud Shah


35. S. Tuanku Muhamat Dawot Shah






No Acehnese prince ever used any device which was comparable with the heraldic coats of arms which were common among European princes of the time. Instead they used seals which had both the function of a personal device and had a genealogical connotation by mentioning the predecessors legitimizing by descent the power of the governing prince. In that sense the seals of the muslim princes were as much of a family device as the family-arms of their christian counterparts.


Like many other prices in the Indonesian archipelago the princes of Aceh had seals with legends in arabic and without any other image. Prints of these seals were made by rubbing soot on the matrix-seal and pressing it on the document. Only a few of these prints have been preserved in European collections.


13. S. Ala ad din Riajat Shah




1) 1601 Print of the seal of Sultan Ala ad din Riajat Shah L.: as Soltan Ala’ud-din bin Firman Shah. (After the original in the National Archives in The Hague. [2])

2) 1602 An Acehnese trading permit for an English captain. Bodleian Lib. MS Douce Or.e.4. Print of the seal of the Sultan. [3])


30. S. Ala ad din Djauhar al alam Shah




1811 Seal of Sultan - , nine-fold seal called Cab Sikureng / Cap Halintar. British Library, MSS Eur. D.742/1, f. 176r.[4])


35. S. Tuanku Muhamat Dawot Shah




1879     Cab Sikureng of the sultan pretender Tuanku Muhamat Dawot Shah. Nine-fold seal. Large circle surrounded by 8 smaller ones. Legend:  May Allah give good guidance to His Majesty Sultan Tuanku Muhamat Dawot Shah Djohan, the Blessed, the Shadow of Allah in this world 1296. On the smaller circles: 1. Sultan Sajjidi al-Mukammal; 2. Sultan Meukuta Alam; 3. Sultan Tadjul-alam; 4. Sultan Ahmat Shah; 5. Sultan Djuhan Shah; 6. Sultan Mahmut Shah; 7. Sultan Djauhar Alam Shah; 8. Sultan Mançur Shah. [5])



Seven- / fourteen-pointed seal of the sultan pretender. Legend: This is His Majesty Sultan Allaeddin Muhammad Dawot Shah Djuhan, the Blessed, the Shadow of Allah in this World. On the rim: Allah, His Word is the Truth and to Him is the Kingdom.[6])


Flags and Banners


As for the flags and banners of Aceh, we may discern from the few data, that there were at least four or five categories. The attributions are mainly hypothetical as no written sources are available.


1. The standard of the sultan. This was not a personal ensign but a banner that symbolized the function of “sultan of the Acenese”. Probably the banner that was captured from the kraton in 1874, was such a standard.


2. The flag of the Government or State Flag. Also referred to as  the flag of the sultan. This flag showed a sun and a crescent or moon, the symbols of the realm of Aceh and its government. This flag was reminescent of the flags used in Egypt as a government flag and a distinguishing flag for the rear-admirals of the fleet. However, instead of the five- or six-pointed star on these flags we see clearly a sun on the Acenese flag. The version of the Acenese flag with a six-pointed star that appears in the work of Rühl, may be a flag that was originally granted by the Ottoman sultan to the ruling sultan of Aceh who could have had a position in the Ottoman hierarchy comparable with the sharif of Mecca and the beyler-bey of Bosna who used like flags. We may suppose that, when the diplomatic relations with the Porte had to be denied, the star was changed into the sun that symbolized a complete sovereignty of the sultan.


3. The War Flag. This was the flag that literally can be consideredto be the “coat of arms” of Aceh as it was the symbol of the Acenese army. Two versions are preserved and documented. The first with a single sword and a white disc that may be a moon in the Chinese tradition. In this flag the armed power is symbolized by the sword that may be identified as the Sword of Islam. When the disc is really intended as a moon, the flag symbolizes “The armed power of the State”. This flag has to be compared with the “Great Army Banner” of the Ottoman Empire that showed the sword of Islam between symbols of state of the Ottoman Empire (a sun-and-crescent).

A second version occurs during the reign of Ibrahim Mansur Shah (1857-1873). In this version there are two swords in saltire and in chief the white disc or moon. This flag is in line with an Indonesian tradition: the flag of  “Java” being yellow with two blue swords in saltire, and the flag of Bantam: yellow, two white swords in saltire. The raja of Trumon followed: black, two white swords in saltire and in chief a moon-disc. 


4. Also a merchant flag is given: a monochromatic red flag, common for many muslim seafaring countries.


32. S. Suleman Ali Iskandar Shah



1840 Banner of Al-Iskander

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam Inv. nr. ng-1977-2789-2.


Red, a white sword and roundle. On the flag quotes from the Quran and curses adressed to the Dutch. Cotton, 125 Î 280 cm. Captured in 1840.

(Transferred 1977 by Museum Bronbeek, Arnhem).


The Raja of Trumon (Westcoast of Aceh) had a like flag: Black, a white breadth at the mast-end and a white sword per fess with a disc in chief.


33. S. Ibrahim Mansur Shah                                                                           





Reconstructions: Roberto Breschi


Left: Flag of the sultan: Red, a white crescent and a eight-pointed star

Right:  Red, two white swords in saltire, hilts at the mast, in chief a white disc.[7]


35. S. Tuanku Muhamat Dawot Shah




Triangular standard

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam inv. n° NG 83.


1874 Flag: At the mast-end a white breadth, the fly a red triangle with a bordure of yellow flames. Cotton, 195 Î 227 cm.


Captured at the conquest of the kraton (royal palace) of Aceh on the 24th of January 1874.[8])

1877  Banner with sun and moon

Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum inv. nr. ng-1977-279-3.


The banner is (now) yellow with a red-blue-white sun with sixteen wavy rays of blue and red alternately, and a white and red crescent encircled by a blue border


This banner was captured by the Netherlands Indies Army (KNIL) on the 28th of January 1877 at the conquest of the mosque and school of Lambadak, about 800 metres inland from the North-eastern coast of Aceh


Other flags captured at the same occasion are also in the Rijksmuseum: inv. nrs. ng-1977-279-3 and ng-1977-279-5.[9]




Districts: 1. Groot Atjeh; 2. Noordkust van Atjeh; 3. Oostkust van Atjeh; 4. Westkust van Atjeh (Tempat Tuan*, Trumon*) ; 5. Alaslanden.



The palace of the governor of Atjeh en Onderhoorigheden in Kotaradja (Banda Aceh).

Showing the achievement of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

(Photo coll KITV nr 60025421)


No coat of arms of Kotaraja, the modern Bandar Aceh, or of the Gouvernement Atjeh en Onderhoorigheden were ever adopted. Instead the coat of arms of the Netherlands Indies government, which was the coat of arms of the Kingdom of the Netherlands was used.

The flag of the (first) Dutch governors of Aceh consisted of the Dutch tricolore augmented with two white balls in the red at the mast-end.



(From: http://www.collectie.legermuseum.nl/str.hoefer/strategion/i008341.html)


Korps Marechaussee te Voet


The Korps Marechaussee te Voet (Marechaussee Infantry Corps) which existed from 1890 until 1942 was the answer of the KNIL to the Acenese guerilla warfare. The corps specialised in counter-guerilla but it would take a long time before the last guerillas were eliminated.

At the occasion of its 40 years jubilee the Corps received its own banner, decorated with the cross of the Militaire Willems-Orde 4th class.


Photo H.d.V.

Banner of the Korps Marechaussee te Voet, 1930

Coll. Museum Bronbeek, Arnhem




The Flag




For this flag of the Aceh Sumatera National Liberation Front and information about the movement, see their website GAM.


For more information about this flag and a commentary go to: FOTW Flags of the World  Aceh.


The Achievement



The leader of the Acheh Sumatera National Liberation Front was Tengku Hasan di Tiro  († 2010). He was a grandson of the last sultan of Aceh. On 11 December 1976 he proclaimed an independent state of Aceh. In 1980 Hasan di Tiro took refuge in Sweden and from then on was the head of the Aceh-government in exile. An achievement for the new state was designed by himself. It was described and explained by the first secretary of state in the same year. [10]

It is:


Arms: Tierced per pale Azure , Or and Sable, two  rincong in saltire Argent.

Crest: A crescent and star Or

Supporters: Dexter a lion guardant and sinister a buraq Or.

Pending emblem: A steering wheel charged with the arab letter T.

Motto: HIDUP BERSARE MATI BESAJAN (Great in Life, United in Death) in arab lettering on a yellow scroll.


The Shield

The crossed rincong symbolize national defense. The meaning of the colors remains unexplained.


A Rincong is the Acehnese dagger used during the Acehnese wars. At present the rincong is popular as a part of the traditional dress. 

Rincong are made of metal, ivory and wood (kayu kemuning) or buffalo horn. Somertimes they are decorated with gold or silver ornaments.

The shape of the rincong spells the invocation ‘Bismillahirrahmanirrahim’ (in the name of Allah, the merciful and compassionate) as follows:


- The hilt of is in the shape of  a ‘ba’.

- The decoration at the base of the hilt is in the shape of a ‘sin’.

- The shape of the blade is in the shape of a ‘mim’.

- The shape of the metal parts at the top of the blade is in the shape of a ‘lam’.

- The base of the scabbard takes the shape of a ‘ha’.


This invocation is often repeated on the blade


The Crescent and Star.

Symbolizes the Islamic State.

The Crescent and Star is of Ottoman origin and is the emblem of a governor of a sançak or vassal state of the Ottoman Empire. Outside the Ottoman Empire it came to be the symbol of a Muslim State.


The Lion

The crowned lion symbolizes Sovereign Aceh: ‘It has a Territory, it has a Population, it has a Head of state and it has a Constitution’.


The Buraq

Symbolizes speed, beauty, loyality and global communication and the principle ‘think global, act local'.


Al-Buraq is the winged creature who reputedly carried the Prophet on his night journey from Mecca to Jerusalem which is mentioned in the first verse of surah 17 of the Qur’an, but the details of the al-Buraq legend were not consolidated until the formulation of the hadith literature. The establihed representation of al-Buraq usually is a winged horse with a crowned human head, often of a young woman. The inspiration for this was drawn from many pre-Islamic representative traditions in western Asia, including the Centaur of Babylon, the ‘man-headed bulls’of Assyria and the Sphinx. It was a powerful image among Sufis in Iran, but also of particular popularity in both West Africa and Indonesia.


The Pending Emblem

The steering wheel is charged with the letter ‘T’ of  Tuan meaning ‘Lord’. The symbol means “the Direction of Tengku (Hasan di Tiro)”.


ð See my reconstruction in the head of this section. For the original see note 10]



© Hubert de Vries 2006-07-06

Updated 2009-08-13 / 2010-10-29 / 2011-03-03

[1] ) After Wikipedia.

[2]) Rouffaer, G.P.: De Hindostansche Oorsprong van het „Negenvoudig” Sultans-zegel van Atjeh. In: Bijdragen tot de Taal- Land- en Volkenkunde van Neder­landsch Indië. Dl. LIX, 1906 afl. 3 & 4. pp. 1 e.v. Pl. I.4,  p. 379.

[3] ) Teh Gallop, Annabel & Bernard Arps:  Golden Letters / Surat Emas. London & Jakarta, 1991, n° 2.

[4] ) The  Gallop op. cit. n° 25.

[5] ) Snouck Hugronje, C.: De Atjehers. Batavia, 1893-1895.  Pp. 136, 199-200.

[6] ) Snouck Hugronje, op. cit. p. 201.

[7] ) After:  1. Carte des Pavillons, en usage ches les différents peuples des Indes-Orientales Neerlandaises, 1865.  2. Rühl, Dirk: Vlaggen van den Oost-Indischen Archipel (1600-1942). In: Jaarboek van het Centraal Bureau voor Genealogie. Dl. VI, 1952. pp. 136-148.

[8] ) Brandhof, Marijke van den: Vlaggen, vaandels & Standaarden van het Rijksmuseum. Amsterdam, 1977. Nr. 206.

[9] ) Schrooten, Marion: Negentiende-eeuwse Indonesische vlaggen uit het Rijksmuseum (afkomstig uit de collectie van museum Bronbeek). Stageverslag, 1992. pp. 70-71.

[10]) See:  http://atjehmerdehka.com/acheh.aspx

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