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Sumatra (Indonesian: Pulau Sumatra or Pulau Sumatera) is the westernmost island in Indonesia, and the sixth largest island in the world (approx. 473,000 square kilometres or 182,600 square miles). Sumatra has a population of about 45 million (2005 census).

The first written source to mention Sumatra was probably the Indian epic Rāmāyaṇa. The name mentioned is Svarṇa Dvīpa (or Svarnadvipa, Swarna Dwipa), meaning "the Island of Gold", referring to the rich deposits of gold in the Sumatran highlands[1].

Another name, Al-Ramni or Lambri - also rendered as Rami, Ramli, Lamuri, Lawri, Lan-li, Lan-wul-li, Nan-po-li, etc. - mentioned by Arab sources from the ninth century and Chinese sources in the twelfth and thirteenth century, was long considered to mean Sumatra as a whole [2]. Nowadays most historical geographers agree that Al-Ramni/Lambri was situated near presentday Banda Aceh, at the northern tip of the island[3].

Administrative division

Sumatra is divided into ten provinces (provinsi):

  1. Aceh - capital: Banda Aceh
  2. North Sumatra (Sumatra Utara) - capital: Medan
  3. West Sumatra (Sumatra Barat) - capital: Padang
  4. Riau - capital: Pekanbaru
  5. Riau Islands* (Kepulauan Riau) - capital: Tanjung Pinang
  6. Jambi - capital: Jambi
  7. Bengkulu - capital: Bengkulu
  8. South Sumatra (Sumatra Selatan) - capital: Palembang
  9. Bangka-Belitung* (Kepulauan Bangka-Belitung) - capital: Pangkal Pinang
  10. Lampung - capital: Bandar Lampung

* nearby island groups that are not actually on the island of Sumatra.



  1. Citation needed...
  2. Marsden, William (1811) The History of Sumatra, Containing an Account of the Government, Laws, Customs and Manners of the Native Inhabitants (Project Gutenberg EBook), ch. 1
  3. Edwards McKinnon, E. (1988) Beyond Serandib: A Note on Lambri at the Northern Tip of Aceh, Indonesia, Vol. 46, p. 103