Bengkulu is the 25th largest province by area; it is divided into nine regencies and the separate city of Bengkulu, the capital and largest city. Bengkulu is also the 26th largest province by population in Indonesia. According to a release by Badan Pusat Statistik, it has the eleventh highest Human Development Index among the provinces, with a score about 0.744 in 2013. By 2014, the province positions 28th highest in gross domestic product and 20th highest in life expectancy, 70.35 years.
Bengkulu Province comprises not only land on southwest Sumatra, but also includes Mega Island and Enggano Island in the Indian Ocean. Bengkulu has 525 kilometres of coastline along the Indian Ocean on its western side, from Dusun Baru Pelokan in Muko-Muko Regency to Tebing Nasal in Kaur Regency. Bengkulu is home to many natural resources such as coal and gold, and has big and potential geothermal resources. In addition, it is less developed than other provinces in Sumatra.
The name "Bencoolen" is predicted to be taken from a name of the hill in Cullen, Scotland, Bin of Cullen. This naming is less accurate because it is not the nature of the Malays to call their area with the name of an unknown area, let alone the origin of the name was taken from Scotland that is located far away from Bengkulu.
Traditional sources mention that the Bengkulu or Bangkahulu derived from the word 'bangkai' and 'hulu' which means 'carcasses located in an upstream'. According to the story, there were once a war between small kingdoms in Bengkulu. awhich resulted in many casualties on both sides in the river streams in Bengkulu. These casualties soon became rotten corpses as they are not buried, lying in river streams. Then comes the name Bangkaihulu which gradually are pronounced Bangkahulu or Bengkulu. This naming is similar to the story of a war between the Majapahit Empire and the Pagaruyung Kingdom in Padang Sibusuk, an area once ruled by the Dharmasraya empire, which also tells that the name Padang Sibusuk is derived from war casualties rotting on the battlefield.
The region formed part of the Buddhist Srivijaya empire in the 8th century, but this south-west Sumatran part was never under any big local patronage as of neighboring Palembang or Jambi Sultanates. There were only few smalls ‘kedatuan’ based on ethnicity such as in Sungai Serut, Selebar, Pat Petulai, Balai Buntar, Sungai Lemau, Sekiris, Gedung Agung and Marau Riang. It was then once a vassal region of Banten Sultanate (from Western Java) and since 17th century was ruled by Minangkabau’s Inderapura Sultanate (today’s in Pesisir Selatan, West Sumatra Province).
The first European visitors to the area were the Portuguese, followed by the Dutch in 1596. The English East India Company established a pepper-trading center and garrison at Bengkulu (Bencoolen) in 1685. In 1714 the British built Fort Marlborough, which still stands. The trading post was never profitable for the British, being hampered by a location which Europeans found unpleasant, and by an inability to find sufficient pepper to buy. It became an occasional port of call for the EIC's East Indiamen.
If anything the rest of Sumatra and for the most part of Indonesia was under Dutch East Indies, then Bengkulu was the lone exception in that it belonged to British (English East India) until an Anglo-Dutch Treaty in 1824. So Stamford Raffles was here, as were other British governors, as well as a number of monuments and forts. Despite their difficulties, the British persisted, maintaining their presence for roughly 140 years before ceding it to the Dutch as part of the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 in exchange for Malacca. Bengkulu then remained part of the Dutch East Indies until the Japanese occupation in World War 2.
During Sukarno's imprisonment by the Dutch in the early 1930s, the future first president of Indonesia lived briefly in Bengkulu. Here he met his wife, Fatmawati, who bore him several children, one of whom, Megawati Sukarnoputri, became Indonesia's first female President. During early independence, Bengkulu was included in the older 'South Sumatera' Province with Lampung, the Bangka-Belitung Archipelago and what became South Sumatera itself, as a Residency. It finally gained its provincial status in 1968 as the 26th province (prior to the last province: East Timor). ’27’ was the famous number of provinces (27 provinces) during New Order Regime which would last for the next thirty years until 1998. As of today, the number of administrative provinces has expanded rapidly (now 34 provinces).
Bengkulu lies near the Sunda Fault and is prone to earthquakes and tsunamis. The June 2000 Enggano earthquake killed at least 100 people. A recent report predicts that Bengkulu is "at risk of inundation over the next few decades from undersea earthquakes predicted along the coast of Sumatra" A series of earthquakes struck Bengkulu during September 2007, killing 13 people.
Geographically, Bengkulu is located between 2° and 5° South Latitude and between 101° and 104° Eastern Longitude. The western part of Bengkulu province bordering the Indian Ocean coast that has a length of about 576 km and the eastern part of the condition is hilly with a plateau that is prone to erosion. Bengkulu Province is located in the west side of the Bukit Barisan mountains. The total area of Bengkulu province reached approximately 1.97887 million hectares or 19788.7 square kilometers. Bengkulu Province area extends from the border province of West Sumatra to the border province of Lampung and the distance is approximately 567 kilometers. Judging from its geographical situation, Bengkulu Province lies between 2 ° 16 '- 03 ° 31' latitude and 101 ° 01 '-103 ° 41' east longitude. Bengkulu province in the north bordering the province of West Sumatra, in the southern Indian Ocean and Lampung province, in the west bordering the Indian Ocean and in the east with the province of Jambi and South Sumatra Province.Bengkulu province bordered by the Indian Ocean coastline of approximately 525 kilometers. Its western part is hilly with fertile plateaus, while the western part is lowland relatively narrow, elongated from north to south and punctuated selangi bumpy areas.
Bengkulu climate is classified as tropical. Bengkulu has a large amount of rainfall throughout the year. This is true even for the driest month. The climate here is classified as Af by the Köppen-Geiger system. In Bengkulu, the annual average temperature is 26.8 °C. Within a year, the average rainfall is 3360 mm.
The total area of Bengkulu province is 19 788.7 km², in public administration Bengkulu province is divided into 8 districts and 1 town, consisting of 93 districts.
The 2010 census reported a population of 1,715,568 including 875,663 males and 837,730 females, by January 2014 this had risen to 1,828,291.
Bengkulu is home to various indigenous ethnic groups. The Rejangs form the majority of the province with 60,4% of the population. The second largest ethnic group is the Javanese forming around 24%. Other minority indigenous ethnic groups includes Lembak, Serawai, Pekal, Enggano, Pasemah, Minangkabau and Malays. There is also non-indigenous ethnic groups that mostly came from other parts of Indonesia such as Sundanese, Javanese, Acehnese, Madurese, Batak, Chinese and others.
Islam forms majority of the population in the province with more than 95%. Christianity is the second largest religion with around 3% while the rest are Buddhist, Hindus (mostly Balinese migrants) and traditional beliefs.
As with other parts of Indonesia, Indonesian language is the official language in all formal occasions, institutions, and government affairs. However, local languages are still widely used in daily life. Most indigenous languages in Bengkulu belong to Malayan group of Austronesian languages such as Bengkulu Malay, Lembak, Pekal and Minangkabau varieties. The most widely spoken language in the province, Rejang, is unusual as it is the only Bornean language to be spoken in Sumatra (and one of three outside of Borneo other than Malagasy in Madagascar and Yakan in Basilan). Enggano's linguistic classification is still a debatable subject but currently it is classified as a highly divergent branch of Nuclear Malayo-Polynesian. Besides Enggano, there is also one less-studied language that is Nasal language, it maybe related to Rejang or forms its own branch of Malayo-Polynesian. Non-indigenous ethnic groups also speak their own language/dialects.
Bengkulu Province is subdivided into nine regencies and the independent city of Bengkulu, which lies outside any regency. The regencies and city are listed below with their populations at the 2010 Census and at the latest (January 2014) estimates.
* – The area of Central Bengkulu Regency is included in the figure for North Bengkulu Regency, of which it was formerly part.
Three active coal mining companies produce between 200,000 and 400,000 tons of coal per year, which is exported to Malaysia, Singapore, South Asia, and East Asia. Fishing, particularly tuna and mackerel, is an important activity. Agricultural products exported by the province include ginger, bamboo shoots, and rubber.