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Sumbawa is an Indonesian island, located in the middle of the Lesser Sunda Islands chain, with Lombok to the west, Flores to the east, and Sumba further to the southeast. It is in the province of West Nusa Tenggara.

Sumbawa is 15,448 km2 or 5,965 sq mi (three times the size of Lombok) with a current population of around 1.33 million. It marks the boundary between the islands to the west, which were influenced by religion and culture spreading from India, and the region to the east that was not so influenced. In particular this applies to both Hinduism and Islam.



Four principalities in western Sumbawa were dependencies of the Majapahit Empire of eastern Java. Because of Sumbawa's natural resources it was regularly invaded by outside forces - Japanese, Dutch, Makassarese. The Dutch first arrived in 1605, but did not effectively rule Sumbawa until the early 20th century. The Balinese kingdom of Gelgel ruled western Sumbawa for a short period as well. It was also home to the Sultanate of Bima.

Historical evidence indicates that people on Sumbawa island were known in the East Indies for their honey, horses[1], sappan wood for producing red dye[2], and sandalwood used for incense and medications. The area was thought to be highly productive agriculturally.


Sumbawa is divided into 4 regencies and one kota (city). They are:


Islam was introduced via the Makassarese of Sulawesi.

Sumbawa has historically had two major linguistic groups who spoke languages that were unintelligible to each other. One group centered in the western side of the island speaks Basa Semawa (Indonesian: Bahasa Sumbawa) which is similar to the Sasak language from Lombok; the second group in the east speaks Nggahi Mbojo (Bahasa Bima). The kingdoms located in Sumbawa Besar and Bima were the two focal points of Sumbawa. This division of the island into two parts remains today; Sumbawa Besar and Bima are the two largest towns on the island, and are the centers of distinct cultural groups that share the island.

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