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Before Sumatra was conquered by Islam, it is believed that hunter nomads lived along the Strait of Melaka almost 13,000 years ago. Until the 7
century, this area had no association with the rest of the world. Then when the kingdom of Sriwijaya developed, the kingdom attempted to rule the Strait of Melaka, which was a major trade route between India and China. Thus, Sriwijaya fought to control much of Southeast Asia, including parts of Thailand and Malaysia. The kingdom fell after a loss to the southern Indian King Ravendra Choladewa in 1025. After this point, the Malayu ruled this land until a Javanese invasion in 1278. With this attack, Islamic Sultans on the East coast of Sumatra ruled the land and used the ports as trade ports. Many of the traders who came through this part of land were Muslims and this is how the Muslim influence began in Sumatra. The traders also gave Sumatra its name, which comes from the Sanskrit word for ocean.
The first European to visit Sumatra was Marco Polo, who was there briefly c.1292. Then came the
Portuguese in 1509 and then the Dutch in 1596. The British had brief control over parts of the island in the late 18th and early 19th cent. The Achinese (Acehnese) launched a rebellion in 1873 and were not subdued by the Dutch until 1904. In World War II, Japanese soldiers landed in Sumatra and occupied it during the war.
From 1945 until Indonesia achieved independence in 1949, Aceh was governed by
Daud Beureueh, the head of an Islamic modernist movement.