West Sumatra (Indonesian: Sumatera Barat, abbreviated to Sumbar) is a province of Indonesia. It lies on the west coast of the island Sumatra, and borders the provinces of North Sumatra (Sumatera Utara) to the north, Riau and Jambi to the east, and Bengkulu to the southeast. It includes the Mentawai Islands off the coast. The capital of the province is Padang.
The history of West Sumatra is closely related to the history of the Minangkabau people. Archaeological evidence indicates that the area surrounding the Limapuluh Koto regency forms the first area inhabited by the Minangkabau. This interpretation seems to be justified as the area of the Limapuluh Koto regency covers a number of large rivers which meet at the eastern part of the Sumatran coastline. The rivers were known have provided important sailing transportation from the previous era to the end of the last century. The Minangkabau ancestors were believed to have arrived on this route. They sailed from Asia (Indo-China) via the South China Sea, crossing the Malacca Strait and later settled along the Kampar, Siak and Indragiri (or Kuantan) rivers. A portion of them lived and developed their culture and traits around the Limapuluh Koto regency.
The integration with migrants in the ensuing periods introduced cultural changes and an increase in population. Their settlement area gradually became diminished and eventually they spread to other parts of West Sumatra. A portion of them went to the Agam regency while others went to the now Tanah Datar regency. From those areas onward, further spread of the population occurred north of the Agam regency, in particular, the Lubuk Sikaping. Rao and Ophir districts. Most of them settled in the western area such as the coastline and some in the southern parts in Solok, Selayo and the surrounding areas of Muara and Sijunjung.
The history of the West Sumatra Province became more accessible at the time of the rule by Adityawarman. This ruler left considerable amount of evidence of himself, although he did not proclaim that he was the Minangkabau King. Adityawarman ruled Pagaruyung, a region believed by the Minangkabau to be the center of its culture. Adityawarman was the most important figure in Minangkabau history. Apart from introducing a government system by a ruling monarch, he also contributed significantly to the Minangkabau world. His most important contribution was the spread of Buddhism. This religion had a very strong influence in the Minangkabau life. The evidence of such influence found in West Sumatra today includes names such as Saruaso, Pariangan, Padang Barhalo, Candi, Biaro, Sumpur and Selo.
Since the death of Adityawarman in the middle of the 17th century the history of West Sumatra seems more complex. During that time, the connection of West Sumatra with the outside world, in particular, Aceh, became more intense. West Sumatra at that time was the political dominion of Aceh which also monopolized the economy of the area. Coupled with the intensive connection Islam entered into West Sumatra. The new faith eventually became fundamental to the social and cultural way of life in the region. Sheik Burhanuddin was regarded as the first preacher of Islam in West Sumatra. Prior to expanding the faith in the region, he was studying in Aceh.
The dominating influence of Aceh?s politics and economy did not make the people of West Sumatra happy. Ultimately, the growing dissatisfaction gave way to the acceptance of the Dutch although the presence of them also opened up a new chapter in the history of West Sumatra. The arrival of the Dutch in the region caused them to enter the era of colonialism in the very of essence of its meaning.
The first westerner to reach West Sumatra was the French explorer Jean Parmentier in 1529. However, the westerners who came for economic and political reasons were the Dutch. The Dutch commercial fleet was seen along the southern coast of West Sumatra between 1595 ? 1598. Apart from the Dutch, other European nationalities also came to the region such as the Portuguese and the English.