Timor-Leste or officially known as the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, is a country situated in South East Asia to the northwest of Australia in the lesser Sunda Islands at the eastern end of Indonesian Archipelago. Timor-Leste also includes the eastern half if the islands of Timor, the islands of Pulau Atauro, Pulau Jaco and the Oecussi region-situated on the northwestern portion of Timor. Timor-Leste is a small country with an area of 14,609 sq. km. Dili is the capital and the largest city of Timor-Leste.

How did the name Timor-Leste originate?

The word Timor has originated from the word Timur, Timur means ‘east’ in Malay and Indonesian. In Portuguese, it is referred as Timor. Leste in Portuguese means ‘east’ too. But the unofficial name in Tetum is Timor Lorosa’e. Lorosa’e literally means ‘rising sun’.

What does the flag of Timor-Leste represent?

The flag of Timor-Leste comprises of red background with two overlapping triangles on the left of the flag. The flag contains a yellow triangle and a black triangle. At the center of the black triangle there is white five-pointed star. The yellow triangle in the flag represents the colonialism in the history of Timor-Leste, whereas the black triangle represents the dissimulation that needs to be conquered. The red background in the flag represents the struggle for national freedom and the white five-pointed star represents peace.

Which are the languages spoken by the people of Timor-Leste?

Portuguese and Tetum are the two official languages of Timor-Leste. Tetum belongs to the Austronesian family and it is spoken throughout South East Asia. The most commonly used language in the country are Tetum Prasa (mother tongue of about 36.6% of the total population), Mambai (spoken by about 12.5% of the total population), Makasai (9.7%), Tetum Terik (6.0%), Baikenu (5.9%), Kemak (5.9%), Bunak (5.3%), Tokodede (3.7%) and Fataluku (3.6%). The remaining indigenous languages account for the remaining 10.9% of the total population. Tetum and Portuguese proved to be a unifying element for the people of Timor-Leste. Indonesian and English are widely understood by the people. Portuguese is widely used for all the administration and official occasions.

Which religions are followed by the people of Timor Leste?

The constitution of Timor-Leste allows its citizens to practice and preach any religion according to their culture and beliefs. Majority of the population in Timor-Leste are Catholics. There are also small numbers of Protestants and Muslim communities in the country. About 98% of the total population comprises of Roman Catholics, with a minority of Protestants (1%) and Muslims (1%). The government grants freedom of religion and respects its right in practice. In the rural areas, Catholicism is practiced along with the local traditions according to their culture. Many people are also involved in animistic beliefs and practices. The Roman Catholic Church Divides Timor-Leste into three dioceses: the Diocese of Dili, the Diocese of Baucau and the Diocese of Maliana. Timor-Leste is the second country after Philippines to become the dominant catholic country.


Church in Timor Leste


Mosque in Timor Leste

What kind of culture does Timor Leste consist of?

The culture of Timor-Leste is highly influenced from the Portuguese, Roman Catholic and the Malay. According to the legends, it is believed that a giant crocodile was transformed into the islands of Timor-Leste and it is also referred as Crocodile Island by the people of the country. The culture is also influenced from the Austronesian legends, though Catholic influence is comparatively much stronger as the population mainly comprises of Roman Catholics. Though, illiteracy is widely spread in the country, but a strong tradition of poetry exists in the Timor-Leste. The best example to define it would be the Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, a distinguished poet himself. The other famous writers of Timor-Leste include Ruy Cinatti, Fernando Sylvan, Francisco Borja da Costa and Fitun Fuik. Craftsmanship is also widely spread in the country and it involves weaving of the traditional scarves and tais. Music has been an important part of the culture since pre independence as it reflects its history under the control of both Portugal and Indonesia, both the countries imported music like gamelan and fado. The native folk music of the country was the likurai dance, mostly performed by the women to welcome home their men after war. Small drums or enemy heads were carried by the men in processions through villages. The modern dance form is used by women mostly in courtship. Guitar has been an important part if the music of Timor-Leste, but it was originally imported by the colonizers. Over the years foreign influences on the country has brought a change, especially in popular styles of music like rock and roll, reggae and hip-hop. The most interesting aspect of their culture is that it is a duty for adult women from the age of fifteen to remove all the body hair besides their head.

likurai dance

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