18 March 2007 (Jakarta Post) – A book review of Paul Munoz’s Early Malay Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago and Malay Peninsula, a book that incidentally I am currently reading.
Reminder of history’s richness and complexity
In Early Malay Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago and Malay Peninsula, a 392-page work, Munoz is mainly interested in what he calls the the “Classical Period” from the seventh to the 15th Century AD.
During this time a number of powerful polities grew up and competed with one another. Based mainly in Sumatra and Java, but with power extending to the Malay peninsula and modern Thailand, these states (or mandala, as Munoz prefers to call them) both absorbed and imparted influences from and to various directions. Both China and India play major parts in this story.
Of course, this will all go to prove that Indonesia in particular has been absorbing outside influences for millennia.
These include religion and in the pre-Islamic period we find that various forms of Hinduism, including Vishnuism and what the author calls Sivaism (worship of Shiva), and Buddhism all were important.
It is fascinating to learn that Srivijaya, which was based on Palembang in eastern Sumatra, was for a long time in the first millennium AD a major center of Buddhist learning to which devotees traveled from as far away as China to study.