Indian scholars highlight links between Tamil kingdoms and Bujang Valley

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Speaking after their recent presentations on Bujang Valley in Kuala Lumpur in July, some Indian scholars note the important role that Bujang Valley in Kedah, Malaysia, played in the spread of Buddhism, Hinduism and the Pallava Grantha script in the region.

Remnants of a relationship [Link no longer available]
The Hindu, 19 August 2010
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Selections, October 2007

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A selection of archaeology-related books, new to the catalogue of Select Books, a specialised publisher and retailer of books pertaining to Southeast Asia. For ordering info, please visit the Select Books website.

042271
Archaeology Of Asia. Stark, Miriam, T. (ed.). Gb. 2006. 364pp. pb $71.64 (This introduction to the archaeology of Asia, written for the undergraduate, focuses on case studies from the region’s last 10,000 years of history. Comprising 15 chapters written by some of the world’s foremost Asia archaeologists, this book sheds light on many of the most compelling aspects of Asian archaeology, from the earliest plant and animal domestication to the emergence of states and empires from Pakistan to North China. In particular, the contributors explore issues of cross-cultural significance, such as migration, ethnicity, urbanism, and technology, challenging readers to think beyond national and regional boundaries. In doing so, they draw on original research data and synthesize work previously unavailable to western readers. Index.)

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An archaeological region older than Angkor Wat

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March 2009 update: New excavations by the Centre for Global Archaeology Research at Universiti Sains Malaysia have unearthed evidence for an iron-smelting facility in the Bujang Valley, dating to 300CE and the earliest example for Malaysia. See here and here.

When the British acquired the island of Penang from the Sultan of Kedah, they probably did not realise that they were just 40km away from ancient settlement that once also was a port of call for traders entering the Malacca Strait. The settlement in the Bujang Valley dates as far back as the 5th century, and as I was in Penang the couple weeks ago to see my supervisor, it was impossible to not make a side trip to one of Malaysia’s most underrated archaeological sites.

Candi Bukit Batu Pahat

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Srivijaya: A primer – Part 2

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In the first part of Srivijaya: A primer, we learnt about the empire’s role in controlling trade between China and India and as a Buddhist centre of learning. In this segment we learn about the fall of this once-great maritime kingdom.

In the 11th century, the south Indian Tamil kingdom of Chola launched an attack on Srivijaya, systematically plundering the Srivijayan ports along the Straits of Malacca, and even captured the Srivijayan king in Palembang. The reasons for this change in relations between Srivijaya and the Cholas are unknown, although it is theorised that plunder made up an essential part of the Chola political economy. While it seemed that the Cholas only intended to plunder Srivijaya, they left a lasting presence on Kataha, the remains of which are still visible at the Bujang Valley archaeological museum.

The successful sack and plunder of Srivijaya had left it in a severely weakened state that marked the beginning of the end of Srivijaya. Having lost its wealth and prestige from the Chola attack, the port cities of the region started to initiate direct trade with China, shrugging off the exclusive influence Srivijaya once held over them. Towards the end of Srivijaya’s influence, the power centre of Srivijaya began to oscillate between Palembang and neighbouring Jambi, further fragmenting the once-great empire. Other factors included Javanese invasion westwards toward Sumatra in 1275, invading the Malayu kingdoms. Later towards the end of the 13th century, the Thai polities from the north came down the peninsula and conquered the last of the Srivijayan vassals.

Despite its influence and reach, Srivijaya flew very quickly into obscurity, and it was not until the last 90 years that the kingdom’s history was rediscovered, mainly through epigraphical sources. Palembang, determined as the centre of power for Srivijaya poses a special problem for archaeologists, for if the modern settlement followed the ancient settlement pattern, ancient Palembang would have been built over shallow water and any archaeological remains would be buried deep in the mud. As the 19th-century naturalist Alfred Wallace described it, Palembang is a populous city several miles long but only one house wide!

By way of a quick epilogue, the story of Srivijaya ends where the story of the Malacca Sultanate begins. The Sejarah Melayu, or Malay Annals, begins with a story about Raja Chulan – perhaps an allusion to the king (Raja) of the Cholas, whose sack of Srivijaya led to its ultimate downfall. The annals go on to relate the appearance of three princes at Bukit Seguntang in Palembang, one of whom eventually founds a city of Singapura in Temasek before establishing Malacca further north…

Books about Srivijaya (and also the books I referred to):
Southeast Asia: From Prehistory to History by P. S. Bellwood and I. Glover (Eds) contains chapters on the classical cultures of Indonesia and the archaeology of the early maritime polities of Southeast Asia.
Early Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago and the Malay Peninsula by P. M. Munoz
Early History (The Encyclopedia of Malaysia) by Nik Hassan Shuhaimi Nik Abdul Rahman (Ed) has several chapters on Srivijaya.
Sriwijaya: History, religion & language of an early Malay polity by G. Coedès and L. Damais

Angkor revamp: India's loss, China's gain

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28 January 2007 (The Times of India)

Angkor revamp: India’s loss, China’s gain

China and Japan are in a race to grab a larger portion of the restoration work at Angkor Wat, the 12th century Hindu temple in Cambodia.

These well-intended moves also highlight India’s inability to make the most of an opportunity to build on age-old cultural ties with Cambodia and be seen as an influential friend in the region, sources said.

The Cambodian government and the Unesco are considering an offer from Beijing to fully restore the 900-year-old Chou Say temple, one of the shrines in the sprawling temple complex built by the Chola dynasty.

The project would cost just $1.86 million to the Chinese but it would open the doors for bagging contracts for larger archaeological sites in the complex.


Related Books:
Angkor Cities and Temples by C. Jaques
The Treasures of Angkor: Cultural Travel Guide (Rizzoli Art Guide) by M. Albanese
Southeast Asia: From Prehistory to History by P. S. Bellwood and I. Glover (Eds)
Khmer Sculpture and the Angkor Civilization by M. Giteau