Hafiz Noor Shams, a Malaysian blogger based in the US has an interesting discussion about the Srivijaya empire on his blog, the__earthinc. The Hindu-Buddhist polity of Srivijaya was one of the greatest empires in the first millenium, with an influence over much of what is now Sumatra, Java and Malaysia. It played a key role in facilitating the trade between China and India. In several posts he talks about the primacy of the Melacca Sultanate over Srivijaya in Malaysian history texts (not an unfamiliar topic), and also about the Srivijaya’s raids on the Khmers. A sample of his posts are reproduced here:

In “On why Malacca and not Srivijaya?“:

A majority of Malays are content to look only as far as the Sultanate of Malacca in the 15th and the 16th century, apparently accepting the era as the golden age of ancient, classical or medieval Malay civilization. Thanks to the education I received through the Malaysian system, I had the same perception too and I do think even Malaysians as a society in one way or another accept Malacca was the greatest civilization in ancient, classical or medieval Malaysian history. My love for history has allowed me to delve far beyond Malaysian textbooks. While Malacca was a great empire, a greater civilization was Srivijaya, a empire that was almost forgotten. I truly believe that Srivijaya was that brilliant light that stayed bright from nearly a millennium. Malacca was a just spark, though brilliant as it may be.

In “Of the link between Srivijaya and the Khmer Empire“:

Srivijaya was one of the greatest empires in the Malay Archipelago. It lasted for possibly about 1,000 years and had interacted with so many proud kingdoms that existed during its time. The Chinese civilizations were the source of Srivijaya richness through a tributary system, which gifts were exchanged between the courts of the two emperors. The exchange was not exactly free trade but it was trade nonetheless. In the east, there was the Chola of which the great Rajaraja was king. In most cases, the two outsiders exerted stronger influence on Srivijaya culturally, economically and politically though from time to time, Srivijaya exported culture to China due to it being the center of Buddhism outside of India. Apart from that, Srivijaya left a mark on one of the great kingdoms of Southeast Asia — the Khmer Empire.

Perhaps I shall write a short primer on Srivijaya… after I finish my Many places of Singapura series.

Related Books:
Southeast Asia: From Prehistory to History by P. S. Bellwood and I. Glover (Eds)
Early Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago and the Malay Peninsula by P. M. Munoz
Sriwijaya: History, religion & language of an early Malay polity by G. Coedès and L. Damais

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7 Replies to “Discussion on Srivijaya”

  1. Was Srivijaya as large as the maps have it?
    How did they communicate over such as large distance or was it more of a confederation?

  2. Hi William,

    > Was Srivijaya as large as the maps have it?
    Yes and no. Yes, it probably controlled or exerted influence over a large area in island Southeast Asia, from Sumatra, the Malacca Strait, the Malay-Thai peninsula and western Java at its height, but this power was exercised over the all-important trade route between China and India rather than a real physical presence in the modern sense. Srivijaya could probably be considered a thalassocracy as most of its key cities and ports positioned along the coast. That said,

    > Was it more of a confederation?
    Yes, it was. Srivijaya was not a unified state in the traditional sense, but a loose confederation of coastal polities that paid allegiance to the “capital” in Palembang, Sumatra.

  3. “…Was it more of a confederation?
    Yes, it was. Srivijaya was not a unified state in the traditional sense, but a loose confederation of coastal polities that paid allegiance to the “capital” in Palembang, Sumatra…”
    MC: In fact, even Malacca was similar. The part in the Sejarah Melayu which talks about “I can raise 10,000 fighting men at any time” also draws questions on the validity of the statement. For the above statement to qualify, Malacca needs to have a population of at least 400,000 people, enough to discount the women, children and the elderly. We look thus, at the sustainability of Malacca for a 400,000 population. And we find it even theoratically impossible for this to be true. There is insufficient fertile agricultural land both for neither crop nor domesticated herding to sustain a 400,000 population.

    Hence, it is very probable that it was “big-talk” only to scare away potential opponents. However, this is a Sejarah Melayu extract. We are even questioning the validity of Sejarah Melayu on its accuracy. Noting that it was written a full 200 years AFTER the fact.

  4. the capital of Srivijaya may be at somewhere on the malay-thai pinnisula. there are a munber of evidents, image of buddha, ruin temple sits, ancient foreign goods excavated from the earth,in southern provinces of Thailand especially the cities at coastal areas. There are many books discussed and showed these evidents by Archeologists and their conclusion showed of lest possibility of the srivija’ s capital to be located at Palembang


  6. I think we should use method of writing Malay langguage using syankrit letter / writing system as a appreciation to the KINGDOM OF SRI VIJAYA as we know MALAY use by more than 300 million people TODAY

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