Mysteries of an ancient migration from India

No Comments
Source: Fountain Ink 20190219

via Fountain Ink, 02 Feb 2019: Bujang Valley and Sungai Batu in Malaysia’s northern Kedah state contain some spectacular archaeological remains that hint of Indian influence in this region.

ungai Batu is just a crow’s flight from the far better known Bujang Valley, first discovered by Lt Colonel James Low, colonial administrator of the neighbouring Penang Straits Settlement, in the 1830s. Systematic excavation of the earliest sites, however, began only just before World War I by H.G. Quaritch Wales and his wife Dorothy. Bujang Valley is variously named in literary sources as Kalagam, Kilagam, Kadaram and Kataha by Tamils in India, by the Chinese as Chieh-Cha, Chia-Cha, Chi-to, Chi-ta and Kie-tcha, and by the Persians as Kalah. These names are directly linked to its iron industry because those words mean iron in different languages.

Over the decades as the work progressed, it was definitively identified as an early culture with Indic features. The name Bujang, for instance, is believed to be a variant of Sanskrit “Bhujanga”, serpent. In other words, it is Serpent Valley. More significantly, the large number of old temples (called candi) that dot the area establish its Hindu-Buddhist provenance. Finally, its location makes it highly likely that the original founders of the site were Indians, and from the south at that.

The Bujang complex lies six degrees north of the equator, the same latitude as Sri Lanka (known to Rome as Serendivis, Arabs as Serandib, and Persians as Serendip). So it was in a direct line east from Chola and Pallava country in modern Tamil Nadu. These two kingdoms have had a profound influence upon the history of Southeast Asia and in turn been influenced by it.

Source: Mysteries of an ancient migration from India | Fountain Ink

Who arrived first on the Malay Peninsula? That depends on whether you’re Indian or Malay

No Comments

via South China Morning Post, 19 Feb 2019: I’ve covered a number of stories about Malaysian nationalism and archaeology; this one focuses on the ‘who arrived first?’ question in Malaysia, with archaeology (and the Bujang Valley in particular) being one of the battlegrounds between ethnic Indians and Malays. It’s impossible to determine ethnicity through archaeology but it hasn’t stopped people from trying!

In what was seen as a response to Kulasegaran’s speech, in October the National University of Malaysia’s Institute of the Malay World and Civilisation organised a forum entitled “Polemics of Indian presence in the Malay Peninsula: Migration or Immigrants?”.

The event drew flak from the Indian community, particularly since all four panellists were ethnic Malays.

Indian students at the university objected to the forum, leading a state politician to suggest that the participation of non-Malay academics would calm the waters. In an attempt at damage control, the university changed the name of the forum to “The population and ethnic movements in the Malay Peninsula from the perspective of archaeology, culture and history”.

Source: Who arrived first on the Malay Peninsula? That depends on whether you’re Indian or Malay | South China Morning Post

Categories: Malaysia

Tags:

Malaysia mulls partnership with Aga Khan Trust to develop Old Kedah for tourism

1 Comment

via Travel Wire News, 09 October 2018: Malaysia is looking to work with the Aga Khan Trust to create a tourism plan for the archaeological sites in Kedah, which include the Bujang Valley, Sungai Batu and Guah Kepar sites.

Putrajaya is planning to sign an agreement with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, through Think City Sdn Bhd, to develop Kedah Tua as an archaeotourism site, said Tourism, Culture and Arts Deputy Minister Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik.

He said Kedah Tua is a network of old civilisation linking Lembah Bujang to Sungai Batu to Sik in Kedah and Guar Kepah in Seberang Perai here that can be promoted as one large site.

“We plan to sign a memorandum of understanding with Aga Khan Trust to develop the Kedah Tua project,” he told reporters after the opening of a National Archaeological Seminar here.

Source: Putrajaya mulls partnership with Aga Khan Trust to develop Kedah Tua for tourism | World News | Travel Wire News

New museum planned to showcase finds in Bujang Valley, Sungai Batu

No Comments
via Free Malaysia Today 20181009

via Free Malaysia Today, 09 October 2018: A new museum is planned for the Bujang Valley complex.

via Free Malaysia Today 20181009

via Free Malaysia Today 20181009

The government is looking to pique world interest in the Bujang Valley and Sungai Batu, collectively known as “Kedah Tua”, by building a new museum showcasing findings there over the years.

Deputy Tourism and Culture Minister Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik said plans were being made for an “archaeotourism” site at Kedah Tua which extends from Lembah Bujang to Sungai Batu up to Penang’s mainland border of Guar Kepah, near Penaga, for international visitors.

Source: New museum planned to showcase finds in Bujang Valley, Sungai Batu | Free Malaysia Today

[Talk] The Enigma Of Hindu-Buddhist Art In Ancient Kedah

No Comments

Readers in Kuala Lumpur may be interested in this talk about the Bujang Valley archaeological sites by Dr Nasha bin Rodziadi Khaw on 22 September. The talk will be held at ILHAM, a public art gallery.

The Bujang Valley has seen the discovery of archaeological remains that are believed to be related to the port of Ancient Kedah. Historical accounts and archaeological discoveries show that the area functioned as a trading point as well as a centre for iron production from the 2nd to 14th Century C.E. A significant number of artefacts relevant to Hindu-Buddhist art were also found, such as sculptures, shrines and inscriptions. Issues regarding the cultural origin of those remains, and questions of whether or not they were commissioned and made locally remain ambiguous. This presentation by Nasha Khaw will discuss the form and function of Hindu-Buddhist remains from Ancient Kedah, past opinions by scholars on their cultural origin, and present theories based on recent scholarship.

Source: The Enigma Of Hindu-Buddhist Art In Ancient Kedah: A Historical Discourse | ILHAM Kuala Lumpur

RM30 million allocation to develop infrastructure at Sungai Batu archaeological site

No Comments

via Kosmo, 17 August 2018: The Malaysian Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture announced a RM30 million (approximately US$7.3 million) allocation to improve tourist infrastructure at the Sungai Batu archaeological site in Kedah. Article is in Bahasa Malaysia.

SUNGAI PETANI – Kementerian Pelancongan, Seni dan Budaya akan membangunkan kemudahan infrastruktur yang lengkap bernilai RM30 juta di Kompleks Arkeologi Sungai Batu, Lembah Bjuang di sini yang merupakan tapak tamadun tertua di rantau ini berusia 2,200 tahun.

Source: Pembangunan infrastruktur Kompleks Arkeologi Sungai Batu bernilai RM30 juta

[New Paper] Revisiting the Bujang Valley: A Southeast Asian entrepôt complex on the maritime trade route

No Comments

New paper on the Bujang Valley by Stephen Murphy:

In the early 1830s and 1840s, a British colonial official by the name of Colonel James Low uncovered evidence for an early culture with Indic traits in a river system known as the Bujang Valley. On the west coast of the Thai-Malay peninsula, the Bujang Valley is today located in the Malaysian state of Kedah. However, it wasn’t until just before World War II that excavations took place, conducted by H. G. Quaritch Wales and his wife Dorothy. Their discoveries and subsequent publications led to the first real attempts to explain the origins and extent of this civilisation and its place within the larger South and Southeast Asian world. In the intervening years between Quaritch Wales’s excavations and the present day, considerably more research has taken place within the Bujang Valley, though this has not been without controversy. Recently claims and counter-claims regarding the antiquity of Hinduism and Buddhism at the site have arisen in some quarters within Malaysia. It therefore seems pertinent that this material be re-evaluated in light of new scholarship and discoveries as well as the prevailing paradigms of interactions between South and Southeast Asia. This paper presents an updated reading of this material and argues that the Bujang Valley should be seen as a cosmopolitan trading port with substantive evidence for the presence of Hinduism and Buddhism.

Source: Revisiting the Bujang Valley: A Southeast Asian entrepôt complex on the maritime trade route | Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society | Cambridge Core
https://doi.org/10.1017/S1356186317000505

Categories: Malaysia Papers

Tags:

Archaeologists search for a king in Sungai Batu

No Comments

Malay Mail, 09 June 2017: Given the evidence of intense iron smelting activity in Kedah, archaeologists are now turning their focus to finding evidence of how people lived there and the nature of the settlement.

Tucked between plantations along a quiet country road near Merbok, Kedah, a team of archaeologists and students are busily excavating at a site that is known as South-east Asia’s oldest civilisation.

This is Kedah Tua in Sungai Batu, an ancient civilisation that dates back to 535 BC, earlier even than Borobudur in Java (9th century AD) and Angkor Wat, Cambodia (12th century AD).

That’s not all… this kingdom was a major iron exporter at the time, complete with mines, a smelting factory, a port and administrative buildings to support the industry.

What is missing are remnants of a palace, its thriving city and the burial sites of its people

Source: Archaeologists search for a king in Sungai Batu

Categories: Malaysia

Tags:

Old Kedah Festival news roundup

No Comments
Source: Bernama, via Malay Mail 20160521

Old Kedah, or Kedah Tua in Malay, and the archaeological findings of the Bujang Valley in northern Peninsular Malaysia were the focus of a local festival held last month. The events included an international conference, and from the news reports two themes seem apparent: the disagreement on whether the ruins of the Bujang Valley represent an animist or Hindu-Buddhist tradition, and the news that the remains of the Hindu temples that have previously been uncovered in the valley will not be nominated and protected under Unesco World Heritage. There’s a lot of subtext to read between the news reports, but it seems there is an attempt to downplay the influence of Hinduism and Buddhism in the Bujang Valley sites.

Source: Bernama, via Malay Mail 20160521

Source: Bernama, via Malay Mail 20160521

Experts disagree on religion practised at ruins older than Borobodur and Angkor Wat
The Star, 21 May 2016

World archaeological experts fascinated by Sungai Batu ancient site
Malay Mail, 21 May 2016

Ministry seeks allocation to develop Sungai Batu into historical tourism site
Malay Mail, 21 May 2016

No to heritage listing on Hindu-Buddhist temple ruins
The Star, 21 May 2016

Religious pluralism a likelihood in Bujang Valley
Free Malaysia Today, 23 May 2016

Ancient seaport of Sg Batu
New Straits Times, 23 May 2016

Sg Batu declared SEA’s oldest civilisation
Free Malaysia Today, 23 May 2016

Bujang Valley: Need for proof to be a heritage site?
The Star, 26 May 2016

Minister slams government for lack of Bujang Valley protection

1 Comment

A state minister in Malaysia has criticised the federal government of Malaysia for not protecting the Bujang Valley in Kedah as a heritage site.

Bujang Valley Museum

Ramasamy furious Bujang Valley not yet a heritage site
FMT News, 22 April 2016

Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy has slammed the federal government for not preserving the historical Bujang Valley in Kedah by gazetting it as a heritage site.

The DAP leader was responding to a recent report in The Sun that a group of local university students were found playing “station games” atop a candi (ancient tomb or temple built during the Hindu and Buddhist periods) at the Archaeological Museum there.

“Despite the monuments there dating back more than 2000 years, the site has not received the kind of attention that is due from the Malaysian government.

“While the Bujang Valley has not been gazetted as a heritage site despite many requests, the ancient monuments and sites face the danger of being abused or even demolished by unscrupulous land developers,” he said in a statement today, citing the demolition of a reconstructed candi by a developer to make way for a housing project in the valley, several years ago.

Full story here.