Monday, December 2, 2013

Historical site cleared, history erased - What are we doing?

All over now, the people are abuzz with one word "Candi". The somewhat secret demolishing and land clearing at the earliest Hindu / Buddhist ancient tomb temples, called candi  believed to be the richest archaeological area in Malaysia, raises many questions. As usual, finger pointing have begun, shifting the the blame to various parties like the previous PAS government, the current BN government, the land owner and the developer.

Let's revisit what is this area all about. Wikipedia records that, these archaeological remains show that there was a Hindu-Buddhist polity here. The area consists of ruins that may date more than 2000 years old. More than fifty ancient tomb temples, called candi (pronounce "chandi"), have also been unearthed. In the area of Bujang Valley known as Sungai Batu, excavation have revealed jetty remains, iron smelting sites, and a clay brick monument dating back to 110AD, making it the oldest man-made structure to be recorded in Southeast Asia, built even before the world renowned Angkor Wat.

Further to this, Southeast Asian Archaeology Newsblog records the Bujang Valley was surveyed in the 1930s by Quartritch Wales, who found some 30 sites in the area (some 50 sites have been found to date). In particular, the area known as Sungei Mas, which would have been a logical place for landfall, yielded a number of trade artefacts and Buddhist monuments. The Tamil kingdom mounted a swift attack through the Straits of Malacca, conquering the culturally-significant Kataha, as well as plundering the main ports of Srivijaya. Tamil occupation of Kataha was short, lasting about a century, but the cultural and architectural influences carried on until today. Some of the most significant temples – known as Candi – that populate the valley have a distinct South Indian influence. 

Closer to home, our very own ARKIB NEGARA acknowledges the existence of rich archaeological site in Kedah, with the establishment of Lembah Bujang Archaeological Museum on 23rd January 1980 by DYMM Sultan of Kedah, Sultan Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah, incidentally the current Agong / KING of Malaysia. So there you have it, its all about Buddhist and Hindu origins of the current Malaysia, which is seeing active population of Banglas, Indons, Pakis, Myanmars, Viets, Nepalese and many more. If someone goes around destroying any significant evidence of a large Hindu / Buddhist kingdom, which was recognised by the Sultan of the state / King of the country as historical site, what do you call that?

Some are claiming its a calculated move to erase the history which existed before the Islamic kingdoms, believed to originated from Indonesia. Some are saying the PASt state government sold the land to private developer, while another group claims the current state government is 'ignorant' about the existence of a very important archaeological site. We have not heard from the 'ultra-vocal' tourism minister yet, while some MIC, Makkal Sakit, PKR & DAP reps screaming their lungs out, albeit the whole area have been cleared beyond recognition as seen below.

One of the most glaring issues we have here is, blaming others. Just look at how the Lembah Bujang Archaeological Museum washes its hands and blames the villagers for not stopping the developers! But they also raise a valid point here, what were the villagers close to the site were doing since September? If we can get into fist fight with authorities and land in jail for 'protesting & protecting' kutti-kutti shrines or 'temples' around town, why were we quiet when such blatant, open demolishing work was carried out? The state government is also shifting the blame to the land owners and developers, so we can't hold them responsible.

Whatever said and done, what are we going to do for the remaining historical archaeological sites which stamps the existence of ancient Hindu / Buddhist kingdoms in Malaysia? There should be a huge push for comprehensive identification, assessment, listing and protection provided to these sites, before our future loses sight on our ACTUAL history. Question is, who is going to push and who is going to do it? Pi mai pi mai tang tu?