If you had an 1,200 year old archaeological site in your country, would you not do everything to protect it? Apparently not in the case of Bujang Valley (Lembah Bujang) in Malaysia. I was shocked to find out that it was not even gazetted as a historical monument. And recently it seemed, a developer was allowed to demolish some of the chandi/temples to make way for a housing estate... the infamy of it is unbelievable.
In the last few days, researchers from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) have announced that bricks from a newly excavated jetty complex, uncovered at the Bujang Valley have been dated to the 5th Century BCE. A report from the Korea Basic Science Institute in South Korea, which tested samples from four sections of the jetty using OSL dating technique, has dated them to 487 BC. OSL or Optically Stimulated Luminiscence dating technique is used to date items which are inorganic e.g. bricks, ceramics, glass, sediments etc as opposed to radiocarbon dating which is used to date organic remains such as wood, seeds, bones etc
This discovery makes the neglect and destruction of the candis at Bujang Valley even more appalling - this archaeological site may be the oldest settlement in Southeast Asia. The kingdom, which was based on Bujang Valley, could predate Champa (200 - 1500 AD), Sri Vijaya (800 - 1300 AD) and the Khmer Empire (800 - 1400 AD). However, there has been too much talk of the Cholas - the first influence was definitely the Gupta Dynasty (200 - 500 CE). Gupta brilliance made Southeast Asia fall in love with Hinduism. Later the Pala Dynasty (700 - 1200 CE) converted many to Buddhism. The Chola Dynasty (800 - 1300 CE) came much later and they were perhaps more interested in conquest and gold than trade and culture. They attacked Sri Vijaya at least twice in the 11th Century.
I first researched the Kedah Genealogy for a folktale entitled Princess Hidden Moon or Puteri Lindungan Bulan for my first book Timeless Tales of Malaysia. According to legend, the princess had white blood (!) a sign of faerie lineage. Apparently two characters from folklore - Raja Bersiong and Puteri Lindungan Bulan were ancient Kedah royalty.
I'm writing a new book based on Raja Bersiong as well. No worries, it's not going to be anything like the old P Ramlee film, Raja Bersiong, or the dance drama staged by the Petronas Performing Arts Group; although the notorious blood-tainted gulai bayam (spinach broth) does make an appearance. My forthcoming book will have an actual plot, in the lines of Twilight meets The Queen of the Damned!
|Ornate entrance to a splendid Baba-Nyonya House in Malacca|
As for the Bujang Valley, one can only hope that the authorities finally recognise it for what it is: Malaysia's most ancient cultural heritage. Apparently, documentation have been completed to obtain recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Both Malacca and Georgetown, Penang were listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 7 July 2008. They are the 'most complete surviving historic city centres on the Straits of Malacca...' Georgetown in particular has been described as 'a unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia.'
|Beautifully restored house (now serving as a guesthouse) in Georgetown, Penang|
Surely the Bujang Valley deserves to be recognised as a unique UNESCO World Heritage Site as well? In fact, it should have been the first to obtain recognition. I hope this step is not a case of 'too little, too late' and that the largest chandis which were demolished by bulldozers will be restored and the entire site protected.
The more factual article below came from https://www.facebook.com/savebujangvalley
The Bujang Valley or Lembah Bujang is a sprawling historical complex and has an area of approximately 224 square km. Situated near Merbok, Kedah, between Gunung Jerai in the north and Muda River in the south, it is the richest archaeological area in Malaysia.
These archaeological remains show that there was a
Research also indicates that there was a Hindu-Buddhist kingdom here possibly as early as 110 CE.
The local rulers adopted Indian cultural and political models earlier than those of Kutai in eastern Borneo, in southern Celebes or Tarumanegara in western Java, where remains showing Indian influence have been found dating from the early 5th century. Relics found in the Bujang Valley are now on display at the archaeological museum. Items include inscribed stone caskets and tablets, metal tools and ornaments, ceramics, pottery, and Hindu icons.
For the past two decades, students from universities around Malaysia have been invited for research and have done their graduate works at the Valley. Much of the historical links is still vague considering not many of the scriptures and writings survive. Even the temples did not survive the onslaught of age because their wooden roofing has rotted and withered over the past 1200 years. The museum itself is inadequate and not organized, much of the findings are elsewhere scattered from Museum Negara to Singapore (which once formed a part of Malaysia. Folk stories and oral history also provide place for a magnificent kingdom of jewels and gold. Outside peninsular and insular Southeast Asia, there is oral history in India that suggests the presence of golden chariots and jewels in hidden caves at Bujang Valley and Mount Jerai. Some visitors to the antiquity department at Muzium Negara has eye witness recollection of magnificent objects such as a 10 feet tall Raja Bersiung Throne and various idols and items from the Valley.
On 1 December 2013, it was reported that, a 1,200 year old Hindu Temple at the site, identified as Candi No. 11, had been demolished by a land developer.
In the face of public criticism, the Kedah State Government sought to deflect blame by claiming that it was powerless to do anything because the land was privately owned and further, that the site had not been gazetted as a historical site.
The Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang (a neighbouring state of Kedah), Dr P. Ramasamy, who visited the demolished ruins, was said to have learnt that the Merbok Land Office of Kedah had authorised the developer to clear the land after finding that there were "no historical sites" at the location.
As at the time the Temple was reported demolished, the Federal Tourism and Culture Minister had failed or neglected to respond to the situation, despite the fact that Lembah Bujang is Malaysia's richest archaeological site and home to South East Asia's oldest recorded man-made structure.