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The Development of Kedah's Early History Based on Archeological Finds


Early History - Bujang Valley

A remains of a shrine which was reconstructed again at Bukit Batu Pahat, Bujang Valley.

The remains of shrine at Site 21, Pengkalan Bujang, Bujang Valley.

The importance of Bujang Valley in the development of Kedah's early history could not be disputed. This is based on two sources:
a) written records by Chinese and Arabian seafarers, as well as from Indian literary works
b) archeological proofs

Braddle (1949, 1950, 1980) and Wheatley (1957, 1961) made broad studies of written records made by Indian and Arabian seafarers and literary works of Indian writers. It is not my intention, however, to make a close study of their explanation. It would be sufficient for me to make a general and brief comment of their conclusion.

The earliest writing on Kedah could be found in a Tamil poem called Pattinapalai, which was written sometime between the second and third century A.D. It mentioned Kedah as Kalagam, which had the same meaning as Kandaram or Kedah. Stone writings produced in 1030 A.D. by the Kingdom of Chola clearly indicated that Kandaram was Kataha. This was mentioned in old Sanskrit texts (Puranas), especially in the drama called Kamudimahotsava, which was written around the seventh and the eighth century A.D. (See Whitley 161: 279-280 and Braddle 1980: 41- 43 for further details on the subject). Besides this Kedah was also mentioned in a Prakrit work called Samaraiccakaha produced during the eighth century A.D. as well as Katha writings such as Khatasaritsagara. In all these work, Kedah was projected as a peaceful and glorious country, like "the seat of all felicities" (Wheatley 1958).

Kedah was also known as Chieh-ch'a to Chinese sailors during the seventh century A.D. At that time, there were many Buddhist missionaries making their way to India and back to China, and one of them was I-Tsing (I-Ching) who made his maiden voyage in 671 A.D. from China and arrived in Srivijaya (Palembang) in 672 A.D. to learn Sanskrit. The following year he made a trip to Kedah via Melayu to take a passage to India on board a royal Indian vessel. He studied for 12 years in the University of Nalanda before returning to in 685 A.D. On this return trip he once again made a stop over in Kedah. From his writing, we found that that Kedah was a centre for trade and commerce and was the most important port in the region especially for the Kingdom of Srivijaya. Besides the evidence from I-Tsing's writing, Wheatley was of the opinion that Kedah, which was also known as Chia-cha had sent its ambassadors to meet the emperor of China in 638 A.D. (Wheatley 1961:278)

Evidence from Arab sailors was rather late, chronologically, as the writing of Sulaiman-al-Mahri on the fifteenth century A.D. only indicated that Kedah (spelt as Keda) was in the same latitude as Kelatan.

Although there were some information made on Kedah by Chinese and Arab seafarers and also from Indian literary works, the information given were rather unclear and sketchy. We now know that there was a growth of towns and settlements in estuaries and river mouths in most part of the peninsular. This difficulty was compounded when it was found that at one stage Langkasuka and Kedah was indicated as one and the same (Winstedt. 1920), when in actual fact they two different states altogether (see colles 1969). Mistakes in referring to names of places will end up in bigger mistakes in making synthesis.

A History of Archeological Research in Bujang Valley

Archeological evidence in Bujang Valley was first examined by Colonel James Low in 1864, but how much study was done remained unclear as there was no complete report on the matter. However his notes had at least pointed to the sites where the artifacts were found. Early in the twentieth century two surveyors, working at the summit of Jerai Mountain found the site of an abandoned Hindu temple. Further studies in Bujang Valley was enthusiastically made by Evans in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1921, on a visit to Sungai Batu, he found images of Durga Devi and Mahishahura. On another trip to the same area in 1923, he found an image of Ganesha. He found many other artifacts in the years that followed (Evans 1927).

Both these people opened a new chapter in the study of Kedah's early history. According to Low and Evans the artifaacts and monuments found in Kedah bear evidence of Hindu influence, and that Hindus and Buddhists had arrived in the region as colonists. Both Low and Evens were right when they concluded that Langkasuka was located in the South of Kedah. While Evans placed the settlement in Sungai Batu, Low was more correct when he placed it in Bukit Meriam. Evans believed that the Kingdom of Srivijaya which was centred in Plaembang had a very strong influence in Kedah. Therefore, besides opening a new chapter in the archeological study of Bujang Valley, these two also gave their conclusions on matters related to the area.

Between 1937 to 1938, H.G. Quaritch-Wales and his wife made an extensive study of Bujang Valley, and as a result uncovered 30 temple sites. Twenty nine of these were in Bujang Valley and one in Seberang Perai (Quaritch-Wales and Quaritch-Wales 1947). Shortly after the Second World War, they continued their study and this time the area they concentrated on was Bujang Valley. It must be remembered that the arrival of Qauritch-Wales in Bujang Valley was in the service of 'Greater India Research committee', which was based in Calcutta. The objective of the Committee was to study the extension and impact of Indian colonization in the area. Bujang Valley was singled out based on its geographical position, which was between and China. In this context, we found that the studies made by Quaritch-Wales, even though made systematically, was biased. This was because of his own strong theory, which he wanted very much to prove. It was because of this that he was often criticized for his conclusions based on archeological finds in Bujang Valley.

Work on Bujang Valley stopped for a while and was resumed in1956 when the Archeology Society of the University of Malaya, under the direction of K.G. Treggoning and M. Sullivan surveyed and excavated the area around Seberang Perai and Bujang Valley (Sullivan 1958). Although a study made by Lamb was done in a more systematic manner, he needed to obtain the co-operation of a few specialist from overseas to search and re-construct the temple of Batu Pahat, a task which was done in years between 1959 and 1960 (Lamb 1960). Lamb went on to make new inroads into the study by unearthing heaps ceramic pieces from the bottom of the said river (Lamb 1961).

In early 1970, further study of Bujang Valley was undertaken by staffs of the Museum Department under the direction of Al-Rashid and later by the writer himself. Recently its study was placed under Encik Kamarudin Zakaria. It must be mentioned here of the special study made by Leong Sau Heng on Pengkalan Bujang which played a role in determining Bujang Valley's importance in international trade.

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