One local historian quipped: “What for… it’s a Hindu heritage! Malaysian history should begin with Islam, in the 14th century.”
However, we begged to disagree on Malaysian heritage history starting from the 14th century. Malaysians are painfully ignorant that the present stamp of Asian-Malaysian history had been subtly presented through British colonial perspectives, as what had happened in Dutch Indonesia, Spanish Philippines and French Indo-China, as examples.
In this country, the realisation to appreciate and rewrite anew our historical syllabus has been gravely wanting, as the new digital-age generation is being less and less exposed to “historical Malaysia” in terms of heritage and tradition.
The Bujang Valley civilisation has an older archaeological heritage than Cambodia’s Angkor Wat.
Ironically, our Malaysian National Cultural Policy (1972), having its global cultural tradition rooted in Asean and Nusantara-Polynesia, is not clearly understood and appreciated by many policy implementers.
The world system and world history that brought the current understanding of our history must be known beyond written history, that is, a part that we called “prehistory”.
The Kedah heritage may be understood if we traced the Malay origins that began from 2000-1500 BC.
According to the Indonesian cleric and philosopher Professor Hamka (Haji Abdul Malik Karim Amrullah),
Prophet Abraham had three wives: Sarah (begetting Prophet Isaac and the ancestors of the Jews), Hagar (begetting Prophet Ishmael, and the ancestors of the Arabs) and Qanturah [begetting Prophet Solomon-Sheba, and the Sabaeans of the Yemen, Meluhha (Indus Valley) and Southeast Asian Malays].
Prophet Abraham was, therefore, as the Bible conceives, the “Father of Nations”. As a “Father of Nations”, the human history of the Jews, Arabs, Indo-Aryans and Malays shared the same religio-cultural tradition, that is, the “primordial religion” (Hanif in Arabic, Sanatan Dharma in Sanskrit). Subsequently, the Nepali religion, Buddhism (an offshoot of Vedicism) was a harmonious continuity of Vedic Dharma, not Hinduism as wrongly labelled.
Malaysian and Southeast Asian history was, therefore, conceptualised as “Hinduised” or “Indianised” Malaya, as presented by Coedes and Braddell.
The real religio-cultural influence that is more appropriate and encapsulated was “Sanskritised”. Dharma, with tauhidic origins in the Indus Valley, moved through the lower regions of the Himalayan mountains into Yunnan, Cambodian Tonle Sap, and the Mekong Delta, and the other “wave” through Sri Lanka and ancient Malaya called “Sudhamawati”, from Burma down to Temasik (Singapore).
The strategic point from Burma to Singapore was Kadaram (Kedah in Tamil, Kataha in Arabic). In other words, the pure tauhidic Dharma had reached Kedah and Ganga Nagara regions (Bruas, Manjung, Perak) during 1,500BC.
As a consequence, South Thailand, Kedah and the East Coast was purely “Islamic” through the Abrahamic religious tradition. The fact that later “Islam” prohibited idols and casteless society does not cancel out importance of preserving elements of Sanskritised religio-cultural Malays before 13th century Islam.
Kedah has only been five per cent excavated by local archaeologists. More excavations and professional historical updating should be done. Through these efforts, archaeological tourism can be promoted.
The Bujang Valley civilisation has an older archaeological heritage than Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, as Kedah started the lively international trade to prosper first-to-third century Funan and Champa, which ultimately bore the Angkor civilisation.
It is, therefore, imperative that we place a higher premium on historical and archaeological researches — and revised historical writing — to make meaningful what we mean by Merdeka — as nationalism is not simply gleaned through textbooks and flag waving but ingrained through richer historical data.