kheru2006 (kheru2006) wrote,

Waking up to a good history lesson

History is interesting if we learn to live it, rather than just treat it as another examination subject.

IT’S a bit hard to swallow. Imagine you are a housing developer in an area like, say, Xian in China with its terracotta soldiers, or around Stonehenge with its ring of standing stones in Wiltshire, England, and you say you have no idea of their significance.

Can you believe anyone working or living in the area when they say they have no idea of these historical structures?

Take it to a Malaysian level. Here we have a Malaysian developer who wants to build houses in Lembah Bujang – known internationally as a historical area of archaeological significance – telling us exactly that.

The developer isn’t working in Jalan Alor or Jalan Petaling but is carrying out work in Malaysia’s largest archaeological discovery site.

And this is what Bandar Saujana Sdn Bhd project manager Saw Guan Keat said after his workers flattened a candi, one of the ancient structures on that site. The contractors subsequently removed and disposed of all the material that made up the structure.

“We had a site visit before land clearing started in September. We saw a stone structure (the candi). We did not know what it was,” he said.

This must be one of the most incredulous and outrageous statements of the year. And we thought that such statements could only come from our politicians.

According to Saw, they carried out a land search at the Kedah Land Office on Jan 14 this year before buying the eight lots of land from the previous owner, another housing developer.

“The search clearly stated that the land has no encumbrances. The company proceeded to buy the land in February. When we did another search at the Land Office on July 30, again we did not find any encumbrance,” he said.

In simple language, an encumbrance means any obstruction, impediment, hurdle or claim that stands in the way. In other words, legally speaking, there was nothing to prevent him from starting work on the area.

The company, he said, only knew it had demolished a candi after reading about it in news reports.

“If we had known the structure was a historical site, we would not have cleared it. Our company merely took over the project, which was approved back in 1994 or 1995.”

Saw lodged a report on the incident at the Merbok police station on Nov 29.

Well, that’s a bit late now as the damage has been done. But if it is possible for the candi to be rebuilt, using the same ancient materials, then it has to be done.

But the positive aspect of the demolition of the candi and the controversy it has sparked off is that even the most ignorant Malaysians are waking up for a good history lesson.

Located near Merbok, Kedah, between Gunung Jerai in the north and Muda River in the south, the Lembah Bujang area comprises ruins that date back more than 2,000 years ago. There are reportedly more than 50 ancient tomb temples, called candi, that have been unearthed so far.

It has been reported that in the area of Lembah Bujang known as Sungai Batu, excavation works have revealed remains of jetties, iron smelting sites, and a clay brick monument dating back to 110AD, making it the oldest man-made structure to be recorded in South-East Asia.

As one who studied Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals) and history up to Form Six, and subsequently at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, I have always had an interest in the period of Hindu-Buddhist influence in our country.

Reading the writings of Sabri Zain in his website, which has a section on the history of the Malay peninsula, we learn that when a Malay speaks a sentence of 10 words, five would be from Sanskrit, three from Arabic and the remaining of English, Persian, Chinese or other origins.

The words of foreign origin include guru (teacher), asmara (love), putera (prince), puteri (princess),syurga (heaven), samudra (ocean), belantara (ocean), kenchana (gold), sukma (soul) and even sambah(pray). So is the often-used term “bumiputera” for prince of the earth or “puasa” for fasting.

For the Chinese, many Taoists may not be aware that the famous deity, Guan Yin, isn’t of Chinese origin but of Indian origin, with her Sanskrit name Padma-pani, meaning “Born of the Lotus”. It is already well reported that the Goddess of Mercy was originally male.

History is interesting if we learn to live it, rather than just treat it as another examination subject.

History is not about dead people, ancient culture, races that disappeared, disregarded stone structures or dates that we have to commit to memory. Rather, it is about how these historical events have affected our daily lives. Without the past, there is no present and surely no future.

Of course, there are many people and regimes that seek to rewrite history to their advantage.

But those who seek to re-write history to suit a political agenda will learn soon enough that it will never work because the past has a way of creeping up on us.

Wong Chun Wai views expressed are entirely the writer's own. The STAR Online Home News Opinion 08/12/2013

Tags: history, lesson, teaching

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