11 Sept 2014: Bujang Valley – Kedah’s archaeological wonder

A walk along the candis of Bujang Valley will make one feel history coming back to life … and leave one with a sense of wonder that this was the site of a glorious and magnificent legacy.

Bujang eng coverThe book starts off tantalisingly, with enough mystique to whet one’s appetite for more: To understand history one must not read ancient history, one must feel ancient history. One cannot understand ancient history by putting one’s mind in the 21st century. You must imagine yourself living during the times of your study. Let your imagination take you to that period. The writer, lawyer V. Nadarajan, is of course referring to Bujang Valley, site of an ancient Malay-Hindu civilisation and kingdom dating back over 2,400 years, older than the civilisation of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. What this also means is that Kedah replaces Malacca as the starting point of Malaysian history.

Nadarajan’s book, Bujang Valley: The Wonder that was Ancient Kedah is a useful and easy-to-read guide to the historical site, including a short history and description. The bulk of the book comprises a summary of the 87 sites, their locations and sources, the 10 excavated and reconstructed candis and a short catalogue of artefacts. Interestingly, an ongoing dispute argues whether the candis were originally Hindu/Buddhist temples, or Malay tombs, places of rituals, perhaps even homes. Whatever the debates and dialogues, it is abundantly clear that at the zenith of its fame, Bujang Valley was a flourishing and vibrant entrepôt‌, and a prominent Hindu-Buddhist Malay kingdom in Southeast Asia. It is the birthplace of Malay civilisation.

Bujang Tamil 1Some history and development
Archaeological evidence in Bujang Valley was first found in the northern district of Province Wellesley (Seberang Perai) by Lieutenant Colonel James Low, then serving as Superintendent of Province Wellesley. Low found the famous Buddhagupta inscription near the ruins of an ancient temple. What was once believed to be only 400 sq. km in size has since been revised to 1000 sq. km stretching from Bukit Choras at Kota Sarang Semut in the north to Cherok Tekun at Bukit Mertajam in the south and Jening in the east. For a long time, only 90 sites were known, but with recent discoveries the number of archaeological sites in Bujang Valley now total 172. The most recent excavations at Sungai Batu reveal that the civilization dates back to the 1st century BE.

Bujang Valley: The Wonder that was Ancient Kedah is now available at Areca Books. Come visit us at our new outlet on the ground floor of The Star Pitt Street at 15, Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, Mon – Sun, 9am – 6pm.