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jeudi 27 juin 2013



I was merrily walking along the street in front of the hotel in Bali when I noticed that the road signs were in Latin Script as well as a script.

My heart raced when I looked closely at it, since it was easy to decipher the similarity of BALINESE script to MALAYALAM script of Cochin in India.
Pallava and Chola empires of South India of the TAMIL people had exerted great influence over much of South East Asia. In fact only in Bali, the Hinduism has survived. Hindu kingdoms had existed in Jawa, Sumatra, Kedah, Central Vietnam, and Cambodia. Just to give a few examples.

(Copper Plates depicting the Royal Order of the Rajah of Cochin granting Anjuvanam to the Jewish Community and to one Joseph Rabban..pallava to tamil to malayalam.. evolution of a script)
Pallava traders and travelers and artisans including those who built Angkor introduced their writing to Southeast Asia, and it was by all accounts much admired, appreciated and emulated. Earliest exported texts are in Sanskrit and Pali, but soon local languages adopted forms of the script. It was the parent of:
  • Pyu (Burma)
  • Mon – Burmese
  • Kawi – Javanese, Balinese, Sundanese, Buginese and others (Indonesia, Philippines, Borneo)
  • Lanna, Tham (Thailand)
  • Khom (Thailand)
  • Khmer – Cambodian
  • Thai and Lao
  • Tai Lue and other Tai language scripts (Burma, South China, Thailand, Vietnam)
  • Cham (Vietnam)

(Pallava Script)
In fact if you look at the scripts of these various languages, you can see that they are bear similarities to Tamil and the roundedness of Telugu, Karnataka and Malayalam.
The archeological site in Kedah, which is part of now Malaysia dates to 4th century. So does the oldest archaeological site in Indonesia, in a place called Kotai in East Kalimantan,
It might be good to look at the scripts on the inscriptions found on these sites. The Kutai script is not found outside Kalimantan, but there are other interesting parallels: Cho-dinh Rock Inscription of King Bhadravarman dated probably towards the end of fourth century. (Phu Yen district in Vietnam). Another similarity is to Ruvanvalisaya Pillar Inscription at Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka of King Buddhadasa or Bujas (c. CE 337-365).
The Inscriptions of Purnavarman of Taruma in West Java are written in a type of Pallava, which is essentially similar to that of East Kalimantan but also shows characteristic differences denoting a later date.
(Balinese above, Jawanese below..the same name written in the two scripts)
It would be tempting how the script got from Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu to the walls of Angkor Wat in Cambodia?
Intellectuals including the artisans and people who could read? This at a time when majority outside the priesthood or monkhood couldn't read, including warriors or kings for that matter.
I chanced to find a book called An End to Suffering by that great public Intellectual of India (who like many Indian intellectuals lives in London!) PANKAJ MISHRA. A delightful read and would love to re read it again (my copy is at the Blue House among the UmonHon)
Here is what a New York reviewer had to say:
India, he writes, once the “fount of wisdom,” is “now engaged in slavishly imitating Western countries,” an assessment that wounds Mishra’s quiet nationalism—and, one would think, his intellectual vanity, since Mishra himself came to his Buddhist studies through such figures as Borges and Thoreau. Mishra looks to the Buddha, “one of the great men, if not the greatest man, born in India,” for an untapped source of Indian pride. It doesn’t hurt that so many of the Western writers he admires were themselves armchair Buddhologists. Mishra’s explorations of this diverse company make for a consistent East-West rhythm throughout the book, as the author twins the Buddha’s insights with a series of speculative thinkers, including Hume, Nietzsche, and Marx.

Buddha was or is probably the greatest Intellectual India has ever produced and his influence is felt all over the world, and paradoxically not in India, his birthplace. Mishra goes into the discussion of how Buddhism was virtually wiped out in India.
(Unexplained Buddhist panels at the Big Hindu temple at Tanjore)

I had been to the now extinct capital of Pyu Kingdom, also to the Museum of the Mon people in Mawlemayne, visited Bangalore where Karnataka is freely available to look at, as is Malayalam in Cochin, Tamil in Madras, Thai in Bangkok, Lao in Vieng Cheng, Khmer in Phnom Penh. Have been to a Hindu Cham village in central Vietnam, and seen a Christian bible translated into Jawanese in the vernacular script kept at a Church museum in Paris and now Balinese script in the streets of Bali….
Each time it excites me to see this ancient connection and was it Tagore who wanted to visit India outside its political borders? In South East Asia?

To symbolize India’s millennia old tradition to connect to South East Asia with humanistic ideas, religious values, music and culture along with merchandise. The poem explores the necessity to renew this bond within the framework of mutual respect.
To quote from Tagore’s diary:
Tibet, Mongolia, Malayas, wherever India had preached her wisdom, had been through genuine human relations. To-day my pilgrimage is to witness those historical evidences of man’s holy access everywhere. Also to note is, that India of yore did not preach some cut and dried sermons, but inaugurated the inner treasure of man through architecture, sculpture, painting, music and literature, stamps of which remain in the deserts, woods, rocks, isles, rugged terrain and difficult resolves………”. [Java diary, July, 1927]
At a send-off to his journey to Singapore, Malaya, Java, Borneo, Sumatra and Indonesia on a three and a half month Southeast Asian tour in July 1927, Tagore said that he was going on a pilgrimage to India beyond its modern political boundaries.  ‘India’s true history reflected in the many stories of the Ramayana and Mahabharata will be seen more clearly’, he wrote, ‘when we are able to compare with the texts that are to found here [in Southeast Asia]’
While he journeyed from Singapore across the straits of Malacca towards Batavia Tagore wrote his poem ‘Srivijayalakshmi’ celebrating the renewal of a bond after a thousand-year separation, an ode to the ancient Srivijaya empire. A classical response to this poem was composed by a leading Javanese poet Doetadilaga (Timboel):
“Remember how we never could believe in days past that our love would know separation; perfect was our harmony, one our thought, one our soul and one our body, – the unity of God and creature nigh. Verily I saw in you my elder brother guiding me in the ways of the world, teaching me scripture, tongue and behavior, and all that we need to exist.”
I think it is the intellectuals that brought the script along with their Sanskrit and Pali rolls to these lands. These monk students had gone to study Buddhism in the greatest centres that existed in South India of that time. A case in point is Tanjore in South India, which used to be a great centre of Buddhist learning. There is some credence to the theory that the Brahmins were afraid of the rapid expansion of Buddhism and felt threatened and were involved in a conspiracy to put an end to the spread of Buddhism. In any case, histories in the recipient countries such as Myanmar all speak of journeys by the Buddhist monks to Tanjore and Sri Lanka and bringing back of the manuscripts in Sanskrit and Pali and then putting down of Pyu, Mon and Bamar languages into the Pallava Script which evolved into the current written form.
Countries, which were Hindu or Buddhist, have remained so till today: Thailand, Burma, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. All are predominantly Buddhist. The newly converted countries (to Islam) are Bangladesh, Malays of Malaysia and most Indonesians, where Buddhism and Hinduism survive to a small degree.
There were no Sultanates in what is now Malaysia. A HINDU prince from Majapahit kingdom PARAMESWARA by name came to the area, where the current city of Malacca stands, this was in the early 15th century. Soon after the mighty navigator Zheng He/Cheng Ho  came through Malacca and had taken the ruler to the Ming Court as a guest and had sent a Chinese princess as his consort. Malaccans surrounded themselves with clever Guajarati Moslem traders and shrewd Chettiars from Tamil Nadu. It was from the Guajarati, among who could be counted the First Bendahara of Malacca, that Islam spread in Malacca and what we now call Malaysia. Converted people are always more obstinate in their approach to religion than people born into the faith.
But Malaysia from the beginning had Indigenous peoples, also people who had migrated down from Yunnan and also people who had come up from Indonesian Islands including Bugis from Sulawesi. Interesting to note that the Bugis language was written with a script influenced by the Pallava script. Even the world MALAYA or Malay may have Pallava or Tamil origin since it means HILLS in Tamil and I have actually met an indigenous group in Kerala who are Australoid and are called MALAYAN. Meaning people of the Hills.
So, who are the Bumiputra anyway? Is Mahathir who was a PM before, who is the son of a recent migrant from India, an immigrant or Malay? And the Current PM of Malaysia, Najib Razak, who is descended from recent immigrants from Southern Sulawesi, an immigrant or Malay? Or many prominent businessmen who have gotten on to the Bumiputra concessions, who are of children of Afghan or Iranian migrants, Bumiputra?
India is the cultural motherland of most of these countries and their people, not the deserts of Arabia. The majority of the loan words in Malay language are from India, whereas the loan words from Arabic are usually related to the Religion of the Arabs.
It is nice to think of these things, after a very pleasant and short visit to Indonesia and Malaysia. Where I enjoyed such warmth and affection and needless to say. Excellent food.
As an erudite young man at our dinner party at Gotong Jaya up in the Genting Highlands remarked,
 And beyond that: Human. The same Species, despite our very human trait of segregating ourselves into one tribe or another, we are all in reality just one tribe!

I would borrow the title of the book from that great Indonesian writer, Pramoedya Ananta Toer…

We are not just BUMIPUTRA.. Meaning Children of the Land but BUMI MANUSIA. The earth of mankind.