Verifiable Memories of Historical Events in the Malay Classical Literary Sources

  •  Nik Hassan Shuhaimi Nik Abd. Rahman    


There are many texts of the classical Malay literature available for this study. Among the oldest are believed tobe Hikayat Raja-raja Pasai and the Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annal) by Tun Sri Lanang. There are also HikayatHang Tuah, Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa, Hikayat Patani and Misa Melayu. Scholars in the past havedismissed the contents of the books as myths and legends. But scholars such as O.W. Wolters and a few otherswho studied some of those texts such as the Sejarah Melayu and Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa believe that theycontain verifiable happenings. Stories such as Raja Suran (Malay Annal), Sri Tri Buana, Demang Lebar Daunand Merong Maha Wangsa are not myths or legends but representative of personalities that really existed duringcertain periods of the Malay history. Hikayat Hang Tuah especially, stresses the importance of the relationshipsbetween Melaka and China and India. Those foreign policies practiced by Malay rulers in the past as told in theRaja Suran adventure was the Cola king who left the dated 1025AD Tanjore Inscription and who had belligerentrelationship with the king of Srivijaya. Sri Tri Buana was his descendent, the incident on the Bukit SeguntangMaha Meru can be interpreted as the Avalokitesvara’s world. The allegiance given by Demang Lebar Daun thathe and his descendents (rakyat/people) will not go against Sri Tri Buana (ruler) as long as the ruler remains“just“ which reminds us of the Telaga Batu Inscription of Palembang which inscribes about the consequences ofbeing disloyal to the king. Also, the story about Merong Maha Wangsa who liked to drink blood can be equatedwith the practices in Bhairava Cult practiced by King Adityavarman in Sumatera and also by Kedah’s kings inthe 12th/13th C.A.D. The most important issue which can be elucidated from the classical Malay literary sourcesis the foreign policy of the Malay rulers. They established trade and political relationships with India and Chinabecause India and China were the most powerful nations in the world at that time, politically and economically.In this 21st century, the world recognizes the fact that these two nations will become great economic power againto challenge Europe and United States of America. Therefore, the memories of the past will become the mirrorof the future. The world will clamor for the hands of friendship of those two countries. Southeast Asia willdefinitely face a bright future.

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