Sunday, March 14, 2010

Kota Gelanggi

Kota Gelanggi is an archaeological site reported in 2005 as potentially the first capital of the ancient Malay Empire of Srivijaya ca. 650-900 and one of the oldest pre-Islamic Malay Kingdoms on the Malay Peninsula.

That the city was part of the "Ayuthia Kingdom" (Ancient Siam now known as Thailand) & may be the unidentified Naksat city of the Siamese folklore. Hence, the the word "Gelanggi" could be a mispronounciation of the Thai word "Ghlong-Keow" meaning box of emeralds or treasury of jewels.

The Malay annal, "Sejarah Melayu" (meaning History of Malay) has mentioned that the main fort of Kota Gelanggi was made of black stone & was named "Kota Batu Hitam" in Malay meaning "Black Rock City". Sejarah Melayu is a 17th Century Malay text.

Ancient Tamil inscriptions otherwise inform us that during the era of south Indian Chola Dynasty in 1025, after destroying the Malay Kingdom, Gangga Nagara.

The 12th Naksat Cities - the lost city

Kota Gelanggi was also reported to be the 12th city, the lost city of The Naksat Cities. The Naksat cities are a chain of twelve inter-linked cities or muangs of the ancient Malay Kingdom of Tambralinga(today capital city of province Nakorn Si Thammarat). The cities acted as an outer shield, surrounding the capital Nakorn Si Thammarat, and were connected by land so that help could be sent from one city to another in the event of surprise attacks.

The term Naksat refers to the Lunar calendar system, the Naksat Pi, which is based on a duodenary cycle of years, with each year being associated with a particular animal.

Eleven of the twelve cities have been identified and are all located on the Malay Peninsula. The eleven cities with their associated animal "years" are Narathiwat (Rat), Pattani (Ox), Kelantan (Tiger), Kedah (Big Snake), Patalung (Little Snake), Trang (Horse), Chumporn (Goat), Krabi (Monkey), Kanchanadit (Chicken), Phuket or Takuapa (Dog) and Kraburi (Pig). The missing city, Muang Pahang, is associated with the Year of the Rabbit. It has also been speculated that Kota Gelanggi is the twelfth city.

Reference to the cities appear in the chronicles of Nakorn Si Thammarat and the chronicles of the Phra Dhatu Nakorn.

The discovery of lost city

The history
The reported site of this ancient city is in the dense jungles of the southern Malaysian state of Johor Darul Takzim, near a forest reserve currently managed as a water catchment area, the Linggiu Dam, by the Public Utilities Board (PUB) of Singapore. This description locates the site somewhere within a 140 square kilometre are of the forest reserve surrounding Sungai Madek and Sungai Lenggiu.

Kota Gelanggi is referenced in the Sejarah Melayu or Malay Annals, an early 17th century Malay historical text. In it, Kota Gelanggi is said to be found on the upper reaches of the Johor River. The main fort of Kota Gelanggi was reportedly made of black stone (or Kota Batu Hitam in Malay). Its name 'Kota Gelanggi' was apparently derived from the Malay mispronunciation of the Thai word 'Ghlong-Keow' or 'Box of Emeralds', hence in Malay, 'Perbendaharaan Permata' ('Treasury of Jewels'). Some scholars believe that the city formed part of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, and may thus be the unidentified 12th Naksat city of ancient Siamese folklore. Ancient Tamil inscriptions inform us that the city was raided by the Chola conqueror Rajendra Chola I, of the South Indian Chola Dynasty in 1025, after he had destroyed the Malay Kingdom of Gangga Negara. The latter is generally equated with the ruins and ancient tombs which still can be seen in the district of Beruas, Perak Darul Ridzuan. Old European maps of the Malay Peninsula further show the location of a city known as 'Polepi' (i.e. 'Gelanggi') at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula (see Sebastian Munster's (1614) Map of Taprobana).

References to Kota Gelanggi were reported in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by colonial scholar-administrators including Dudley Francis Amelius Hervey (1849-1911); who published eyewitness reports of the city in 1881; and Sir Richard Olof Winstedt (1878-1966); who stated that an Orang Asli was prepared to take people to the site in the late 1920s. The ancient city was also known to the adventurer-explorer Gerald Gardner (1884-1964), who discovered the ruins of Johore Lama while searching for Kota Gelanggi.

The discovery

Raimy Che-Ross published "The 'Lost City' of Kota Gelanggi: An Exploratory Essay Based on Textual Evidence and an Excursion into 'Aerial Archaeology'" in the Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society.

That article announced the discovery of a pre-Malaccan city in the forests of Johore. Since then, the "Lost City" was featured in the press and has become the subject of intense discussion and speculation by academics, heritage-enthusiasts and the general public.

News of the discovery attracted the notice of international media. The Malaysian Cabinet has now designated it a national priority, with a formal expedition into the jungles being planned. Verification of the discovery will have a great impact on regional history and archaeology, not to mention the potential significance for the tourism industry.

Raimy Che Ross
RAIMY CHE-ROSS was a Malay Tutor at the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (1994), a Graduate Intern at the National Gallery of Australia (1998) and a Visiting Scholar with the Malaysian Commonwealth Studies Centre at Trinity College, Cambridge (2003).

His latest publications include studies on Munshi Abdullah's manuscripts and lithographs, the Jewish Diaspora in pre-WWII Penang, the Private Papers of Baginda Omar, IXth Sultan of Terengganu, and rare Jawi and Javanese letters from Raffles discovered in the New South Wales State Library. Raimy is now working on a catalogue of the Cambridge University Library Malay Manuscripts Collection, a monograph on Royal Malay letters and artefacts at the Royal Archives in Windsor Castle, and exploring pre-Malacca sites in Perak.

The site's existence was announced dramatically as a 'discovery' by the Malaysian Press on 3 February 2005.

Recent evidence of the city's existence and approximate location was presented as the result of a decade-long research project based on Malay manuscripts, cartographical and topographical surveys, aerial inspections and assessing local folklore. A preliminary discussion on the subject based on these sources was published as a lengthy academic paper entitled The "Lost City" of Kota Gelanggi (JMBRAS, Vol. 77 Pt. 2, pp.27-58) in 2004. Prior to that, its author, Raimy Che-Ross, an independent researcher, had tabled and discussed his findings with experts at the Asia Research Institute (ARI), National University of Singapore, the Johor Chapter of Badan Warisan Malaysia (Malaysian Heritage Trust) and to archaeologists at the Jabatan Muzium dan Antikuiti Malaysia (Museums and Antiquities Department of Malaysia), between January-June 2004.

The paper was given wide coverage by the Malaysian Media, who prematurely reported the introductory article as the announcement of a major 'discovery'. This prompted the then Minister for Heritage, Culture and the Arts to himself announce ambitious plans to 'discover' the city by selected museum and government officials.

On April 28th 2006, the Malaysian National News Service (Bernama) reported that the "Lost City does not exist". Khalid Syed Ali, the Curator of Archaeology in the Department's Research and Development Division, said a team of government appointed researchers carried out a study over a month in July last year [2005] but found no trace of the "Lost City".

However, Khalid later added that 'the Heritage Department (Jabatan Warisan) does not categorically deny that it exists, only that research carried out until now [over the month of July] has not shown any proof that can verify the existence of the ancient city of Linggiu ' (Azahari Ibrahim, 'Kota Purba Linggiu: Antara Realiti dan Ilusi', Sejarah Malaysia, July-August 2006, p.37). When pressed for details, he revealed that Che-Ross was not involved in the museum's search team for the lost city.

Three elder Orang Asli headmen from the Linggiu Dam area nonetheless insist that the city indeed exists. According to Tuk Batin Abdul Rahman, 85, 'the city is very large, I have seen it myself because it was located near my village. I estimate its fort to be approximately forty feet square, with three holes like windows along its walls'. He added that the area was formerly inhabited by him and fifty Orang Asli families, before being moved by the British due to the Communist threat in the late 1940s-50s. He further said that he had first stumbled across the fort in the 1930s, while foraging for jungle produce. Tuk Batin Abdul Rahman's statements were independently verified by Tuk Batin Daud, 60 and Tuk Batin Adong, 58, who added that their people had visited the site on numerous occasions before, and had seen the black stone walls themselves (Amad Bahri Mardi, 'Kota Gelanggi hanya wujud pada nama', Berita Harian, Sunday, 20 February 2005, p.18). Two old manuscript drawings believed to depict the ruins are in the possession of Tuk Batin Adong. The rough outline coloured sketches show a large building surrounding a steep hill. Two circular apertures are found on the walls on each side of the entrance into this structure.

Note that the Kota Gelanggi of Johor Darul Takzim is different from the Kota Gelanggi Caves near Jerantut in Pahang Darul Makmur. The Kota Gelanggi Caves of Jerantut hold Neolithic sites, with no evidence of substantial habitation beyond that period having been found despite extensive archaeological digs in its caverns by the museums department.

Late in May 2008, the Malaysian Press reported the discovery of an ancient bronze vessel or Kendi near a river close to Mentakab, Pahang Darul Makmur that may be connected to the ancient city of Kota Gelanggi in Johor Darul Takzim. Both sites are linked by a network of rivers once believed to form a trans-peninsular trading route cutting across the Malay Peninsula.

(source: Wikipedia)

It's amazing that a federal Minister of Culture announced that the government will do everything possible to bring out the lost city. It was excitement and even the mass media published widely on the issue. But suddenly the issue and the lost city, was all really lost in silence. Gone were the excitement of the government and the mass media......

Look at the amount of money Indonesia makes from Borobudur, and Cambodia makes from Angkor Wat, the ancient city of Kota Gelanggi should be great for Malaysia. It will be Angkor Wat of Malaysia, and a tourism potential for tourist dollars. Like Bujang Valley, the lost city was a Srivijayan Hindu/Buddhist kingdom. Is the lost city reveal too much history that the authority cannot accept the fact, as it is too sensitive to disclose it at the moment for the political reality; or it was all falsified historical news?.....something fishy is happening, and the truth is not reveal....

I hope some external independent party will continue research on the lost city; may be some day some hero will reveal some shocking news, that ......and the lost city will never be forever lost.....

.....and hope that the history is not covered up or altered for the sake of politic ..... historical fact must be the truth of the past, not the falsified data to meet the political agenda of the time.... whatsoever the historical truth, the mature Malaysian are prepared to accept the historical fact.

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