Thursday, April 3, 2008

Indian component of Malay culture -- Sabri Zain

Indian component of Malay Culture

Date: 13 Nov 97
Originally To: "M.G.G. Pillai"
Re: Sanskrit and the Malay cultural ethos (fwd)

I am writing in response to MGG's excellent posting on the above. The
attempts by various parties to blot out the Indianised component of
Malay culture, I believe, is tantamount to destroying my rich cultural
heritage and turning Malays into third-rate Arabs. It is tue that islam
is a large component of our culture - but Malay culture is a rich
melting pot of many other cultures - Indian, Chinese, Thai, Javanese,
Minangkabau, Portuguese, even a pagan past when we were closest to our
roots in nature.

Historians tell us much about the political greatness and fame of the
Hindunized Malay Empires of Sri Vijaya and Majapahit. These two empires
controlled the destiny of the greater part of Malaysia. But how deep adn
widespread was `Indian' influence in Malaysia?

To begin with, Hindu influence was synonymous with Indian trade. This
trade was maritime and riverine, that is, confined to the coastal and
riverine areas of malaysia. The centres of Indian trade were places such
as Pasai, Indragiri, Melayu and Jambi in Sumatra; Malacca; Kuala Muda in
Kedah; and Surabaya in Java. The bulk of the people living inland of
these areas remained untouched by the religious by the religious,
economic and political influence of India. The Jakuns, Semangs and
Sakais of the Peninsular Malaysia, most of the original inhabitants of
the Borneo territories, of the Celebes, of Sumatra and the other bigger
islands of the Malay Archipelago were never converted to Hinduism. It
was only later, when communications inland were improved, that they were
converted to either Islam or Christianity. Smaller islands with central
zones never too far away from the coast were more thoroughly covered by
Indian traders. One such island was Bali, which has retained its Hindu
heritage up to the present day, despite the later onslaughts of Islam
and the West.

Then there was the next stage in the spread of Hinduism. Initially, it
came from traders from India, particularly South India. Later, the
centres of trade became powerful centres of political influence and

First, there was the great Empire of Srivijaya in Sumatra, followed in
the 14th century A.D. by its conqueror and successor, the Empire of
Majapahit in Java. The political expansion of these two Empires meant
also the theological expansion of Hinduism in Malaysia but even then,
Hinduism did not spread to all parts of Malaysia. Sri Vijaya and
Majapahit were essentially maritime powers, and their sphere of
political, military and social influence was generally limited to the
coastal and riverine areas.

The Hindu influence was limited more or less rigidly to the upper class
of old Malay society - the royalty. Malay royalty was essentially Hindu
royalty descended, according to the Malay Annals, "Sejarah Melayu", from
a legendary half-Indian and half-Greek monarch, Raja Suran, whose sons
all bearing Indian proper names, Sang Nila Utama, Krishna Pandita, Nila
Pahlawan, then descended on Bukit Siguntang in Sumatra from whence Malay
royalty spread. Malay royalty was essentially Hindu royalty because the
spread of Hinduism was not the result of any organised missionary
movement. Indian merchants by virtue merely of their financial and
cultural superiority drew converts from the ruling and trading classes
of the races with which they traded. If Hinduism was accepted, it was
because of a desire for a better standard of living rather than because
of an understanding and appreciation of a superior religious system.

Hinduism spread also through marriage. The petty princes of the
Malaysian coastal trading centres were glad to marry off their sons and
daughters to the financially superior Indian merchants or their
children. As for those who lived on the outskirts of the trading
centre: as money was not the basis of their economy, there was no
incentive to accepts Hinduism. Among them, the Hindu influence was to
come much later and in gradual stages. It is true that the common
people followed the religious faith of their rulers, for they were used
in such matters to take directions from above. But there was always an
undercurrent of fear, lest they should evoke the wrath of their
animistic deities. So, at best among the common people Hinduism was
assimilated only with a lot of local theological "spice" retained (the
same happened with the later adoption of Islam).

If such was the case, how do we explain the fact that old Malay
literature is almost completely derived from Hindu epics, from the
Ramayana and the Mahabaratha; and the fact that at least 30% of Malay
vocabulary is made up of Sanskrit words? Does not this prove that Hindu
influence was very much more intensive than I have suggested?

But it is often misleading to draw evidence solely from old Malay
literature to assess the relative position of Hinduism in the religious
beliefs and practices of the people at large. Old Malay literature, it
must be remembered, was exclusively Court literature. This literature
was made up of stories and legends of kings and princes, queens and
princesses, and of people connected with royalty. As Malay royalty was
basically Hindu royalty, Malay court literature had to be Hindu
literature. It is plain, then, that the Hindu element in old Malay
literature cannot be taken to represent the general pattern of life of
the common Malay people.

But the influence of India has been marked on the Malay language and
also in the sphere of religion.

Today, when a Malay speaks a sentence of ten words, at least three or
four of them will be Sanskrit words, three Arabic and the remaining
either of English, Chinese, Persian or of some other origin. One expert
has even suggested that there are only four words in the Malay
vocabulary which are genuinely Malay. The are "api" or fire, "besi" or
iron. "padi" or rice, and "nasi" or cooked rice. This is rather a
sweeping claim, but no one will deny that AT LEAST a third of Malay
vocabulary has originated from Indian tongues.

Words such as putera, puteri, asmara, samudra, belantra, kenchana,
sukma, and literally thousands of other words are all Sanscrit words,
either in original or in modified form.

What of the influence of India on the religious developments of the
Malaysian peoples? Malay folk-lore and Malay literature show that
during the period before the coming of Islam, about the 14th century
A.D., the greater gods of the Malay pantheon were really borrowed Hindu
divinities. They were, in some respect, modified by Malay ideas, but
only the lesser gods and spirits were actually native to the Malay
religious system. It is true these native gods and spirits can be
identified with the great powers of nature, such as the spirit of the
Wind (Mambang Angin), the spirit of the Waters (Hantu Ayer) and the
spirit of the Sun (Mambang Kuning). But none of them appears to have
the status of the chief gods of the Hindu system. Both by land and
water, the terrible Shiva and Batara Guru or Kala, are supreme.

In Malay folk-lore we find Vishnu, the preserver, Brahma the creator,
Batara Guru (Kala) and S'ri all invoked by Malays, especially by Malay
magicians. Of all the greater deities of the Hindu system, Batara Guru
is unquestionably the greatest. In Hikayat Sang Sembah , Batara Guru
appears as a supreme god with Brahma and Vishnu and some subordinate
deities. It is Batara Guru who alone has the "water of life", the
elixir of life, which can restore life to dead humans and animals. To
the Malays of old, then, and to the Malay bomohs even of the present day
in whom are preserved these notions, "tok Batara Guru" or any one of the
corruptions which his name now bears, was the all-powerful god who held
the place of Allah before the advent of Islam, and was a spirit so
powerful that he could restore the dead to life. All prayers were
addressed to him.

Of the lesser deities of Hinduism, the most notable who have remained in
Malay superstition and folklore are the "gergasi", half-human forest
spirits of Hindu mythology represented in Malay folk-lore as tusked
orgres that feed on human flesh. Then there is the raksaksa, a race of
cannibal giants ruled, according to the Indian Puranas, by Ravana. A
tribe of raksaksa is mentioned in the Kedah annals, HIKAYAT MARONG MAHA
WANGSA, which tell of a giant king, Maroung Maha Wangsa, who led a tribe
of giants and founded the present state of Kedah which they called
LANGKASUKA (as I had mentioned in an earlier posting, the real Langasuka
was more probably in Pattani, Thailand)

All in all, that a form of Hinduism was the accepted religion of the
Malays prior to the advent of Islam is certain, and it is a fact amply
proved by Malay folk-lore and superstition, Malay literature, Malay
customs and various archaeological inscriptions.

Muslim religious teachers in Malaysia today still preach the Islamic
concept of heaven in a terminology which is neither Malay nor Arabic,
but Hindu. The sanskrit word "syurga" is always used in connection with
the Islamic concept of paradise. The proper Arabic word for this is
actually "al-jannah". In the same way, the Hindu religious term "neraka"
or hell is used by Muslim Malays to explain the Islamic concept of
hell. The Arabic word for hell is "al-nar: or the place of fire. Then
the Muslim fast, the annual religious abstention from food and drink, is
known by the Sanskrit term "puasa". A Muslim religious teacher is often
called "guru, another Hindu religious term , in fact the name of a Hindu
deity, Batara Guru. The Muslim prayer is among the Malays, called
"sembahyang". "Sembah" in Sanskrit means to pray, and "yang" is a
Sanskrit term meaning divinity or conjuring respect, as in Sang Yang
Tunggal", the most divine one, and "Yang Dipertuan ". There are many
other Hindu religious terms that have lost their original meaning and
are being freely and unconsciously used by Muslim Malays in connection
with the religion of Islam. This shows that Hinduism exerted a profound
influence on Malay culture before the coming of Islam to Malaysia. And
this influence has survived, despite the strict monotheistic
restrictions of the Islamic faith, to the present day. So, in religion
as well as in other aspects of Malaysian culture, we cannot treat the
influence of India as something belonging to the past.
The political influence of old India which was climaxed by the great
Empires of "Sri Vijaya" and "Majapahit" is today at an end, but the
cultural influence of India which began at the beginning of the
Christian era is still very much alive, and it will be alive for many,
many centuries to come because it has become part of the life of the
Malays. And even politics is not going to change that.


Unknown said...

what you wrote is very impressive & something which everyone should know.It may not be fair for Malays to break Temples but it has happend in INDIA breaking of a MASJID by HINDU's where were you brother when such thing happend?Be greatful with what you have as you have choice to return to INDIA if you are not happy to live in Malaysia.India has always Welcomed you with PIO card & upon request Indian Goverment may also grant CitizenShip.Chinese has China & INDIANS has INDIA let Malays have their own land.Meeting L.K ADVANI is of no use as he is a Terrorist who was front line in Breaking the Masjid in Uttar pradesh.The MUSLIMs in GUJRAT has been Raped & burned alive.During earthquake Muslim Kingdom Saudi Arabia given funds to restore the houses & life without conditions knowingly India is Hindu Country.To Provide food to Muslim from the Funds from MUSLIM country.Muslims are forced to say "JAI SRI RAM" just to get a bottle of drinking water & scoop of Rice.Are Malays Treating Hindus in Malaysia in that way? You blame British for putting your future in dark which leads you no where.Why not all Malaysian Indians just return to their origin homeland i.e INDIA for better future instead disturbing the Malays?Advani has Openly Announced in INDIA that MUSLIMS SHOULD LEAVE INDIA AS THERE ARE MANY MUSLIM COUNTRIES WHERE THEY CAN SLAUGHT A COW,WHY MUSLIMS MAKING MORE PROBLEMS FOR HINDUS IN INDIA?Now Vice versa.Why not HINDUS return to INDIA & let Muslim Nation MALAYSIA live in peace as this is their land.You better watch the clips in Babri Masjid broken by advani & arrogant Hindus who claimed LORD RAM borned in that Masjid.see this site live breaking of Masjid by Advani on 6th December 1992
Chief MInister of Gujrat Narendra Modi clip ho whe refuse to answer that he is involved killing,raping & burning Muslims alive in Gujrat see this clip

Bal Thackrey leader of RSS who burn Christians & Muslim watch clip
He openly commands to kill Muslims watch here




How Hindus burn down the flag pleas watch


Answer me now.Are you poeple treated like this by MALAYS?
Are your women raped & burned alive?

If you make Temples on Other's Land definately it will be broken.

If you think you are Good,Please let Muslim nation Live in peace.
There is ADVANI,Bal Thackrey & much more people who are willing to take you back in INDIA.

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Ramesh Krish Kumar said...

Since Malaysia banned Yoga chiefly because it originated from Hinduism and has Hindu elements in it, then they must also come up with a new Malay language and literature. Here is my justification. All the encyclopaedias clearly states that every 5 out of 10 words in the Malay language are based on Hindu epical and scriptural literature. Will they banned their own Malay language because it is filled with Hindu elements in it?

Just handful of normal Malay words taken from Hindu Holy Books/Sutras/Vedas/Literature:

Malay Word (root from Hindu Epics)
Agama (religion, inspired for the worship of lord Shiva)
Angkara (ego, one of characteristics in a hindu worshipper)
Bumi (goddess of earth and land)
Dewa (indu almighty god)
Dewi (hindu almighty goddess)
Esa (one and only Lord Esha - Shiva)
Gajah (lord of the elephants)
Gandar (lord Arjuna’s axle / bow)
Gendala (obstacle)
Guru (holy hindu teacher)
Hari (the lord Suriya causing day)
Jiwa (spirit / immortal essence)
Kasihan (god’s mercy and pity)
Kawal (guardians)
Kuil (hindu temple)
Laksamana (lord Lakshmana, the admiral one)
Maha (great lord Vishnu)
Mahasiswa (great hindu follower / student)
Manusia (1st hindu human)
Mata-hari (lord Suriya or sun)
Naga (hindu divine snake and dragon)
Neraka (hell to the hindu demons)
Nila (indigo-coloured throat of Lord Nila Kanda)
Permaisuri (great queen represented as goddess Shakti)
Puasa (hindu devotional fasting)
Puja (hindu worshiping and praying rituals)
Puji (words of praises for the lord)
Purbakala (ancient or previous life)
Rahsia (divine secret)
Raksasa (unrighteous hindu demons)
Samudera (ocean that lord Varuna rules)
Sengsara (hindu cycle of suffering)
Singa (lion deity represented as lord Narashima)
Suria (sun god)
Syurga (heaven to the hindu gods)
Utara (astrological northern star)
Warna (colours of the hindu caste)

Will they remove all these thousands and thousands of Hindu words? Will they?

Ramesh Krish Kumar said...

Malaysia has been making millions of dollars from tourist, through its art performances. It is well documented throughout worldwide television that Malay’s art and culture have Hindu origins. Malay martial art (Pencak Silat) have strong Indian influence and movements. Silat was a warrior art and was employed during the reign of Hindu Kingdoms of Majapahit and Srivijaya empires. Silat spread to all Hindu controlled areas, including Malay peninsula, Java, Bali, Sulawesi and Borneo. Malay puppet theatre (Wayang) started when Hinduism was introduced to South East Asia. The world’s first Malay puppet performance (Si Galigi Mawayang) was carried out on 930 CE based on a Lord Bima of the Hindu epic of Mahabharata. Sanskrit became the literary and court language of Java and Bali. From there, different Wayang developed throughout South East Asia and all the performances were based on Gods and Goddess of Hindu Epic Ramayana and Mahabharata. UNESCO designated Wayang Kulit, a shadow puppet theater and the best known of the Indonesian wayang, as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity on 7 November 2003.

Dangdut is a genre of Indonesian and Malay popular music that is partly derived from Indian and Arabic folk music. Ikat is a style of weaving that uses a resist dyeing process to create a pattern or design. There are known links between ikat production in India and South-East Asia. Patola cloth, a double ikat from Gujarat, western India, used to be exported to Indonesia for the use of the royal families. The patterns in the Patola Ikats are strikingly similar to the double ikats produced in Bali, Indonesia. Plus, the hundreds of Hindu and Buddhist shrines that attract millions of tourist: Prambanan (Shiva Temple), Pawon (Buddha Temple), Mendut (Buddha Temple), Candi (Hindu Buddha Temple), Borobudur temple (Buddha Temple).

Topeng is an Indonesian form of dance drama in which one or more dancers wear masks and perform ancient Hindu stories, often concerning semi-mythical kings and princes. It has origins in the 17th century. It is believed that the use of masks is related to the cult of the ancestors, which considered dancers the interpreters of the Hindu gods. Topeng dances are most prevalent in Bali and Java, in which offerings are made to purify the temple or theatre as a prelude to ceremonies or other dances. Another kind of dance called Pendet, is typically performed by young girls, carrying bowls of flower petals, handfuls of which are cast into the air at various times in the dance. Pendet can be thought of as a dance of greeting, to welcome the audience and invite spirits to enjoy a performance. Barong dance is another Hindu influenced performance. It contains character in the hindu based mythology of Bali. He is the king of the spirits, leader of the hosts of good, and enemy of Rangda in the mythological traditions of Bali. Kecak is a form of Balinese music drama, originated in the 1930s and is performed primarily by men. Also known as the Ramayana Monkey Chant, the piece, performed by a circle of 100 or more performers wearing checked cloth around their waists, percussively chanting "cak" and throwing up their arms, depicts a battle from the Ramayana where the monkey-like Vanara helped Prince Rama fight the evil King Ravana. Baris is a traditional dance of Bali, in which a solo dancer depicts the feelings of a young warrior prior to battle. Originally, Baris was performed as a Hindu religious ritual. The dancer may bear a kris, a spear, a bow, or other weapons, depending on the variant performed. baris literally means line or file, and referred to the line of soldiers who served the rajas of Bali.

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