Historical Bujang Valley still remains a best kept secret
Published on: Sunday, February 28, 2021
By: Toofan Majumder
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Bujang Valley: Little information available despite its great significance as a Hindu-Buddhist civilisation.
RECENTLY I had the opportunity to visit Bujang Valley in the state of Kedah. Interestingly, though I had heard about the place earlier, it was never on my priority list of places to visit.

I wanted to experience a long train journey, having been motivated by the BBC’s Great Asian Railways, and ended up in Padang Besar at the border area of Thailand – perhaps the longest distance I can travel by train within Malaysia from Kuala Lumpur during the MCO.

It was during my stay in Padang Basar while finding nothing to explore nearby that I decided to take a tour of Bujang Valley in the neighbouring state of Perlis, at Padang Besar.

It was a journey by train until Sungai Petani railway station and then by car to the ruins of the Bujang Valley Archaeological Museum. It was there I became fascinated with the history of the place.

Visiting any archaeological ruins requires a lot of imagination to enjoy the place along with an understanding of the historical importance it plays.

Bujang Valley is no different and more so as hardly anything remained of that ancient advanced civilisation in the heartland of Malaya.

We also have very few written or factual evidences from that period through which we can comment with certainty on the history or what exactly happened during those times.

So, anything mentioned about the history of the place should be taken with a pinch of salt, as things may be slightly different than understood. However, what is certain is that the place is of substantial historical value.

The sprawling historical complex of Bujang Valley has an area of 224 sq km (which is also disputable with latest findings suggesting the area might be even larger).

The ancient ruins found in Bujang valley area even dates back to 110 AD, making it the oldest man-made structure ever found in Southeast Asia.

Unfortunately, little remains of the previous times. We found some base of multiple temple complexes; some were originally built there while some had been reconstructed taking elements from the original site to a different location for the sake of maintenance.

While the base of those temple houses were made up of stones, pillars and roofs etc, they were most likely made from wood and hence lost over time leaving the base structure for us to study and understand the civilisation.

The remains of the architecture have strong Indian Hindu and Buddhist influences of the period.

Evidence supports the claim that the region was in maritime trade relations with India (Cholas of South India) and China.

Scriptures of Chola mention a naval victory against the society of Bujang Valley, possibly during the time of Rajendra Chola of the Chola dynasty of South India (may be during the time the place was a vessel state of the Srivijaya Empire), which happened due to the well-known conflict over control of maritime trade routes between the two powerful civilisations of South Asia at the time.

In that sense, the region was probably part of ancient India albeit for a short period of time.

Unless someone has a keen interest in history or archaeology, he or she would not visit the place.

However, those living in Malaysia should make it a point to visit this interesting historical site.

Unfortunately, it is said the government did not take measures to preserve the ancient ruins (with shocking news that one promoter allegedly levelled one of the temple ruins with no evidence left of the site) or promote the place as a tourist destination.

However, things are changing now and there are university departments working on maintaining and preserving the historical site.

The high archaeological and historical value of the place is undeniable and Malaysians should be proud of such a heritage, something they can enjoy generation after generation with pride.

That being said, the government may need to take further measures to ensure unfortunate events that occurred previously do not happen again.

The history of Bujang Valley was not known to me, it was after visiting the site that I tried to read whatever I could about the place from the internet, library books etc.

However, relatively little information is available about the area.

The education department may consider including topics on Bujang valley in the school curriculum to arouse students’ interest about the place and its history, which in turn will help with the preservation of such an important site.

The light of fire on the hilltop which guided ships in the Andaman sea thousands of years ago may not be there anymore, but through preservation and maintenance efforts we can still keep the golden period of our ancestors in the hearts and minds of future generations.


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