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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Melaka (Malaysia) 1

Authored by 

PN Sampath Kumar
Cochin Shiptard, Kochi

The Port city of Melaka was ruled by one Parameswara, a Hindu King, who  is said to have embraced Islam and established the Melaka Sultanate.  His successors were defeated by Portuguese led by “Alfonso de Albuquerque” of Goa.  The Dutch followed, them and then British and later the nationalist movement culminating in independence.

The chronology of events recorded in the annals of history of most of the port cities in the east, as made known to us by the Westerners are very similar.  And this commonness they shared with Cochin, my current home town,  
attracted me to such heritage cities in the east. 

The picture portrayed in my mind about Malaysia has a lot to do with the readings in my younger days.    Cities of Penang and Melaka had already been there in my childhood mind and I wanted to visit these places as a wanderer when I grew up.

Places like Perek, are even more historically important as far as Indian connections are concerned.  The “Chola” kings have either conquered or had treaties with most of the states throughout the east.    Interestingly there is mention of one ‘Gangai Nagara’ that existed in the Perek State of Northern Malaysia.  It is possible that King Rajendra Chola had been honoured with the title of ‘Gangai Konda Chola’ after his conquering Gangai Nagara a very rich kingdom in Malaysia, which was under the rule of the Sri Vijayan Dynasty.

Due to time constraint, when I had to choose one among the three, I opted “Melaka” for its proximity to Singapore.

Legend is that after he was made to flee from Singapura, his earlier base, Parameswara a Sri Vijayan King, landed on the banks of the small river mouth (Bertam River) sometime in the year 1405.  While resting, he witnessed the interesting scene of his hunter dogs being chased by a mouse deer, forcing them towards the river.  He considered this to be a good omen and decided to establish a port City in Melaka.  To deal with the initial opposition raised by Ayuthaya, the Thai kingdom, he approached the Chinese kings for support and took the local pirates (Orang Lauts) along.   For centuries, Melaca was a strategic trade point.    The sailors had to rely on the trade winds before setting sail to the next point and had ample time to trade and accumulate goods till the winds changed direction.  

Hundreds of languages were spoken in that city.  Hundreds of ships called on the port each month.  Traders from the west, Arabia, Java, South India, Gujarat, Bengal, China and Thailand traded their commodities like spices, sandalwood, camphor, tin, etc…

As this fetched good revenue, the rulers employed professional services of Wharf masters, repairers, hydrology experts, etc, who maintained the river navigable and provided security.    The strong trading community provided sufficient warehousing, transport and banking facilities. 

But all these are history book stuff.  We wanted to witness and feel it.   I had slight fear of getting disappointed as this place never figured in any so called “conducted tour operator’s” programs promoted in India.   Initial surfing in the internet also did not suggest much more than this. However, it turnedf out to be something to cherish.  

To be continued....