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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Melaka (Malaysia) 3

Continued from previous Post
Authored by: 
PN Sampath Kumar,
Cochin Shipyard,

The best way to feel  Melaka is to undertake a river cruise. We reached the river mouth near the sea which is the point of embarkation. We set go our journey at around 6 PM. It is a ten kilometres to and fro ride in the same river taking about 1 hour. The buildings on both sides of the river are facing the river, some of them have been modified into restaurants with a touch of heritage in it, eying the tourists. The buildings are well lit and painted artistically, without losing the ethnicity. It is the reply of the east to the great boat cruises of Venice.

Melaka attains her full charm in the evenings and night. Well lit, with shops and restaurants open with fragrance of spices cooked, in the air, Melaka welcomes her guests till midnight.

On the other side of the river, Jonker Walk is a much sought after activity among the tourists. It is the weekend evening market. Spices, Chinese medicines, Chinese Tea, Malaysian Coffee, Malay food, Chinese food, handicrafts, furniture, fruits, flowers….everything. They say that the market place is the reflection of the culture of the land and one should visit the market atlest if nothing else is possible. We tried some street food and bought few souvenirs.

Melaka in daylight has its charm too, if you are ready to walk through the pricking heat. Melaka has no specific season. It rains whenever it felt like. But it did not rain all the three days when we were there.

After a quick breakfast, we were ready wearing shorts and T-shirts to explore the other side of the river Melaka.

This is used to be the commercial hub those days. The buildings stood as a testimony of that. We were proceeding to the Harmony Street (what a beautiful name), where the three major places of worship of yester years stood. The one that we visited first was a Buddhist temple.

The “Chen Hoon Teng Temple” is said to be originally built in 1645 using the Chinese materials, in conformity with the principles of Feng Shui, by some Kapitan (Kapitans were the community heads those days in Malaysia). Here we had a different experience contrary to the one that we had in Indian and Srilankan Buddhist temples, possibly they are practicing something called Taoism. There were no chanting by the priests. Disciples bring along incense sticks to be burnt in front of the deities. We prostrated before the son of the King Suddhodhana, in our own style.

The deity next room was an interesting one. He liked smoke of Cigarettes not incense sticks. Even liquor bottles were seen offered before him.The temples are cultural centres too. Buddhism is no exception. They have opera theatre built in traditional style.

The next temple we visited was a Ganesh temple, named Poiyatha Vinayagar Temple. This temple is said to be built in 1781 with the help of Dutch? and is the oldest Hindu temple in service in the whole of Malaysia. The exteriors and interiors differed from the traditional Tamil Style of temple architecture.
Built at the site provided by Kapitan Thaivanayagam Pillai, this temple is the presiding deity of the Chetties of Melaka in particular and the tamils in general of Malaysia and other Malaysian Tamils migrated all over the world. Many of the visitors to the temple are from Singapore who migrated in the past, in search of greener pastures.

We spent some time in the serene atmosphere and left after offering prayers to Ganesha, only after having the “Prasad” offered by the priests (tasty pongal having ingredients like rice, grated coconut and ginger in it).

The next monument, located at the end of the harmony street is Sasjit Kampong Kling. Again built in the Dutch era, and explained to be in the Sumatran Style, this is again considered to be the oldest mosques in Malaysia, having lot of interesting art objects inside.

Unluckily for us, this monument was under some repair and was not open to tourists. We had to satisfy ourselves with the magnificent views from the outside.

There are a number of places of worship throughout Melaka with contemporary construction. The floating mosque is one among them. There are other few other churches, many number of Buddhist temples with different faiths and practices , few other Hindu temples and even a Gurudwara, that are built at different periods.

We came across a (Shirdi) Saibaba Temple which is the meeting place for all he Indians in Melaka, who have kindly offered us lunch on one of the days of our stay in Melaka.

The Dutch are blamed for disturbing the commercial system prevaiing till the Portuguese ruled. They were not keen to maintain the Melaka Harbour as a commercial centre. The disturbance caused to the trading community would have aggravated the situations. They simply maintained the place as a military point and the fall of Melaka as a commercial port began.

The other theory is that the British who took possession of Melaka as part of a treaty, in the process of gaining importance to their own port city of Penang, demolished the Fortress of Melaka. They even shifted the Melakan trading population of around 15000 to Penang and made the Melaka Port City look deserted. Almost at the same time, development of Singapore by the British also caused  the fall of Melaka.

To be continued ....