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THE BUDDHIST ORIGINS OF “SINGAPURA” Re-reading Chapters I-VI of the Sejarah Melayu on Singapore for Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre Institute of Southeast Asian.

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Presentation on theme: "THE BUDDHIST ORIGINS OF “SINGAPURA” Re-reading Chapters I-VI of the Sejarah Melayu on Singapore for Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre Institute of Southeast Asian."— Presentation transcript:

1 THE BUDDHIST ORIGINS OF “SINGAPURA” Re-reading Chapters I-VI of the Sejarah Melayu on Singapore for Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre Institute of Southeast Asian Studies 4 March 2010

2 “And Sri Tri Buana came to a very large rock. He climbed on to the top of this rock and looking across the water he saw that the land on the other side had sand so white that it look like a sheet of (?) cloth. And he asked Indra Bopal, “What is that stretch of sand that we see yonder? What land is that?” And Indra Bophal replied, “That, Your Highness, is the land called Temasek.” And Sri Tri Buana said, “Let’s go thither.” ……… And they all beheld a strange animal. It seemed to move with great speed; it had a red body and a black head; its breast was white; it was strong and active in build, and in size was rather bigger than a he-goad. … And Sri Tri Buana inquired of all those who were with him, “What beast is that?” But no one knew. Then said Demang Lebar Daun, “Your Highness, I have heard it said that in ancient times it was a lion that had that appearance. I think that what we saw must have been a lion.” Sejarah Melayu, chapter 3

3 THE SĔJARAH MĔLAYU Chapter I-VI The SINGAPURA chapters on the sacred origins of Sĕri Tĕri Buana, his travels and arrival at Singapura; succeeded by four generations of descendents. Chapter VI relates the betrayal of Singapura to Majapahit Java, sack of the “great city” and withdrawal of Iskandar Shah to found a new emporium named Melaka. Chapter VII –XXIII The MELAKA chapters on the rise of Melaka and achievements of its Sultans. Chapter XXIII relates the fall of Melaka to the Portuguese, and the return of the old Sultan Mahmud Shah to depose his son/successor, Sultan Ahmad, and assumes the throne. 3

4 THE SĔJARAH MĔLAYU Chapter XXIV-XXXI The “wilderness” chapters leading to the re- establishment of the sultanate up the Johor River, relating the roaming of Sultan Mahmud seeking allies to re-take Melaka from the Portuguese, while avoiding capture. Chapter XXIX relates ‘Ala’u’d- din Riayat Shah, son and successor of Sultan Mahmud moving up the Johor River to re-establish the Sultanate at Pĕkan Tua A’lamu bissawb Wailayhil marji’u wal maab God alone knoweth the Truth. To him do we return 4

5 A hotchpotch of Chola and Palembang folk-lore [out of which] little can be made.” Sir Richard Winstedt in A History of Malaya, chapt II, sect. IV on Tumasik or old Singapore The Sejarah Melayu story of Temasek/Singapura dismissed; Preference for the Portuguese reports

6 16th Century Portuguese Reports “…Parimicura…fled with his wife, his children and his servants, and some remnants of his forces, in a junk, and reached Singapura, which was a very large and very populous city - as is witnessed by its great ruins which still appear to this very day - before the founding of Malacca…When the king Parimicura had arrived at this port, the captain of the city, whom name was Tamagi, seeing him come in plight, entertained him in his house, and showed him many honours. But Parimicura, as payment for the good treatment he had received, our of covetousness for the richness of the land, murdered him with a creese a week after his arrival, and became Lord of the Channel and population that were in it.” Alfonso d’Albuquerque

7 RE-READING THE SEJARAH MELAYU Not so much as a source of evidence for history of Melaka More as a literary text of WHAT (message) is the Author telling WHOM (audience) through what metaphors, symbols and forms. Builds on the work of C C Berg (Māyā’s hemelvaart in het Javaanse Buddhisme, 1969) and O W Wolters (The fall of Śrīvijaya in Malay history, 1970) in reading a political legitimizing function in the Javanese and Malay texts.

8 The Sejarah Melayu as a series of loosly linked stories about Melaka structured around the genealogy and narrative of the sultans. The episodes on Singapura forms the core of a story about the founder of Melaka as a descendent of a divine being and his right to rule the Malays STORY A PART OF MALAY SOCIAL MEMORIES OF THEIR ORIGINS

9 COMPARING THE SM AND THE PORTUGUESE REPORTS SM as the social memories of the Melaka istana about their divine ancestry and moral authority to rulership Portuguese reports collating the social memories of the residents of Melaka, especially Javanese, who have different social memories of the beginnings of the Melaka sultans.

10 PORTUGUESE REPORTS AND SM COMPARED: A Structural Similarity? Portuguese Accounts Tragic departure from Palembang Epic Sea Voyage Dramatic arrival at Temasek Tragic Withdrawal from Singapura Social Memories of Residents of Melaka Malay Annals Heroic departure from Palembang Epic Sea Voyage Dramatic arrival at Temasek Tragic Withdrawal from Singapura Social Memories of Istana/Court of Melaka

11 The Sejarah Melayu Chronology Sri Tri Buana = 48 years Paduka Seri Pikrama Wira = 15 years ( Majapahit attack; marries son to daughter of Kalinga ) Seri Rana/Rama Wikerma = 13 years ( Contest of Strongmen ) Dam Raja Damar Raja/Paduka Seri Maharaja = 12 years 6 months ( Swordfish attack ) Seri Sultan Iskandar Shah = 3 years + 25 years in Melaka

12 Anchoring the Sejarah Melayu Chronology Iskander Shah/Paramesvara 1399/1400-1413: Fourteen years Sultan of Melaka 1396/7-1399/1400: Estimated 3 years in “wilderness” 1391/2-1396/7: Five years Raja of Singapura 1390/1-1391/2: Wandering from Palembang to Temasek 1388-1390/1: Three years as Raja of Palembang Paduka Seri Maharaja: 1379-1391/2 Seri Rana/Rama Wikerma: 1366-1379 Paduka Sri Pikrama Wira: : 1351-1366 Sri Tri Buana: 1303-1351

13 THE REALISM OF THE SM For the Author and Audience of the SM, the stories related are real: The black stone fort Gelanggui, that Raja Shulan, great grandfather of Sri Tri Buana, attacked is believed to still exist today. The stone that the strong man Badang hurled across the Singapore river “is there to this day on the extremity of Tanjong Singapura.” The stone that emerged from Tun Jana Khatib’s clot of blood still stands.

14 SRI TRI BUANA: Lord of Three Worlds Performs a 40 day ritual lustration (memandikan [Raffles MS 18, pg. 18]) involving cirumambulation of a seven-tier bathing pavilion with jewel studded jars containing sacred water. =“Jar Consecration” / kalas abhiseka ceremonies of tantric Buddhism for attainment of enlightment. Transforming SRI TRI BUANA into an incarnation of Avalokitesvara, the “Lord of the Three Worlds” of The World without FORM / arapudhatu The World of Form / rupadhatu The World of Desire / kamadhatu


16 AMOGHAPĀŚA AVALOKITEŚVARA Avalokiteśvara with the attribute of the amogha,’unfailing, never in vain’ pāśa ‘noose, rope’ to capture all sentient beings from the sea of illusion to the shore of enlightment. Amoghapāśa Lokeśvara Pūjā: At the centre of the central lotus stalk on the disc of the moon is the god Amoghapasa, standing in samapada, He is white like the autumn moon and has one face and eight hands. With the four right hands he dislplays the rosary, the pasa, the abhaya and the varada mudras, in the four left hands he holds the stalk of a white lotus, a manuscript, a trident, and a pot. He wears a tiger skin around his waist and a deer as a sash on his left shoulder. He looks at all sentient beings with compassion.


18 Mandala of Amoghapasa Avalokitesvara Amoghapasa HayagrivaTarasudhanakumaraBhrukuti

19 SOCIAL CONTRACTS AND DEATHBED TESTAMENTS “ Both of them [Sri Tri Buana & Demang Lebar Daun] took a solemn oath to the effect that whoesver should depart from the terms of the pact, then Almighty God would overturn his house…And that is why it has been granted by Almighty God to Malay rulers that they should never be bound, or hanged or disgraced with evil word. If any ruler should put a single one of his subjects to shame, then would be a sigh that his kingdom would be destroyed by Almighty god. Similarly it has been granted by Almighty God to their Malay Subjects that they should never be disloyal or treacherous to their rulers, even if their rulers behaved evilly or unjust towards them.” Agganna Suttanta, Digha Nikaya, 28, 20-21? A pact reiterated by sultans on their deathbed testament to their successors and heir to honour their subjects. Derhaka &Daulat

20 The Javanese/T’ai attack on Singapura in1395 and the fall of Melaka to the Portuguese a consequence of a breach of this sacred social contract between Sultan and Subject?

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