They found a long lost city in Johor. And all historians can't even begin to speak about the possible implications. Could the city really predate Borobudur and Angkor Wat? Could it really be the Kota Gelanggi alluded to in Sejarah Melayu? All history books on the history of the Malay people may become obsolete, and some of the theories which are at the moment on the periphery of historical discourse may be validated.
Could Kota Gelanggi be yet another kingdom that vied with Sri Vijaya and early polities for the position as the inheritor of the ancient Melayu kingdom? Or could it be just another Sri Vijayan capital before the flowering of Palembang? An inscription in Southern India enumerates a list of kingdoms that were pillaged and attacked by the Chola kings. Which one of them was Gelanggi? What kind of people lived in Gelanggi? Were they even ethnically Malay? Or only had cultural allegiance to the long-lost kingdom of Melayu? Did they know the joys of ulam and belacan?
How blessed I am to live during such exciting times. Hopefully they'll unearth some answers in my lifetime.
Since archived articles on The Star on-line are not always available, I have shamelessly cut and pasted the following articles from The Star on February 3rd. Enjoy reading. Just ignore that unworthy remark about the Melaka Sultanate being the start of modern Malay history.
Lost city believed found in Johor
BY TEOH TEIK HOONG and AUDREY EDWARDS
PETALING JAYA: A 1,000-year-old lost city, possibly older than Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Borobudur in Indonesia, is believed to have been located in the dense jungles of Johor.
The discovery of what is thought to be the site of Kota Gelanggi or Perbendaharaan Permata (Treasury of Jewels) by an independent Malaysian researcher has prompted museum officials to plan an expedition to confirm the finding.
If indeed the site is that of the lost city , it is set to transform the historical landscape of the region, said Raimy Che-Ross, who spent 12 years researching Malay manuscripts all over the world and conducting aerial searches of the area before locating the site.
He said the discovery of “unusual formations” from the air had led him to believe that the site could be the first capital of the Sri Vijaya Malay empire dating back to 650AD.
“If the city is what we suspect it to be, then the Malacca Sultanate can no longer be considered as the start of modern Malay history.
“Once verified, the honour will go to Johor, as one thousand years ago Malacca had not even been established,” he said.
Raimy had tried to enter the site in early 2003 but failed, managing to get only as far as to the formations which are believed to be trenches and embankments of the outer city.
Department of Museum and Antiquities director-general Datuk Adi Taha said an archaeological expedition would be mounted this year to verify the location of the lost city, with Raimy’s assistance.
Funds for the expedition would be sought under the 9th Malaysia Plan.
Adi said he and the department were very enthusiastic about Raimy’s research findings and would work with him to verify the location of the lost city, which could be spread out over a few hundred square kilometres.
Museum hopes Johor will assist in lost city quest
KUALA LUMPUR: Museum officials are hoping that the Johor government will assist in efforts to verify the location of Kota Gelanggi.
Department of Museums and Antiquities director-general Datuk Dr Adi Taha said Johor would also be asked to preserve the area for research.
According to Raimy, he was told that the museum had earlier sent teams to locate the site but had failed each time.
The most recent attempt saw their boat capsizing thrice, leading the team to abandon the mission.
Adi said his department would also work with the State Heritage Foundation on this, as it would have knowledge of the area, he said.
He said the search for Kota Gelanggi had been an ongoing endeavour for many scholars and researchers since the days of the British Empire.
“They never did find it as our history did not give any exact whereabouts of the city.
“Even Tun Seri Lanang (the Bendahara – equivalent to a modern day prime minister) did not state the location in Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals),” he added.
He said archaeologists hoped to find evidence of physical structures and also a fairly advanced irrigation system, which used to exist in the city.
“A big city would have good infrastructure such as irrigation to sustain its inhabitants.
“We also expect and hope to find Sri Vijaya artefacts from the site similar to those found in Gua Chawas in Kelantan,” he added.
Adi said the public should not attempt to enter the site to look for artefacts and treasure as it was an offence under the Antiquities Act 1976.
“Anyone found doing so can be fined or jailed,” he said.
On the expedition, Adi said that due to the inaccessibility of the site, the team would have to plan very thoroughly before attempting to enter the dense jungles
Manuscript leads to lost city
PETALING JAYA: It was an old Malay manuscript once owned by Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore, in a London library that led Raimy Che-Ross to the existence of the lost city in Johor.
According to Raimy, the presence of a lost city in the jungles at the southern end of the Malay peninsula had been indicated in Malayan forklore for over four centuries.
His findings on the lost city has been published in the latest issue of Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 2004.
In his paper, he said the place was raided by the Indian-Chola conqueror Raja Rajendra Cholavarman I, of the South Indian Chola Dynasty in 1025A.D.
The ruins could be as old as Borobodur, and could pre-date Angkor Wat, Raimy said, adding that aerial photographs taken over the site and tales from the orang asli had indicated the existence of structures.
“From the air I could see formations which looked like a set of double-walls, protecting the inner city.
“I have verified all the information by reviewing and reassessing old colonial records and travellers tales,” he said.
Information on Kota Gelanggi appears in the Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals) which was edited and revised by Tun Seri Lanang, the Bendahara (equivalent to the prime minister of a sultanate) of the Royal Court of Johor in 1612 A.D.
The manuscript narrated an account of the devastating raids by Raja Rajendra Cholavarman I, who after destroying the city of Gangga Negara (now Beruas in Lower Perak) turned his attention to Kota Gelanggi.
Raimy said he did not expect to find in Kota Gelanggi structures similar to Angkor Wat, as the lost city in Johor Gelanggi was much older.
“We can expect to find simple granite and brick structures, walls, buildings and possibly undisturbed tombs.
“Based on the data I have collected and consultations with archaeologists over the years, it is believed that Kota Gelanggi in Johor, which some scholars believe to be the kingdom of Lo-Yue, was also the first centre of trade for Sri Vijaya.
“It was in Johor that the whole Malay civilisation was born. The Sri Vijaya site in Palembang has artefacts which date back to the 13th or 14th century,” he said.
He said that official Japanese records noted that an Imperial Crown Prince of Japan, Prince Takaoka, Shinnyo Hosshinno, reportedly met his death in Lo-Yue after being attacked by a tiger. Perhaps we may find his tomb here,” he said.
Raimy said that while its main activity was a trading post, Kota Gelanggi was also a centre of sacred learning.
“Hinduism and Buddhist statues and figurines may exist but what I hope to find is epigraphic inscriptions (writings on granite),” he added.