Srivijaya was great but it was not the only empires or kingdoms that impacted Malay or Malaysian history. Despite the perception that nothing important occurred before the coming of Islam to Southeast Asia and the Sultanate of Malacca, there were a number of kingdoms that flourished thanks to trade. We know this through Malay, Chinese, Indian, Arab and sometimes even European records. One of the kingdoms, as a reader shared his thought with me earlier through email, was a kingdom founded by Adityavarman.

By the 13th century, Srivijaya succumbed to various external and internal threats and changes. All was left in the 14th century were disparated Malay states, each claiming to be the successor of Srivijaya. In Malaysia, places such Subang Jaya, Petaling Jaya, Nusajaya and Putrajaya remind me of the radiant victory, which is what Srivijaya means in Malay, and auspicious victory in Sanskrit.

The Hindu kingdom of Singhasari, the predecessor of Majapahit, conquered the last vestige of Srivijaya, Jambi or the Malayu (Malayu-Jambi; I am unsure if the spelling is Malayu or Melayu but the difference is superficial for both refer to the same entity) in the 13th century, ending a Malay golden age that was only to be reignited in form of Malacca two centuries later. Singhasari fell to the Mongol along with its holding of southern Sumatra at the end of the 13th century. The Mongol was then defeated by Raden Wijaya, the founder of the most celebrated Javanese empire in history, Majapahit, not too long later. That is the last time Mongol forces ever set foot in Southeast Asia.

During that era, southern Sumatra under the leadership of Malayu-Jambi experienced short period of independence though the dream of reliving the story of Srivijaya was beyond its means. Matters of survival received greater attention than matters of glory. The Javanese Majapahit, after getting its house in order, finally asserted proper control over Malayu and the rest of southern Sumatra in 1347.

Under Srivijaya, the Javanese, did not like to live under the Malays. Under Majapahit, the Malays likewise. After the conquest, Gajah Mada, the designer of the conquest, the prime minister of Majapahit under the reign of Hayam Wuruk, needed somebody that could be accepted by the people of southern Sumatra. And thus, Gajah Mada sent Adityavarman, a half-Malay, half-Javanese prince as a sort of governor of Malayu Jambi.

Gajah Mada however misplaced his trust. Indeed, the Malays accepted Adityavarman except that the acceptance was beyond what the Javanese prime minister had imagined. After successfully gaining the support of the Malays, Adityavarman revoked this allegience to Majapahit and established an independent state of Jambi. Fearing Majapahit reprisal, he transferred his capital from Jambi near the mouth of Batang Hari river to upstream at a place Malayupura in the Tanah Datar. Tanah Datar is located in the modern day Indonesian province of West Sumatra, home of the Minangkabau. Malayupura (probably means city of the Malay in Sanskrit, if Singapura means city of lions) was located close to Pagar Ruyung, the center of Minangkabau culture. To make it clear, Adityavarman founded the kingdom of Pagar Ruyung.

By Thomas Lehmkuhl. Public domain.

A statue of Adityavarman at the National Museum of Indonesia. Photo by Thomas Lehmkuhl. Public domain.

Despite finding the kingdom, Adityavarman’s Buddhist belief clashed with local practice. Further, the difference between the local egalitarian governance and the Malay aristocratic model enhanced the conflict. Before the century came to past, the kingdom varnished from history record due to the differences. The culture however remains to this day.

Pagar Ruyung is of course, is closely related to the Malaysian state of Negeri Sembilan, where culture is remarkable different from other modern Malay states of Malaysia. I am interested in its history at the moment, not culture. So, I shall not digress.

In the 15th century when the part of former Srivijayan holding of Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula came under the control of Islamic Malay Malacca, Minangkabaus started to migrate to modern day Negeri Sembilan. Islam rose to prominence under Malacca and the Minangkabaus, linked to Adityavarman, became Muslims along with other Malays. In the 18th century, the area came to the rightful successor of Malacca, the Sultanate of Johor-Riau Empire. The Malay of Johor however was busy holding the Bugis influence at bay and so, the Minangkabaus had to rely to someone instead of Johor. Who is our leader now, I would presume they had asked. They looked around and turned their attention to their ancestral origin, Pagar Ruyung.

While knowing full well that their origin was unislamic, they knew that history is above petty differences that religious conservatives nowadays harp on. The Minangkabaus of that time were not afraid of history. Those that fear history are only those that have something to hide: “berani kerana benar, takut kerana salah.”

From Pagar Ruyung, Raja Melewar was appointed as the the first Yamtuan Besar (basically, king) of the Minangkabaus with consent of the sultan of Johor in 1773. With that, home of the new ruler, Seri Menanti, replaced Pagar Ruyung as the center of Minangkabau culture on the Malay Peninsula. And the unique Malaysian state of Negeri Sembilan was born. I was there at the palace ground earlier this year, celebrating history, knowing full well, Adityavarman had a hand on that particular night, knowing full well, short of going to Pagar Ruyung, that night was possibly the closest I would ever be to the half-Malay, half-Javanese prince that defied Gajah Mada and Hayam Wuruk.

This proves that Malaysian history, at minimum, the history of Negeri Sembilan, goes beyond the Sultanate of Malacca. And thus, this further strengthens the truth that Malaysian history, and Malay history, goes beyond Malacca.

How many Malaysians know this? How many of us tried to suppress part of our history?

8 Responses to “[1227] Of from Palembang to Trowulan, to Pagar Ruyung and Seri Menanti, Adityavarman calls out”

  1. on 19 May 2007 at 21:55 Mudasir

    I’m not quite sure i could agree that Malaysian historians are trying to supress the truth here or ignoring the fact there were more Malay history or bigger events in Malays history.

    The srivijaya history is just as important as the malacca, not more or less, it’s part of it all. However not much is known about srivijaya, not a lot was left and to emphasize its greatness, and to create curiosity would be even harder considering Malacca still have living blood lines here in the country.

    Although much more can be done to educate Malaysians about history pre-Malacca, materials and evidence linking srivijaya to modern Malaysia is noneexistence. Malacca was the starting point for the Modern Malays in Malaysia. It was a new religion, new customs and an entirely new culture.

    Malaysians acknowledge that srivijaya was a Malay kingdome, however srivijaya did not originate from this peninsula but Malacca did.

  2. on 20 May 2007 at 01:49 Hafiz Noor Shams

    Dear third,

    I am not saying the historians themselves are suppressing information. I am saying those in power are doing it.

    Indeed, both Srivijaya and Malacca are important contributors to our history. But to say it is hard to create curiosity for Srivijaya because Malaccan bloodline still survive is something I am hesitant to accept. The Malaccan bloodline itself originates from Srivijayan bloodline; they were Malays, regardless of religion.

    About non-existence, yes, there are not many artifacts left but saying it non-existence is inaccurate. The ruins of Bujang Valley, the location of Langkasuka/Old Kedah, a state of Srivijaya so to speak, is the richest archaeological sites in Malaysia while most of ruins of Malacca come from colonial history. Bujang Valley originated all the way to the first millennium of common era.

    Finally, I do not think Malaysians appreciate enough of the importance of Srivijaya. Indeed, the Muslim Malays identify with the Ottoman or the Umayyad empire more than they identify with Srivijaya.

  3. on 21 May 2007 at 15:26 LG

    Well, it’s sad to say, this happened all around the world; mainly because of power/politic. Most importantly, of my opinion, we should keep our mind open on any historical readings.

  4. on 23 May 2007 at 14:26 kukuman

    Most Malaysia probably don’t know this….

    But to be fair… it is the history of Indonesia…

    While one may argue it is the history of the Malay(Proper)…
    It is NOT the History of Malaysia(Malay Peninsula).

    One other fact that Malaysian don’t know is…

    that before Malacca empire… Malays Peninsula is call a place of ‘historical limbo and darkness’

    The inhibits were called the Proto-Malay, and had ancient animistic and spirit belief.

    By the time of Malacca.. The Orang Laut and other Proto-Malay would assimilate with The Deutro-Malay. While the small minority that didn’t would be push further into the hill and deep jungle.

    Later on .. The Proper Malay would then mix with various other ethnics… like Bugis/Mendiling/Acheh/Etc and with other races too like Chinese/Indian/Arab/Caucasian.

    It my take some Generation for the assimilation to be Completed. It is in the language though. Sometime the Malay refer the groups as orang kite, orang dagang, orang seberang ,orang..(Name of their Ethnic Leaders..) or just orang Bugis/Jawa/Minang/cina or so.

    By Pre Merdeka Period it was the accepted that anyone who stay long enough, is Islam, speak and practice the Malay Language and Culture(Not necessary Islam) daily and pledge to the Malay sultan will be generally be considere a Malay.

    So those Arabs,Indian,Chinese,Bugis and Javanese thus have become Malay(with mix blood).

    Race is a tricky issue… for a chinese there is an issue of HAN and non-HAN Chinese. and what about the Hui-Chinese? For Indian? well what are their race? Tamil?? and Even for the white?

    but for Me? I am just half Malay and jawa?

    History is always written by the victors.

    And History is a big propaganda Machine for the Government.

    But biggest secret of World History is Genocide of the History of Communism of Russia!

    And The biggest Lie is the Genocide of Jews and Gay of Nazism of Germany!

    You will be surprise about how the Bank of Japan and the Germans still need to bow(unwillingly perhaps)even today to their master of Babylon!

  5. on 23 May 2007 at 14:35 kukuman

    And also…
    Don’t use the term
    “Common Era”

    If you ever understand what it truly mean….

    “Common Era” is “New Speech”.

    If you are willing to learn the real World History.
    ;) wink..wink…

    PS: Just use the old term A.D.!

  6. on 23 May 2007 at 17:53 Hafiz Noor Shams

    Dear kukuman,

    Little branches meet back at the trunk. Modern borders do not apply in the past. Further, both Peninular Malaysia and Sumatra and Java once fell under one power. Through this fact, Malaysia share its history with Indonesia (as well as Singapore, Thailand, Brunei and the Phillipines). And again, it is not true that there were nothing on the Malay Peninsula before Malacca. Langkasuka is a perfect example.

    Anyway, mind enlighten us how why AD is preferred to CE?

  7. [...] related that occurred in that past, be it Sulu, Brunei, Langkasuka, Srivijaya, Chi Tu, Johor, Negeri Sembilan and the other modern states of Malaysia, [...]

  8. on 14 Jun 2008 at 12:36 fairuz

    i subscribe to the fact that Sri Vijaya was more prominent as malay kingdom/empire than Melaka. In fact Melaka is just a continuity of Sri Vijaya kingdom or can be said as the new capital of Sri Vijaya replacing Palembang that was weakened, under threatened and overshadowed by the Majapahit in 14th ad. ..i dont know why Malaysian historian try to escape from it, that’s why history subject is a boring subject to the youngsters, why not we just tell the facts of history, so that will become more interesting for the youth rather than narrowing our malaysian history just start from melaka??? only… or before that ,, like nothing was exist?, that’s why our current historian up there, the profesor sejarah malaysia semua takuk lama, tak mau expand the scope, supposed to be replaced with new blood who are more open to the fact of history. put aside all religous and countries sentiment first to read history, so that we can understand how it evolves.
    In her golden period, more than 5 centuries of lordship in nusantara, Sri Vijaya was far greater, supreme, stronger, richer than Melaka empire, which Sri Vijaya, a malay-buddhist kingdom, encompassed most of the area in south east asia ,except part of java ruled under hindhu dynasties,all states in sumatera suvarnadvipa, malay peninsular (hujung tanah)suvarnabhumi, borneo island, south philipines, sulawesi, malay and spice archipelago like maluku,Where all this states were enjoying united under a well structured administration of Sri Vijayan emperor for many centuries, from 7th to 13th century, which then gradually weakened by internal conflicts, politics, rebellion, and external threats from south india (the Chola kingdom/raja suran), siam (threating areas in the peninsular)and then overthrown by uprising Majapahit kingdom/empire who take over control on south east asian from sri vijaya in 13th & 14th century.
    Majapahit had gained confidence and motivation from their success in defeating and throw out Kublai Khan Monggol army sent to nusantara. from that point highly spirit Majapahit become the victor expand and took control of south east asia (a lucrative trading path/route for east & west incl. selat melaka, selat riau and selat sunda) from the weakened Sri Vijaya. Majapahit held the lordship in SEA for about 2 centuries (13th & 14th century) until the last descendents/prince of SriVijaya royalty Adityavarman and Parameswara decided to abandoned city of Palembang which is no more safe and suit as a capital being attacked for many times. Adiyavarman royal lineage remains in Sumatera with a new capital and kingdom in minangkabau west sumatera (Pagaruyung), and Parameswara with his royal lineage and loyalties then seek fortune as sea nomadic king, for years, around Riau & Temasik archipelago, moving from a place to another place carrying his households and regalias of SriVijaya years by years. Until he bcomes old, finally he founded Melaka and reestablish the kingdom with the supports of the loyal followers from the ramaining royalties, noblemen, sea people as the guardian/army from small kingdoms of malay islands/archipelago like bentan, riau, temasik, lingga, buru, siantan and with some supports from the malay-bugis clan/tribe who were the sea merceneries and spice traders. And from newly found Melaka, Parameswara had reestablished the old sri vijayan customs,ranks,administration, protocols, laws, agreements and trades back. With lessons and experience learned from fugitive years, quickly Parameswara build the port of Melaka structuredly with facilities and settlements for trading, to reglorify sri vijayan. with loyal support of sea peoples, Melaka had gained security & defence around trading sea routes of Selat riau and selat melaka to protect and safe trading for all ships and traders passing through the seas around malay archipelago/islands and straits. Friendship with Ming Dynasty has contributed to booming trade in Melaka where China has become friend and protector to the Melaka Kingdom from Siam threats. All chinese ships enjoyed peace, safe trading and protection throughout the malay archipelago and straits, free of pirates, under a good friendships and exchange of envoys/missions of Melaka and the Ming Dynasty. So many documents tell us about diplomatic envoys, royal visits and missions within these two nations. enjoyed peace, safe trading and protection throughout the malay archipelago and straits, free of pirates, under a good friendships and exchange of envoys/missions of Melaka and the Ming Dynasty. So many documents tell us about diplomatic envoys, royal visits and missions within these two nations. Trading from east and west exchanging their trades, barter trade and fortunes in Melaka as a meeting place and emporium to the east asian, where all goods, commodity, golds and trades are in Melaka. Not only China, the Japan, from the Ryukyu kingdom was also established trading ties with Melaka as evidence from some documents and findings in ancient Ryukyu kingdom of south Japan.
    In this era that last only for a century,(15th ce) asians had enjoyed a prosperous trading port with customs, profitting each others, the malays, the chinese, the indians, the arabs,the persians, some caucusians and the africans all have their parts and roles gaining wealth without envy under the administrative trading laws & regulations of Melaka that was written for fair trade for all races, where taxation, weights, shipping, cargoes and lots on deck were insured, shares,offences,fines, punishment, religion and protocols were clearly defined in the Canon Laws of Melaka (Hukum Kanun Melaka, like modern days’ act & regulatories), and Maritime Laws of Melaka (Undang-undang Laut Melaka).
    It was evidenced that about 84 different languages spoken or can be heard on the streets of the city of Melaka. That indicates how cosmopolitan multi racial population can live and doing business in one place under a proper and fair administrative system of Melaka. Until a weak ruler come to the throne, at the peak of its era, Sultan Mahmud Shah, the last sultan of melaka, then it is time of treachery, bribery, complacent and arrogant the malay kingdom had ever been. In the last of its days, the Melaka sultanate was full with turbulence, slandering and conspiracy, and the noblemen and king were ill advised by corrupted officials bribed by competing wealthy greedy merchants like raja medeliar, si kitol and naina chatu that has contributed to the falls of melaka from within. At port, foreign traders started to be restless with the corrupted systems and make them disheartened with the current king of melaka administive style. The coming of Portuguese was at the right time when Melaka was already weakened from within and foreign traders have no more respect to the king of Melaka at that time, of his arrogance, ill advised and spoiled. After that, the malays have to suffer from continuous attacks from outside for hundred years. But God saves the sultans and noblemen for them still remain until today but not with the absolute former kingdom and lordships throughout south east asian nowadays like current small states sultanate of Perak, Kedah, Selangor, Brunei, Johor, Pahang, Terengganu, Kelantan, Negeri Sembilan and Perlis, and some still respected royal house like in mataram keraton and the bugis lords around riau archipelago, maybe, for their contributions in receiving and establishing peacefully Islam from the palace to the people and the followers throughout the nusantara. And now we are enjoying as the muslim countries in the south east asian as Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei as well as the south Filipina and Thailand and Kemboja.