Thursday, November 14, 2013

Discover the Golden Age of Malacca

Hindu kingdoms in Peninsular Malaysia were not as well known as their counterparts in Cambodia and Indonesia, until around the 15th century. They only came into prominence with the establishment of a Malay kingdom called, Srivijaya, which in the mid 1400s came to be regarded by Chinese, Indian and Arab traders as the best trading port in the region.

Srivijay, the first great maritime kingdom of the Malay archipelago was founded around 1400AD by a fleeing Palembang prince, Parameswara. He was an able administrator who transformed the sleepy backwater, Malacca into a wealthy kingdom by successfully exploiting its strategic location for international trade.

During Parameswara’s rule, Malacca grew to become the most influential port in all of Southeast Asia.  This is largely due to the fact that Parameswara put in place efficient systems, which greatly facilitated trade through Malacca. At any given time, dozens ships from various kingdoms could be seen docked in Malacca’s harbor.

Each incoming ship was welcomed by a multilingual harbor captain, ably assisted by a retinue of staff who would see to all the visiting ship’s needs. The docks of the harbor were also equipped with guarded storehouses where goods could be stored until the traders arrived. Additionally, the kingdom also formed alliances with outlying tribes and ports to form a sort of regional navy, which policed waters and provided cover to trading vessels, thus protecting them from ‘the scourge of the high seas’, the dreaded pirates.

This burgeoning international trade brought Islam to Malacca’s shores and Parameswara(he converted to Islam and took the name Iskandar Shah) and rulers who followed him came to be known ‘Sultans’. At the height of its power, the Malacca Sultanate encompassed the whole of the Malay Peninsula extending until Pantani in the north and it also included the neighboring island of Sumatra and its areas like Aru, Rokan, Siak, Kampar and Inderagiri. Unfortunately, the Golden Age of the Malacca Sultanate barely lasted for a century for in 1511, the Portuguese arrived in Malacca and established a colonial legacy that subsequently featured the Dutch and the British.

This colonial rule lasted way until the 20th century, till Malaysia gained its independence in 1957.

No comments:

Post a Comment