Sabtu, 17 Mei 2014

Munshi Abdullah, "Keling" dan "Benggali"


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Abdullah Munsyi was not Malay by descent , although there may be many Malays who would like to believe he was a Malay .

Abdullah was born into an early immigrant family that we today would call Indian-Muslim .

At home they all spoke Tamil , and would read and write in Tamil .

This picture is not dissimilar to the practice of many indian-muslim families in the country today , for they speak Tamil at home too .

Nonetheless Abdullah did not use the term Indian-muslim when categorizing his family and community , for this term was never in vogue then .

He used the word "keling" , a word that was perfectly acceptable and was in use throughout the Malay Sultanate era in 15th century , down to the Portuguese and Dutch period from16 to 18th century , right up to Abdullah's time in 19th century .

Abdullah received his early education in Tamil . He was tutored to speak and write good Tamil . He read Tamil literature . He learned arithmetic and Indian business practices in Tamil .

At the same time he was taught to read Quran and learn Arabic .

It was later on that he was sent to read and write Malay under a few reputable Malay scholars who lived in Melaka town .

It was in this way that Abdullah was introduced to abundant classical Malay literature , and which he came to love .

So whatever skills he had in the Malay language were acquired .

Malay was not his mother tongue .

~ Datuk Zahari A. Rashid
Thursday, May 15, 2014 2:13:00 PM
Blogger Syed Akbar Ali said...
Datuk Zahari Rashid,

Thank you for your comments. However I have to point out a few things.

You can travel to Tamil Nadu in India today which is home to 80 million Tamils and ask them, 'Are you a keling?' or 'Do you know what is a keling?' They will be puzzled. 80 million Tamils in India today will not know the term 'keling'.

You may have better luck (not much better though) if you asked them 'Who were the Kalingas in ancient India?'

Tamil is listed as an "ancient language" like Hebrew. It is also among the oldest written languages in the world. Hence it is an impossibility that Abdullah Munshi's family would address themselves as 'keling' at home. They would call themselves Tamils.

Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir or Abdullah Munshi was definitely a writer in the Malay language. He would not be surprised if later in history some people elevated him to be the "father" of modern Malay literature.

But I think Abdullah Munshi would be amused that latter day Malays would say that he was a Malay by race.

Or that others may come along and counter argue that Abdullah Munshi was not a Malay. A waste of time.

Also at that time there was no New Economic Policy so Abdullah Munshi would have had less need to be classified a bumiputra and things like that. Bumiputra itself is a Tamil Sanskrit word.

In Malacca where I spent my teenage years in the 70s (about 120 years after Abdullah Munshi died) I still heard local verbal folklore about Abdullah Munshi from older people.

People said that he learnt to write Tamil by writing in the sand on the beach. His father told him, 'Your finger must become as sharp as your tongue'. From this story I also understood that the narrations about Abdullah Munshi being of Arab descent (from Yemen as usual) could not be true. I am quite sure Abdullah Munshi was a 100% Tamil by DNA till his dying day.

Coming back to "keling", the Kalingas were an Indian Empire quite far from the Tamils of Southern India. They were located further up the east Indian coast. Here is some history :

Begin quote :

Kalinga (Oriya: କଳିଙ୍ଗ, Devnagari: कलिङ्ग, Telugu: కళింగ) was an early republic in central-eastern India, which comprised most of the modern state of Odisha, northern parts of Andhra Pradesh and a portion of Madhya pradesh

Kharavela was the warrior emperor of Kalinga. He was responsible for the propagation of Jainism in the Indian Subcontinent but his importance is neglected in many accounts of Indian history.

According to the Hathigumpha inscription near Bhubaneswar, Odisha, he attacked Rajagriha in Magadha, thus inducing the Indo-Greek king Demetrius to retreat to Mathura.

Cont..part 2
Thursday, May 15, 2014 3:56:00 PM
Blogger Syed Akbar Ali said...
Cont part 2

But this inscription doesn't mean that he merged Magadha in Kalinga. But this shows his strong ties with the Shunga ruler Pushyamitra and Agnimitra who have just started their rule after uprooting the Mauryans.

The Kharavelan Jain empire had a formidable maritime empire with trading routes linking it to Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Borneo, Bali, Sumatra and Java.

*****Colonists from Kalinga settled in Sri Lanka, Burma, as well as the Maldives and Malay Archipelago.****


The term "Keling".

Long past the end of the Kalinga Kingdom in 1842 CE, derivatives from its name continued to be used as the general name of India in what are now Malaysia and Indonesia.

"Keling" was and still is in use in these countries as a word for "Indian", though since the 1960s Indians came to consider it offensive.

It may be due to "Sadhabas" (or Sadhavas) were ancient mariners from the Kalinga empire, which roughly corresponds to modern Odisha, India.

They used ships called Boitas to travel to distant lands such as Bali, Java, Sumatra, and Borneo, in Indonesia, and to Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Persia, China, Greece and Africa to carry out trade and for cultural expansion. - End of quote.

In Malaya the term "keling" is a left over from a very much earlier history when the Kalinga Kings colonised the Nusantara all the way to Bali.

The Tamils including Abdullah Munshi were latecomers who inherited the name 'keling' from the Malays who already knew the Kalingas.

Interestingly the Malay language is also historically familiar with the term "benggali" which is now wrongly used for Punjabis.

Bengal and Bangladesh lie on the extreme east coast of India whereas Punjab is on the border with Pakistan.

Benggalis come from Bengal (India) and Bangladesh. Bangla-desh literally means 'Desa orang Benggali' or the Land of the Benggalis.

But why does the Malay language address the Punjabis as Benggalis? Surely the Punjabis never adressed themselves as 'saya benggali'.

The reason is again because the Benggalis had a much earlier history with the Nusantara that precedes the arrival of the Punjabis in this region.

When the British brought the Punjabis, the Malays called them 'benggali'.

If you go to Punjab today and ask them if they are benggalis, it will surprise the punjabis too.

Regards.

Syed Akbar
Thursday, May 15, 2014 3:56:00 PM

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