A race between ancient civilisation and development
The Bujang Valley, otherwise known as Lembah Bujang, is the richest archaeological site in the whole of Malaysia. Sprawling over an incredible 224 square kilometres, it is an ancient historical complex containing nearly 100 ancient tomb temples, called candi. Well, that was until recently when this incredible site was destroyed by a developer and the candi were pulverised before they could be fully documented or unearthed. Tragically, this would not have happened had the Kedah state government responded to an application for Heritage status back in 2006. As always, it is the dollar that holds more weight.
The candi, short for candigarh, are places of worship with elements of either Hinduism or Buddhism and, in the Bujang Valley, are believed to date back to as early as the 8 th century. The site is also immensely significant as the foundation for the rise of the Malay kingdom in Southeast Asia and for being the region’s foremost port and trading centre in ancient times.
“These ruins are links to the rich melting pot of a Malay kingdom where this area used to be a trading port with traders from China and India conducting trade with the local Malays here,” said Datuk Nadarajan, who has been conducting in-depth research into the early civilisation in Lembah Bujang
However, the remnants of this era are now just a memory as developers cleared the land and threw away the debris after digging out the ruins of several candi, including one of the largest temples measuring 150-feet wide by 250-feet deep. They then paved over many of them in the name of development.
The move has attracted fury nationwide as the authorities are not seen to have made any effort to preserve and conserve the ancient structures in Lembah Bujang. “The government should treat this place as a rich historical site and do all that’s possible to document all of the remaining sites here and protect it from harm,” said Nadarajan.
Nadarajan has said that if no stern action is taken this time, it will become a norm for developers to remove and destroy these ancient links to history where signs of early Malay civilisation can be found. It raises questions about why the government would not wish to preserve such an important site when it also has the potential to attract the tourist dollar. It appears that the money paid by developers is just too attractive to decline.
By John Black