Lost city believed found in Johor
BY TEOH TEIK HOONG and AUDREY EDWARDS
Aerial view of an unusually well-defined 'block' (pic right), possibly the base of a temple complex or stupa, at the possible site of the lost city of Kota Gelanggi.--Picture courtesy of RAIMY CHE-ROSS
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.Manuscript leads to lost city
RARE FIND: Raimy pointing to an unusual square earthern platform which was discovered along the pathway leading into the reported site of the lost city of Kota Gelanggi.
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.
“There is a wealth of information we can derive from this city.
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.
Edited by Hang Li Po, 28 February 2006 - 11:27 PM.