In the 2nd century, there was once a kingdom known as Langkasuka. We do not know exactly where this kingdom was or how it sprang into existence, but it is believed to have seen its rise and fall in the Malay Peninsula. The name of the kingdom is Sanskrit in origin and is thought to be a combination of langkha for ‘resplendent land’ and sukkha for ‘bliss’.
Merong Mahawangsa, the founding father of Langkasuka, was a legendary warrior and ruler. His story is narrated in the Kedah Annals, where he is honoured as a hero who became the first king of Langkasuka, which is located in present day Kedah.
Before he founded Langkasuka, he was a fighter and a ruler of many unknown kingdoms. While he travelled around from kingdom to kingdom, he mostly stayed in Rome.
One day, he left Rome to do some trading in China. But on his voyage, as he sailed past the Arabian Sea, he was suddenly attacked by the Garuda, a divine eagle-like sun bird who is hailed as the king of birds. The attack destroyed most of Merong’s fleet and they fled to the nearest land of Bujang Valley where they settled and founded the kingdom of Langkasuka.
Strategically sandwiched between the snake-like life-sustaining Muda River and the majestic Mount Jerai which could be seen by ships arriving from far far away, Bujang Valley was a thriving and bustling port which dates back over two millennia. Lembah Bujang, as it is known in Malay, is a sprawling historical complex situated near Merbok, Kedah. It is now famed as the richest archaeological area in Malaysia. These archaeological remains tell a long history of Hindu-Buddhist kingship. In Sanskrit, bhujanga means serpent and the name itself roughly translates to ‘Serpent Valley’.
Muthiah Alagappa, in an article for the Carnegie Endowment for for International Peace states, “Its structures may not be comparable to those of Angkor Wat in Cambodia or Borobudur and Prambanan in Indonesian but the sprawling complex in Bujang Valley predates them by centuries. It is older than Indonesia’s Srivijaya and Majapahit empires and Indochina’s Campa and Cambodia empires… Bujang Valley highlights the fact that Malay and Malayan history is deeper and older than the Malacca sultanate.”
The prevailing theory about Bujang Valley’s origins is that it started as a trading settlement; before evolving into the first port in Southeast Asia and becoming one of the busiest maritime capitals of its time. It was heavily influenced by the ancient Tamil kingdoms and is thought to initially have been a part of the regionally dominant Langkasuka empire before it was absorbed by the Srivijaya Empire.