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Parameswara

Melaka History

Overview
a-famosa

It was in the fourteenth century that the fishing village of Melaka gained the attention a Hindu prince named Parameswara from Sumatra. He was the last ruler of ancient Singapore who was of Malay origin. The ruler decided to make this place a permanent settlement and named it ‘Melaka’ after a tree. A special position is occupied by Melaka Sultanate when it comes to history of Malaysia. The discovery of this new place led to the emergence of new Malayan Empire. Melaka served as the perfect platform on which the Dutch, Portuguese and English played their roles towards shaping the history of this beautiful place. The industrious nature of Parameswara along with chiefs made this place a powerful maritime trading destination attracting traders from different parts. Muslim traders from India and West Asia shifted their attention towards Melaka from other trading places. The strategic location of Melaka made it a popular trading centre with merchants and ships arriving from India, Japan, China, South Africa and Arab.

In the year 1511, Melaka was captured by the Portuguese which soon shifted to the hands on the Dutch in the year 1641. It was in the year, 1795 the British took control of Melaka to prevent French occupancy. However, after treaty of Vienna came into effect, Melaka was again handed over to the Dutch. Following the year 1826, British East India Company together with Penang and Singapore started to govern the place. The place was ruled by the Dutch for more than a century which is prominent from the fine buildings that exist still today. The red Christ Church which is a prominent feature of Melaka city was built with pink bricks that were imported from Holland. Local red lacerite was then used to give the structure that red appearance. The European presence is constantly reminded by some of the famous structures like the St. Paul’s Church and A Famosa.


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FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Thursday November 22, 2012

Have mausoleum for Parameswara

DURING the recent Deepavali holidays, my family and I went to Malacca.

While driving around Malacca town, I noticed Parameswara, the founder of Malacca, had a very short road named after him.

Tun Razak, our “ Bapa Pembangunan” has the longest road in Malacca named after him.

I am not saying, naming the longest road in Malacca after our beloved late Prime Minister is wrong, but why not credit the founder of Malacca with a road which is more prominent and deserving.

We all have learnt since Form 1 that Parameswara was the founder of Malacca.

It’s sad to see that while most of the warriors of Malacca have mausoleums, the main man, who named and brought such progress to the state doesn’t have one.

I’ve read a few articles that the mausoleumof Parameswara is under the lighthouse built by the Portuguese in 1528 or 1529.

Why does the archaeology department not take proactive measures and redesign a mausoleum for the founder of Malacca?

Parameswara was not a myth. Let’s ensure he gets a proper mausoleum for his contributions.

Since the Government is making history a compulsory subject, why not start with what we have.

If Hang Jebat and his friends can have a mausoleum, it’s a shame we don’t have one for Parameswara.

If the A Famosa was patched and rebuilt a few times, what does it take to build a mausoleum for Parameswara?

MEYSHNA NAIR 

Kuala Lumpur

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MELAKA 750 YEARS OLD

Chinese archives hold key to Malacca’s founding

October 11, 2012

FMT LETTER: From NK Khoo, via e-mail

The Malacca sultanate’s existence is proven only through cross reference with other historical archives from China, Siam, Portuguese, etc. because all archives from the Malacca palace were believed to have been destroyed during the wartime.

Historians are fully aware that China’s Ming dynasty history is the most well documented archives in the world, unlike Malacca’s history which was written a hundred years later.

Ming palace records are still existence and can be accessed by researchers to verify when Parameswara visited Nanjing.

Parameswara’s visit to China in 1405 was well documented in the Ming palace official journals with the details such as of what food served to him and his delegation on a particular day.

If the founding date for Malacca is 1262, then the history of the Ming Dynasty and Siam are all proven wrong or at least the Ming Dynasty history has to be brought forward 150 years to synchronise with the new Malacca history as claimed by Malacca government. This is a very unlikely event!

Most world renowned historians will not accept a history announced by local government without proper research works done on the subject. History still has to substantiated with evidences like palace official documents, artifacts, cross reference archives, etc.

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History: Melaka River

Once dubbed ‘Venice of the East’ by European seafarers back in those days when the state has yet to be formed, Melaka River is the point where the history of the great empire of the Malay peninsular, Melaka began. A Prince from Sumatra, Parameswara (the founder of Melaka) had established his sultanate near the mouth of this river in the early 1400s, and his palace was built on the east-bank of the river at the foot of St. Paul’s Hill, then known as Melaka Hill.

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WHAT TREE DID PARAMESWARA SEE WHILE RESTING BESIDES THE RIVER

Saturday November 5, 2011

What tree did Parameswara really see in Malacca?
INTERACTIONS
By FRANCIS NG

IT is taken as a historical fact that Malacca was founded by Parameswara, who named it after the melaka tree. Parameswara, in the legendary account of the founding of Malacca, actually had no idea what the tree was.

He had seen a mouse deer kick one of his hunting dogs and, inspired by the fighting spirit of the mouse deer, he asked his followers “What is the name of the tree under which I am standing?” His followers replied “It is called melaka, your Highness”. Nobody said “Wait, let us check this out.”

I would like to present evidence that Parameswara was wrongly advised. Before anybody questions whether I am qualified to change history, let me explain that my comments are based on botany, and I am, after all, a qualified taxonomic botanist, one who deals with the naming and classification of plants.

The melaka tree, known in Sanskrit as amalaka’, has an ancient and venerable history in Sanskrit culture and medicine.

What’s in a name? Phyllanthus pectinatus is native to Malacca but is often mistaken for Phyllanthus emblica from which Malacca is believed to have gotten its name.
When the Swedish founder of modern plant classification, Carolus Linnaeus, gave this tree its scientific name in 1753, he Latinised amalaka’ to emblica’ and placed it within the genus Phyllanthus. Hence the melaka tree became known in science as Phyllanthus emblica. Phyllanthus emblica is now planted all over Malacca as the state’s iconic foundation tree.

However, what Parameswara saw must have been another species, Phyllanthus pectinatus, which has a superficial resemblance to Phyllanthus emblica.

Phyllanthus pectinatus was first described and named by Joseph Dalton Hooker in 1890, based on specimens collected in Perak, Malacca and Singapore.

I first became aware of the possible mis-identification when I planted melaka’ trees in FRIM (Forest Research Institute Malaysia), some from seeds collected in a forest, and some from seeds collected from a garden.

When the trees grew and produced flowers and fruits I found that they represented two utterly different species. These differences are obvious when specimens of the two species are placed side by side for comparison.

In Phyllanthus emblica, the fruits are clustered at the base of rather robust leafy shoots whereas in Phyllanthus pectinatus they sway in the wind at the ends of the finely feathery leafy shoots.

Inside the fruit is a hard stony structure containing the seeds. This stony structure is sharply 3-angled in Phyllanthus pectinatus but rounded in Phyllanthus emblica. There are also differences in flower structure and in the appearance of the bark.

In trying to figure out the relationship between the two species, I checked the specimens of melaka’ preserved at the herbarium of FRIM.

A herbarium is a place in which specimens collected by plant explorers are permanently preserved for scientific study and reference.

The FRIM herbarium serves as the national herbarium for Malaysia and it has specimens from all over the country, collected by botanists and foresters during the past 100 years of forest exploration. All the specimens of melaka’ in FRIM were of Phyllanthus pectinatus.

When I had the opportunity to visit the world herbarium at Kew, I examined the collections from all over Asia, including the specimens seen by Joseph Dalton Hooker. I also went to the Botanic Gardens Singapore to check the specimens in its herbarium.

Putting all the information together, the picture that emerged was that Phyllanthus emblica has its natural range across India, Burma, Thailand, Indo-china and South China.

In contrast, Phyllanthus pectinatus has its natural range within the Malay Archipelago, especially in Sumatra, Malay Peninsula and Borneo. In their natural state, there is no geographical overlap between the two species.

In brief, Phyllanthus pectinatus is a true forest tree of the Malay Archipelago and it is particularly common in the forests of Malacca state.

In contrast, Phyllanthus emblica occurs only as a planted garden tree in the Malay Peninsula and the rest of the Malay Archipelago. It has never been able to escape and establish itself in our forests.

The best place to see Phyllanthus pectinatus is in the recreational forest of Ayer Keroh just outside the city. This area is now being redesignated as a botanical garden, but its core area is maintained as natural forest.

In this forest, there are many natural trees of Phyllanthus pectinatus, prominently mislabelled as Phyllanthus emblica. Just outside the forest, the true Phyllanthus emblica has been planted prominently in various locations for visitors to see.

Nobody has noticed that the native trees in the forest are a different species from the planted trees outside. What Malacca needs is a botanist, ideally a taxonomist cum horticulturist, to manage its botanical garden.

Malacca may have to accept that it has two iconic foundation trees: the tree that Parameswara saw and misidentified, and the tree it got mistaken for.

To me, the native tree is the more attractive of the two.

? Botanist and researcher Francis Ng is the former deputy director-general of the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia. He is now the botanical consultant to Bandar Utama City Centre Sdn Bhd and the Sarawak Biodiversity Centre. ([email protected])

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