Sunday, August 21, 2016

My Motherland: The Highland Nation (我的高山祖国)

Since we are mentioning about translation, I would like to explore my motherland, the meaning of Malaysia (formerly Malaya) in Sanskrit just for fun.

The word ‘Malaya’ is perhaps originated from a Sanskrit name referring to a place. As recorded in an Indian epic, the Mahabhrata compiled somewhere around 4BC, Tamilian king sent a ship made of gold to bring chendana (sandalwood) oil of Malaya to celebrate Yudhisthira king’s coronation.

In another ancient Indian literature, Satapatha Brahmana in Vajasaneyi Sanhita Yajur Veda recorded that when the big flood submerged the land and formed the Indian Ocean, the water on Jambudvipa subsequently subsided, the ark of Manu was grounded on the north of Malaya Parvatas; which should be the current Malabar mountain ranges. However, Malabar is an Arabic word originated from Sanskrit ‘Malaya-vara’ or ‘the mountain nation’. Coincidentally, ‘malayalam’ refers to ‘mountain range’ and ‘malaya’ refers to ‘mountain’. The modern Tamil still calls mountain as ‘malai’.

The work ‘Vayu Purana’ from 5AD mentioned that Jambudvipa was divided into 6 continents. Amongst the continents, there was a ‘Malayadvipa’ which refered to Sumatera however. Perhaps the Indian too like other races tend to name a place new to them with their most familiar name. For example: The Maha-Malaya refers to the highest peak in Sumatera, Gnung Kerintji. While the spiritual mountain, Mandora in Indian epic refers to Si-Guntang Mahameru mountain. There is a river flowing at the foot of Mahameru. This river is known as Sungei Malayu that perhaps was named after some ancient Indian has migrated at the place.

Interestingly, although the Sultanate Melaka has acknowledged the use of the word ‘Malayu’; the Federated Malay States was introduced by the British colonial.

Maybe only the God can reveal the real situation. I will leave the puzzle to scholars to argue about.

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