|A History and a Mystery Carved in Stone
Posted: 12:55 January 2, 2006
A 19th-century portrait of Mayalysia.
As I've mentioned before, the last plantation I worked in Malaysia before migrating to Australia was situated near the town of Sitiawan in Western (Peninsula) Malaysia. One of my first duties in that plantation was to familiarise myself with the plantation boundary. This was of crucial importance as it prevented neighboring plantations and smallholders from encroaching into our plantation. In my stay in the plantation, I patrolled the boundary at least one a month to prevent the above from occurring. In my very first boundary patrol however, I was shocked to notice a strange rock formation at the back of the plantation.
This formation presented itself suddenly to me as I drove along the winding dirt road at the back of the plantation. The whole rocky feature just sort of jumped out of nowhere as I negotiated a tight corner in the road. The first time I saw it, I was completely spellbound. There in front of me were rocky outcrops, about thirty meters high in an array of fascinating shapes. It appeared as if a giant had gone to work a mighty chisel and hammer and carved out all these fantastic shapes. The rocks in this area were all reddish brown in color except for the first rock as we enter the area, which was off white. The locals in the area called this first rock, "lady with a baby". Looking at this rock one would swear that it was chiselled into shape by humans and not shaped by natural forces, as it bore striking resemblance to a lady nursing a baby. It was about thirty meters high and was surrounded by wild shrubs. The other rocks in the area too were no less strange. There was a rock outcrop that looked exactly like a human face. There was a distinct nose, mouth and chin, and wild oil palm trees grew on top of this formation giving it a surreal effect of the head having hair on top. More will be mentioned about this face like structure later. The rest of the rocks appeared to have faces of the Hindu pantheon. Thus one could make out the form of the Hindu god Ganesh, who has an elephant head, the form of Vishnu and that of the goddess Saraswathy, complete with her vina (musical instrument).
After about six months in the plantation, I made discreet inquires from the locals about the history of this place, and why all the rocks in it looked as if they were carved out by human hands. This is the grand story they told me regarding this place.
Close to and north-east of Sitiawan lies the small town of Bruas (Beruas). During earier times, this was the seat of the Hindu kingdom of Ganga Negarra in Malaysia( then called Malaya ). The rulers of this kingdom were from south India and most likely from the early Chola dynasty. It was a prosperous kingdom, and managed to bring several of the neighboring districts under its control. It grew in strength as the years went by, and its successive rulers attempted to break away from the main Chola empire in South India. To bring this renegade kingdom back into the folds of the Chola empire, the then emperor of the Chola kingdom, Rajaraja Cholan II despatched an army to Malaysia to teach the ruler of Ganga Negarra a lesson he would not forget. The ruler of Gangga Negarra got wind of this impending attack from merchants, and prepared to defend his kingdom.
Now close to where my plantation was is a large tract of sandy area. This is sand from the nearby river called Sungei Perak. Throughout history, this river had changed course several times, and each time it did, it left a sandy area behind. My bungalow was situated on this sandy tract. The sand was several meters deep and allowed only certain types of grasses and Tembusu trees to grow on it. The ruler of Ganga Negarra thought he would engage the forces of the Chola empire on this sandy tract. The Sungei Perak was much larger then, and the warships from India would have planned to use it to get as close as possible to the town of Bruas. The ruler of Ganga Negarra therefore planned to surprise the Chola forces by engaging them as soon as they left the open seas and entered the Sungei Perak. He probably planned an ambush at this area.
The battle that ensured took place on this sandy tract. The Chola forces were better armed than that of Ganga Neggara. Besides having cannons, the Chola force was battle hardened- having continually fought battles in India. The end result was a riot. The Chola forces practically mowed down the forces of Ganga Negarra. The ruler of Ganga Negarra fled. He had brought his wife and his infant with him, and now they ran for their lives. The baby was only a few months old and the wife clutched it to her bosom as they fled through the trees. The Chola general sent a platoon after the Ganga Neggara king, but the latter being familiar with the area, managed to outdistance himself from them. As they ran deeper into the forest, the baby for one reason or another, was abandoned, and left to die. The king and his wife finally reached the rocky outcrop mentioned above and decided to hide out there. The wife however soon died from a broken heart, pining night and day for her lost child. The king of Ganga Negarra was therefore left alone in this rocky outcrop.
What was not known to the populace of Ganga Negarra however was that A History and a Mystery Carved in Stone. Not only could he meditate for long hours, he had also mastered several yogic powers. With the loss of his wife, the king decided to plunge even deeper into his spiritual practices. Using mind power alone, he started carving the rocks to leave a memento of the tragic events that befell his life. The rock that represented a lady nursing a child was supposed to represent his wife and baby. The rock outcrop that represented a face was to represent himself facing in the direction of his beloved kingdom in Bruas. Being a Hindu, he had carved the other rocks to represent the many gods and goddesses of that religion.
After hearing about the history of this place, I developed a deep respect for it. I went to the place by myself on several occasions and contemplated the events that occurred there several hundred years ago. It was during one of these visits that I got the feeling that the king was still alive and in deep meditation in the area. Using yogic techniques I tried several times to make mental contact with him. There was no response. I knew that yogis in India could stay alive for several hundred years if they wanted to, by sufficiently reducing their metabolisms. A local then told me another story regarding this place which made me want to contact the king all the more. This is what the local had to say.
He had gone to this area to cut bamboo one day, when he noticed a gigantic chilli plant. It was about ten feet tall and its branches spread out about twenty feet in diameter. It was covered in red chillies. As the local approached the tree to pluck some of the chillies, the tree just disappeared. Several other locals had also seen the same chilli plant which disappeared when they got close to it. (A chilli plant is normally about three to four feet in height). What the local saw on another occasion in this area lent proof to the theory that a great yogi lived in that area. While out to cut bamboo on another day in that area, he suddenly found a cave in an area where he was sure there was no cave. He walked slowly into the cave. Although he felt a presence in the cave, he could not see anyone. He however noticed that the floor of the cave was smooth and clean. In the center was a low stool (about six inches high), an incense stand with an incense stick burning in it, a yogi arm support (for meditation), and a water kettle used traditionally by yogis. Seeing all these things freaked the local, who bolted out of the cave. When he was ten meters away, he looked back to have another look at the cave. All he saw was a blank rock face.
After listening to this story, I went back to the area and tried harder in establishing contact with the person who lived there. There was yet again no response. Next, I sought out a friend who was able to go into deep meditation and possessed more yogic powers than I. I brought this friend to the place, and told him to try and establish contact with the person who lived there. He sat down in the area and started to meditate. After about ten minutes, he started trembling, and opened his eyes which had a wild frightened look in them. When I had calmed him down sufficiently, I asked him what the matter was. He replied that he heard a powerful voice telling him that it did not want to be disturbed by anyone. I realised immediately that the king must be in the final stages of emancipation, and therefore did not want to make contact with anyone. I did not venture into the area again.
To this day I think about this magical place - history literally carved in stone.