Friday, May 6, 2011

Bahasa Melayu Kuno

"Svasti Cri !"

Bahasa Melayu Kuno is Old Malay. How old? Well, the history of Malay language logically should begin at a time when man is civilized enough to put his sophisticated language into writing, so that excludes the pre-historic stuff found in caves.

Put yourself back in the time when the Indians have yet to set their feet on the Malay archipelago. A time the Malay people roamed about, carefree, in the lush rain forest. What to do when they need to jot down pantuns? Pluck some bamboo leaves and writelah! Or, chop a bamboo trunk to make "writing planks".

Between carving on a HARD stone and writing on SOFTER pieces of bamboo, Wan would prefer the latter. Maybe that was how the Malay folks in Southern Sumatra felt too when they recorded the original Malay in the form of sharp Rencong script on bamboo writing materials.

Contemporaries in Egypt opted the hard way inscribing hieroglyphics on walls of pyramids which enabled a wealth of their glorious past to survive down to the present time.

We can't say the same for Bahasa Melayu Kuno in Rencong script, written on bamboos and tree barks kept under high humidity. As time goes by, these records are also "gone with the wind." Poof, no proof!

That is why even though Rencong is the oldest known Malay, Indian-imported Pallava script which succeeded Rencong as the Malay writing system, inscribed on a stone found in Palembang officially got the honour as the oldest physical form of Malay text. I think it's safer to say "officially" because other references claim there are older inscriptions but majority say it's Kedukan.

P.s. Pallava is a term used in South-east Asia for Vatteluttu, an ancient Tamil script from South India.

This Kedukan stone inscription tells about Dapunta Hyang's journey to build Srivijaya, a long lost ancient Buddhist kingdom which existence was proven only in early 1990's. A kingdom called Malayu was among the first to be integrated into the empire. This kingdom was also believed to be the origin of the term "Melayu".

Transliteration and adaption of the Kedukan Inscription into Latin Script, please note the "c" is read as "sy".
Svasti cri
cakavarsatita 605 ekadaci
cuklapaksa vulan vaicakha daputa
hyang nayik di samvau mangalap
di saptami cuklapaksa
vulan jyestha dapunta hyang marlapas
dari minana Tamvar (Kamvar)
mamava yang vala dua laksa
ko dua ratus cara di samvau
dangan jalan sarivu tlu ratus sapulu dua vanakna
datang di matada (nau) sukhacitta
di pancami cuklapaksa vulan asada
laghu mudita datang
marvuat vanua ... Crivijaya
jaya siddhayatra subhika ...

Translation into modern Malay:

Selamat bahagia
pada tahun saka 605 hari kesebelas
dari bulan terang bulan waisaka daputa
baginda naik perahu mencari rezeki
pada hari ketujuh bulan terang
bulan jyesta dapunta baginda berlepas dari muara Kampar
membawa askar dua laksa
dua ratus orang di perahu
yang berjalan seribu tiga ratus dua belas banyaknya
datang di matada dengan suka cita
pada hari kelima bulan terang bulan asada
dengan lega datang
membuat negeri ... Seriwijaya
yang berjaya, yang bahagia, yang makmur

A chart comparing Bahasa Melayu Kuno in Pallava to moden Malay:

vulan bulan month
nayik naik go aboard
samvau sampau, sampan A large boat
mengalap mengambil to seek
marlapas berlepas depart
mamava membawa to bring
vala bala, balatentera army
laksa jumlah yang tidak terkira multitude
dangan dengan in the manner of
sarivu seribu a thousand
tlu, telu tiga three
sapuluh dua sepuluh ( dan ) dua twelve
vanakna banyaknya this much
sukhacitta sukacita happily
marvuat membuat to build
vanua benua, negeri continent, kingdom
ko ke to

Pallava evolved into ancient Javanese Kawi scrpt. We can see combination of Kawi and Jawi on some ancient Malay tombstones. A prominent example in Malaysia is the Pengkalan Kempas inscription at Negeri Sembilan. Today, Kawi is extinct as a spoken language but still is used for literary purposes in Java, Bali and Lombok.

The influence of Sanskrit can be seen in many loan words of Bahasa Melayu Kuno. In the Kedukan example above, "Svasti cri" and "sukhacitta" are Sanskrit.

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