Couple of weeks ago, I had a surprise waiting for me. A surprise from as far as Indonesia. Almost 4 years ago, we left Cambodia and 5 years ago, we made our memorable trip to Bali, Yogyakarta and Jakarta – the mesmerising cities of Indonesia. This surprise was a delicious package, sent by my Indonesian friend ‘I’.
As a person who respects traditional cuisine and culture, I am amazed by the ‘cuisinical’ links that my state Tamilnadu shares with south-east Asia – especially with the countries I have visited till date- Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.
‘I’ addressed me as ‘sister’ – I am reminded of the Tamil verse written in Purananooru – one of the many collections of poetries in the Sangam age (3rd BCE to 3rd ACE), , by the Tamil Poet ‘kaniyan poongundranar’:
“yaadhum oore yaavarum kelir” –
யாதும் ஊரே யாவரும் கேளிர்
தீதும் நன்றும் பிறர்தர வாரா
நோதலும் தணிதலும் அவற்றோ ரன்ன
சாதலும் புதுவது அன்றே, வாழ்தல்
இனிதென மகிழ்ந்தன்றும் இலமே முனிவின்
இன்னா தென்றலும் இலமே, மின்னொடு
வானம் தண்துளி தலைஇ யானாது
கல் பொருது மிரங்கு மல்லல் பேரியாற்று
நீர்வழிப் படூஉம் புணைபோல் ஆருயிர்
முறை வழிப் படூஉம் என்பது திறவோர்
காட்சியில் தெளிந்தனம் ஆகலின், மாட்சியின்
பெரியோரை வியத்தலும் இலமே,
சிறியோரை இகழ்தல் அதனினும் இலமே. (புறம்: 192)
To us all towns are our own, everyone our kin,
Life’s good comes not from others’ gifts, nor ill,
Pains and pain’s relief are from within,
Death’s no new thing, nor do our bosoms thrill
When joyous life seems like a luscious draught.
When grieved, we patient suffer; for, we deem
This much-praised life of ours a fragile raft
Borne down the waters of some mountain stream
That o’er huge boulders roaring seeks the plain
Tho’ storms with lightning’s flash from darkened skies.
Descend, the raft goes on as fates ordain.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise!
We marvel not at the greatness of the great;
Still less despise we men of low estate.
Kaniyan Poongundran, Purananuru – 192
(Adapted from translation by G.U.Pope, 1906)
yaadhum oore yaavarum kelir – the first line of the poem means – ‘To us all towns are our own, everyone our kin’ – the thought of world is one, written two millennia ago is a startling evidence of the well established Tamil civilization.
This thought of oneness is what I felt, when I visited the medieval temples of south-east asia. The cultural and historical impact that the temples have left behind in my mind is huge. The historical sites are not mere tourist attractions to me – but they are evidences of a long lost civilizational connect – often researched by scholars.
The former Indian President, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam while rendering his speech on the occasion of the golden jubilee year of the European Union in April 2007 spoke about Kaniyan Poongundranar and his ‘world is one’ concept-
“i am reminded of the dream of the indian poet kaniyan poongundranar who articulated 3,000 years back in tamil classic Purananuru , he says “yaadhum oore yaavarum kelir” which means, “i am a world citizen, every citizen is my own kith and kin” he said 3,000 years back”
When ‘I’, my Indonesian friend sent me a few traditional sweets of the country, I was delighted. First, there was the joy of receiving a surprise, next the joy of receiving one of my favorite delicacies, next was the incomparable elation of revisiting the past – the recent touristic and the distant historic past.
This is the exotic package I received –
Dadar Gulung is sweet coconut pancake; Onde Onde are deep fried glutinous rice balls filled with mung beans and sugar and wrapped in sesame seeds, and Kelepons are green coloured steamed rice balls filled with liquid palm sugar and coated in grated coconut.
All of these and more that we tasted during our Indonesian trip back in 2014 – from my photo collection-
Now, one would understand my delight after I received onde onde, dadar gulung and kelepon from ‘I’. The taste that I had cherished for so long, arrived so beautifully and rekindled my fondness for south-east Asian countries.
Our spread in the hotel dinner also had these –
Shrinking the world into one nation and considering all citizens as kith and kin is certainly an unbelievable noble thought. The same way – respecting different beliefs, embracing different cultures, accepting and reciprocating the warmth of humanity is what strikes us the most in the medieval Indonesian historical places that we visited.
History provides clues to various aspects of identity of a race. Language, Religion, Trade, Culture, Cuisine and many more contribute to this great search called ‘Identity’. Indonesia teaches strong lessons to countries that fail to understand and preserve their rich history and heritage.
A country that has transformed into an Islamic Nation, Indonesia sets an example in conserving its rich past, wherein medieval temples might occupy the largest fraction in its historical study. The temples, especially in Yogyakarta or Jogja stand as great representations of the country’s antiquity and glorious past.
The excellent way, these have been preserved shows the country’s respect for its past, irrespective of the present faith. This open minded acceptance of history is what makes Indonesia, a country par tolerance.
In my next post, I invite the readers to a pictoral tour of the beautiful medieval temple sites that we visited in the province of Yogyakarta.