SUNGAI PETANI: A debate arose during a global archeology conference here over whether the civilisation in Bujang Valley practised animism instead of Hinduism or Buddhism as previously believed.
Theorising that the valley’s iron smelters about 2,000 years ago practised animism, Prof Datuk Dr Mokhtar Saidin triggered a slew of questions from visiting archaeologists from around the world.
He was guiding the more than 20 archaeologists and conservationists yesterday on a tour of the Sungai Batu Archaeology Site 15km from here.
They are here to speak at the Old Kedah International Conference, held together with the Old Kedah Festival that will last till Monday. This is the first time such a big number of history experts have assembled here.
“The temple ruins we unearthed is unlike any other known in the world. Although the structure resembled Hinduism or Buddhism, this temple does not have the usual eastern or western entrance. Instead, the staircase leading into the temple has a southerly direction that aligns precisely with Mount Jerai in the distance,” Dr Mokhtar told the archaeologists.
Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism archaeology expert Prof Derek Kennet noted that Hindu temple architecture could still be seen on the brick layers of the square platform and said while it was “highly unusual” for this ancient populace to build a Hindu temple on top of the round base of a Buddhist stupa, it was not impossible.
Approached later, Kennet described the wall contours on the square platform, containing ledges, overhangs and a circular bulge, as the unmistakable wall architecture of ancient Indian temples.
“I respect Dr Mokhtar’s academic findings, though I feel that this has to be put through an academic discussion. I’m glad for this conference, which is giving us all a chance to discuss archaeological developments in the region,” he added.
The ruins of Sungai Batu have been proven to be older than Borobudur in Indonesia and Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
This unknown civilisation had thrived more than 1,000 years before the first sultans formed the beginning of today’s Malaysian states.