KELING

BY
DR.S.JAYABARATHI



    This questions was raised to me Sydney Bala Pillai who was the owner of Asia Pacific IT company, The Tamil ERumbugaL Group, the Tamil.net Discussions Group and the Sangkancil Discussion Group.
    The Tamil.net was the group to use Tamil fonts in email discussions.
    He brought in about 3000 members into that group.
    Some of veterans who are still around belonged to Tamil.net.
    Bala Pillai brought us together.
    Agathiyar Yahoo Groups is an off-shoot of Tamil.net

JayBee writes:

    In the ancient times and until the ninteenth century, the shipping traffic between India and South East Asia and the Far East, depended very much on the monsoon winds.

    In those days(around 800 years ago) the ports and harbours in the Indian seaboard of the Bay of Bengal were many. Among them, the important ones were KoRkai, Kaayal alias KIlzakkarai, PauthiramaNikkapattinam or Vahudhapuri, AlzaganKuLam, ThoNdi, Nagappattinam, Pumpuhar, Thirumalairayan Pattinam, Pugai, KatalMallai, Mayilai, Mimisal, Palur, Kalinggappattinam, and several others.
    Among these Palur in Kalinga was  the nearest and was in astraight line from SE Asia. The direction of the Monsoon winds were optimum in Palur. Moreover, the sea currents were also very favourable. Therefore, this was the most suitable place for a very fast and safe journey .
    There was a undersea current which ran from the mouth of the Godavari River to North Sumatra and South Thailand.
    To get the maximum benefit from the South West Monsoon and North East Monsoon, the best ports were situated in Kalinga.
    These port cities and markets served all the countries which bordered on Kalinga. Not only them, but also the countries which were adjacent to them and beyond.
    Great kingdoms and empires like the Vakatakas, Chalukyas, Western Chalukyas, Andras, Chodas, Malavas, Paramara Bhojas, and others, these ports were the flowing points.


 
    There was also another reason.
    Several Kalingan royal dynasties fitted out great expeditions with numerous huge ships with their subject people and colonised many places in South East Asia and Ceylon. The royal houses of Sinhala and the Kalinga dynasty of Java were founded by these people.
    The ships would start from Kalinga and go straight to Nicobar. or Ta Kuapa in south Thailand. Otr they would travel south and reach From there, they would reach the kingdoms of North Sumatra like Akshaya, or Kadaram in Malaya.

    In the ancient times, among the people who came from India, the Andras, Kalingas, Bengalis, and Tamils were predominant. Among these, the Kalingas came in large numbers.
    People from interior areas like Deccan, Esatern Maraththa and Kannada prefered to travel from Palur and Kalingapattinam.
    Therefore, these ports of Kalinga had the most amount of traffic and also had the most amount of trade and were of maximum economic importance.
 
    Since the majority of ships were coming from Kalinga, and the travellers, even though of other nationalities embarked and arrived from Kalinga, the people of South East Asia addressed everyone as Kalingans.
    In the Malay language, the name 'Keling' which is a derivative of Kalinga, became the common name for all Indians. The Chinese call them as 'Kleynga' They usually add a suffix 'Ki' which means 'devil'.
    The ancient Chinese used to call the Kalingas as Kaleynga and the Tamils as Chu-lien. Chu-lien is derived from Cholzia - a native of Cholza Desa. Now the word has become Chulia and is used to denote the Tamil Muslims.
 
    Six hundered years ago, the Bengalis were differentiated from the others. They were addressed as 'Banggali'. Now the name is used to denote anyone from North India. The Punjabi Sikhs are called as Banggali. Even the Tamils call them as 'Seekku VanggaaLi'. The Sikhs came to be called by such a name because they would come all the way from Punjab to Calcutta and take the ships to South East Asia.

    When the Portugues first came to Malaya, they were called as Banggali Puteh - 'The White Bengalis'. Later on the mistake was realised and they were called by the name 'Ferringgi' which is a derivative of the word 'Frank'.
    Because of the impact that the Frankish Empire had upon the ancient Western world, the name Frank became famous and stuck until the Italians, Porutuguese, Spanish, etc., came to be called by that name.
 
    The advent ot the Kalingas stopped about six hundred years ago.
But the Tamils were still coming and going. However, the name Keling stuck to them. Every town had its own quarter where the Tamils lived. These were known as Pekan Keling, Kampong Keling, and Tanjong Keling.

    During the times of the Malaccan Empire, the Tamil merchants lived there in glory with great richness and influence. The Portuguese travellers have written much about them. They address those merchants as Chiitis. This is a derivative of the Tamil word Chetti. They also called them as Kelings or Quelins. They say that the part of the city of Malacca where the Chiities lived, was bigger, better, more beautiful, and more prosperous than the rest of Malacca. That particular part still exists as 'Tanjong Keling'.

    Castanheda was aPortuguese traveller who lived in Malacca during its heyday - 1528 to 1538. He has written about the Kelings.

Castanheda:
    "In the northern part of the city, live merchants known as Quelins(Kling, the people of Kalinga, from India); In this part, the town is much larger than at any other. There are at Malacca many foreign merchants, who I said before live among themselves. They are moors and pagans. The pagans come principally from Paleacate; they are installed permanently. They are very rich. They are the greatest merchants of the world at thisperiod".
        "They evaluate their wealth only in Bahars of gold.; there are some possessing 60 quintals of gold( 1 quintal = 700 kilograms). They do not consider as rich, the merchant who, in a single day, does not buy three or four ships charged with merchandises of grear value, and make them reload(the ships) and pay them their proper amounts.
    Thus, this port is the most important in the world and has the richest merchandise known to the whole world".

    Castanheda says that they are from Paleakat. PaLaiyakat is a region of Thondai Mandalam which is made up of the south eastern districts of Andra and the north eastern districts of Tamilnadu. It also includes Cholza land. In later times, this was called as Palekat or Pulikat. The Chulias came to be refered to as Plekat person by the Malays. Special types of sarongs, white cloth and such like items were imported from Palekat. So much so that the sarngs came to called as Pulicat or Paleikat.
 
    It should be noted that Castanheda refers to Non Muslim and Non Christian merchants as Kelings.
 
    There is a big mosque which was built by the Tamil Muslims. It is called the Kapitan Keling Mosque. Kapitan Keling was the name of an officer designated by the Sultan. This officer was the leader of the Kelings and was in-charge of their affairs. This mosque is in Chulia Street. Chulia stand for the Tamil Muslims. It was originally Cholzia and became Malayised into Chulia.
    One thousand years ago, when the hegemony of the Cholzas was there, the Tamils were known as the Chulia or Chu lien.
    But at a later time, this name came to be applied to only the Tamil Muslim merchants from the region around Nagapattinam.
    Now that name is also out-of use. They call them as 'Mamak.
    At present, the name Keling stands for Non-Muslim Tamils.
    Keling is used in a derogatory manner in Malaysia. But in Indonesia no such bad stigma is attached. It is just a name.

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