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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
"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
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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