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This chapter takes a foundational Muslim tradition known from early Arab sources and widespread in Muslim Southeast Asia, namely Adam’s banishment from paradise and his landing in Sarandib (the Arabic name for Sri Lanka), as a starting point to ask whether Adam’s fall to earth in this particular site mattered to, or shaped in some way, Malay perceptions of exile to colonial Ceylon, and if so, how? Based on references to Adam and his plight found in Malay sources from Sri Lanka, Arabic sources, among them Ibn Battuta’s Travels, and the Javanese Serat Menak Serandhil (a volume of Menak tales narrating the life of the Prophet’s uncle Menak Amir Hamza, which unfolds in Sarandib), the chapter argues that the ancient story of Adam’s banishment from paradise to earth, a paradigm for all future banishments, was deployed to frame and partially give meaning to exile to Ceylon. Recalling Adam’s fall shifted the temporal frame of political exile under colonial domination and located contemporary, worldly events within a divinely determined chronology.
Although not all Malays in early nineteenth-century Ceylon were associated with the military, as many as 75 percent of Malays served as soldiers in the British colonial army under Governor North. And while this figure was reduced later in the century, the ethos of, and attachment to, military culture remained central to Malay life for at least several decades after the Malay Regiment was disbanded in 1873. Taking this phenomenon as its starting point, this chapter focuses on Malay military affiliation and its links and overlaps with the Malays’ literary culture, including modes of writing as evident in letters, family diaries and manuscript colophons, practices of copying, inscribing, and professing humility, and the role of soldiers in the production and preservation of texts. In addition, the chapter considers perceptions of the Malays as formulated and reflected in writings of the period in Dutch, English, Malay and Sinhala, representing diverse perspectives on Malay life and martial experiences in Ceylon. Finally, the chapter asks how exploring pivotal episodes in Ceylon’s military history – colonialism, the Kandy Wars, the transition between empires – from a Malay vantage point affects the ways this history can be understood.
This chapter considers Ceylon as a crossroads by way of a close reading of a Malay Compendium from early nineteenth-century Colombo. The references and texts it contains are clear indicators of intellectual and religious connections that the Malays maintained with the archipelago and Arabia. And this realization, in turn, suggests that, rather than viewing the Malays in Ceylon as occupying a distant, marginal corner of a vast Malay sphere, their physical and figurative location between the Malay and Arab worlds signifies that crossroads, connections and movement are more appropriate conceptual categories for considering their case than is marginality. Within the Compendium and other nineteenth-century manuscripts, these connections are most concretely and minutely evident in sections containing passages translated from Arabic, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence and even word by word, the latter taking the form of interlinear translation. Through an analysis of this volume’s content, language use and historical echoes, the chapter also argues for the need to look beyond the common, generalizing and flattening terminology of "Sri Lankan Malays." Deconstructing nomenclature and its history exposes the diversity of those sent into exile and enlistment in terms of language, place of origin and additional forms of affiliation.
The chapter continues dwelling on the theme, introduced in Chapter 4, of exilic life as depicted and remembered in Javanese texts, with an emphasis on (1) the challenges and emotional turmoil experienced by long-term exiles returning from Ceylon to Java and (2) a gendered perspective on exile and return. The former is explored primarily through the textual testimonies narrating the return of Pangeran Juru, previously known as Natakusuma, who was the chief council to King Pakubuwana II until he was banished in 1742. Depictions of his return after more than a decade in exile provide evidence of the transformative effects of the experience and the struggle to reintegrate into court life. As for gender, the chapter argues that, although women’s voices recounting exile are even rarer than men’s, it is women who tend to deliver the more detailed, emotional and thus revealing accounts. It is also their exilic lives whose traces tend to come to us through narrations of marriage, love relationships, widowhood and divorce, bringing out more fully the human dimension of living through exile and return.
This chapter expands further on the documentation of the Malay experience in Ceylon and its forms of writing. It asks how the Malay presence in Ceylon was made sense of, remembered, and consolidated into a meaningful experience that would be passed down through the generations; it considers the always-complex diasporic condition and the gaps and silences inherent in its archives, viewing Malay diasporic life and writing as loosely forming a vernacular frontier of language, culture and religion. The chapter draws on a wide range of sources from the nineteenth century but highlights especially the figure and writings of Baba Ounus Saldin (b. 1832): author, publisher, editor and religious leader. Reading two of his works side by side, one a history of the Malay community explicitly aimed at a younger generation (Syair Faid al-Abad), and the other containing his personal and family memories (Kitab Segala Peringatan), suggests a pattern of Malay identity in late nineteenth-century Ceylon that combined strong Islamic sentiments with pride in the Malays’ contribution to imperial wars. The chapter concludes by considering the Malays’ movement “forward” from people of mixed, diverse backgrounds toward becoming “Malay,” but also “backwards,” through their writing, to those multiple roots and routes.
When considering Lanka and banishment, one cannot but think of the Ramayana, a pivotal religious, cultural and literary influence across South and Southeast Asia for many centuries. In Java especially, a Ramayana textual tradition stretching back to the ninth century, the story’s visibility in carved images on sacred landmarks, and its popularity in performative traditions meant that it was widely known, interpreted and appreciated, including during and after Java’s widespread Islamization. This chapter asks whether the Ramayana – with its central theme of banishment to Lanka – played a role in the Malay exilic imagination. Did exiles and others, and their descendants, implicitly or explicitly connect (1) Selong, Sarandib and Lanka and (2) the story of Rama and Sita’s exile to the forest, and especially Sita’s banishment to Lanka, with their own plight? If they did, what meanings and roles did the Ramayana acquire? In exploring these questions the chapter considers nomenclature histories, exploring how different names that converge on the “same” site, can shape profoundly divergent imaginaries and perspectives.
Beginning with the Javanese verb diselongaké - to be “ceyloned,” i.e. exiled - this chapter investigates a set of questions related to Javanese documentation and memorialization of exile to Ceylon. As a start, it asks whether Javanese authors indeed wrote about exile to Ceylon, a question that has to date not been pursued despite the large number of exiles from Java, and even more so their social and political prominence. Drawing on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Javanese manuscripts of the historical babad genre, the chapter argues that, although depictions of exile to Ceylon are relatively few and far between, mining local chronicles for references yields a body of insights on how life in exile was imagined and understood in Java, how exile affected those left behind as well as those returning home from Ceylon, and what meanings, tensions and creative possibilities infused narratives of exile.
This chapter lays out the central themes of the book: the study of Sri Lankan Malay history and culture via the trope of mobility in its many forms, with a particular focus on exile and its literary, religious and imaginative associations with the island; the Sri Lankan Malays’ history and literary culture from the late seventeenth to the early twentieth century; connected histories across the Indian Ocean as viewed through the prism of Malay linguistic continuity and writing practices in Ceylon and the Indonesian-Malay world, as well as a range of multilingual texts from the two regions. The chapter introduces the methodology and comparative approach employed in writing which seeks to explore the Sri Lankan Malays’ history, literature and perspectives on exile through multiple lenses and from different shores, integrating sources in Malay, Javanese, Arabic, Dutch and English to present the views of colonized and colonizer in the Dutch and British periods, poetic and prose depictions of exile, single texts that move between and across languages, religious traditions relating to Ceylon and documents ranging from letters to family diaries to theological manuals and charms.
This chapter draws on materials from colonial Ceylon to explore both personal and collective expressions of memory as it relates to the archipelago and especially to Java, and considers the shifts occurring in these memories’ construction and representation with the passage of time. In addressing textualized memories and links to the archipelago, it expands the discussion of these themes presented in Chapter 2, but differs in the writing genres it explores, their tone and their atmosphere. Whereas Chapter 2 focused on intellectual and religious currents of connectivity and memory, the present chapter engages with individual voices and traditions of storytelling and cultural heroes as transmitted to the diaspora. More specifically, the analysis draws on a clandestine exchange of letters written by royal exiles in the early eighteenth century and on evidence of the transmission of the Javanese wali sanga tradition (on the "nine saints" said to have converted Java to Islam) to the Ceylon disapora.