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Center for Research and Development of Malay Culture

Malay at a Glance

History of Malay culture has a large scope and a large geographical area with a long sequence of period. Geographically, Malay land encompasses Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Philippina and South Thailand. In the 7th century CE, thousands of the Malay people migrated to Madagascar, the island that is located at the African continent. Malay culture, at the beginning of that period, developed in the island. The language spoken by the Malay descendant is similar to Dayak Maanyan language in Kalimantan, Indonesia. In addition, when Syeikh Yusuf Tajul Khalwati was sent into exile to Cape of Hope, South Africa, by the Dutch colonialist, he and his companions spread Islam and the Malay culture, therefore, since the meantime, the Malay culture developed also in South Africa.

In a line with its long history, a lot of kingdoms, one after another, established in the Malay land. The eldest kingdoms were Koying in Jambi (3th century CE) and Kutai in Kalimantan (4th century CE), Indonesia. It is estimated that there was a kingdom existed before the two kingdoms above, but the historical data that strengthened this assumption has not yet been found. After the end of Koying and Kutai period, other Malay kingdoms emerged and collapsed in turns. Each kingdoms had a different width of territory, several kingdoms had a small territory that just resembled one village, whereas other kingdoms, one of them was Crivijaya in Sumatra, Indonesia, had successfully become an empire. Chronologically, several numbers of Malay kingdoms were Ancient Malay (6th century CE), Crivijaya (7th century CE) and Minangkabau (7th century CE) all of which were in Indonesia; Brunei in Brunei Darussalam (7th century CE); Pattani in Thailand (11th century CE); Ternate (13th century CE), Pasai (13th century CE) and Indragiri (13th century CE), all of which were in Indonesia; Tumasik in Singapore (14th century CE); Malacca in Malaysia (14th century CE); Pelalawan in Indonesia (14th century CE); Riau-Johor in the Malay Peninsula (16th century CE); Merina in Madagascar (17th century CE); Siak Sri Indrapura (18th century CE), Riau-Lingga (18th century CE) and Serdang (18th century CE), all of which were in Indonesia.

The Malay kingdoms administered mutual relation in many sectors with other kingdoms, especially with the two super power kingdoms of Asia: India and China. Due to good relation beetwen both sides, Malay kingdoms were mentioned in the writings of the Chinese such as K‘ang-tai and Wan-chen from Wu Dynasty (222-280 CE) that mentioned the existence of Koying kingdom in Sumatera. The same case, Crivijaya kingdom was also mentioned in one of the writing of the Chinese. According to Ibn Khaldun, the bigger and the stronger civilization will persistently influence the smaller one. In this context, one of implications of organizing mutual relation with the bigger civilizations (India and China) was the spreading of two big religions of both civilizations: Hinduism and Buddhism. Almost all the Malay kingdoms that existed before the 10th century CE embraced accordingly the two big religions. In a line with the infiltration of Hinduism and Buddhism, culture that came together with the religions, grew and developed within the society. The Malay people, in the meantime, began to recognize alphabet and language. The inscriptions found in the Malay land indicated that Sanskrit language Pallawa alphabet was broadly used. But there was also inscription used the old Malay language.

On another side, the Malay people administered trade relation with Arab traders. Such relation encouraged the Malay people to recognize Islam and spread it in their own land, and later both Arabic alphabet and language, after had been modified, developed in the form of Malay alphabet (Jawi). The Malay inherited manuscripts that are available at the present time are mostly written in such modified Arabic alphabet and language, yet several numbers of which used the local language. Recently, the influences of various cultures which ever administered a mutual relation with the Malay kingdoms appear obviously within the Malay culture, especially in its language.

In the 16th CE, European imperalism (England, Spain, Portuguese, France and Dutch) infiltrated the Malay region. European scandalous occupation carried out strong pressures to the local kingdoms, therefore many of which surrendered to the sophisticated power of imperalism; and other kingdoms including Malacca in Malaysia were conquered and ruined. Indeed, the Malay kingdoms had been ruined but the Malay culture will never disappear, as what had been said by Hang Tuah, “tak kan Melayu hilang di dunia,” (the Malay will precisely never disappear). The Malay culture will always exist, and its spirit will arise again and again whether in its homeland of origin or in another land. Huge inclination and serious attention toward this marvelous culture is actually the reflection and the evident of mighty spirit of the Malay culture inside its upholders‘ soul.

Malay at the Present Time

The emergence, development and ruination of culture depend on both internal and external factor. The internal factor is linked persistently to the attitude of local culture upholders; while the external factor is related tightly to the penetration of outsider culture. Outsider cultures penetration is a logical consequence of choice to open the mutual relation with another culture. Nevertheless, the profound influence exerted on the local culture depend on the responding pattern of its owners. Based on the thought above, whether dimmed or glorious Malay culture totally depends on its upholders in developing their culture and in responding the outsider cultures penetration. The real challenge faced by the Malay people at the present time is the Western hegemony on the Malay world that created specific implications toward the Malay people life.

Recently, the Malay people begin to realize that their own culture, in the previous centuries, reached an amazing glory. The historical legacies as the proof of Malay prestige at the past time still can be seen nowadays. Looking at their past and then comparing it with the present condition, the Malay people begin to realize that actually, in a certain level, they had ignored faraway their cultural root, even had forgetten it; they thereby became a marginal group, even in their own homeland. In such circumstance, new strong desire and conciousness emerge among the Malay people to give a large attention and to reanimate their own culture in the daily life. Their attention and longing are not only based on the nostalgia and romanticism of the past, but also on the conciousness and knowledgeability about the glory and notability of the Malay culture. For this reason, various aspects encompassed within the Malay culture such as philosophy of life, teaching, norms, language and literature are necessary to be rebuild in the daily life activities.


The Center for Research and Development of Malay Culture is established to stipulate the objectives listed below:

  1. Reviving the Malay culture, not in the frame of narrow primordialism but on the contrary, as the endeavor of strengthening nationality among the citizens that in fact have various ethnics, languages and cultures.
  2. Revealing, collecting, preserving and conserving various ancient wealth of both Malay art and culture that are still running within the society, and that of heritages that ever existed in the past as a historical and cultural documentation.
  3. Developing the Malay culture in order to adapt with the modern global changes, so that the glorious values encompassed within the Malay culture could be used as a marvelous source of reference of thinking, behaving and demeaning the modern world in the global dynamics.
  4. Empowering the role of Malay woman in preserving their own culture that mostly has not been observed and understood by the society.
  5. Giving both information and service widely to those Malay people who need everything related to custom, art and other elements of Malay culture.
  6. Promoting the Malay culture to the broaden society whether at regional, national or international level.                     


In actualizing the objectives mentioned above, the Center for Research and Development of Malay Culture arranges the steps below:

  1. Organizing and joining intensively a lot of studies whether academic scientific studies that take form of seminars, workshops, discussions and research, or practical studies on the Malay culture and its derivation. The result of the study would be published in the form of book, and then spread to the people in order to enrich literatures about Malay and its society‘s life.
  2. Documenting, recording, collecting and preserving all old literature texts, art and cultural wealths, and the equipments of Malay customs, besides duplicating, replicating, restoring and reproducing them to be easily found and recognized.
  3. Publishing digitally all tasks either by online or offline. The online digital publication is primary focused on the publication of the Malay world on www.melayuonline.com; while the offline is focused on the publication of old and new texts in the form of printed publication.
  4. Studying on glorious values encompassed within the traditional architecture of Malay as well as modifying it into a contemporary form.
  5. Exhibiting and competing various Malay performing arts such as reading quatrians (berbalas pantun), couplets, poems; performing musics, dances, songs, the art of self-defense, folk theatre, drums parade etc.
  6. Organizing an analitical study of books that related to both the classical Malay language and literature, and the contemporary one.
  7. Learning about Malay traditional treatment that is an extraordinary inherited skill of ancestors.
  8. Developing the Malay dressing art such as baju kurung cekak musang, teluk belanga, kebaya labuh, kain songket and many other Malay dresses to be matched to that of modern styles.
  9. Observing the treasure of the Malay culinary art; re-socializing various Malay cooks; developing new cooking menus in accordance with the demand of recent taste; and making the process of fast cooking that is a part of modern needs.
  10. Helping those Malay people who need equipments and means in their special activities that related to culture such as pregnancy, birth, engagement, marriage, death ceremony and other traditional ceremonies.


The Center for Research and Development of Malay Culture is non governmental organization initiated and organized by those Malay aducated people who settled in Yogyakarta. The financial sources are obtained regularly from self-help between the Malay people and another group of people who have high concern with both preservation and development of the Malay culture.

Sirih junjung sirih pinang

Sirih kuning diberi nama

Adat dijunjung pusaka dikenang

Hidup berbudi mufakat bersama


Head of the Center for Research and Development of Malay Culture 

Mahyudin Al Mudra, SH.MM

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