by Jane Chan
Just like the United Kingdom’s Stonehenge, we too have megalithic structures in Malaysia. The most common type of megalith found here is the menhir which is basically a standing stone. Known locally as ‘batu hidup’, they come is varying heights ranging from 2 to 8 feet.
In general, there are two configurations of menhirs. The first type comes in clusters with one large menhir known as the ‘ibu’ or mother surrounded by smaller menhirs. The second type comes in pairs – aligned side-by-side either in a North-South or East-West orientation, with one usually larger than the other. In Northern Melaka and Negeri Sembilan, the menhirs have been erected on earth mounds. Over time, the earth mound gets eroded thus exposing more of the menhir and giving the illusion that the menhir has grown longer. This is the reason the locals refer to the menhirs as ‘batu hidup’ or living stones.
These sites are believed to be sacred or ‘keramat’ by locals as they believe that the megaliths are erected on grave sites. However, excavations have not yielded any skeletal remains.
Megaliths in Malaysia are mostly plain and hence the three sculptured menhirs found at Pengkalan Kempas in Negeri Sembilan have drawn a lot of attention. These have been nicknamed Sword, Rudder and Spoon after their distinctive shapes. Carvings on the Sword and the Rudder include mythical creatures prompting the belief that these menhirs date to the Hindu period. The Sword also has the word ‘Allah’ on it inscribed in Jawi characters and this is believed to have been added much later. The Spoon does not have any carvings but has been sculptured into an arched top. Replicas of the Sword and the Rudder can be found at Muzium Negara.
Petronas came across a group of menhirs in Negeri Sembilan during excavations to lay a gas pipeline. These were excavated and re-erected in a stretch of land between Dayabumi and the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station and the area was named the Petronas Megalith Garden. The megaliths have now been relocated to a permanent home at the Laman Megalit in Taman Putra Perdana in Putrajaya. Here, the visitor is presented with over 80 megaliths including replicas of the Sword, Rudder and Spoon. This is a place worthy of visit.