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The Golden Voyage

Strong and relentless, the Samudra’s winds
Knock at our tired and bronzed limbs
Its sails flutter high above the breaking waves
Stroking the salt-baked padua’s hulls

Moving across the Andaman Sea, laden with pearls and cotton
The faint smell of sandalwood swirling around the cabin
The boat leans and lurches forward
Carrying the merchants and dreamers to a golden land

We remember the sights and sounds of our native lands
The temple of Lord Jagganath on Puri’s sands
Where our loved ones pray and hope
For our safe return, tugging at his Holy Chariot’s rope

Till the end of the monsoons
Our villages, rivers, rice fields, and jungles
The monasteries of Ratnagiri that lies further behind
Where the Lord Buddha blesses you to be pure and kind

Yet ahead of us in this voyage of hope
Lies the magical Suvarnadwipa
, a land of spice and silk
Founded by Lord Parameswara, where Sultan Iskandar now rules
Who hasn’t heard of the his harem, a palace of dreams

We think of dear ones left behind
They shall not see us till the monsoon’s end
Yet ahead lies a magical place
Sumatra, Java, Bali, Borneo, Malacca and the islands of spice

We stop for a few days of rest
Strolling through the bazaar’s of Pasai
Dreading the pirate boats that will soon come into view

Moving through the Malacca Straits
Around the Cape Kling’s shipping lanes
Past the anchorage for Zheng He’s fleet
We step onto the land where the winds from east and west meet

Malacca is richer than Venice, the heart of the Malay world
A “city made of merchandise, fitter than any other in the world”
Where prahus anchor from Palembang, Tumasik, Martaban, and Ligor
Alongside Chinese junks and spice fleets from Makassar

The Gujuratis, Arabs and the Parsees
Cut deals with men from Benton, Tumasik and the Ryukyus
Where you buy Chinese brocades, porcelains and silks,
And the Nutmegs, cloves, peppers from the lands below the winds

Onward to Java for Buddha’s blessings at the majestic Borobudur
Then to Bali, to watch Barong’s wrath, and climb the mystical Batur
Beckoned by the enchanting gamelan
We walk the stairs of Vesaki, alongside the Balinese maiden
And take a dip in the sparkling pools of Thirthganga
Then a trek through the rice fields, to laze in the shores of Kuta

Months will pass by, as we wait for the winds
To return the dark clouds
That will shadow us back to the Kalinga coast
Taking a little of Suvarnabhumi’s wealth, and memories never to be lost.

Notes:

Padua: traditional ocean-going boat from Kalinga
Syahabandar: commerical heads appointed by the Sultan to oversee trade of different regions
Prahus: coastal boats of maritime Southeast Asia