There are many interpretations for the word keling. Some say according to Dewan Bahasa Pustaka, the word refers to Indian Muslim community who hails from India. We need to turn our attention to historical and geographical facts to find the origin of the term Keling.
Historically, the origin of the term is rooted in the former cultural and economic influence of the Kalinga kingdom over South East Asian kingdoms. Geographically, the area which is now Orrisa is called Kalinga in the ancient times. According to the historical source, Kalinga is mentioned in the Adiparva, Bhismaparva, Sabhaparva, Banaprava of Mahabharata.
This place saw a great war between Mauryan empire’s Great Ashoka, which resulted in casualty beyond 100,000 between 262-261 BC .The kingdom of Kalinga was once very powerful. It was even mentioned in the Mahabaratha.Kalinga established maritime trade with Southeast Asia. Settlers from Kalinga also opened up colonies in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Maldives and the Malay archipelago.
Ships from Kalinga arrived in large numbers in the Southeast Asian ports. It then became common for the local Malays to refer to anyone from the Indian subcontinent as Kelings. India was even called as Benua Keling (continent of Kalinga) in ancient times.
India was then referred to by the Malays as Benua Keling. Furthermore, in the Sejarah Melayu (the Annals of Malay history), written in the 15th century, the term Keling used to refer to India. Long past the end of the Kalinga Kingdom in 1842 CE, derivatives from its name continued to be used as the general name of India in what are now Malaysia and Indonesia
However, not all Indians were Kelings. This is because there were many independent kingdom besides Kalinga. One such kingdom was the powerful Chola. The Malays had another name for the Tamils. They were known as Cholia or Chulia after the Chola kingdom.
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