The Malay Language ‘Pantun’ of Melaka Chetti Indians in Malaysia: Malay Worldview, Lived Experiences and Hybrid Identity

Airil Haimi Mohd Adnan, Indrani Arunasalam Sathasivam Pillay


The Melaka Chetti Indians are a small community of ‘peranakan’ (Malay meaning ‘locally born’) people in Malaysia. The Melaka Chettis are descendants of traders from the Indian subcontinent who married local women, mostly during the time of the Melaka Malay Empire from the 1400s to 1500s. The Melaka Chettis adopted the local lingua franca ‘bahasa Melayu’ or Malay as their first language together with the ‘adat’ (Malay meaning ‘customs’) of the Malay people, their traditional mannerisms and also their literary prowess. Not only did the Melaka Chettis successfully adopted the literary traditions of the Malay people, they also adapted these arts forms to become part of their own unique hybrid identities based on their worldviews and lived experiences within the Malay Peninsula or more famously known as the Golden Chersonese / Khersonese. Based on our one year plus fieldwork in ‘Kampung Chetti’ or Chetti Village in the state of Melaka, Malaysia where we carried out extensive oral history interviews and several focus group discussion sessions, in this empirical paper we share and critically analyse some traditional Malay pantuns that we collected from this community, and present them as notable contributions to the Malay literary canon.


Chetti Indians, Hybrid Identities, Identity Construction, Literary Form, Lived Experiences, Malay Language, Malaysia, Worldview

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