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Langkawi ~ Legends

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As legendary as the beauty of Pulau Langkawi (Langkawi Island) are the mysterious lore's  themselves of long ago which add to the allure of the islands.  The island is also blessed with an intriguing history and stories of ogres and giant birds, warriors, wronged maidens and fairy princesses

The best known legend of Langkawi is of Mahsuri, a pretty maiden
who lived some 200 years ago.

Once upon a time, there lived in Langkawi two Muslim Siamese immigrants, a childless couple, Pandak Maya and Mak Andam, who prayed for a child.
Their prayers were answered when they had Mahsuri, a sweet delightful child who grew into a beautiful young woman. Being kind-hearted and of such a beauty, she captured the heart and soon married Wan Darus, a warrior and the son of the headman of the village and Chief of Langkawi

Their idyllic lives were disrupted when her husband went off to fight against an invading Siamese army. A travelling minstrel and poet named Deraman arrived at the village and soon, Mahsuri and Deraman became good friends.
Mahsuri was said to have allowed him to stay at her house. This soon gave
rise to the vicious gossip that Mahsuri was a faithless wife

She was soon a victim of a conspiracy and was falsely accused of committing adultery with the handsome Deraman. There are many versions as to the reasons behind the treachery. Widely believed was that her own mother in law, Wan Mahora, was jealous of her beauty and popularity and had plotted against her.

Yet another version says that the village headman, Dato Karma Jaya
(her father in law) was so enamoured of Mahsuri, that he tried to make use
of her husband's absence to his advantage. Needless to say, his caused wife (her mother in law) was not amused and plotted to have Mahsuri done away with. Hence, she was accused Mahsuri of being an adulteress, and was sentenced to death by Dato Karma Jaya, her own father-in-law.

Despite her parents' pleas and the cries of her child at her skirts, Mahsuri was dragged away and tied to a tree. Vehemently protesting her innocence, she begged for mercy, but the villagers, under the influence of the headman's wife, gave her no quarter. Legend says that the swords and machetes used by the executors could not injure her. The people really should have believed her when all the spears that they threw at her fell harmlessly at her feet. They were baffled but still convinced that Mahsuri was guilty of wrong-doing.

Finally, Mahsuri, having resigned herself that only her death would appease them, told them how they could kill her. She would only die by the blade of the ceremonial sword kept at her home. Someone was sent to fetch it and
legend has it that the sky became overcast and there was thunder and
lightning as Mahsuri was fatally stabbed.

At her execution by stabbing with a sacred 'keris' or dagger, the villagers were shocked to discover that the blood flowing from her body was white, signifying her innocence. Others maintain there was the sudden appearance of white mist that enveloped the spot where she was executed, which it was believed was a sign of mourning of her innocence.

Mahsuri is is probably best remembered for her curse. With her dying breath Mahsuri placed a curse on the island of Langkawi by uttering, "For this act of injustice Langkawi shall not prosper for seven generations to come."

In 1821, not long after Mahsuri's execution, Siam invaded Langkawi. To starve the invading Siamese soldiers, Dato Karma Jaya ordered all the rice on the island be collected and burnt in Padang Mat Sirat. This proved to be a foolish move, for the residents soon died from starvation.

Remnants of the burnt rice could still be seen in a cordoned area in Padang Mat Sirat, Kampung Raha. The burnt rice is said to have been buried below ground before being burnt, but often appears on the surface after a rainy day. Do you not think it strange that the rice grains have not turned into soil after so long? Some things have to be seen or experienced first-hand to be believed. The village headman and his sons were killed fighting the Siamese and neither was his wife spared.

Decades after Mahsuri's death, Langkawi experienced a period of tribulation
with her population dwindling in size. The island became a desolate place,
beset by series of misfortunes.

As for Mahsuri's family, they left Langkawi and settled in Thailand.
No one knew much about what had happened to them until the year 2000
when the Kedah government located them on the island of Phuket. They were invited to Langkawi for a visit and to see if they would like to make the island their new home. The time for Mahsuri's seven generation old curse to end was at hand and it was hoped that with the arrival of her descendants, Langkawi could finally put its sad past behind and move forward towards prosperity and progress.

Wan Aishah Nawawi pointing to her very
famous ancestor Mahsuri

Coincidence or not, one of the two siblings who are of the seventh generation descendants, is a young and pretty fourteen year old girl (at 2003) named Wan Aishah Nawawi who bears a striking resemblance to Mahsuri as depicted in a portrait painted quite some time ago. The family has since returned to Phuket as they have not yet been able to make the all important decision of becoming Malaysian citizens and resettling in Langkawi.

The public was first introduced to Langkawi by the late Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra al-Haj, the first Prime Minister of Malaysia. As a young District Officer in Kedah, the Tunku used to visit Langkawi and had wanted to visit Mahsuri's grave to pay his respects. However, no one could tell him where it was. So, the Tunku made up his mind to find it. He was not one to give up and so persevered until one day, he came across a grave hidden in some undergrowth. He was sure that it was Mahsuri's although there was no marker indicating that fact or otherwise. He approached a Chinese contractor to build a tomb for her. Shortly after the tomb was erected, the Tunku was given a promotion and was eventually to become the first Prime Minister of Malaysia and the contractor who had borne the costs of building the tomb became rather prosperous as he soon landed several lucrative contracts.

Mahsuri's tomb is now encased in white marble, quarried from the hills of Langkawi - white symbolising her innocence. Nearby is a well, which Mahsuri used to wash and bathe. Photographs of her descendants are displayed on the board next to her grave.

Whether fact or fiction , the curse, believed to have brought destruction and doom to the island and was to last for seven generations. It was said that at one time, buffaloes even outnumbered villagers. It has only been recently with the birth in 1980 of Aishah Nawawi, a direct descendant of Mahsuri, the eighth generation, that Langkawi has started to really prosper.

To Malaysians, Mahsuri is more than a legend; she is the epitome that truth and goodness shall prevail. And just as the Tunku had freed Malaya from colonial rule, so too had he helped Langkawi to free itself from the shackles of its own past.

The best way to know about the various legends of Langkawi is to visit the Legend Park or Taman Lagenda Langkawi with its with 17 story-telling monuments, located nearby Eagle Square in Kuah Town


Legends I

Legend of Mountains
- Cave of Legends - The Seven Wells -
Legend of the Beach of Skulls - Of Farts

Legends II

Cave of the Banshee
- Isle of the Pregnant Maiden -

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