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 LEGEND OF MAHSURI
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
Mahsuri was said to have allowed him to stay at her house. This soon
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
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
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
with her population dwindling in size. The island became a desolate
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
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
- Cave of Legends - The Seven Wells -
Legend of the Beach of
Skulls - Of Farts
Cave of the Banshee
- Isle of the Pregnant Maiden -
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