Sunday, December 6, 2009

Mahsuri: Lagends of Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia

Mahsuri: Lagends of Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia

Last week my family and I have the opportunity to visit Langkawi Island. We're there to attend the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition 2009 (LIMA 2009). When we was there, we had a chance to visit the Mahsuri Tomb in Ulu Melaka, Langkawi. As i remember, this is fourth time I was there. First time I was there is in the year of 1989. At that time i was still bachelor. But this time i bring along my family members. I feel attracted to visit this place again and again because of the history of Mahsuri and also the tradisional life of Malay community that is hard to find nowadays. The lessons I have learned from Mahsuri 's event are among others we have to keep our self away from bad characteristic such as spitefulness, jealous and envious.

According to Malay legend, Mahsuri (full name Mahsuri bte Pandak Mayah) (?-1819) was a young woman from the island of Langkawi in Malaysia who was accused of adultery and executed by stabbing. Her tomb, Makam Mahsuri, in Langkawi, has become a tourist attraction on the island

During the time of the powerful Sultanates of the Malay archipelago there lived a young woman named Mahsuri. She was the most beautiful woman in all of Langkawi, and the wife of Wan Darus, a brave warrior. As was required of him, her husband had to go to war, leaving Mahsuri behind to fend for herself. It was during this time that Mahsuri befriended a young man named Deraman.

Their close friendship lead others in her village to believe that their relationship was sexual in nature. Some versions of the legend claim that the parties who perpetuated the gossip were those who were envious of Mahsuri's beauty. Eventually the rumours grew strong enough that the villagers openly accused her of adultery. Mahsuri pleaded her innocence, but no one believed her.

Mahsuri was to be tied to a tree (or pole) and stabbed to death.It didn't work, they tried many ways to kill her but failed each time . Then she told them to kill her with her family's dagger. When they stabbed her with the dagger , white blood flowed from her wound, signifying her innocence. Some birds flew above her to cover her body. With her dying breath, Mahsuri cursed Langkawi to have seven generations of bad luck.

Many locals of Langkawi believe the legend to be true, citing the Siamese invasion of 1821 and decades of failed crops that followed Mahsuri's death. It is only at the end of the 20th century, after the seven generations have supposedly come to pass, that Langkawi began to prosper as a tourist destination.

The descendants of Mahsuri continue to live in Phuket, Thailand, and have on occasion returned to Langkawi to visit her tomb.[1] Among them was Sirintra Yayee (Thai:ศิรินทรา ยายี), also known by her Muslim name Wan Aishah Wan Nawawi, came into the spotlight during her visit to Kedah in 2000.[2][3]

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 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.

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.



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