Friday, 6 July 2012

Malaysia Truly Asia: Seven Legends of Langkawi

Means reddish brown eagle. Lang is a shortened version of a Malay word "Helang" which means eagle. While Kawi means reddish brown. An island of legends and mystique, the folk tales of Langkawi were immortalised as history passed from generation to generation. 

Legend 1
Mahsuri: The White Blooded Lady
Mahsuri, an extraordinarily beautiful young lady captured the heart of Mat Deris, the son of Langkawi's ruler. Both were later solemnised in a wonderful marriage. 
However, their idyllic lives were disrupted when Mat Deris, went off to Siam to trade. After his departure, Mahsuri was lonely and yearned for company. In his absence, she befriended a travelling minstrel named Deramang. Mahsuri’s friendship with Deramang soon gave rise to vicious gossip, as many villagers believed she was a faithless wife. Mahsuri’s mother-in-law, Wan Mahora, jealous of her beauty, falsely accused Mahsuri of committing adultery. Enraged by her alleged affair, Mahsuri’s father-in-law, Dato’ Seri Kerma Jaya, who was secretly enamoured with Mahsuri ordered that she be captured and immediately put to death.
Mahsuri was caught and tied to a tree. Protesting her innocence, she begged for mercy. Her executioners ignored her pleas and threw spears at her. Their efforts were useless, as Mahsuri remained uninjured. Resigned that only her death would appease them, Mahsuri revealed that only the sword kept at her home could kill her. Someone fetched the sword and Mahsuri was stabbed to death. The villagers were shocked to discover white blood flowed from Mahsuri’s wounds signifying her innocence. With her dying breath Mahsuri cursed the island for seven generations to come.
Decades after Mahsuri’s death, Langkawi became an island plagued by misfortune. Many believed Mahsuri’s curse had truly befallen the island. Mahsuri was laid to rest near the main town of Kuah. 

Legend 2
The Village of the Burnt Rice
Soon after the death of Mahsuri, Siam invaded Langkawi.  To protect the island, Dato’ Seri Kerma Jaya decided to starve the Siamese soldiers by burning all the rice on the island at Padang Mat Sirat. A foolish act, for soon the people of Langkawi were faced with starvation. Dato’ Seri Kerma Jaya and his family were killed during the battle. 
The burnt rice is said to have been buried a few metres below ground but often appears on the surface after a rainy day.  

Legend 3
Brawl of Mat Raya, Mat Cincang and Mat Sawar
The story goes that once upon a time, there lived two feuding giants called Mat Cincang and Mat Raya. Unhappy that Mat Raya's son was marrying his daughter, Mat Cincang caused a havoc during the wedding ceremony. During the fight, pots and pans were thrown around and the earth shook.
The place where a big pot of gravy landed is now called Kuah, (the Malay word for gravy) and the place where the uncooked rice landed was called Beras Basah (wet uncooked rice). During the tremor, a huge vat of hot water turned over, and the placed has since then been called Air Hangat (hot water)! The fight between the two families continued until intervened by Mat Sawar. Following reconciliation, all three decided to turn themselves into their present mountainous forms.
Well, I guess certain things are best to be narrated mythologically rather than scientifically be explained.  

Legend 4 
Dayang Bunting: The Magical Lake of the Pregnant Maiden
Surrounded by lush tropical forests, the silence broken by the occasional sounds from the exotic birds that live there, this lake is reputed to have been the bathing spot for a fairy princess and her handmaidens. Unable to resist the lure of the clear inviting water, the princess would descend from her home and bathe there with her retinue. One day, a villager - a mortal man - chanced upon them and promptly fell in love with the princess.
After they left, he watched and waited for them to return. When they finally came back, he hid in the undergrowth and when they were safely in the water, he took the princess' discarded clothes and hid them. Naturally, she couldn't return to her home and agreed to marry the man. Then one day, she discovered her husband's deception and heart-broken, she left him.
But before returning to her world, she went to the lake once more and blessed it, saying that any woman who wanted a child could get her wish fulfilled after drinking water from the lake. This legend gained credence when it was said that a couple, childless after almost twenty years of marriage and not for lack of trying, drank from the lake. Only then did they have their prayers answered. They had a baby girl. 

Legend 5
Seven Magical Wells
This was believed to have been where the fairies came to bathe. It is believed that the unique lime trees and the sintuk, a climbing plant which has large pods, that grow around the pools were left behind by the fairies and locals who visit the Telaga Tujuh waterfalls often use them to wash their hair in order to cleanse themselves of bad luck. 

Legend 6
The Mystical Cave of Stories
Known in Malay language as Gue Cerita, The story tells of the failed ploy by the legendary Geruda (phoenix) to thwart the “marriage” of the Roman prince and Chinese princess. 

Legend 7
Cave of the Banshees
Haven for vampires. Unfortunately not the CullensIt is a cave so deep and dark that no one dares to venture in. People are convinced the cave is home to a female vampire called the langsuir, which, after having lured men to its lair, would suck their bodies dry of blood. No one would go near Gua Langsuir, for they believe that the scary sounds that come from the cave are the cries of the langsuir.

Other than these unique legends, the prosperous Langkawi is now known for a popular tourist attractions, offering beautiful sandy beaches (Pantai Chenang), duty free shopping including chocolate and cigarettes (Bandar Kuah) and also gamat. 

Almost every year I spend my holiday in Langkawi. I will share some recommended activities not to be missed in Langkawi in my future entries. Stay tuned. 

Hairi Tahir 

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