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The Foundations of Malay Royalty in Palembang (Srivijaya)


As we look at the selected chapters of Sejarah Melayu in this study, we will see
how the Author has connected the pericopes with glosses1 to stress the aim of the text.
The Author has used various materials drawn from the oral tradition of his day with a
purpose in mind. In each pericope, significant elements might be the kingdom, the
action, the characters or their attributes. The pericopes of the chapters discussed here
assumed particular forms according to the function which they performed in the preMelakan community. The pericopes in the Sejarah Melayu assume the forms such as
myths or legends and each pericope has a Sitz im Leben (social setting in life). The early
chapters of Sejarah Melayu are rich in myths and legends and the forms of these myths
and legends are determined by the setting in which they arose and the purpose for which
they were used. Although we should not treat most of the myths and legends of Sejarah
Melayu in chapter three to five as literal truth, however, we have to give due attention.
The kingdoms of Menangkabau, Palembang and Singapura to which these traditions
refer are no myth and these kingdoms figure prominently in the present study. The first
pericope of chapter three begins:
Here now is the story of a city called Palembang2 in the land of Andelas3. It was ruled by
Demang Lebar Daun4, a descendant of Raja Shulan5, and its river was the Muara Tatang.
In the upper reaches of Muara Tatang6 was a river called the Melayu7, and on that river
1

I have italicised all glosses in the quoted passages of the Sejarah Melayu.
Palembang (variously known as Palimbao, Palimbang or Perlembang), is a word derived from the word
limbang, which signifies to drain off a fluid. According to Crawfurd, the complete word, would be
Palimbangan or the vessel or place from which water or other fluid is drained off, and, no doubt, has
reference to the subsidence of the inundation, in the territory named, one of the most striking phenomena
belonging to it (Crawfurd, 1856:275). Palembang is strategically located on the south-east coast of
Sumatra between the Straits of Melaka and the Sunda Strait and lies about fifty miles up the Musi River
(Wolters, 1967:19; Embree, 1988:201).
3
Andelas (Andalas, Andelis, Indalas) is the ancient name of Sumatra, one of the Indonesian island located
west of Malaysia. The name Andelas may also refer to Andalusia, the region of Spain once ruled by the
Muslims (in Spanish Andalucia means autonomous community). Andelas would have been adapted from
the Arabic word al-Andalus which was applied by the Muslims who occupied Spain in the 8th century
(Encyclopedia Britannica, 1990, 1:379). Sumatra was also known variously in the 16th century as
Sumotra, Zamatra, Samotra, Camotora and Samantara (Cortesao, 1944:135; Krom, 1941:6). Another
ancient name for Sumatra is Pulau Percha. According to Crawfurd, the word Percha is of Persian origin.
Parchah literally means rag or patch island (Crawfurd, 1856:414).
4
Demang (Damang) Lebar Daun or Chief Broad Leaf, is a local ruler of Palembang (Harvey, 1884:64).
Wolters refers the term demang to the post of chamberlain as a demang is concerned with matters of
ritual and ceremony (Wolters, 1970:132). According to Palembang traditions, Lebar Daun is a place-name
(Roolvink, 1967:316). According to Maxwell, the name is thoroughly characteristic of the aboriginal
Malay tribes (Braddell, 1936:50).
5
Raja Shulan which is also termed as Suran, Chulan and Chula or Chola is generally identified with the
Raja Rajendra Cola 1(A.D.1012-1044), the great king of the Cola dynasty in South India who embarked
an expedition to Southeast Asia in the eleventh century. The name Cola is the name of the kingdom or
dynasty. The Cola dynasty commenced by about the mid-ninth century and ended in the late thirteenth
century (Nilakanta Sastri, 1975:19 &195). The Cola expedition of 1025, left a strong trace in the memory
of Malays of the Peninsula, whose annals recount how the Tamil Raja Cola or Suran destroyed Gangga
Negara, on the river Dinding, and also Glanggiu, tributary to the Johor river, and finally occupied
Temasik, the site of future Singapura (Brown, 1952:18-19; Nilakanta Sastri, 1949:81).
6
Muara Tatang, a tributary of the Musi at the foot of the hill of Bukit SiGuntang which rises to the
southwest of modern Palembang (See Map 3).
7
Melayu is written as Moloyu and Moloshih in Chinese sources (Wolters, 1967:22 & 202). Valentyn, a
eighteenth century writer, mentioned that the Malays got their name from the river Melayu and afterwards
the name Melayu was applied to the coast and countries (Hervey, 1884:63; Durai Raja Singam, 1962:5557; Crawfurd, 1856:249-252). Hsu Yun-Tsiao and Joseph Minnatur believed that Malaya (Melayu) is a
name of Sanskrit origin (Hsu Yun-Tsiao, 1967:26). Minnatur states that the name Melayu has been
derived from Sanskrit, Malaya or Tamil word Malaiyur meaning a range of mountains
(Minattur,1965:159). Many scholars have examined the term Melayu and one of the most notable is
Virginia Matheson. According to her, Sejarah Melayu is the only Malay text which explains the origin of
2

was a hill called Si-Guntang Mahameru8. In that region lived two widows, Wan Empok
and Wan Malini9, and the two of them had planted padi on Bukit Si-Guntang. Much
ground had they planted and their padi had thriven beyond words. When the padi was ripe
over the whole field, it happenend that one night Wan Empok and Wan Malini beheld from
their house a glow as of fire on Bukit Si-Guntang. And they said, Can that be the light of
fire that glows yonder? It frightens me. Then said Wan Malini, Whisht! It may be the
gleam of the gem on some great dragons head! So Wan Empok and Wan Malini kept
quiet in their fear and presently they fell asleep. When day dawned, Wan Empok and Wan
Malini arose from their sleep and bathed their faces, and Wan Empok said to Wan Malini,
Come, let us go and see what it was that glowed like fire last night. Wan Malini agreed,
and the two of them climbed up Bukit Si-Guntang, where they saw that their padi had
golden grain , leaves of silver and stems of gold alloy. And when they saw what had
happened to their padi, they said, This is what we saw last night! And as they walked
along the hill they saw the crest had turned into gold. According to one tradition it has a
colour as of gold to this day . And on this land that had been turned into gold Wan Empok
and Wan Malini beheld three youths of great beauty. All three of them were adorned
like kings and wore crowns studded with precious stones, and they rode upon white
elephants. Wan Empok and Wan Malini were lost in wonder and utterly amazed at
the sight of these youths who were so handsome, bore themselves with such grace
and
were so brilliantly adorned.
And they thought in their hearts, Was it a
perchance because of these three youths that our padi has grain of gold, leaves of silver
and stems of gold alloy and that this hilltop has been turned into gold? And they asked
the three youths, Whence come you, sirs? Are you sons of genies or sons of fairies? For
we have long been here without seeing anyone. Until you have appeared to-day no
human beings has visited this place. And the three youths made answer, Not from
the breed of genies or fairies are we. We are descended from Raja Iskandar DzulKarnain10:of the lineage of Raja Nushirwan11, Lord of the East and the West, are we.
Our line springs from Raja Sulaiman12 (upon him be peace): one of us is called Bichitram
Shah, one Paludatani and one Nilatanam13. Then said Wan Empok and Wan Malini, If
the word Melayu. Melayu in the text of Sejarah Melayu is used in the following contexts: asal (origin) of
rulers and bangsa (race, lineage, ancestry). For further details see Matheson, Concepts of Malay Ethos in
Indigenous Malay Writings, 1979:351-371and Miksic, 1987:35-37. In the Sejarah Melayu, Melayu refers
to the name of a river in Palembang.
8
SiGuntang Mahameru, the 26 meter high sacred hill in Palembang. Guntang is from an old Malay word
meaning terapung or floating, thus SiGuntang or Seguntang means the floating. According to Sartono,
the name Guntang or floating is applied to the hill because it appears to be an obvious landmark from the
sea visible from afar to the sailing traders (Sartono, 1978:61). The antiquity of Bukit SiGuntang as a holy
place is attested by the Buddhist statuary found upon it and the peculiar veneration of the people for the
hill (Braddell, 1956:16; Schnitger, 1964:8). Mahameru is of Indian derivation and it is the mythical place
for dwelling of the gods ruled by Indera. Maha means great and Meru in the Hindu legends represents the
axis of the world along which are centred all spheres of existence. The king of Palembang or Srivijaya was
artfully compared to Mount Meru and that he resembles Lord Indera (Bradell, 1956:16).
9
Wan Empok and Wan Malini, two mythical figure introduced by the tradition which relate to the coming
of the three kings and the changing of the hill top into gold. The term Malini is a name of the seductive
celestial nymphs who dwell in Lord Indras paradise and they wore garlands of flowers and many jewels.
Meanwhile the name Empok is a near-synonym with Ambika, a term which is applied to the harvest as the
most productive season (Stutley, 1977:17, 176, 285).
10
Iskandar Dzul-Karnain. It is generally agreed both by Muslim commentators and modern Occidental
scholars that Dzul-Karnain, the two-horned is to be identified with Alexander The Great.
11
The Persian element in Malay royal tradition is reflected in the name of Raja Nushirwan, which is
Iranian (Marrison,1955:54).
12
Raja Sulaiman here refers to King Solomon of Israel (Hebrew, Shelomoh) who ruled from c.970 B.C.
According to the Bible and the Quran, Sulaiman was celebrated for his skill and wisdom (Hughes,
1935:601, Cross, 1997:1516).
13
Bichitram, Paludatani and Nilatanam are the original names of the three brothers who descended on the
Mount SiGuntang. They are clearly Indian names of Sanskrit derivation, the first meaning magnificent,

you are stock of Raja Iskandar, what brings you here? And the three youths then told Wan
Empok and Wan Malini the story of the marriage of Raja Iskandar with Raja Kida
Hindis daughter and of the descent of Raja Chulan into the sea. And when Wan Empok
and Wan Malini said, What have you to prove the truth of what you say? And the three
youths answered, These crowns that we wear are the sign: they shew that we are the
stock of Raja Iskandar Dzul-Karnain. If you doubt our word, the proof is that because we
alighted on this spot your padi has grain of gold, leaves of silver and stems of gold alloy
and this hilltop has been turned into gold. And Wan Empok and Wan Malini believed the
words of the three young princes, and they were filled with joy and took the three young
princes to their house. And the padi was reaped, and Wan Empok and Wan Malini
became rich because of their meeting with the princes (Brown, 1952:24-25).
In the above pericope, the first three sentences presents a geographical14 introduction
to a city called Palembang in Sumatra. Sentence two and three in the pericope give us a
geographical location of the city on the river Melayu, which circumscribes the Bukit
SiGuntang Mahameru and empties into the Muara Tatang river. However, no information
is given by the pericope regarding the origins of the city. The name Palembang here is
generally assumed to refer to Srivijaya, a kingdom in the seventh century A.D., called by
the Chinese chroniclers San fo-tsi. Almost all historians have identified San fo-tsi (the
king of the three kingdom) with Palembang. According to F. Hirth and W.W. Rockhill, the
name points to an original Indian form Cri-Bhoja and the form Serboza, was used by the
Arabs in the ninth century to designate the island of Sumatra. However, Hirth and
Rockhill also refer to San-fo-tsi as the kingdom of Menangkabau, the parent country of
the Malays in Sumatra (Hirth and Rockhill, 1911:63).
San fo-tsi has been identified by Coedes with the Malay kingdom of Srivijaya15
with a capital at one period situated in Palembang. Srivijaya became one of the most
powerful and prestigious Sumatran kingdoms and by the eighth century controlled the
Straits of Melaka as far north as Ligor. The kingdom had its beginning in the seventeenth
century and continued to expand as a maritime power into the early eleventh century.
(Wolters,1967:229). It is highly surprising that the name Srivijaya does not appear in the
traditions of the Sejarah Melayu at all. The omission of the name Srivijaya from the Malay
accounts is puzzling, but it is quite explicable if we hypothesize that Malay Muslims
discarded from their history this Hindu pre-Muslim kingdom, preferring to employ instead
the name of Palembang, a Javanese word.
In sentence two, we are introduced to the ruler of Palembang, Demang Lebar
Daun, who is described as a descendant of Raja Shulan. Demang Lebar Daun, is of great
significance for the later events in the pericope, as the three princes who arrive on
SiGuntang hill are given a genealogical relationship with Demang Lebar Daun. According
to Virginia Matheson, the name of the river, Melayu, in sentence three of the pericope,
the second name unknown; the third, blue-excellent. The titles that they later adopted upon being
enthroned are Sang Sapurba (the ancient one), Sang Maniaka (the precious jewel), and Sri Tri Buana (the
Lord of the three world) respectively. In other versions, the name of the third brother is Sang Nila Utama.
According to Winstedt, Van der Tuuk has robbed Singapura of its legendary founder by identifying the
three titles, Sang Sapurba, Sang Maniaka and Sang Nila Utama as corrupted renderings of the Sanskrit
names Sapurba, Menaka and Tilottama, three nymphs from the Hindu heaven of Indra (Winstedt,
1969:42).
14
According to Josselin de Jong, the Sejarah Melayu is the major Malay source for the historical
geography of the regions of Melaka and the neighbouring areas on the west coast of Malay Peninsula
(Josselin De Jong, 1956:60-70).
15
Srivijaya is formed of two words, Sri meaning prosperity or glorious and vijaya signifies victory.

expresses the identity of a bangsa (race, lineage) and serves to furnish an account of a
migration to the Peninsula from the Palembang area, the source of the Malay royal origins
(Matheson,1979:357-358). The hill SiGuntang Mahameru is presented as the most
appropriate place for the arrival of the three princes. According to the Chinese records, in
San-fo-tsi, there was a kind of Buddha image called Hill of Gold and Silver in Palembang
which was cast in gold. Each succeeding king before ascending the throne cast a golden
image to represent his person, and the kings made offerings of golden vessels to these
images on the hill (Firth & Rockhill, 1911:61) 16. Adoration of the mountain was an
important element in early Indonesian civilization before the coming of Hindu culture
(Braddell, 1956:16). The pericope of the Sejarah Melayu represents the hill17 as the only
site worthy for the appearance of the three princes (Brown,1952:24).
The pericope introduces into the narrative two mythical persons, Wan Empok and
Wan Malini in sentence four. The pericope states that these widows had a rice field on the
hill and one night they saw the hill enveloped in a fiery glow. After reaching the hill in the
morning, they saw three young man seated on white elephants18. This appearance
coincided with the transformation of their rice grains on the hill to gold. Although not
specifically noted in the text, three of these characteristics: the glow, the gold and the
mountain, are ancient symbols of sovereignty in Malay culture. These symbols appears in
other ancient cultures as well, such as the Zion mountain in the Jewish tradition. The
central feature of the Jerusalem cult tradition is that Yahwehs presence should be
associated with Jerusalem and with Mount Zion in particular as the sacred mountain of
Yahweh (Ollenburger,1987:23; Donaldson, 1985:52).
The function of the two widows is to witness the appearance of the three princes
and to confirm them as the descendants of Iskandar Dzul-Karnain, sons of Raja Chulan. It
is, therefore, not simply an interesting story, but it has an important function, namely that,
just as the two widows recognize the divine authority of the princes, so posterity should
believe the three princes to be the descendants of Iskandar Dzul-Karnain. The pericope
shows no interest in these women except as proving the truth it wants to convey through
them. Therefore, both women enquire of the princes who they are. The three princes point
to the crown as the sign of their lineage, reinforcing the evidence by calling attention to the
grains of gold in the padi and the change of the hilltop to gold. Both women are
16

According to Schnitger, the hill Bukit SiGuntang Mahameru in Palembang was a sacred place long
before the coming of the Hindus, for Malay legends relate that a descendant of Alexander the Great
(Iskandar Dhul-Karnain) descended on this hill. He further stated that a large Buddha image was found
on the SiGuntang hill (Schnitger, 1964:8).
17
It has been supposed that it might be a Hindu adaptation of Indonesian beliefs which place the residence
of kings or gods on the top of mountains. Mountains or hills are closely related with the ancient
religions. For example, the Mount Kailasa is seen as the abode of Lord Shiva, Mount Olympus as the
abode of Greek god, Zeus and Mount Zion, the choice of God Yahweh (Mazzeo & Antonini, 1978:47;
Warren, 1962:9; Ollenburger, 1987:13). Sacred mountains and mountain symbolism were common
features in ancient religious life. Mountains in India are closely related with the devaraja cult, the
conception of the king as an incarnation of a divinity is typical of India and other ancient civilization
(deva is god and raja is king). Mountains are the only site worthy of the residence of a sovereign to
empower the practice of divine kingship. However, in Malay tradition, the Hindu concept of devaraja or
divine kingship was perpetuated but garbed in Islamic clothing (Osman, 1989:35).
18

In the Shellabear, A. Samad Ahmad, and Situmorang and Teeuw editions of the Sejarah Melayu, the
three princes vehicle is described as a lembu white in colour. Lembu in Malay denotes a male ox.
However, in Leydens translation, the vehicle is a bull. In the Hindu tradition, the bull is associated with
sacred symbollism, as still can be seen in the Mauryan emblem and in Lord Sivas mount and emblem, the
Nandi (Bull). The similarities with all the editions is that the colour of the animal is white and white,
signifies genuineness and perfection which represents the quality of sovereignty.

convinced, and they became rich. Wealth is here regarded as an attribute of sovereignty
and the association of these two elements suggests that the rulers bring prosperity .
The Malay kings authority and power were derived from many sources. One of the
most important was the claim to be descended from a royal family. At the end of sentence
26, the progeny of Iskandar Dzul-Karnain and the Indian kings, Nushirwan Adil and the
descendants of Raja Shulan, called Bichitram, Paludatani and Nilatanam, after arriving in
the Malay world, declare that they are descendants of Iskandar Dzul-Karnain and King
Sulaiman (Solomon). In the words of Sejarah Melayu, We are descended from Raja
Iskandar Dzul-karnain [...] our line springs from Raja Sulaiman. This statement can be
considered as the main repository of Malay supernatural royal origin, and this pericope
highlights two main aims. One is to stress the direct line of descent of the Melaka rulers
from Iskandar Dzul-Karnain and the other is to link the rulers of Melaka with Raja
Sulaiman, who was celebrated for his skill and wisdom.
The Malay tradition, preserved in the gloss below, informs the audience that the
ancestors of the founder of Melaka19 came from Palembang. The Author confirms that
there is a city called Palembang today which is the same with the former Palembang
described as a great city. The country Andelas here refers to Sumatra. However, the name
Andelas possibly may have been adapted by the Author of the Sejarah Melayu from the
Arabic name al-Andalus, which was originally applied to the whole of Iberian Peninsula by
the Muslims (Moors), who occupied Spain in the eighth century.
According to the account we have received the city of Palembang which has been
mentioned was the same as the Palembang of today. Formerly it was a great city, the like
of which was not to be found in the whole country of Andelas (Brown, 1952:25).
3.1.2 The Kingdom of Menangkabau and Tanjung Pura
The second pericope reads:
Now when the Raja of Palembang, whose name was Demang Lebar Daun, had heard the
story of how Wan Empok and Wan Malini had met with princes who had come down
from the heaven , he went to the house of Wan Empok and Wan Malini to see the princes,
whom he then took back with him to the city. And it was noised over the whole country
that descendants of Raja Iskandar Dzul-Karnain were now in Palembang, having come
down from Bukit Si-Guntang Mahameru. Thereupon every ruler from every part of the
country came to pay his respects to them. The eldest of the princes was taken by the
people of Andelas their country and was made Raja Menangkabau 20, with the title of
19

Melaka (Malacca) is located on the west coast of the Malay Peninsula and it is situated at the narrowest
point of the Straits of Melaka, between Sumatra and the Peninsula. It was the centre of intra-Asian trade at
the end of fifteenth century. A century earlier it had been merely a fishing village. According to the Sejarah
Melayu, Melaka was established by Iskandar Shah, but Chinese and Western sources refers to
Parameswara as the founder of Melaka in 1403. In 1511, Melaka was attacked and conquered by the
Portugese (Embree, 1988:533).
20
Menangkabau (also Minangkabau, Menankabo, Menangkabwa) is a highland region located in the
central part of Sumatra. Various legends exist as to the origin of the name Menangkabau. According to
Van der Tuuk, the word Menangkabau is a corruption of Pinang Khaboe which means land of originor
original home (Joustra, 1923:41). According to popular etymology, Menangkabu is said to be derived
from the words menang, win, and kerbau or kabau, a buffalo, thus Victorious Buffalo. Buffalo plays a
significant role in Indonesian culture. The work of J. Kreemer, De Karbouw; Zijn betekenis voor de
volken van de Indonesische Archipel or The Buffalo; its importance for the peoples of the Indonesian
Archipelago, explains in detail the religious and economic importance of the buffalo to the Indonesian
people (Josselin, 1960:117). The Menangkabau preserve a traditional saying which relates in a symbolic
language that their ancestors came down to the highlands of Menangkabau from the top of Mount Merapi,

Sang Sapurba21. Thereafter came the people of Tanjong Pura 22 and took the second of the
princes to Tanjong Pura where they made him Raja with the title of Sang Maniaka, whilst
the youngest of the three princes remained at Palembang with Demang Lebar Daun, who
made him Raja of Palembang with the title of Sang Nila Utama. Demang Lebar Daun
thereupon abdicated and became chief minister (Brown, 1952:25).
To begin with sentence one, we are told that the Raja of Palembang, Demang
Lebar Daun heard of the three princes who appeared miraculously from heaven on Bukit
SiGuntang Mahameru, and came to see them and bring them to his city. It is said that
every ruler from every part of Sumatra came to pay respect to the three princes in
Palembang. Therefore the essential purpose of this pericope is to highlight the greatness
of the kingdom of Palembang. However, the significance of the entire pericope, which
led to its being preserved, lies in sentence four to five where the pericope can be
considered to be providing the origin and basis of the oldest kingdom in Sumatra.
Most important of all, the fourth sentence has a significant meaning to convey.
The pericope highlights the change of the name of Bichitram to Sang Sapurba. Thus the
pericope is referring to the memory of the Malays regarding the antiquity of
Menangkabau. The pericopes Sitz im Leben was to explain the antiquity of the
Menangkabau kingdom. The eldest of the princes, Bichitram, was made Raja at
Menangkabau and was given the title Sang Sapurba or the ancient one. The title itself
gives expression to the kingdom of Menangkabau as an ancient kingdom. From the
pericope above we can ascertain that Menangkabau would have been the oldest
kingdom in Sumatra (Brown, 1952:25). The pericope above, does not, however, refer to
Menangkabau, but to Palembang, as that part of Sumatra from which Singapura was
founded. The tradition by no means asserts that Menangkabau was the primitive seat of
Sumatra. However, on the contrary, the pericope affirms that Menangkabau received a
ruler from Palembang and that ruler was crowned head of state in Menangkabau. Thus
the pericope declares that Palembang is the greatest political seat of Sumatra to which all
a mountain situated at the heartland of Menangkabau (Anwar, 1976:78) In the A.Samad Ahmad edition of
Sejarah Melayu, we are told that Sang Sapurba was taken to Menangkabau by Patih Suatang (Samad
Ahmad, 1979:21). Meanwhile some legends refers to Perpatih Nan Sebatang and Datuk Katumanggungan
as the founders of Menangkabau (Marsden, 1811:332; Crawfurd, 1856:274). Other Indonesian sources
refer to Seri Maharaja Diraja as the founder of the state Menangkabau (Batoeah Sango, 1955:19-20;
Ahmad Batuah, 1963:14-16). According to Menangkabau legend, Seri Maharaja Diraja, was the son of
Iskandar Dzul-Karnain, the youngest of the 99 children of Nabi Adam or Prophet Adam. Iskandar was
transported to heaven by Gabriel and was commissioned there as the king of the whole earth to which he
returned as Raja Alam or king of the world, the title of the supreme ruler of Menangkabau. This epithet is
also applied to the Alam Menangkabau (universe or world of the Menangkabau people). After the death of
Iskandar, the kingdom was said to be divided among his three sons, whom history does not know, but who
became in the tradition of Menangkabau: Maharaja Depang who became king of the eastern kingdom,
from whom sprang China; Raja Ali who went to north and became king of Rum (Turkey), and Seri
Maharaja Diraja (the great kings of king) who became the first ruler of Menangkabau who reached Pulau
Ameh or Pulau Percha (Andalas) and descended on Mount Merapi (Batoeah Sango, 1955:9-19).
Significantly, the symbol three has great prominence in all traditions, eg. the three magi (wise men) in the
Biblical tradition, the concept of Trimurthi in Hindu tradition, and the three princes who descended on
Mount SiGuntang.
21
The ruler of the state of Menangkabau, who is stated by most Malay tradition to have come from
Palembang, is called Sang Sapurba. The word Sang signifies king and Sapurba is composed of the article
sa, one and purba, first or beginning (Crawfurd, 1856:253). According to William Maxwell, Sang is a
title applied to Malay and Javanese Gods and heroes. Sang is also an ordinary title among the chiefs of the
aboriginal tribes of the Peninsula. Sang Sapurba may therefore be translated as first chief (Braddell,
1936:53). Meanwhile, Wilkinson states that Sri is a higher honorific than Sang (Wilkinson, 1935:32). This
helps to explain to us why Sri Tri Buana is accorded a higher status than Sang Sapurba in the Sejarah
Melayu.
22
Tanjung Pura or Cape City is located in the north east of Sumatra: see Map 2.

the Sumatran rulers came to pay their respects, while the Menangkabau kingdom is
demonstrated as the oldest kingdom in Sumatra as expressed by the pericope in the
name of Sang Sapurba.
The Forgotten Kingdom of Sumatra
Little is known of the history of Menangkabau and the origins and rise of this
kingdom has remained a mystery. In the present sub-title, the forgotten kingdom of
Sumatra, my main intention is to argue that Menangkabau is indeed the oldest kingdom
in Sumatra. The discussion below drawn together the scattered evidence of nineteenth
century travellers accounts and contemporary sources. Most of the writings on
Menangkabau, concentrate mainly on the study of the Menangkabau society, particularly
the matrilineal system and their customs (Davis, 1995:274-275).
According to William Marsden, with [Menangkabaus] annals, either ancient or
modern, we are little acquainted, and the existence of any historical records in the
country has generally been doubted. Marsden believed that in understanding the history
of Menangkabau, scholars have been faced with little information, thus, were put at a
disadvantage position in the study of this great Malay empire23. (Marsden, 1811:332).
Marsden did not realize that there is numerous information which can be obtained from
the tambo and kaba24, the traditional historiography of Menangkabau. Apart from that,
the archaelogical evidence which is provided by the inscriptions25 of the 13th century is
also considered to be of great importance for the reconstruction of the origins of
Menangkabau (Mansoer, 1970:59). However, the question then arises as to why most
European scholars have neglected the ancient history of Menangkabau, meanwhile
Srivijaya (Palembang) in Sumatra has received such great attention from scholars.
The earliest mention of Menangkabau is in the Javanese historical text called
Desawarnana or Nagarakrtagama26. According to this text, Gajah Mada, the famous
chief-minister of Majapahit, swore that he would not eat his favourite dish palapa until he
had conquered ten countries, including Menangkabau (Minnatur, 1966:237-239).
Meanwhile, travellers accounts of the 19th century claimed that Menangkabau was the
original country of the Malays (Crawfurd, Vol:II 1820:370; Moor, 1837:102; Malcom,
23

The true Menangkabau population call their own country Alam Menangkabau, the Menangkabau world.
The extent of the Menangkabau empire is described in the following saying :
Salilit pulau percha
The round isle of Sumatra
Sa limbong tanah malayu
and the stretch of the Malay lands
Sa lengkong alam Menangkabau.
are included in the expanse of the Menangkabau empire.
(Parr & MacKray, 1910:100, Chadwick, 1994:85-86).
24
Tambo is generally translated as historical annals or sejarah babad (Batuah & Madjoindo, 1963:185). A
kaba is a literary epic of traditional Menangkabau narrative telling the story and events of the kingdom
(Umar Junus, 1985:184). According to Winstedt, the vitality of the many-detailed Menangkabau legend is
so remarkable a feature in Malay folklore that it would seem it must have had some important historical
basis (Winstedt, 1926:417). According to Mansoer, a critical study of these traditional kaba and tambo
may confirm that Menangkabau once was the oldest kingdom in central Sumatra.
25
According to Miksic, there are more than 30 inscriptions during the period of Adityavarman 1347-1375,
found in the Menangkabau highlands (Miksic, 1985:10). Some of the inscriptions are : (1) Kubu Radjo
(1349), (2) Pagarruyung (1357), (3) Suroaso I (1357), (4) Bandar Bapahat and Suroaso II (Mansoer,
1970:61-62).
26
In 1365, the Buddhist official Prapanca wrote a poem called Nagarakertagama or the Story of the
Glorious Dynasty which informs us of the great Majapahit kingdom (Berg, 1965:105). The work is
properly entitled Desawarnana [Description of the Country] (Robson, 1995). According to this text, Gajah
Mada, the famous chief-minister of Majapahit, swore that he would not eat his favourite dish palapa until
he had conquered ten countries, including Menangkabau (Minnatur, 1966:237-239). In the text of
Nagarakertagama, it is spelt as Manangkabwa (Josselin, 1956:68).

1848:115; St. John, 1853:35-40; Bickmore, 1868:469). Marsden remarked on the


reverence in which the Menangkabau royal family was held among costal Malays of
Sumatra and also among the Batak population of the interior: They have a superstitious
veneration for the Sultan of Menangkabau (Marsden, 1811:336-337; Joustra, 1923:44).
Dutch records cited by Drakard also commented upon Batak reverence for the
Menangkabau rulers, referring in detail to Batak legends which cite the Raja of Barus who
paid tribute to the ruler of Menangkabau (Drakard, 1990:6). In addition to this, Moor
stated that the sovereignty of Menangkabau was acknowledged over the whole of
Sumatra, that the rulers influence extended to many of the neighbouring islands, and that
the respect paid by all ranks to its princes amount by veneration (Moor, 1837:102). It
seems Menangkabau at one time attained a greater amount of civilization and of power
than in any other part of the Archipelago, and that the chiefs and rulers of the other Malay
nations took pride in tracing their origin to it.
Crawfurd, a British scholar and official in the early nineteenth century, stated that,
Some of the states of the interior even call themselves men of Menangkabo, their
chiefs receiving an investiture from that place. There is but one country eminently
favourable to the development of an early civilization, in which we find the Malay nation
planted - Menangkabo, so often referred to in Malay story (Crawfurd, 1856:251-252).
Most of the civilised Malays of the Peninsula claim their origin from Sumatra and also
from Menangkabau the oldest kingdom of that island27. The Malays of Borneo, in like
manner with those of the Peninsula (Negeri Sembilan), claim their descent from
Menangkabau (Moor,1837:102; Sweeney,1968:11; Josselin, 1975:279; Pehin,1990:3745)28. Most of the travellers accounts and nineteenth century scholars writings agree
very well with native Malay tradition on the subject, which states that the origin of many
of the Malays of the Peninsula are from the old central state of Menangkabau.
The study undertaken by the twentieth century scholars also remarks that
Menangkabau is the oldest kingdom. Christine Dobbin, considered Menangkabau the
home of Malay civilization, from the seventh century A.D, this civilization having
outstripped that of the other societies of Sumatra (Dobbin, 1983:7). The study of the
ancient history of Menangkabau can be found mostly in the writings of Indonesian
scholars, such as Sedjarah Minangkabau by M.D. Mansoer and Tambo Alam
Minangkabau by Batoeah Sango, which illuminate the origins of Menangkabau kingdom
from the beginning of first century A.D.
However, some European scholars provide brief mention of facts, without
attempting additional elucidation as to the origins of Menangkabau. These scholars
claimed that the history of Menangkabau started after the fall of Srivijaya (Josselin,
1951; Schnitger, 1964; Wolters, 1967 & 1970; Graves, 1971). Josselin de Jong, for
example, stated that fourteenth century as the starting point of the Menangkabau
kingdom and that the older kingdom was Srivijaya (Josselin, 1951:7). The problem of
the origin and history of the Menangkabau kingdom requires further treatment by
historians and the examination of its history in future may offer us a solution.
27

In an article, Inas: A Study of Local History, Diane Lewis cited from the local tradition that mankind
originated in Menangkabau and the first man and his wife descended from Gunung Merapi. Their children
produced the earliest inhabitants of Menangkabau and their descendants later came to the Malay
Peninsula to populate the country (Lewis, 1960:73).
28
According to oral traditions, the Brunei kings are said to be descended from the lineage of Raja
Geroyong of Pagarruyung, Menangkabau (Pehin, 1990:37). Pagarruyung is said to be the political seat of
the kings of Menangkabau. Pagar means fence and ruyung being the name of a species of aquatic grass,
and the compound word literally meaning fence or inclosure made of this grass (Crawfurd, 1856:275).

Meanwhile, to return to the Sejarah Melayu, the second brother of Sang Sapurba,
Paludatani with the title of Sang Maniaka, was taken to rule the kingdom of Tanjung
Pura. Historical studies of Sumatra and Malay ports have always tended to concentrate
on major entrepot centres such as Srivijaya and Melaka. We know less about centres like
Tanjung Pura29, which is accorded a similar status to Menangkabau. The third prince
Nilatanams right to rule was immediately acknowledged by Demang Lebar Daun; he
remained in Palembang and was installed as the ruler of Palembang. Demang Lebar
Daun then abdicated the throne and became Chief Minister. The mediator, Demang
Lebar Daun, is possibly the model for the later office of Bendahara, which thereafter
preserved by an alliance with the royal line through the original covenant between rulers
and subjects.
3.1.3 The Chiri or Coronation Ceremony
The third pericope reads:
Now Wan Empok and Wan Malini had a cow, silvery white in colour. And one day by the
will of God this cow spewed foam30 from its mouth. From this foam came forth a human
being called Bath31, who stood up and said, Hail to his Highness, the Sri Maharaja,
ruler of the whole Suvarna-bhumi32, whose diadem is adorned with the happiness of
strength and victory..adornment of three worlds..law..gone for protection...throne...sunrise
of valour jewel...with gods and demons...to the time of the dissolution of the Universe,
the coronal wreath of the righteous king, the king, the supreme lord. And Bath gave to
the Raja the title of Sri Tri Buana33. [It is from the descendants of Bath that the readers
of the chiri34 in ancient times traced their origin]. And Sri Tri Buana became famous
as a ruler; and all mankind, male and female, came from every part of the country
to pay their homage to him, all of them bringing offerings for his acceptance. On all
who came to present themselves before him Sri Tri Buana bestowed robes of
29

Tanjung Pura or Cape town (city), pura in Sanskrit means city or negeri. Some scholars refer this
kingdom to the Tanjung Pura in western Borneo or north-west of Kalimantan (Blagden, 1909:147; Miksic,
1985:20 ). The Javanese historical text, Desawarnana and the Pararaton mention a considerable number
of places in the Eastern Archipelago with this name. The first text mentions the name of Tanjung Nagara
and the second mentions Tanjung Puri. The name Tanjung Pura and / or Tanjung Puri also appears in the
sixteenth century poem Ken Tambuhan (Teeuw, 1966: 3 & 109). Blagden is very certain that Tanjung
Nagara and Tanjung Puri refers to Tanjung Pura in Borneo (Blagden, 1909:147). However, the text of the
Sejarah Melayu most probably refers to Tanjung Pura in northeast Sumatra. See Map 2.
30
The cow in Hindu tradition is a prized domestic animal yielding nourshing and useful products for
religious ceremony and daily use. The cow was developed into a sacred object of veneration and a symbol
of Mother Earth. (Darmayasa, 1993:23). In contrast to the Hindu veneration for the cow, there is nothing
in the Quran or Islamic tradition to suggest that cow is particularly sacred. The foam of the cow in this
passage is seen as a sacred product which produced Bath to perform the ceremony of chiri.
31
Bath (variously read as Batala, Batara or Bat) is a Sanskrit term which means an act of bodily and
spiritual purification and a ritual obligation for high caste Hindus (Ronkel, 1921:175-181; Walker,
1968:126).
32
Suvarna-bhumi or gold land is generally referred as Malayadvipa. Malayadvipa or Island of Malaya
(island-continent) is identified as Sumatra (Braddell, 1956:6). According to Roland Braddell, Sumatra is
the gold island of Malaya par excellence and its Malay name is Pulau Mas (Pulau Ameh) or gold-island.
The mining of gold in Menangkabau is well attested in Sumatra. The Portugese noted in the sixteenth
A.D. that Menangkabau was the best gold producing region in Sumatra (Braddell, 1956:17).
33
Sri Tri Buana. Sri is an honorific prefixed to names of gods and names of prominent persons. Tri is three
and Buana (Bhuvana) is world. Sri Tri Buana signifies the the Lord of the Three Worlds, thereby calling
to mind the Austronesian cosmological tradition of the Upper World, Middle World and Lower World
(Werner, 1994:43 & 152). Sri Tri Buana, who is almost certainly fictitious, is said by the Sejarah Melayu
to be the founder of Singapura. The name Sri Tri Buana can not be found in any other historical
documents. According to Wolters, Iskandar Shah the fifth ruler of Singapura and the founder of Melaka is
known as Parameswara in the Ming and Portugese records (Wolters, 1970:109).
34
Chiri is the coronation formula recited in Malay courts at the installation of rulers and chiefs.

10

honour, giving to all the men the title of Awang and to all the women the title of Dara.
This was the origin of the institution of (?) The Corps of Noble Youths and The Company
of Maids of Honour35 (Brown, 1952:25-26).
This pericope demonstrates the establishment of the lineage of Malay royalty in
Palembang by a sacred vision by associating the white cow and its froth, from which a
human being called Bath emerged to perform the chiri. Chiri is a Sanskrit formula recited
in Malay courts at the installation or anointing of rulers. This formula would have been
handed down for generations by oral repitition (Maxwell,1882:287). Bath in Hindu
tradition is regarded as an act of purification conducted by Brahmins for the rulers, not
only as a hygienic necessity but also as a ritual obligation (Walker, 1968:126). In the
Sejarah Melayu, Bath has been given the form of a human being and he conducts the act of
purification by reading the sacred installation formula, chiri and bestowes on Nilatanam
the title of Sri Tri Buana or Lord of the Three World.
The pericopes main function is to proclaim the supernatural status of Sri Tri
Buana, the divine Malay king who could only be purified by Bath, who appeared
miraculously from the froth of a cow. By associating Sri Tri Buana with the mythical
person like Bath, the pericope is strengthening the royal status and sovereignty of Sri Tri
Buana. Significantly, the pericope is telling us the greatness of Sri Tri Buana being
installed by Bath and the implication is that he is going to rule over the whole
Suvarnabhumi or Sumatra and will become a famous ruler.
3.1.4 The Divine Covenant
When Sri Tri Buana was established on the throne, he wished for a consort; and
whenever there was to be found a beautiful daughter of a prince he took her to wife. But
any such princes, when she slept with the king, was found by him the following morning to
be stricken with chloasma36 as the result of being possesed by him, whereupon he
abandoned her. To no less than thirty-nine princesses had this happened. Now it came to
the kings ears that Demang Lebar Daun had a daughter, Wan Sendari 37 by name, whose
beauty was such that she had no equal in those days. Sri Tri Buana asked (?) Demang
Lebar Daun for her hand in marriage; but Demang Lebar Daun replied, If your Majesty
make a covenant with your humble servant, whereupon your humble servant will offer her
for your Majestys acceptance. [It was Demang Lebar Daun who was the author of the
expressions your Majesty and your humble servant] And Sri Tri Buana asked, What
is this undertaking that you would have of me? Demang Lebar Daun answered, Your
Highness, the descendants of your humble servant shall be the subjects of your Majestys
throne, but they must be well treated by your descendants. If they offend, they shall not,
however grave be their offence, be disgraced or reviled with evil words: if their offence is
grave, let them be put to death, if that is in accordance with Muhammadan law 38. And the
35

The term Corps of Noble Youths was established for personal attendance on the Ruler. Young boys were
called as Awang (Perawangan) and young girls chosen as Maids of Honour for attendance on the Queen
were called as Dara or Perdaraan (Brown, 1952:210).
36
Chloasma is a disfiguring skin disease. According to the Blakistons Gould Medical Dictionary,
chloasma is a patchy hyperpigmentation located chiefly on the forehead, temples, cheeks, nipples and
median line of the abdomen (Blakiston, 1979:261). However, Jordaan and Josselin stated that chloasma is
a (venereal) skin disease (Jordaan and Josselin, 1985:253).
37
Wan Sendari (Sundari) or vanasundari means sylvan beauty (Minnatur, 1970:114). Sundari or Sendari
is also described as the fairest being in the three spheres, heaven, earth and air which explains to why Wan
Sendari was the only suitable partner for Sri Tri Buana (Stutley, 1977:304).
38
Islamic law here refers to Sharia, the revealed law of Islam, the sum of Gods commandments relating to
human conduct. These commandments are contained in the Quran and the accounts ( hadith) of the

11

king replied, I agree to give the undertaking for which you ask: but I in my turn require
an undertaking from you sir. And when Demang Lebar Daun asked what the
undertaking was, the king answered, that your descendants shall never for rest of time be
disloyal to my descendants, even if my descendants oppress them and behave evilly. And
Demang Lebar Daun said, Very well, your Highness. But if your descendants depart
from the terms of the pact, then so will mine. And Sri Tri Buana replied, Very well, I
agree I agree to that covenant: whereupon both of them took a solemn oath to the effect
that whoever departed from the terms of the pact, let his house be overturned by
Almighty God so that its roof be laid on the ground and its pillars be inverted (Brown,
1952:26-27).
After the new king Sri Tri Buana was established on the throne, he sought a royal
consort from among the daughters of local nobles. However, the union between Sri Tri
Buana and the thirty-nine princesses proved a failure, for each of the princess was infected
with chloasma upon contact with his royal body. Finally, Sri Tri Buana asked for the hand
of the daughter of his chief minister, Wan Sendari. Her father consented to the marriage on
the condition that a pact be established between rulers and subjects. In this connexion, the
pericope draws attention to a number of motives regarding the relation between the ruler
and his realm which constantly recur in Indonesian political myths.
One of these motives strikes one as rather strange, namely the association between
Malay royalty and a certain type of illness. Sri Tri Buana was depicted as possessing a skin
disease where the thirty nine princesses with whom he had sexual intercourse were
afflicted. This leads to the question why a disgusting disease should be attributed in
particular to a divine ruler like Sri Tri Buana. The explanation seems to be that Sri Tri
Buana carries a dangerous sacred charge which has the power of making others ill through
inappropriate contact. The effect of the sickness is of great significance to the relationship
between the ruler and realm, as the words, as the result of being possessed by him makes
it clear that Sri Tri Buana is held to be responsible for the sickness of his consorts and this
in return disturbs the peace and happiness of the king and the subjects of his realm.
This interpretation could allow us to explain the sacred charge of Sri Tri Buana as
a political metaphor. The pericope introduces the relationship between Sri Tri Buana and
Wan Sendari in order to symbolise the relationship of the ruler and his subjects as a marital
union. The sacred charge of Sri Tri Buana has created a state of imperfection between the
ruler and the subject. Jordaan and Josselin stated that it was not the illness which disturbed
the relationship of the kings and his subjects, but that the disruption of the relationship was
portrayed as illness. The myth is stating that the relationship between the new king and his
subjects was not yet satisfactorily established. The ruler and his subjects need to make safe
a dangerous relationship (Jordaan, 1985:253-255). The myth appears to suggest that the
means by which the disturbed relationship can be restored to an order is by the political
compact suggested by Demang Lebar Daun. It is significant that the pericopes
foreshadows or prefigures the Bendaharas later role as bride-giver to the ruler. No less
than six of the eight legitimate sultans of Melaka are stated to have married a daughter of
their Bendahara (Jordaan, 1985:255)39. The relation of the Melaka Bendahara to the
Sultan is modelled on the political and social union depicted in the pericope above.
Prophets model behaviour (Embree, 1988:435).
39
See also John R. Bowen, Cultural Models for Historical Genealogies: the Case of the Melaka
Sultanate, in K.S.Sandhu & P.Wheatley, Melaka:The Transformation Of A Malay Capital c. 1400-1980,
1983 :165-167.

12

The next motive of the pericope is the myth of royal power, which bestows on the
dynasty the sacred power40 which each ruler needed in order to exercise his function as the
focus of the social and political order. The pericope demonstrates the myth as the covenant
made between the ruler and the subjects, and this myth remained as the foundation for the
Malay concept of royal power. Before we look closely at this aspect of the covenant, we
have to understand the idea of divine kingship. The idea of divine kingship practised by the
Malays was originally from the Austronesian tradition. Later the Malays absorbed and
adapted the idea of Hindu kingship. The transition from Hinduism to Islam41 failed to
eradicate the idea of the divinity of kings. Instead of regarding kings as reincarnation of
the deities, the Malay concept of daulat 42 or sovereignty, regarded kings as being divinely
endowed with the power to rule over men. This is the concept which upholds the
narrative line of the Sejarah Melayu.
Demang Lebar Daun only bestows Wan Sendari in marriage after Sri Tri Buana
promised, on his own and his successors behalf, one condition: your Majesty make a
covenant with your humble servant, whereupon your humble servant will offer her for your
Majestys acceptance. Only when this promise has been made is Demang Lebar Dauns
daughter immune to the supernatural aspects of kingship. The Sitz im Leben of the above
pericope is of great importance in the understanding the function of Malay kingship. The
myths of daulat and derhaka are determined by the life-situation of the Palembang society
in which the myths arose. The myths of daulat were used to enhance the sovereignty of the
ruler and to strenghten his power. The Sejarah Melayu traditions portrays the king as the
apex of political life. Throughout the text, the ruler was believed to be the focus of a
supernatural power ensuring the prosperity of the state and its defence against internal
disorder and foreign invasions. The people have to pay respect and be loyal to the ruler in
order to affect positively the prosperity of state and society.
The pericope then goes on to note the fact that it was Demang Lebar Daun who
invented the expressions Yand DiPertuan or your Majesty and patek or your humble
servant and set outs the rules governing the relationship of ruler and the ruled.
Although already a sovereign, Sri Tri Buana enters into a covenant with Demang Lebar
Daun who agreed to the following condition:
Your Highness, the descendants of your humble servant shall be the
subjects of your Majestys throne, but they must be well treated by your
descendants. If they offend, they shall not, however grave be their
40

The magic power here can be referred to daulat. However, the term daulat is not used by the Author of
the Sejarah Melayu.
41
According to Braginsky, the traditional Malay concept of literature is a single, integral and
hierarchically arranged system. The term single is appropriate because in spite of the diversity of its
components - archaic and genuienly Malay, Hindu-Buddhist and Islamic, the self-awareness of Malay
literature during the classical period was Muslim. This compelled writers to reinterpret older works and
create new ones that would be congrous with Muslim culture, or at least, not at variance with its spirit
(Braginsky, 1993:38). Thus, the Author assimilates the physical elements of the foreign culture and not the
spirit of the literature.
42
The kings royal birth and illustrious genealogy were part of the special qualities of royalty, expressed by
Malays in the single word, daulat. Inadequately translated as sovereignty, it subsumes pre-Hindu, Hindu
and Islamic concepts concerning the immutable power of the king, the sacredness of his person and the
unseen forces which guarded him (Andaya, 1975:25). The possesion of the supernatural power or sakti
associated with the gods, placed the ruler in a sacred realm far above the common people and thus worthy
of his subjects veneration. The sakti of the prince from Palembang would have been perpetuated among
his descendants, the rulers of Melaka, but would have been described by a term in accordance with
Muslim belief. In the Muslim Malay court, this divine quality of kingship and the powers associated with
this position were incorporated in the Arabic derived term, daulat. Parallel to this concept of daulat is
another word to describe heinous crime towards the king, derhaka or treason.

13

offence, be disgraced or reviled with evil words: if their offence is grave,


let them be put to death, if that is in accordance with Muhammadan
law(Brown, 1952:26).
To this expressed condition, the king Sri Tri Buana, responded with his formal
condition:
that your descendants shall never for the rest of time be disloyal to my
descendants, even if my descendants oppress them and behave evilly
(Brown, 1952:26)
Demang Lebar Daun agreed to the kings condition, in spite of its clear bias in
favour of the members of royalty. After the marriage, Wan Sendari was not stricken with
chloasma, signifying that the covenant has a strategic necessity in holding the kingdom
together, as is later be illustrated at several points in the Sejarah Melayu, when the failure
of one side to observe its promises leads to disaster for all. The pericope makes the claim
that both parties took a solemn oath not to deviate from the pact:
Very well, your Highness. But if your descendants depart
from the terms of the pact, then so will mine...whoever
departed from the terms of the pact, let his home be
overturned by Almighty God so that its roof be laid on the
ground and its pillars be inverted (Brown, 1952:26-27).
This covenant can be likened to a formal statement of mutual rights and obligations
between Sri Tri Buana, representing the monarchy, and Demang Lebar Daun, representing
the people. Loyalty43 is a duty of the ruled. If the ruler violated the covenant, his kingdoms
would be destroyed, not by man, but by God. The pericope demonstrates this covenant to
the fact that no matter how unjust and cruel a ruler may be, the rulers subjects are
forewarned to be loyal since only divine forces are able to punish the ruler. The rulers
exalted and indispensable role in the society is reinforced by the attitude expressed by the
pericope that a ruler is responsible solely to Almighty God 44. A subject should not try to
take the law of God into his own hands; if anyone disobeys the command of the king is
found guilty of derhaka45 or treason, he will be struck by a curse (Andaya, 1975:22; Zalila,
1996:51). Although the king has the power to punish his subjects, the punishments must be
in accordance with the Islamic law. The following gloss adds:
And that it why it has been granted by Almighty God to Malay rulers
that they shall never put their subjects to shame, and that those
subjects however gravely they offend shall never be bound or
hanged or disgraced with evil words. If any ruler puts a single one of
his subjects to shame, that shall be a sign that his kingdom will be
destroyed by Almighty God. Similiarly it has been granted by
43

The word loyal is an adaptation from the Hindu word bhakti or devotion and it suggests the devotion
which Hindu espressed toward their teacher or guru, which has a God-like position in the eyes of his
followers (Milner, 1981:50). In the same manner, the Malay rulers who was described as supernatural
being receives loyalty from his subjects.
44
To further emphasize the religious element, the theory that the ruler was Gods shadow on earth (an
Abbasid dynasty title) was put forward to show the source of authority and power of the King. Since Islam
has played an important role in Malay society, the association of a rulers authority with Islam carries
considerable weight. In the Sejarah Melayu, when Bendahara Paduka Raja was about to die, he told his
family, the Raja is, as it were the Deputy of God. The essence of the Bendaharas message was that the
king was Gods shadow on earth and this places him above his society, beyond reproach and criticism
(Brown, 1952:118). In Winstedts edition, Almighty God is called Allah (Winstedt, 1938).
45
Derhaka, a word found repeatedly in Srivijayan inscriptions and meaning treason, was adopted from
Sanskrit to denote a heinous crime against the ruler (Andaya, 1982:26).

14

Almighty God to Malay subjects that they shall never be disloyal or


treacherous to their rulers, even if their rulers behave evilly or inflict
injustice upon them (Brown, 1952:27).
The gloss above highlights the interdependency between the ruler and the ruled.
In order to affect positively the prosperity of state and society, the people have to pay
respect and be loyal. Thus, while the rulers role and place appears paramount, being the
symbol of the state and its well-being as well as its ultimate earthly arbiter and guarantor
of harmony and welfare, the ruler is not absolved from showing consideration for the
views and reputations of those who serve him. In fact government can only work
properly if the two respect each others role in the order of things and both act only in
agreement with and reference to each other. According to Kratz, in Malay political
theory no matter how important a ruler may be, he is nothing without a people, and that
in Malay historiography it is the people and their traditional leader who choose their
ruler, and who decide freely to whom they want to offer their total obedience (Kratz,
1993:77). In the Sejarah Melayu, it is the representative of the people, Demang Lebar
Daun, and his successors as Bendahara place themselves in a subservient position and
initiate the most fundamental customs and traditions of the Malay realm.
3.1.5 Ceremonies of the Malay Court
When the covenant had been made and strict promises mutually given, Princess Wan
Sendari was offered by Demang Lebar Daun to Sri Tri Buana, and Sri Tri Buana was
wedded to the princess, daughter of Demang Lebar Daun. And when night had fallen,
the king slept with the princess: and when day dawned he saw that she was not stricken
with chloasma. And the king was overjoyed and ordered Demang Lebar Daun to be
informed. And Demang Lebar Daun came forthwith, and he too was overjoyed to see that
his daughter was unscathed and that no harm had befallen her. Demang Lebar Daun then
made preparations for the ceremonial lustration of Sri Tri Buana, and he ordered a
seven-tiered bathing pavilion to be built with five spires. The construction was of the
finest quality and it was Baths workmanship. When it was finished, Demang Lebar Daun
initiated the festivities that were to be celebrated day and night for forty days and forty
nights, with feasting, drinking and entertainment of every kind, in which participated
princes, ministers, courtiers, heralds, war-chiefs and all the people, to the
accompaniment of music that rolled like thunder. Many were the buffaloes, oxen and
sheep that were slaughtered: the rice-refuse from the cooking pots was piled mountainhigh and the boiling water was like a sea in which the heads of slaughtered buffaloes and
oxen were so many islands. When the forty days and forty nights were accomplished, the
ceremonial water was borne in procession to the accompaniment of every sort of music,
and the vessels containing the water were all of them of gold studded with jewels. The Sri
Tri Buana with his bride, Princess Wan Sendari, were borne in procession seven times
round the pavilion, and they were then lustrated on the central platform, the ceremony
being performed by Bath. When the lustration was accomplished, Sri Tri Buana took off
his towel wrap and donned his apparel, his sarong being of darapata darmani, while Wan
Sendari also donned a sarong of burudimani46: and both were invested with the complete
insignia of sovereignty, whereupon they took their seats in the appointed place on the
golden dais. The ceremonial rice was then borne in procession to the dais, and the king
and
his bride partook thereof. And when they had eaten, the royal head ornaments
were brought in procession and placed by Bath on the kings head and his brides.
46

According to C.C.Brown, the darapata darmani and sarong of burudimani may represent the Telugu
darapata, a garment like a dhoti for men, made of silk and probably bejewelled. Darmani is derived
possibly from derma, a person who is virtuous. Burudai is a females garment or sari and burudai-mani
would mean a jewelled burudai (Brown, 1952:210).

15

Thereupon Sri Tri Buana proceeded to give robes of honour to his chiefs: after which Sri
Tri Buana went into the palace and all who had been present at the ceremony returned to
their homes (Brown, 1952:27-28).
The first three sentences in the gloss indicate that the chief minister, Demang
Lebar Daun was overjoyed with the covenant and made preparation for the ceremonial
lustration and consecration of both the queen and king. The Author explains how, shortly
before he left Palembang, Sri Tri Buana bound his Malay followers to himself by giving
robes of honour for loyal service and performed awe-inspiring rites. The ceremony47 is
preceded by a lustration which was carried out by Bath, who read a sacred installation
formula (Brown, 1952:29). The gloss is particularly significant because of the court
ceremonials which have a purpose to emphasize and persevere the kings greatness. The
institution and preservation of the court ceremonies or adat istiadat diraja is a special
concern of the Author. According to Koster and Maier, the power of the Malay text can
be regarded as providing models for imitation and can also be read as reflections of
Malay reality. The function of such ceremonies performed during audiences in the
rulers hall was for the Malay ruler to strengthen and maintain the confirmation of
loyalty from his subjects (Koster & Maier, 1985:441-443).
The climax of the ceremony occurs when Sri Tri Buana and his bride sit on the
cushioned lion-throne of gold, and the ornaments are placed on the heads of the king
and queen. Then the king rewards his chiefs with robes of honour. The intention of the
Author is not only to provide a social model for future rulers but to emphasise
ceremony as a means of strengthening unity and loyalty towards the king. Wealth and
prestige conferred during the ceremonies, would have enabled the ruler to maintain his
power in the Malay world by granting favours or anugraha48 (Wolters, 1970:19).
According to Wolters, the kings wealth would have been shared among the
Malay notables in the form of salaries and other financial privileges. But material
benefits were probably not the most prized rewards. Status and special marks of royal
favour would have been sufficient reason for the court nobles living in Palembang, where
codes of precedence were formulated and refined, providing standards of courtly
behaviour. This lifestyle requires a princely patron of great wealth, whose court
nourished the pomp and ceremony which have remained the pride of the Malay race.
Thus the status of Palembang (Srivijaya) depended in no small measure on Malay
acknowledgement of its role in promoting general prosperity (Wolters, 1970:17). Only a
sovereigns robes of honour, titles, and gifts were worth expecting in return for
promises of loyalty. Furthermore, Sri Tri Buana needed the support of the chiefs and his
subjects as he is about to move from Palembang.
3.1.6 From Palembang to Singapura
After Sri Tri Buana had been living for some time at Palembang he planned to visit the
coast and he sent for Demang Lebar Daun, who came forthwith. And Sri Tri Buana said to
him, I am thinking of going to the coast to find a suitable site for a city. What say you?
And Demang Lebar Daun replied, As your Highness pleases. If your Majesty goes, I will
accompany you, for I must not be parted from your Highness. Then said Sri Tri Buana,
47

The ceremony itself has been examined in detail by Wolters who sees it as a Buddhist abhiseka or
lustration rite, and the king a claimant to bodhisattva or divine status as an incarnation of Avalokitesvara
[the lord of the world] (Wolters, 1970:128-135).
48
Anugraha is a Sanskrit term meaning granting favours and is a traditional instrument of government in
the Malay kingdom as in other Southeast Asian countries to obtain the loyalty of their subjects (Wolters,
1970:17).

16

Please then have ships made ready. And Demang Lebar Daun did obeisance and left the
palace to call men to prepare the craft. When this was done, Demang Lebar Daun
arranged for his younger brother to remain at Palembang in his abscence, saying, I am
leaving you here in charge of the city as I am going with his Majesty, accompanying him
wherever he may go.And his brother replied, Very well: no wish of yours will I disobey
(Brown, 1952:28).
In the first two sentences we are informed by the pericope that after ruling
Palembang for a short while Sri Tri Buana wants to visit the coast and find a suitable site
for a new city49. Demang Lebar Daun, his loyal minister obeys the kings wish and
organizes a fleet to carry him. Demang Lebar Daun then arranges for his younger
brother to remain at Palembang in his absence. The question arises as to why the king
wishes to leave the kingdom of Palembang, a city which the Author has just described
as the greatest in Sumatra, and so soon after the completion of an awe-inspiring
ceremony of installation. There is no explanation given for the move from Palembang,
which suggests to us that the pericope was simply concerned to provide genealogical
support for the Melaka rulers claim to overlordship of the Malay world. The decline of
the Srivijayan (Palembang) empire in the eleventh century and its destruction by the Cola
king in 1025, the transfer of the capital from Palembang to Jambi around 1082, and the
Javanese attack in 1377 would have been embarrasing episodes for the Author (Wolters,
1970:90-92; Ricklefs, 1993:19). The pericope deals with this dilemma by having Sri Tri
Buana leave Palembang voluntarily to found a new city.
The coast which Sri Tri Buana proposes to visit may have had some special
significance. The coast here most possibly signify the people who inhabited the islands
at or near the southern entrance to the Straits of Melaka, the sea people or orang
laut50 who played a decisive role in the politics of Srivijaya. Without the orang laut, it
would have been extremely difficult for Sri Tri Buana to leave his kingdom. The orang
laut were a major asset for the Malay rulers in providing naval power. The Malay rulers
commanded the loyalty of this orang laut by their sovereignty and wealth.
According to Wolters, the rulers of Palembang and certain orang laut chiefs and
their descendants underwent a formal ritual called an abhiseka ceremony, which suggets
that a possible source of the devotion of the orang laut to their ruler was their belief in
the special powers acquired by their ruler in this ceremony (Wolters, 1970:17).
Therefore the pericope points out to us the urgent need of the king to get help from the
orang laut to flee from Palembang. We must not forget that the main theme of the
Sejarah Melayu is the sovereignty of Iskandar Dzul-Karnains descendants, and the text
is concerned to demonstrate the legitimacy of that sovereignty. Thus, according to the
49

As the youngest brother, Sri Tri Buana is depicted by the tradition of the Sejarah Melayu as searching
for a new land. The myth of a youngest brother leaving home to found a new settlement is widespread in
the Malayo-Polynesian world. The Malayo-Polynesian myth states that the younger brother leaves his
home island to sail over the horion in search of a new land where his line can be established as the
prestigious (Kirch, 1997:65).
50
According to Sopher, the term orang laut is applied to the Malay population on the islets northeast of
Lingga not because of their origin but to distinguish them from those on the mainland. The orang laut
inhabit the islands and estuaries in the Riau-Lingga Archipelagos, the Pulau Tujuh islands, the Batam
Archipelago and the coasts and offshore islands of eastern Sumatra and southern Malay Peninsula
(Sopher, 1977:51). Because of their intense loyalty to the rulers of the Srivijayan dynasty, they were an
effective military force for Srivijaya. The duties of the orang laut were to gather sea products for the
China trade, perform certain special services for the ruler at weddings and funerals, or hunt, serve as
transport for envoys and royal missives, man the ships and serve as a fighting force on the rulers fleet,
and patrol the waters of the kingdom (Miksic, 1985:12; Andaya, 1975:7; Chou, 1995:175-177).

17

above pericope, when Sri Tri Buana leaves Palembang to visit the coast, he does not
leave in flight.
Another interesting point to note is the close relationship between the ruler and
the chief minister, Demang Lebar Daun. This is illustrated when the pericope tell us that
Demang Lebar Daun does not part from his masters side. Demang Lebar Daun calls
men to prepare the craft and then arranges for his younger brother to be left behind to
rule Palembang. The brother replies to the instructions: Very well: no wish of yours will
I disobey. This detail makes it clear that the pericope portrays Sri Tri Buana as overlord
in Palembang as well as in the islands. Despite, the decision of Sri Tri Buana to leave
Palembang willingly not long after his appearance, his successors in Singapura
nevertheless retain their right to rule in both Palembang as well as Singapura. The chief
minister is shown as the more active character as he is the chief executive agent of the
ruler, and the ruler refers to him for guidance on his visit to the coast. However, the
chief mininster, Demang Lebar Daun cannot function without the consent and approval
of the ruler in whose name only he may act (Kratz, 1993:78-79).
And finally Sri Tri Buana embarked his journey to visit the coast:
Sri Tri Buana then set forth, he in the royal (golden) yacht for the menfolk and the
queen in the silver yacht, while Demang Lebar Daun, the ministers and the war-chiefs
had each their own craft. So vast was the fleet that there seemed to be no counting it;
the masts of the ships were like a forest of trees, their pennons and streamers were like
driving clouds and the state umbrellas of the Rajas like cirrus. So many were the craft
that accompanied Sri Tri Buana that the sea seemed to be nothing but ships. After
leaving Kuala Palembang they crossed over the Selat Sepat, and from there they sailed
on to Selat Sambar. Meanwhile the news had come to Bentan after they had sailed from
Palembang, that a Raja from Bukit Si-Guntang, who is descended from Raja Iskandar
Dzul-Karnain, is on his way here and is now at Selat Sambar (Brown, 1952:28).
The Author explains that the stately journey51 to the coast was undertaken to
establish a city. The magnitude of the occasion is emphasized: The sea seemed to be
nothing but ships. The ruler and his followers are described as passing from Kuala
Palembang to Selat Sepat and then to Selat Sambar. The Author is preparing the stage to
make sure that the arrival of Sri Tri Buana does not appear as a flight but as a royal
arrival to Bentan (Bintan). Furthermore his arrival was anticipated by the queen of
Bentan who sends two ministers to invite him to Bentan.
The pericope introduces us to one of the significant islands in the Malay political
world, the island of Bentan:
Now Bentan52 was ruled by a woman, called Wan Seri Benian53, though according to one
tradition her name was Queen Sakidar Shah . She was a great Raja, and at that time it was
51

The stately journey undertaken by Sri Tri Buana is illustrated in Map 3. From Kuala Palembang, Sri Tri
Buana crossed over the Selat Sepat and then sailed from Tanjong Rungas (unidentified) to Selat Sambar
and then proceeded to Bentan. From Bentan, he sailed to Tanjong Bemian (unidentified) and from that
point to Temasek (Singapura), where he reached Telok Blanga. He then moved on to Kuala Temasek,
which John Miksic identifies as the Esplanade.
52

The island of Bentan (Bintan) in the Sejarah Melayu takes its name from the highest hill of the island
and the river of the same name. Bentan is the largest of the crowd of islands lying in the Riau Archipelago
between the Peninsula and Sumatra at the east of the Straits of Melaka. It is located about 30 miles
southeast of Singapura and forms part of the Republic of Indonesia. It was a place of refuge for the last
king of Melaka, Sultan Mahmud, who was driven out of Melaka by the Portugese (Crawfurd, 1856:53).

18

she who visited Sham54. It was Queen Sakidar Shah who first institute the drum of
sovereignty55, which practice was followed by other Rajas. When she heard the news of
the coming of Sri Tri Buana, she commanded her ministers, Indra Bopal and Aria Bopal to
bring him to Bentan. [At that time the fleet of Bentan was four hundred sail]. And Wan
Seri Benian said to Indra Bopal, If this Raja is old, say to him, Your younger sister
sends her obeisance, but if he is young, say Your mother sends her greetings.So Indera
Bopal and Aria Bopal set out, and the ships of the party sent to bring Sri Tri Buana to
Bentan were strung out in one unbroken line from Tanjong Rungas to Selat Sambar. And
when they came up with Sri Tri Buana, Indra Bopal and Aria Bopal perceived that he
was very young, and they said to him, Your mother sends greetings and invites your
Highness to Bentan. So Sri Tri Buana proceeded to Bentan and went into the palace to
Wan Seri Benian as she was called. Now the purpose of Wan Seri Benian had been to
marry Sri Tri Buana, but when she saw how young he was she adopted him instead as her
son and shewed such affection for him that she had him installed at Bentan as her
successor, to the beat of the drum of sovereignty (Brown, 1952:28-29).
The pericope describes the Bentan queen as a great ruler and the first to institute
the drum of sovereignty or nobat diraja. Sri Tri Buana is no ordinary ruler; therefore, his
arrival must be greeted by a great ruler. The Queen sends two of her ministers to greet
Sri Tri Buana to Bentan with the following instructions: Your younger sister sends her
obeisance if the king is old, and if young, to say: Your mother sends her greetings.
The ministers see that he is still young and invite him by saying, Your mother sends
greetings and invites your Highness to Bentan. The pericope highlights that although
the prince ruled for a while in Palembang, he would have been still young when he led
the evacuation to Bentan.
The princes high status is further emphasized, however, by the decision of the
queen of Bentan to adopt him as her son and install him as her successor to the beat of
the drum of sovereignty. The nobat diraja, were an important part of installing a ruler,
and were also used as a means of heralding important announcements. His reception was
assured because he was known to be descended from Iskandar Dzul-Karnain. Bentan is
not a mythical kingdom for it was located in the heartland of orang laut in the Riau
archipelago. Because its importance depended not only on its sea power, but also the

53

Wan Seri Benian is also known as Queen Sakidar Shah. According to C.H.Wake, the name Sakidar is
adapted from the regnal style of Iskandar. In relation to this name he states that the name Iskandar had a
strong appeal to rulers who wished to root their claims to legitimacy in Muslim mythology for it expressed
a claim to descent from Iskandar Dzul-Karnain. The Authors claim is explicit in the genealogy of the
Melaka kings in the Sejarah Melayu, which includes the name Sakidar Shah, the Queen of Bentan and
asserts the Palembang lines descent from Iskandar (Wake, 1983:143).
54
Josselin de Jong in his article Malayan and Sumatran Place-Names In Classical Malay Literature
divides the place names occuring in the text in four groups: i. doubtful readings ii. unidentifiable iii.
location doubtful or inferred from context iv. location more certain or completely certain. Sham falls in
the second division as unidentifiable (Josselin de Jong, 1956:63). However, Josselin did not mention Sham
at all in his article. However, Sham appears to be a near-synonym for Siam. Schnitger observes that, in
many Jambi legends, wars with Siam are mentioned, and a Malay inscription on the Malay Peninsula
contains the name of a Sumatran official identitical with a name appearing in Jambi legends in connection
with his visit to Siam (Schnitger, 1964:21). Most probably, Sham should be equated with Siam.
55
Nobat or Naubat is a big drum used for the ceremony of installing new rulers and for announcing a
royal feast. It also means a very large kettle drum struck at stated hours or a musical band playing at stated
times in front of the palace of the King or prince. According to Seljuq, the nobat originated from the
ancient Iranian monarchy and afterwards in the courts of the Muslim rulers in Syria, Turkey, Egypt, India,
and the royal courts in the Malayan Archipelago. According to historical evidence, the ancient Iranian
Court developed this form of music (Seljuq, 1976:141).

19

services performed by the orang laut. Sri Tri Buanas visit suggests an attempt to
increase his forces as the first step in his plan is to establish a new capital.
Bentan in the Sejarah Melayu was portrayed as the great institution of Malay
loyalty to the Palembang ruler56. The pericope gives a vivid description of the resources
which an ambitious Malay leader could exploit in order to establish overlordship in the
seas south of the Straits of Melaka. According to Wolters, Bentan plays a prominent role
in the career of Sri Tri Buana. Bentan is credited with possessing or commanding four
hundred ships, the largest compliment mentioned in the text. These would have been a
welcome addition to Sri Tri Buanas passionate desire to found a city (Wolters,
1970:77) which is demonstrated in the following pericope:
After he had been there for a time, Sri Tri Buana one day sought permission to make an
expedition to Tanjong Bemian57 for sport, and the queen replied, Why go so far afield
for your sport, my son? In Bentan are there not deer and mouse-deer with enclosures
into which to drive them? Are there not barking- deer and porcupines with cages in
which to capture them? Are there not fish in our pools and every sort of fruit and flower
in our gardens? Why is it that you want to go so far afield for your sport? And Sri Tri
Buana answered, If I am not permitted to go, then I shall die, whether I sit down or
stand up or what ever I do. Whereupon Wan Seri Benian said, Rather than you should
die, go, my son. And the queen ordered Indra Bopal and Aria Bopal to have craft
made ready. And when that was done, Sri Tri Buana set out with his consort. And the
whole fleet- royal yachts, ships for sleeping, ships for the menfolk, wherries that were
paddled, kitchen boats, dug-outs for fishing with the casting-net and floating bathhouses- (put out to the sea), with a countless host of escorting vessels. And when they
were come to Tanjong Bemian , the king went ashore for a picnic on the sand, and his
consort accompanied by the wives of the chiefs went ashore also to picnic on the sand
and enjoy herself collecting shellfish. And she sat under a screwpine, with the wives of
the chiefs in attendance upon her, happily watched her handmaids amusing
themselves, each one in her own way, some gathering shellfish, some digging up barai,
some picking mangrove flowers and making nosegays, some picking teruntum to wear
in their hair, some picking bananas and cooking them, some picking butun leaves,
some picking sponges and playing with them, some getting sea-worms and making
salad with them, some getting sea-weed for jelly and salad- all of them disporting
themselves to their hearts content, each in her own fashion (Brown, 1952:29-30).
Sri Tri Buana now decides to make an expedition for sport, and asks permission
from his mother, queen of Bentan. Sri Tri Buana desperately wants to go and his
impatience can be seen from his statement: If I am not permitted to go, then I shall die,
whether I sit down or stand up or whatever I do. Sri Tri Buanas contumacious attitude
finally receives approval from the queen: Rather than you should die, go, my son. This
pericope illustrates the loyalty and support of the rulers of Bentan, who cannot refuse
any wish of Sri Tri Buana, and by implication the later rulers of Melaka.
The queen, who shows such affection for the prince, does not only acknowledge
his wish, but also provides him craft and service of the orang laut. To make the journey
56

The Malay overlords who commanded the loyalty of the chiefs in the offshore islands enjoyed great
naval power. In the fifteenth century Bentan, was an important part of the Melaka empire and the services
the inhabitants performed were significant. Tom Pires, an early sixteenth century observer, states that the
Celates, men of the Straits, made Bentan (Bimtam) their headquarters and served as rovers in the kings
navy, being brought to Melaka by the chief of Bentan (Cortesao, 1944:264).
57
According to C.C.Brown, the word to Tanjong Bemian or ka Tanjong Bemian may be an error for ka
Tanjong bermain or to play at the Tanjong as the conversation took place in Bentan (Brown, 1952:211).

20

possible, the nautical skills of the orang laut are of great importance (Wolters, 1970:15).
According to Andaya, the orang laut were intimately acquainted with the treacherous
shoals and sandbars, and understood local wind conditions. They provided excellent
paddling skills and a formidable fighting force (Andaya, 1975a:7). This made them the
choice as crews for Sri Tri Buanas voyage to Singapura. With the assistance provided
by the queen of Bentan, Sri Tri Buana finally reached Tanjong Bemian, where all the
members of the palace were described as enjoying themselves, each in their own fashion.
The dominating function of the early pericopes of the third chapter of Sejarah
Melayu is to demonstrate the uninterrupted sovereignty enjoyed by the Palembang royal
family since it left Palembang. The Authors treatment of the period prior to Singapuras
establishment perhaps aims to conceal any memory of the collapse of the Palembang
based kingdom of Srivijaya in the eleventh century. The following pericope illustrates
the voyage of the uninterrupted sovereignty of the Palembang royal family:
Now Sri Tri Buana and all the men went hunting and great was the quantity of game
that fell to them. And it happened that a deer passed in front of Sri Tri Buana and though
he speared it in the back, the deer escaped. Sri Tri Buana followed it up and again
speared it, this time through the ribs: and the deer could not escape and fell dead. And
Sri Tri Buana came to a very large, high rock. He climbed on to the top of this rock and
looking across the water he saw that the land on the other side had sand so white that
it looked like a sheet of (?) cloth. And he asked Indra Bopal, What is the stretch of
sand that we see yonder? What land is that? And Indra Bopal answered, That, your
Highness, is the land called Temasek58. And Sri Tri Buana said, Let us go thither.
And Indra Bopal replied, I will do whatever your Highness commands. So Sri Tri
Buana embarked and started on the crossing. And when they were come out into the
open sea, a storm arose and the ship began to fill with water. Bale as they might they
could not clear her and the boatswain gave order to lighten the ship. But though much
was thrown overboard, they still could not bale the ship dry. She was now by close to
Telok Blanga, and the boatswain said to Sri Tri Buana, It seems to me, your Highness,
that it is because of the crown of kingship that the ship is foundering. All else has been
thrown overboard, and if we do not likewise with this crown we shall be helpless with
the ship. And Sri Tri Buana replied, Overboard with it then! And the crown was
thrown overboard (Brown, 1952:30).
The first few sentences of the pericope give us a picture of Sri Tri Buanas as an
energetic and adventurous person. During the hunt he comes across a large high rock.
When he climbes on to the top of the rock, he sees a land called Temasek. He decides to
proceed immediately to its beautiful sandy shore. The next adventure of Sri Tri Buana is
even more dramatically presented by the pericope. When Sri Tri Buana is halfway
across, a storm suddenly arises and the ship begins to sink. Everything is thrown
overboard to lighten the ship, but it continues to drift helplessly towards Teluk Blanga,
opposite the island of Blakang Mati, Singapura. The boatswain suggest that if Sri Tri
Buana would throw his crown overboard, they might save themselves. He does so, and
immediately the weather becomes calm. According to Miksic, the theme of the lost
crown is a recurrent motif in Indonesian literature (Miksic, 1985:20).
58

Temasek is a Malay word perhaps derived from tasik, lake or sea and here it may signify place
surrounded by the sea or Sea-town. The name Temasik is found in the Desawarnana of 1365 as Tumasik
[Old Javanese] (Miksic, 1985:16) and by 1462 Singapur appears in Ibn Majids navigational tract. In the
Sejarah Melayu, Sri Tri Buana changed the name of Temasek to Singapura which means Lion-city
(Brown, 1952:31). Singapura island is located off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula and it is the site
of the Republic of Singapura (Embree, 1988:251).

21

How must we interpret this myth? Is it a sign of misfortune or blessing in the case
of Sri Tri Buana, who has thrown his most important insignia, the crown or mahkota59
into the sea? The tradition states that his diadem is a proof that he is descended from
Iskandar Dzul-Karnain, and it would be surprising if a king were prepared to abandon
his crown by throwing it into the sea, as Sri Tri Buana did. Nothing is comparable to this
mark of sovereignty. When Wan Empok and Wan Malini asked for the proof of the
lineage of the three princes, the princes first reaction was to point to their crowns,
These crowns that we wear are the sign that we are of the stock of Raja Iskandar
Dzul-Karnain (Brown, 1952:25).
In my opinion, we should compare the suprising attitude of Sri Tri Buana to the
memory of Srivijaya-Palembangs decline. The subjection of Palembang by Majapahit
was a sad end to Palembangs greatness. Therefore, judging from the historical outcome,
the pericope suggests that we have to take the former dynastys position into
consideration of why Sri Tri Buana threw away his crown. The crown is from
Palembang, which by the late fourteenth century had ceased to be a glorious kingdom,
and the throwing of the crown is actually symbolizing the consciousness of Sri Tri Buana
of the unfortunate downfall of Srivijaya. At the same time, the glorious history of
Singapura, already visited by Raja Chulan his father, becomes a substitute to maintain
the honour of the royal ancestors of Palembang.
Another interesting point to note is that Raja Chulan, the father of the three
princes who descended on Bukit SiGuntang, while he was at Temasek instructed the
chamberlain to split a rock and fill it with all precious jewels. He said, There shall come
a day when a prince of my line who shall make all lands below the wind subject to him
(Brown, 1952:23). The words makes it clear that Sri Tri Buana is held to be the prince
who will become the famous ruler of the new kingdom established in Temasek. The
intent of this prophecy was to show that the lands below the wind would recognize no
sovereign other than a member of the illustrious Palembang family, despite the fact that
Sri Tri Buana has lost his crown.
Thereupon the storm abated, and the ship regained her buoyancy and was rowed to
land. And when they reached the shore, the ship was brought close in and Sri Tri Buana
went ashore with all the ships company and they amused themselves with collecting
shell-fish. The king then went inland for sport on the open ground at Kuala Temasek. And
they all beheld a strange animal. It seemed to move with great speed; it had a red body and
a black head; its breast was white; it was strong and active in build, and in size was rather
bigger than a he-goat. When it saw the party, it moved away and then disappeared. And Sri
59

Mahkota, Malay for crown, is from a Sanskrit word mukuta. According to Wheatley, the king Sri Tri
Buana lost his crown in Keppel Harbour (Telok Blanga) opposite the island Blakang Mati. The Sejarah
Melayu, however, states that the crown was thrown somewhere in Telok Blanga. In Wang Ta-yuans tale of
the jewelled head-dress (crown), he noted that the chief (king) put on his head-gear and wore his
ceremonial dress to receive the congratulations of the people (Wheatley, 1966:82-83). The Chinese record
cited by Firth and Rockhill mentions that the king of Palembang had a high cap (hat) of gold, set with
hundreds of jewel and very heavy. At great court ceremonies no one but the king was able to wear it.
When the throne become vacant all the kings sons were assembled, and the king who was able to wear the
crowns weight succeeded to the throne (Firth & Rockhill, 1911:61). In the consecration ceremony of Sri
Tri Buana at Palembang, the solemnity of the ceremony is enhanced by Bath placing royal ornaments on
the heads of the king and queen. The crown has a divine power and is an attribute of the ruler in which no
one can share. This indicates that the royal regalia is of utmost importance to maintain the honor and
glory of royalty. Furthermore, in Malay states, the installation of a ruler was not complete ( sempurna)
unless the state regalia (kebesaran) were available at his coronation. Sultan Sulaiman (1722-1760)
declined to be installed until the Bugis had recovered the regalia. Sultan Abdul Rahman had to be reinstalled when the Dutch obtained for him the regalia in 1822. The royal regalia were a possession which
according to the constitution (adat istiadat negeri) the ruler could not part with (Braddell, 1936:65).

22

Tri Buana inquired of all those who were with him, What beast is that? But no one
knew. Then said Demang Lebar Daun, Your Highness, I have heard it said that in ancient
times it was a lion60 that had that appearance. I think that what we saw must have been a
lion. And Sri Tri Buana said to Indra Bopal,Go back to Bentan and tell the queen that
now we shall not be returning, but that is she wishes to shew her affection for us, will she
furnish us with men, elephants and horses, as we propose to establish a city here at
Temasek. And Indra Bopal set forth to return to Bentan: and when he arrived there, he
presented himself before Wan Seri Benian to whom he related what Sri Tri Buana had
said. Very well, said Wan Seri Benian, we will never oppose any wish of our son. And
she sent men, elephants and horses without number. Sri Tri Buana then established a city at
Temasek, giving it the name of Singapura (Brown, 1952:30-31).
The pericope is stating that Sri Tri Buanas long journey (See Map 3) has finally
landed him at Temasek. After landing at Temasek, Sri Tri Buana goes inland to the open
ground in Kuala Temasek , to hunt. Then follows the incident which is said to give
Singapura its name of Lion City. There the party saw a strange animal which they
could not identify before it disappeared. Upon inquiry of Sri Tri Buana as to what was
the strange animal, Demang Lebar Daun explained that he had heard in ancient times
lions were said to have such appearance and concluded that they must have seen a lion.
The pericope does not provide an explaination for the response of Sri Tri Buana to the
answer of Demang Lebar Daun, nor does it indicate what led him to decide to establish
the city of Singapura. Although Sri Tri Buana was looking for a suitable site to establish
a city the pericope demonstrates the landing in Temasek as a rather casual affair. The
pericope merely states that a hunting expedition gave Sri Tri Buana his first glimpse of
the island, and that after he landed he decided to stay. The Sejarah Melayu is the only
text which claims that Singapura was founded by Sri Tri Buana, but there is no
supporting evidence from other historical records to verify this.
Singapura is the northernmost island in the Riau archipelago, which was the
home of the orang laut and the most likely region to become the base for a Malay prince
anxious to build up his resources. In order to obtain the necessary resources to establish
his new capital in Temasek, Sri Tri Buana asked the queen of Bentan to send him men
and animals. The queen demonstrates her loyalty by replying: We will never oppose any
wish of our son. Sri Tri Buanas sovereignty is recognized by the queen of Bentan on
many occasions. Apart from installing him as her successor in Bentan, the queen also
provides material support for the establishment of his new kingdom Temasek, renamed
Singapura by Sri Tri Buana. The pericope persuades the readers to accept his
supernatural status and helps posterity to realize him fully as the ruler who has
established the great city, Singapura.
The pericope continues to present the uninterrupted sovereignty of the
Palembang royal family in Temasek. The pericope demonstrates how the kings,
beginning from Sri Tri Buana, lived in Singapura and not in Palembang. The transfer of
60

The lion or singa (simha in Sanskrit) to the Malays is a symbol of power, energy, courage and dignity.
The lion and its strength were identified with sovereignty and given the title of lord, chief and hero. Thus
a kings throne is called singahsana or simhasana, as are those of the Buddha and Vishnu. The lion is the
emblem of Mahavira, the 24th Prophet of Jain faith and is an epithet of Ali, one of the first four Caliphs of
Islam (Stutley, 1977:276; Brittlebank, 1995:259). Many local rulers of the Archipelago adopted singa as
their name, eg., the chief of Batak, Singa Maharaja (Braddell, 1956:18). Cities in Southeast Asia were also
designated Lion city, eg., Singaraja in Bali and Singhasari in Java (Wheatley, 1966:304). The lion was
chosen in the text on account of its power and courage. It is a belief that Malays consider tiger as an
unlucky name for a city and it is a discourtesy to use the name of tiger for a city. Thus, the new city,
Singapura, is named after a lion (Braddell, 1980:504).

23

sovereignty is the underlying theme in this chapter, and the pericope overcomes the
damaged reputation of Srivijaya by providing a new political seat for Sri Tri Buana to
rule. Therefore, the pericope makes the claim that the Melaka rulers are descended from
Sri Tri Buana, an authentic sovereign, in spite of events following Srivijayas decline
after the attack of Cola king in 1025.
Bearing in mind on how the pericope demonstrates to protect the reputation of
Palembang and its king, we shall examine how the pericope sets out to enhanced the
status of Sri Tri Buana by providing a genealogical alliance with the kingdom of Bentan.
And after he had dwelt for some time at Singapura he had two children, both sons,
by Princess Wan Sendari, daughter of Demang Lebar Daun. And Wan Seri Benian died,
leaving two grand-daughters: they were married to the two sons of Sri Tri Buana. And
when Sri Tri Buana had ruled for eighty years then in the process of time he died, as
did Demang Lebar Daun, and they were buried on the hill of Singapura 61. Sri Tri Buana
was succeeded by his elder son, whose title as ruler was Paduka Sri Pikrama Wira, and
Tun Perpateh Permuka Berjajar became Bendahara: it was he who gave audience in the
hall of audience instead of Paduka Sri Pikrama Wira whenever the king himself did not
appear. If it was Tun Perpateh Permuka Berjajar who sat in the hall of audience, he
would rise to greet a prince who was heir to the throne but for no other prince would
he rise: and if he himself went into the royal presence, over the place where he was to
sit a carpet would be spread, and when he went home after the king had retired, he would
be escorted by the chiefs, major and minor. Now there was a son of Demang Lebar Daun
whom Paduka Sri Paduka Wira made chief minister with the title of Perpateh Permuka
Sekalar. He had the same rank (in the hall of audience) as the Bendahara. (? Below the
Bendahara sat the Penghulu Bendahari) with the title of Tun Jana Buga Dendang. In
front of (?below) the Penghulu Bendahari) sat the Temenggong with the title of Tun Jana
Putra...?, while below the Temenggong sat the principal war-chief with the title of Tun
Tempurong Gemeratokan. After them came the ministers, minor chiefs, knights and
courtiers, heralds and war-chiefs, in accordance with the custom dating from ancient
times. And Paduka Sri Pikrama Wira had a son, who was known as Raja Muda. And
Singapura became a great city, to which foriegners resorted in great numbers so that the
fame of the city and its greatness spread throughout the world (Brown, 1952:31).
The relationship between the ruler and chief minister is further developed and
illustrated in the Authors gloss. Sri Tri Buanas dangerous supernatural power now
regulated by a contract, the chief minister, Demang Lebar Daun successfully mediates a
union on both social and political planes with the king, Sri Tri Buana. According to
Bowen, the political alliance is a strategic necessity in holding together the kingdom.
This is because the foregoing contract can be likened to a formal statement of mutual
rights and obligations involving the two parties, the ruler and the ruled (Bowen,
1983:166).
The relation of the Melaka Bendahara to the king is also modelled on the political
and social union depicted in the contract. The first Chief Minister Demang Lebar Daun,
has various political and social roles. He is involved in the preparation of the royal
installation ceremony, the provisions of a wife and the preparation of transportation for
the ruler. The second role is of great importance because the Bendahara was
traditionally a bride-giver: in the Sejarah Melayu it is mentioned no less than six of the
61

This refers almost certainly to the hill, known in Malay history as Bukit Larangan or the Forbidden
Hill. Now known as Fort Canning, it is probably the site of ancient Singapura. See Map 3.

24

eight kings of Melaka married a daughter of their Bendahara (Jordaan, 1985:263). The
relation between royal family and the line of the Bendahara is portrayed as an
asymmetrical marriage alliance. The texts symbolic depiction of this relationship is
described in Figure 1,
O = Demang Lebar Daun
O Wan Seri Benian =

Perpateh Permuka
Sekalar
(Bendahara)

O
=
Wan Sendari

Sri Tri Buana

=O

Paduka Sri
Pikrama Wira

= O

Tun Perpateh
Permuka Berjajar
(Bendahara)

Figure 1. Marriage alliances between the first two ruler in the Palembang and Singapura
royal line and Bendahara line (Brown, 1952:31).
This model shows the important relationship of the ruler and the Bendahara
depicted in the Sejarah Melayu. From this marriage, Sri Tri Buana had two sons. The
elder, Paduka Sri Pikrama Wira, became the second king of Singapura, and the younger,
Tun Perpateh Permuka Berjajar, became the first Bendahara. To recover Palembangs
privileged position, Sri Tri Buana sought to build up regional alliances by marriage with
the most important offshore island, Bentan. The marriage of both princes of Sri Tri
Buana to the queen of Bentans grandaughters created a close relationship between
Bentan and Singapura. This marriage reflects the prestige and power of Bentan royal
family, which was significant for later Melaka rulers.
The Author creates the title of the first Bendahara without further elucidation. He
goes on to introduce the structure of the Singapura government, which provides model
for later Melaka rulers. We are told that the King was assisted by a number of officials
according to their rank: Bendahara, Penghulu Bendahari, Temenggong and
Laksamana62. There were other palace officials with the rank of ministers, minor chiefs,
knights, courtiers and heralds. From the structure of government described by the
Author, it is reasonable to deduce that Singapura had a well-organized government
where an administrative hierarchy of the court had been established. We are told that
during Sri Tri Buanas successors reign Singapura became, a great city, to which
foreigners resorted in great numbers so that the fame of the city and its greatness spread
throughout the world (Brown, 1952:31). The important question is whether we can use
the story of Singapura in the Sejarah Melayu to reconstruct a picture of Singapuras
actual establishment or Singapuras importance as a great city during the fourteenth
century? How reliable is the names of early Singapura rulers and events mentioned in the
Sejarah Melayu?
62

The Sultan or king was assisted by Bendahara who held the position of Prime Minister and leading
noble of the State. After the Prime Minister came the Penghulu Bendahari, the Minister of Finance,
followed by the Temenggong (Minister of War and Justice) who was responsible for law and order.
Although in the gloss there is no mention of the title Laksamana, the principal war chief can be
considered to have been equivalent to the present admiral of the fleet. Besides the high officials of
government, there were many middle-ranking officers. The first were ministers or Head of Departments,
followed by chiefs, knights, courtiers and heralds (Wilkinson, 1935:31; Zainal Abidin Abdul Wahid,
1983:105).

25

The Sejarah Melayu calls the founder of Melaka Iskandar Shah (Brown,
1952:40); however in Pires Suma Oriental and in Ming records the founder of Melaka
is known as Parameswara. Pires stated that Parameswara originally ruled in Palembang,
whereas the Author states that Iskandars reign began in Singapura. Barros and
dAlbuquerque believed that Parameswara began his reign elsewhere than in Singapura.
According to Pires and dAlbuquerque, before the arrival of Parameswara, Singapura
was already ruled by a local chief, Temagi (Wolters, 1970:109). In short, we cannot be
sure about who was the founder of Singapura. However, archaeological evidence
indicates that Singapura was established almost one hundred years before the arrival of
Parameswara in Singapura in the 1390s (Miksic, 1985:30).
Wolters believed that the Author of Sejarah Melayu invented the kingdom of
Singapura to conceal the past of Palembang. According to Wolters, the Author was
seeking to establish a more splendid background for the royal family of Melaka than
Singapura, while at the same time glorfying the origin of the royal seat of Melaka in
Palembang (Wolters, 1970:95 & 109). Besides that Wolters argued that the period of
time in Singapuras history which actually corresponds to the Sejarah Melayu is about
six years, between 1391 to 1397. In Wolters view, very little of the Sejarah Melayus
account of Singapura actually refers to Singapura: most of the depiction of Singapura is
either a reflection of Palembang or of Melaka (Wolters, 1970:91). John Miksics
discoveries from the 1985 excavation in Fort Canning have confirmed that Singapuras
history begins in the early fourteenth century, or perhaps a little earlier, and continued
until A.D.1400. According to Miksic, Wolters interpretations are difficult to confirm and
he stated that the only point where history and the Sejarah Melayu coincides is in the
story of Singapuras fall (Miksic, 1985:89). However, the Sejarah Melayu informs us
that Singapura was ruled by five kings63 for about 91 years which fits Miksics view that
Singapura had an elite occupation from A.D.1300-1400.
What was the Sitz im Leben of the Singapura story? It can be presumed that
Singapura in the Sejarah Melayu pericopes serves as an evidence of the way Malay
sovereignty was continued by the family which ruled in Palembang and eventually in
Melaka. The Author tells us that Singapura becomes the seat of the Malay overlord from
the passing of Palembangs hegemony until the later years of the fourteenth century
when Majapahit attacked Singapura. Singapura is portrayed as the great stepping-stone
for Parameswara to establish his new kingdom in Melaka.
3.2 The Exegesis of Chapter Four
3.2.1 The Kingdom of Majapahit and the Political Fugitive Parameswara
The fourth chapter of the Sejarah Melayu starts with a lenghty pericope, which I
shall divide it into two sections in my discussion. The first section reads as follows:

63

According to the Sejarah Melayu, the first king of Singapura was Sri Tri Buana who ruled Singapura for
48 years; the second king, Paduka Sri Pikrama Wira was on the throne for 15 years; the third king, Sri
Rana Wikerma ruled for 13 years; the fourth king, Paduka Sri Maharaja ruled for 12 years and six months
and Iskandar Shah, the last ruler of Singapura ruled for 3 years.

26

Here now is the story of the Batara of Majapahit64, who traced his descent from heaven.
He had married the daughter of the Raja of Tanjong Pura, who was a Raja from Bukit
Siguntang and by her he had two sons, the elder of whom he installed (to succeed him) as
ruler at Majapahit. The Raja of Majapahit was descended from Princess Semaningrat,
and he was known as the Batara 65 of Majapahit. So great was his kingdom that every
prince in the land of Java was subject to him, as were half of the princes of
Nusantara66.When the Batara of Majapahit heard that Singapura was a great city but that
its ruler did not acknowledge the Batara as overlord, he was very angry (Brown, 1952:32).
The pericope evokes a picture of Majapahit as a powerful empire politically
dominating half of the Nusantara or Indonesian Archipelago. This is the image of
Majapahit as it flourished in the fourteenth century, when the kingdom reached its zenith
during the time of its king Hayam Wuruk (1350-1389) and his chief minister Gajah Mada.
This golden age of Majapahit has remained in the historical memory of the Malays, and the
pericope illustrates the memory of this great kingdom with the words: So great was [the
Batara of Majapahits] kingdom that every prince in the land of Java was subject to him, as
were half of the princes of Nusantara (Brown, 1952:32).
In the beginning of the pericope, the first two sentences places the King of
Majapahit with the king of Tanjong Pura on equal standing. This pericope states that the
present Batara of Majapahit, like Sri Tri Buana, is heavenly descended. The pericope sets
out the genealogical relationship between the two rulers, where the Batara of Majapahit
married the daughter of the Raja of Tanjong Pura. However, it seems to be absurd that the
Batara of Majapahit who has a genealogical relationship with the kingdom of Tanjong
Pura, should be discourteous to the king of Singapura, who has family ties with the king
of Tanjong Pura. The anger of the Batara of Majapahit can be explained as reflecting envy
towards the great achievement of Singapura, a city which the Author just described as a
great city to which foreigners resorted in great numbers. The pericope describes the
Bataras actions:
And he sent envoys to Singapura taking with them as the customary present a woodshaving seven fathoms long, which had been cut without a break in it: it was as thin as
paper and rolled up in the form of a girls ear-stud. The envoys set sail for Singapura,
which they reached in due course. On their arrival Paduka Sri Pikrama Wira67 ordered that
64

Majapahit is formed of two Javanese words, Maja, the name of a kind of coarse fruit of a sweetish taste,
and pahit signifies bitter, the compound forming the imaginary fruit. The Desawarnana, a paneygiric
poem completed by the Majapahit official, Prapanca, in 1365 describes the kingdom Majapahit and the
great ruler of Majapahit, Hayam Wuruk. Majapahit which was located at Trowulan in East Java is the
name of the last Javanese kingdom professing Hinduism. It is believed to have been founded about the
year 1299 and it declined in the fifteenth century, especially after the year 1478 (Crawfurd, 1856:238;
Colless, 1975:124-130; Noorduyn, 1978:255; Ricklefs, 1993:18).
65
Batara is a Javanese word for king, the title of the sovereign. The royal princes of Majapahit bore the
title of Bhra or Bhre (Callenfels, 1969:68).
66
Nusantara or outer-islands, is a term with non-geogrphic, non-political and non-ethnic connotation.
According to Ismail Hussein, Nusantara is the Intermediate Islands between India and China. This very
large area is variously called the Malay Archipelago, the Indonesian Archipelago and, in linguistics,
Western Malayo-Polynesia. Nusantara is basically a linguistic grouping which forms an important part of
the huge family of languages called Austronesian, formerly termed as Malayo-Polynesian (Ismail Hussein,
1966:16).
67

Paduka Sri Pikrama Wira and Sri Rana Wikerma. Both names derive from Sanskrit, Vikrama meaning
valiant. According to Hindu legends, Vikrama or Vikramaditya was a name or title assumed by a ruler of
a Hindu kingdom in Malwa during the first century and considered to be the great king in the Vikrama era
in 58 B.C. King Vikrama had a great reputation for his justice, virtue and valor. Literally, Paduka
(Malay/Javanese) are a pair of slippers which rested on the footstool of the kings lion seat ( sighasana).

27

they be duly welcomed. The envoys then presented themselves before the king and laid
before him the letter and the customary present accompanying it. Paduka Sri Pikrama Wira
read the letter, which ran as follows:- Behold, younger brother, the skill of Javanese
artificers. Are there in Singapura artificers as skilled as this? And the king ordered the
present to be opened, where upon he beheld a wood-shaving rolled up like a ear-stud.
And he smiled, for he realised what was in the mind of the Batara of Majapahit, and he
said, It is in disparagement of our manliness that the Batara of Majapahit sends us a girls
ear-stud! But the envoys replied, No, your Highness, that was not the intention of your
Highnesss elder brother. What he says is, Is there at your Highness feet a man who can
use an adze like that? When Paduka Sri Pikrama Wira heard the words of the envoys, he
answered, Even greater than that is the skill of craftsmen we have! And he ordered a
carpenter named Sang Bentan to be sent for: and when he came, the king ordered a boy to
be fetched, and he bade the carpenter shave the hair off the boys head with his adze, in
front of the envoys. And the carpenter proceeded to shave the boys head: and though the
boy cried and kept moving his head this way and that, the carpenter went on with his
work and in the twinkling of an eye the hair was gone as though it had been off with a
razor. The envoys were astounded, and Sri Pikrama Wira said to them, Theres skill for
you! A man who can shave a boys head with his adze would laugh at the task of making
a wood-shaving like that! Take this adze to Majapahit and crave our brothers acceptance
of it! And the Javanese envoys sought leave to return to their country, and they took with
them as a customary present the adze which the carpenter had used for shaving the boys
head: and their ship set sail from Singapura. And when in due course they reached Java,
the envoys landed and presented themselves before the Batara of Majapahit, to whom
they gave the letter and the present from the Raja of Singapura, at the same time relating
how the carpenter had shaved the boys head with his adze and what Sri Pikrama Wira had
said. And the Batara was very angry when he heard the envoys story and said, What the
Raja of Singapura means is that if we go there, our heads will be shaved as was the
boys! And he ordered his war-chiefs to have a fleet made ready for an attack on
Singapura, one hundred ships of the line together with small craft beyond number. And the
Batara appointed one of his leading war-chief to command the fleet: and he sailed for
Singapura, where he arrived in due course. And the Javanese troops landed and fought the
men of Singapura; and a great battle ensued. Loud rang weapon on weapon; terrifying was
the roar of the warriors shouting; the din was unimaginable. On either side many were
killed and the ground flowed with blood. By the evening the Javanese had retreated and
gone back on board their ships. So long is the story of the battle between Singapura and
Java that were I to tell it in detail, listeners would have more than their fill. That is why
I shorten it, for diffuseness makes no appeal to the intelligent. But Singapura fell not
and the Javanese returned to Majapahit (Brown, 1952:32-33).
Apart from being an entertaining pericope, the invasion of Majapahit is
recounted within a mythical context and the historicity of the events described is subject
to controversy. The third sentence of the pericope describes a letter from the king of
Majapahit to the king of Singapura which starts, Behold, younger brother. This
indicates that the king of Singapura, Paduka Sri Pikrama Wira is acknowledged by the
Batara of Majapahit as lower in status. However, the pericope demonstrates Singapura
as a powerful kingdom with an equal status with Majapahit, and therefore Singapura
However, the word paduka may also mean beloved or Highness and the title Paduka suits this
affectionate epithet Sri means glorious or shining, Wira signifies hero, chief or leader. Rana maybe a
near-synonym of Rama (in Rig-Veda), which means aboriginal king (Walker, 1968:552-569; Stutley,
1977:333-334). Crawfurd translated the name of Paduka Sri Pikrama Wira as Highness, the valiant hero
and Sri Rana Wikerma as The illustrious Rama the valiant (Crawfurd, 1856:243).

28

rejects the suzerainty of Majapahit. When the Batara sent the gift of a girls ear-stud to
the king of Singapura, the king of Singapura responds with a witty insult by sending an
adze in return as a present to the Batara. The Batara interprets Sri Pikrama Wiras gift as
a challenge, which results in the war between Singapura and Majapahit. The threat
having failed to secure homage from Paduka Sri Pikrama, Majapahit resorts to force but
is defeated by Singapura. The attack is presented in a lively manner: a great battle
ensued [...] terrifying was the roar of the warriors [...] On either side many were killed
[...] (Brown,1952:32-33). The pericope claims an attack by Majapahit; however,
Portugese sources provide a contrasting account of the invasion of Singapura by the
Siamese. In seeking to answer who really attacked Singapura, we have to look closely at
two differing accounts.
In the fourteenth century, Singapura lay at the boundary of two spheres of
influence, those of Majapahit in east Java and of Siam which had its capital at Ayudhya
after A.D.1350 (Miksic, et al., 1992:58). The poem Desawarnana, which was completed
in 1365, claims that Singapura lay within the cofines of the Hindu-Javanese empire of
Majapahit. Another Javanese text, Pararaton (Book of Kings), composed in the late
fifteenth century stated that Majapahit forces sacked Temasik in the 1360s, probably in
accord with Gajah Madas Greater Majapahit policy (Bastin, 1979:1; Embree,
1988:208). It was presumably the conquest by Majapahit of Singapura some time in
1360s which the Sejarah Melayu alleges to have caused the flight of Parameswara to
Melaka. Winstedt believed that the Sejarah Melayus account of the Javanese attack on
Singapura was inspired by memories of Gajah Madas attack on the island (Winstedt,
1973:42). However, information provided by the Portugese record suggest a different
answer.
The Portugese historians d Albuquerque and Tome Pires, writing in the sixteenth
century, erred in describing a Majapahit attack on Singapura. Both writers claimed a
Siamese invasion of Singapura. The Portugese writer Tome Pires described in his book
the events concerning the foundation of Melaka. According to Pires, Parameswara 68
refused to pay tribute and rejected the suzerainty of Majapahit, and Parameswara was
attacked in Palembang and fled to Singapura. Eight days after arriving at Singapura,
Parameswara killed the local ruler69, Sam Agy Symgapura who had been the son-in-law
of the king of Siam. Five years later, to revenge the death of his son-in-law, the king of
Siam attacked Parameswara and drove him out from Singapura (Cortesao, 1944:230233). The story of dAlbuquerque, the conqueror and governor of Melaka, provides a
similar account of the Siamese attack on Singapura (Birch, 1884:73-75).

68

Parameswara is a title awarded to men who married women of higher royal status or became prince
consorts. The Parameswara who fled to Singapura and thence to Muar was, as Stein Callenfels pointed
out, a Javanese nobleman or a Sumatran prince who married into the Javanese royal family (Callenfels,
1969:68). dAlbuquerque stated that the Batara of Majapahit sent an expedition to Palembang to drive out
his son-in-law, Parameswara who refused to pay tribute (Birch, 1884:72-73). According to Wang Gungwu,
it is probable that Parameswara and Iskandar Shah were in fact the two names used by the same men at
different stages of his life, and not two different men (Wang Gungwu, 1968:22; Wolters, 1970:71-74). It is
also highly probable that Sri Tri Buana and Iskandar Shah would represent the same person as
Parameswara, used by the Author of the Sejarah Melayu to conceal the identity of Parameswara as a
political fugitive.
69
The local ruler was called Temagi or Tamagi by dAlbuquerque [Temenggong]. Temagi was the captain
of the city of Singapura which was established and prosperous before the arrival of Parameswara.
However, Da Barros refers to the ruler of Singapura as Sangesinga or Sang Hyang Singa (Miksic,
1985:24-25).

29

Who then was responsible for the assault on Singapura, the revenge seeking
Siamese or envious Majapahit? Most historians support the Portugese sources as accurate
in attributing the flight of the last ruler of Singapura, described variously as Raja Iskandar
(Sejarah Melayu), Raja Sabu (deCouto) or Parameswara (Eredia, Barros, dAlbuquerque
and Tom Pires), as a result of direct or indirect pressure from Siam (Wyatt, 1968:32-33).
Linehan attempted to reconcile a final Siam-directed assault on Singapura (as suggested by
the majority of the Portugese sources) with an earlier Javanese invasion of the island as
described in the Sejarah Melayu (Linehan, 1947b:117-127). However, Miksic took a
neutral stand by saying that the Malays in Singapura was attacked either by Siam or Java
(Miksic, 1985:9).
It is noteworthy that the historical record of the Menangkabau which appears in the
1347 inscription indicates that Adityavarman, a prince of mixed Javanese-Sumatran
parentage, threw off allegiance at this time to the Majapahit kingdom and ruled the goldrich regions of Menangkabau (Embree, 1988:2). Parameswara like Adityavarman, took the
oppurtunity to free himself from the Javanese rule. In taking this oppurtunity, the Malays
under the Parameswaras rule tried to re-establish an independent state in Palembang and
rebelled against his benefactor. Immediately Majapahit sent an expedition to Palembang in
1377s where Parameswara was defeated and fled to Singapura (Ricklefs, 1993:19). It is
possible that the Batara continued his efforts to capture the fugitive Parameswara, who
took refuge in Singapura.
The influence of Majapahit throughout the Archipelago began to decline after the
death of Hayam Wuruk in 1389, which raises doubts regarding Majapahits attack on
Singapura. Although in the 1360s Majapahit claimed Singapura as a dependency,
Singapura later was attacked by Siam. It may have been the murder of the Siam-installed
governer of Temasek, Temagi, that caused the Siamese to attack Singapura. The main
threat to Melaka from its foundation was Siam, from which Melaka sought and received
Chinese protection as early as 1405 (Ricklefs, 1993:19). According to David Wyatt,
Chinese sources leave us in no doubt that at the time of the first Ming contacts with
Melaka at the beginning of the fifteenth century Melaka was in direct tributary relationship
with Siam (Wyatt, 1968:44). It seems likely that the ruler of Singapura fled because he
could not bear the mounting political pressure from the Siamese at the end of the
fourteenth century. Furthermore, the Author possibly preferred admitting defeat by
Majapahit, which was more prestigious, than to be defeated by the Siamese, a long
standing national enemy of Melaka.
3.3 The Exegesis of Chapter Five
3.3.1 The Kingdom of Kalinga and Its Significance to Singapura
The fifth chapter of Sejarah Melayu combines two great traditions. The first
tradition focuses on the city Bija Nagara in the kingdom of Kalinga and its relationship
with Singapura. I will divide the first pericope into two sections to facilitate the
discussion. The first section reads as follows:
Here now is the story of Adirama Raja Mudaliar70, a son of Raja Chulan. He was Raja at
Bija Nagara71 and had a son named Jambuga Raja Mudaliar. When Adirama Raja Mudaliar
had died, his son, Jambuga Rama Mudaliar, came to the throne. And he had a daughter,
70

Adirama Raja Mudaliar and Jambuga Rama Mudaliar are two mythical characters. Adirama Raja
literally means primeval-aboriginal king. Meanwhile Jambuga means rose-apple or pear and Rama
stands for local ruler. Mudaliar has a caste connotation and indicates a group of people from the northern
regions of Tamilnadu (the ancient site of the Kalinga kingdom) in India. The Mudaliar are the second
highest caste after the Brahmin (Werner, 1994:22 & 82).

30

Princess Talai Puchudi72 by name, of remarkable beauty. The fame of her beauty was
spread from country to country, but although any number of princes sought her hand in
marriage, Raja Jambuga Rama Mudaliar rejected their suit, saying, They are not of
lineage such as mine. And news came to Singapura of the beauty of the princess,
daughter of the Raja of Kalinga: and Paduka Sri Pikrama Wira appointed Maha Indra
Bopal to go as envoy to Kalinga to ask for the hand of Princess Talai Puchudi for his
son, Raja Muda. So Maha Indra Bopal set sail for Kalinga73, and many craft accompanied
his ship. And when he reached Bija Nagara, Raja Mudaliar ordered the letter and the
gift which came with it to be brought with ceremony from the ship: and they were then
borne in procession with every mark of distinction. When the letter had been read and
interpreted, Raja Jambuga Mudaliar was well pleased, and he said to Maha Indra
Bopal, I am in full accord with my brothers proposal. But I would not trouble him to
send his son hither; I will send my daughter to Singapura (Brown, 1952:33-34).
In the previous chapter we were introduced to the great kingdom of Majapahit.
This pericope presents us with another ancient city, Bija Nagara. Bija Nagara, which has
been introduced in chapter two of the Sejarah Melayu, is a great city in the kingdom of
Kalinga which was built by Raja Shulan, the great great grandfather of Paduka Sri Pikrama
Wira (Brown, 1952:20). The pericopes main function is to equate the power and position
of Singapura rulers with those of the rulers of Kalinga.
The first section of the pericope concerns the marriage of the Jambuga Rama
Mudaliars daughter, Princess Talai Puchudi with Raja Muda. According to the pericope,
the king Jambuga Rama Mudaliar rejected numerous princes, giving as his reason the claim
that, They are not of lineage such as mine (Brown, 1952:34). However, when the envoys
of the ruler of Singapura arrived to request the princess on behalf of the Raja Muda, the
Tamil king not only raises no objections but is highly delighted. The rank of the Singapura
royal family is sufficiently august to satisfy the proud Tamil king. An important question
here is why the pericope has introduced the great Tamil kingdom, Kalinga and what is the
significance of Kalinga to the Singapura history? Raja Shulan, ruler of Kalinga, was a great
conqueror, who extended his empire into Southeast Asia where, according to the Sejarah
Melayu, two cities Gangga Nagara and Glang Gui were captured by him. Historians have
agreed that Raja Shulan is a memory of Rajendra Cola I, the Tamil king who raided
Srivijaya and its dependencies in 1025. Evidently, the memory of this great kingdom of
Kalinga in India, which has existed since the fifth century B.C., has remained in the minds
of the Malays. An important point to be noted is that Rajendra Cola I is the ruler of the
Cola kingdom. South India was ruled under many different dynasties, such as the Kalinga,
71

Bija Nagara or Vijayanagara (1360-1565A.D.) means a City of Victory, and embraced roughly the area
of the modern state of Madras. Situated in the southern bank of the Tunghabadra River in Karnataka,
India, it was the capital of a Hindu kingdom founded in the middle of the 14th century, and attained its
greatest extent in the sixteenth century. The tradition of the Sejarah Melayu has used the name
Vijayanagara (Bija Nagara) to designate a city of the Kalinga kingdom which is known to exist since the
fifth century B.C. (Embree, 1988:195; Palat, 1986:142). According to the Sejarah Melayu, Bija Nagara
was built by Raja Shulan after defeating Glang Gui, and Bija Nagara became a great city in the country of
Kalinga (Brown, 1952:21-22).
72
Talai is a white long-petalled (pandanus) flower. Puchudi is formed of pu flower and chudi is
garlanded (Nilakanta Sastri, 1955:71).
73
Kalinga is located in modern Orissa and the coastal strip of Andhra Pradesh. Kalinga is the ancient
name of the coastal lands between the Mahanadi and Godavari rivers and the inhabitants are called as
Kalingas. Kalinga is known to exist since the fifth century B.C. and was ruled by the Nandas but became
famous under the Maurya dynasty, during the period of Asoka . After 171 B.C. Kalinga fell to its more
powerful neighbours, being subjugated in turn by the Chalukyas, Vakatakas and Palas. Kalinga was an
important outlet for external trade with Southeast Asia (Embree, 1988:195; Walker, 1968:511).

31

Pandya and Cola, but the Kalinga was the oldest dynasty (Braddell, 1980:37). The
tradition is conflating Rajendra Cola I with the Kalinga kingdom. The tradition and the
Author are not aware of the fact that Cola is a different kingdom from Kalinga.
Raja Jambuga was well pleased with Singapuras proposal, and replied: But I
would not trouble him [Paduka Sri Pikrama] to send his son thither; I will send my
daughter to Singapura (Brown, 1952:34). The pericope demonstrates to us that it is not
concerned to establish equality between Kalinga and Singapura but attempts to imply that
Singapura is even greater than this ancient Kalinga dynasty. The function of the pericope is
to elevate the status of the Singapura rulers. The pericope continues:
Maha Indra Bopal then sought leave to return and Raja Jambuga Rama Mudaliar
gave him a letter and a present to the Raja of Singapura, whereupon Maha Indra Bopal
set sail and in due course arrived at Singapura. And Sri Pikrama Wira ordered that
the letter be borne in procession with the honours accorded to great Rajas. And when it
reached the hall of audience, it was received by the herald and presented to Sri Pikrama
Wira, who ordered that to be read. And when it had been interpreted to the king, he was
well pleased; and when he received from Maha Indera Bopal the message he brought
from Raja Jambuga Rama Mudaliar, his pleasure was even greater. And when the
next sailing season came round, Raja Jambuga Rama Mudaliar ordered ships to be
made ready. And when they were ready, the king ordered one of his war-chiefs to escort
Princess Talai Puchudi, his daughter, and she embarked in a ship accompanied by five
hundred maids of honour. The war-chief then set sail with the princess, accompanied by
a large number of decked ships, to say nothing of shallops and batels. When they
reached Singapura, Paduka Sri Pikrama Wira came out as far as Tanjong Burus to meet
them, (? received them with) every mark of honour and distinction (and escorted them
to Singapura). On their arrival, Paduka Sri Pikrama Wira initiated the day and night
festivities for the wedding of his son with the princess, daughter of the Raja of Kalinga.
The festivities lasted for three months. Raja Pikrama Wira then celebrated the wedding
of Princess Talai Puchudi (with his son). After the wedding the Kalinga war-chief sought
leave to return to his country, and when Paduka Sri Pikrama Wira had given him a letter
and a present for the Raja of Kalinga, the envoy returned to Kalinga (Brown, 1952:34).
The arrival of Princess Talai Puchudi and her war-chief and maids to Singapura is
greeted with great honour and distinction by Paduka Sri Pikrama Wira, who goes to
Tanjong Burus, on the southwest extremity of Johor, to greet them. This pericope
demonstrates to us how the ruler of Singapura is well pleased with the Kalinga princess
and her arrival is honored with court ceremonies. According to Koster and Maier, one of
the aims of the Sejarah Melayu is to offer models of behaviour of Malay court life. The
description of the stately pomp of the occasions makes it clear that it is a ceremonial
affair (Koster and Maier, 1985:445).
3.3.2 The Strongman Badang and the Singapura Rock
The gloss to the next pericope reads as follows:
After a while, when Paduka Sri Pikrama Wira had completed fifteen years on the throne,
then in the process of time he died and was succeeded on the throne by his son, Raja
Muda, with the title of Sri Rana Wikerma as ruler. He had two children by Princess Talai
Puchudi, daughter of the Raja of Kalinga; one son, named Dam Raja, and one daughter.
Now Tun Perpateh Muka Berjajar had died and was succeeded as Bendahara by his son

32

with the title of Tun Perpateh Tulus. And Tun Perpateh Tulus had two children, a son and
a daughter whose name was Demi Putri. She was married by Sri Rana Wikerma to his
son, while the son of Tun Perpateh Tulus was married by the king to his daughter. Now
King Sri Rana Wikerma had a war-chief, called Badang 74, who was possessed of
very great strength. Badang originally came from Sayong on the mainland. He was the
slave of a Sayong man, for whom he worked day in, day out felling forest (Brown,
1952:35).
Paduka Sri Pikrama Wira ruled for 15 years then died and was succeeded by his son
Raja Muda, who took the title Sri Rana Wikerma. He had two children, a son, Dam Raja
and a daughter. Meanwhile Tun Perpateh Permuka Berjajar was replaced by his son with
the title Tun Perpateh Tulus. According to Wolters, by giving the title Tun Perpateh Tulus
to the son of Tun Perpateh Permuka Berjajar, the Author losts no opportunity for extolling
the Bentan family. The services of the Bentan family are appropriately reflected in the
name of Tulus, the faithful. The marriage alliance which took place earlier between the
Queen of Bentans grandaughters with Sri Tri Buanas two sons reflects the reward given
by Sri Tri Buana for her loyalty (Wolters, 1970:139). This marriage alliance of the royal
and Bentan family have provided the future Melaka rulers with faithful Bendaharas. In this
gloss, the Author has introduced the Malay Herculean, Badang who is said to be from
Sayong and a war-chief of Sri Rana Wikerma.
The tradition continues with the story of Badang:
Once upon a time Badang set a fish-trap in the Besisek river; and when he raised (?)
the trap, he found it was empty, with not a fish in it, though there were fish scales and
fish bones in the trap. This happened day after day. The fish scales he would throw
away into the river; hence the river was called Sisek (? Besisek). And Badang
reflected, What can it be that eats the fish in this trap? I had better watch secretly to
find out what it is that eats the fish. So one day Badang concealed himself among the
reeds and watched, and he saw a demon come and eat the fish in the trap; a demon with
eyes as red as flame, with creel-like matted hair and a beard down to his waist. Badang
seized his cleaver and mustering up his courage he set upon the demon and caught him by
the beard, saying, Its you who are always eating my fish! This time you shall die by my
hand! When the demon heard the words of Badang, he was utterly confused and terrified
and vainly sought to escape from Badangs grasp.Kill me not, he cried, and I will give
you whatever you desire, be it riches, be it strength and endurance, be it invisibility - you
shall have it if you spare my life. And Badang reflected, If I ask for riches, it is my
master who will get them. If I ask for invisibility, assuredly I shall be killed. That being so,
I had better ask for power and strength in order that I may have strength for my masters
work. So he answered, Give me power and strength so that any tree however big I can
uproot and break; so that trees which are so thick that a mans arm can barely compass
them, or are even twice as thick as that, I may be able to uproot with one hand! And the
demon answered, Very well, if you desire strength, I will give it to you, but you must first
eat my vomit. Very well, said Badang, vomit them, that I may eat your vomit. And
the demon vomitted, copiously. Badang ate the vomit, every bit of it, but all the time he
held the demons beard and would not let it go. After he had eaten the demons vomit,
74

The name Badang has an interesting parallel in Persian legend, which may account for the use of
Persian word pahlawan which originally meant wrestler (Marrison, 1955:63). Badangs supernatural
power can be compared to Hercules, the national hero in Greek tradition, and Agastya of the Tamil
tradition. Badang, Agastya and Hercules, are described as hard fighters and keen hunters, who fought in
the midst of wild enemies, and none could approach them in eating and drinking. Badang like Agastya
and Hercules, also destroyed forests and created towns (Nilakanta Sastri, 1936:480).

33

Badang made trial of his strength and he uprooted one big tree after another, breaking
them all. Then he let go the demons beard and made his way to the land he was clearing
for his master, where he uprooted and broke one big tree after another, and trees so thick
that a mans arm could barely compass them, or eventwice as thick as that, he plucked
from the ground with but one hand, so that they were completely torn up roots and all,
while smaller trees he twitched up with but one hand and sent flying. Thus it was that in
the twinkling of an eye a great forest became nothing but a treeless plain, of immeasurable
extent (Brown, 1952:35-36).
It is remarkable that Badang, the Herculean strongman of Malay civilization, the
traditions centering round him and the significance of these traditions have not received
much attention from scholars. Badang is described as the champion of king Sri Rana
Wikerma. Is Badang based on a real historical person75 or a mythical figure? What is his
significance to the kingdom of Singapura? He is introduced to us by the pericope as a
slave from a place called Sayong, who gained his supernatural strength through eating a
demons vomit. We may notice before proceeding further that Badang is a loyal and
faithful slave. The pericope tells the story of how Badang cleared the forest, at Sayong:
Thus it was that in the twinkling of an eye a great forest became nothing but a treeless
plain, of immeasurable extent (Brown, 1952:36). The whole point of the pericope is to
provide an account for deforestation at Sayong. What is the significance of this
pericope?
It is clear from this pericope that a settlement had been established in Sayong,
Johor. However, no further information is provided by the pericope about this new
settlement. Is the tradition trying to explain the fleeing of Sultan Iskandar Shah from
Singapura to Muar? In my opinion, the answer is rather speculative in explaining the
question above. In chapter six of the Sejarah Melayu we are told that after the Majapahit
invasion, Sultan Iskandar Shah fled from Singapura by way of Saletar and thence to
Muar. From Muar he moved on to another place where a fort was built (Brown,
1952:51). On his way from Saletar, Sultan Iskandar Shah would have possibly built a
fort in Sayong76, Johor where in the present pericope Badang was made to destroy
forests to welcome the presence of Sultan Iskandar Shah and not the fleeing Sultan. As a
reward for the effort of the faithful and loyal Badang, his former master freed Badang.
When Sri Rana Wikerma came to know that Badang has great supernatural powers,
Badang is made as his war-chief.
And when his master saw what had been done, he said, Who felled this land of ours that
it has been cleared with such speed? And Badang answered, Your servant felled it.
And his master asked, In what manner did you fell it that the work has been done with
such speeed and land cleared as far as the eye can see? And Badang told the whole
story to his master, who thereupon freed him. When Sri Rana Wikerma came to hear of
this, he sent for Badang and made him one of his war-chiefs: and it was Badang who has
75

The inscription known as the Pasir Panjang inscription in Karimun are the footprints of Badang, the
strongman of Sejarah Melayu according to the local people (Personal communication, Dr. Ian Caldwell).
76
According to the Sejarah Melayu, Sultan Iskandar Shah took up abode at nearly four places before
opening the Melaka city, the first being Muar (Biawak Busuk), then Kota Burok, followed by Sening
Ujong and then Bertam (Brown, 1952:51). However, looking at the distance between Singapura and Muar,
it would be impossible for the king to have taken up a long journey to Muar without taking up a few abode
in south Johor before reaching Muar. Furthermore, Johor river served as an ideal place for political refuge
for the last ruler of Melaka fleeing from the invasion of Portugese. According to Andaya, many of the
rulers of Johor had their residences on the banks of the Johor river and this settlement was determined
more by considerations of security than of accessibility to the international trade flowing through the
Straits of Melaka (Andaya, 1975:3). See also Brown, 1952, p.189.

34

ordered to pass a chain across the river to serve as a boom and restrict the passage of ships
in and out Singapura (Brown, 1952:36).
According to the pericope above, the estuary of the river was closed with a boom
erected by Badang. How are we to deal with this story? According to Miksic, booms or
moveable barriers made of materials such as enormous iron chains are mentioned in other
sources in connection with different Malay and Indonesian classical ports. Further he
stated that the booms were a common aspect of the Malay entrepot. Wheatley suggests
that the boom may have been a protection as much from turbulent neighbours as well as
from foreign raiders (Wheatley, 1966:85). This suggestion seems reasonable, as the Riau
Archipelago is well known for its piracy. The pirates haunted the shores of Singapura and
perpetrated such outrages on passing junks that their name become a byword in places as
far as the ports of South China (Wheatley, 1966:305). According to Sopher, the beach
along Singapura used to be the favourite rendezvous of pirates who made the passage
through the Strait of Singapura unsafe. Sometimes the pirates would torture their
prisoners by throwing spears at them before killing them (Sopher, 1977:105). This is why
the island not far from the Singapura river which was called formerly Pulau Blakang Mati
or Death Behind Island77 (See Map 3) was the most dangerous island of Singapura at
that time.
Milner noted that the Malay rajas who claimed authority but who did not actually
govern a country were sometimes directly involved in piracy. He further mentioned the
surprise expressed by foreign observers at the tendency of Malay rulers to engage in
plunder is not reflected in the writings of Malays themselves. According to Milner, Malays
took a less censorious view of these activities (Milner, 1982:19). This is why we are not
given an explanation as to why Badang has ordered to pass a chain in the Singapura river,
and the pericope ends to give way to another tradition.
And for the Rajas table, Badang was sent to fetch kuras from Kuala Sayong for salad.
He went by himself, his boat was eight fathoms long and for his punt-pole he used a whole
kempas trunk. When he reached Kuala Sayong, he climbed the kuras tree but the bough
which was supporting his weight broke and he fell to the ground, crashing his head on a
rock. And the rock was split, though Badangs head was not: and that rock is at Kuala
Sayong to this day, as are Badangs punt-pole and boat. Badang returned from Kuala
Sayong the same day and he filled his boat with bananas and keladi, all of which he had
eaten by the time he has gone down the river as far as Johor (Brown, 1952:36).
It is clear from the pericope that the strongman Badang has a task to accomplish
for his king, Sri Rana Wikerma. Badang had to go to Kuala Sayong to get some salad for
his king. Hercules, the famous strongman of the ancient Greece, like Badang, was bound
to king Eurystheus to work out his labors. And Badang, like Hercules, none could
approach them in eating and drinking. The last sentence of the pericope mentions that
Badang returned from Sayong with large amount of banana and keladi or yam with which
he filled his boat. Possibly the new settlement in Sayong was a place for banana and keladi
cultivation. However, the central point of the pericope is to provide an origin of the rock
at Kuala Sayong, on which I have been unable to find any information. The next rather odd
pericope is:
Once upon a time Sri Rama (? Rana) Wikerma had a boat twelve fathoms 78 long built for
him in front of the palace. When the boat was finished and was to be launched, it was
found that two or three hundred men between them could not launch it. So Badang was
77
78

The name of the island now is Pulau Sentosa or Sentosa Island.


Fathom, a measure of 6 feet or 1.8 meters.

35

ordered to launch it, and he by himself launched it so vigorously that it shot across to the
other side of the river (Brown, 1952:36).
Most probably this large boat would have been used for overseas voyages by the
king of Singapura, or perhaps for the expanding trade in the south sea of Singapura. Lets
have a look at the following pericope which has a significant message:
Later the news reached Kalinga that the Raja of Singapura had a war-chief possesed
of prodigious strength. Now the Raja of Kalinga had among his champions an
enormously powerful man, and the Raja of Kalinga commanded that this man should go
to Singapura with seven ships. And the Raja said to him, Go you to Singapura and pit
yourself in a trial of strength against the war-chief of Singapura. If he defeats you, you
will pay to him as the stakes of the match the contents of these seven ships. But if you
defeat him, you will demand the value of the goods in the seven ships. And the
champion answered, Very well, your Highness, and he then set sail for Singapura with
the seven ships. When he reached Singapura, word was brought to Sri Rana Wikerma
that a champion was come from Kalinga for a trial of strength with Badang, the stakes of
the match to be, if he was beaten, the contents of the seven ships (he had with him). King
Sri Rana Wikerma thereupon appeared from the palace and gave an audience, at which the
Kalinga champion presented himself. The Raja bade him contend with Badang, but in every
encounter between then the Kalinga champion was worsted by Badang. Now in front of
the hall of audience there was a huge rock, and the Kalinga champion said toBadang, Let
us try our strength in lifting the rock. Whichever of us fails to lift it is the loser. Very
well, answered Badang, you try first. Thereupon the Kalinga champion tried to lift the
rock but failed. He then put forth every effort and raised it as far as his knees, then he let
it down again with a crash, saying Now its your turn, sir. Very well, said Badang and
he lifted the rock, swung it into the air and hurled it to the far bank of Kuala Singapura 79.
That is the rock which is there to this day on the extremity of Tanjong Singapura. The
Kalinga champion then handed over to Badang all seven ships with their contents and
departed for his own country grieving under the disgrace of the defeat that Badang had
inflicted upon him (Brown, 1952:37).
The main function of the pericope is to highlight the existence of the rock at Kuala
Singapura. According to Miksic, the Singapura rock suggests that the 14th century rise of
Singapura to prominence may have started with a group of Javanese, perhaps Sumatrans
who settled on Temasek perhaps as early as the 10th century, and who recorded their
achievement on the Singapura rock (Miksic, 1985:135). The Sitz im Leben of this
pericope is to account for this historical ancient rock. The pericope is only interested in
Badang as an instrument to account for the great rock of Singapura. Badang and the
Kalinga champion are made to contest their strength by lifting the rock, which Badang
succeeds in hurling as far as the mouth of the Singapura river. The success of Badang
became known to the kingdom of Perlak.

79

The rock at Kuala Singapura is the inscription found at the mouth of the Singapura river: see Map 3.
The Sejarah Melayu traditions contains the reference to the story of the strongman Badang who threw a
large stone to the Kuala Singapura at Tanjung Singapura. Such a location according to Miksic,
corresponds precisely to the site where the inscription was found (Miksic, 1985:40). The transformation of
the spilled blood of Tun Jana Khatib and treacherous prime minister of Singapura and his wife into stone
in the sixth chapter of Sejarah Melayu maybe another legendary reference to the stone (Brown, 1952:5051). According to Sopher, this rock was considered by the Orang Laut to be the seat of spirit which they
propitiate with offerings and decorating the rock with bits of cloth (Sopher, 1977:105).

36

The news then reached Perlak80 that the Raja of Singapura has a war-chief of enormous
strength, Badang by name, whose equal did not exist at that time. Now according to the
account we have received the Raja of Perlak also had a champion, named Benderang81,
who was famed for his great strength. At the time that news was brought about Badang
it happened that Benderang was in the presence of the Raja of Perlak: and he said to the
Raja of Perlak, Your Highness, it is hardly likely that this Badang is stronger than I. If
your Highness will so command, let me go to Singapura for a contest with him!And the
Raja of Perlak agreed; and turning to his chief minister he said, I desire you go to
Singapura as I am sending Benderang there. Very well, your Highness, answered Tun
Perpateh Pandak; and after doing obeisance he left the palace and summoned men for the
work of making ready a ship. When the ship was ready [it was Tun Perpateh Pandak who
was commanded by the Raja of Perlak to go to Singapura with Benderang], the letter was
borne in procession to the ship and Tun Perpateh Pandak sailed for Singapura, which he
reached in the course of a few days. On his arrival there word was brought to the Raja of
Singapura, Your Highness, Tun Perpateh Pandak, chief minister of the Raja of Perlak, is
come bringing one Benderang, who is one of the Raja of Perlaks champions and has been
sent hither for a trial of strength with Badang. When King Sri Rana Wikerma heard this
he appeared and gave an audience at which princes, ministers, courtiers, heralds and pages
were all in attendance. And Sri Rana Wikerma commanded Maha Indra Bopal to fetch the
letter with due ceremony from the ship, taking elephants for the purpose. And the letter
was borne in procession into the palace domain. It was then read, and its wording gave
great pleasure. Tun Perpateh Pandak then did obeisance, and the king ordered that he
should sit on the same level as Tun Jana Buga Dendang, while Benderang was given a
place on the same level as Badang. Then the king asked Tun Perpateh Pandak, On what
business has our brother sent you thither, sir? And Tun Perpateh Pandak answered, I
have been commanded by your Highnesss younger brother to bring hither Benderang for
trial of strength with Badang. If Benderang loses, the contents of a warehouse are
presented to your Highness by your Highness younger brother. If Badang loses, your
Highness would pay a similiar forfeit. Very well, said Sri Rana Wikerma, tomorrow we
will pit them against each other. After a short conversation the king left the audience and
80

Marco Polo, the Venetian traveller claim to have taken the route from China to Persia via Malay
Archipelago in 1292. When he visited Sumatra, he reported the first Muslim state, that of, Ferlec, the
modern Perlak at the eastern extremity of the northern coast of Sumatra. However, either Marco Polo
speaking from hearsay or else had acquired his information on some mission of which he has left us no
detailed account of Perlak (Frampton, 1937:lvi; Olschki, 1960:1; Buyong Adil, 1972:37). C.C.Brown notes
that Perlak was presumably the place which appears in some maps as Porolak, to the north of Aru Bay
(Brown, 1952:215). In explaining the boundaries of the Melaka empire, Tome Pires in his description of
Sumatran states, mentioned the word Pirada and it also occurs in the text of da Barros. Pires distinguishes
between kingdoms and small towns and Pirada, Pedir and Pacee (Pasai) was the places called as reinos or
terras, were simple towns of some trading importance. Futher in his description, the name of Pirada
occurs after the name of Acheh, Lamuri, Pedir and before the name of Pasai, Aru and Kampar. Therefore,
the location of Pirada seems to be in between Aru and Pasai, and may be it is the small town called Perlak
by Marco Polo in 1292 (Cortesao, 1944:135-141). However, M.O. Parlindungan provides a brief history of
Perlaks origin in the seventh or eighth century. By considering the trade connexions between Persia and
Sumatera in early times, Parlindungan relates the great influence of Persia on Perlak before the coming of
Islam. The name Perlak in Persian means Tadj I Alam (Mahkota Alam) or Crown of the World and the
name Tadj I Alam appears in Chinese annals as Ta Chih. The word Ta-Chih appeared in the writings of
Chau Ju-Kua and the real meaning of the word is related to the Tazi in Persian by F.Hirth and
W.W.Rockhill (Hirth, et al., 1911:114-119). Further, Parlindungan stated that the kingdom of Perlak was
made New Persia or Perlak kingdom and its first ruler in 1159A.D. was a Persian, Laksamana Sayid
Alaidin Alawi who became Sultan Sayid Alaidin Alawi Alam Shah, the first king in Nusantara to use the
Persian title, Alam Shah or the Shah of World. Perlak according to Parlindungan was attacked many
times by Srivijaya, Jambi and Batak-Karo and finally destroyed by the Majapahit in 1297 (Parlindungan,
1964:577-578; Buyong Adil, 1972:37).
81
Benderang literally meaning bright or glistening.

37

went into the palace, whereupon all who had presented themselves before him returned,
each to his house. King Sri Rana Wikerma then sent for Badang: and when he appeared,
the king said to him, Tomorrow I am matching you against Benderang. And Badang
replied, Your Highness, this Benderang is an outstanding champion of these times, a
man of such exceptional strength that he is famed far and wide. If I am beaten, will
not your Highness be put to shame? I humbly suggest that if your Majesty wishes to
match me against him, he should be summoned tonight and given food, so that I may see
how he accquits himself. If I can contend with him, I will do so. If I cannot, then I hope
your Highness will forbid the match and prohibit my contending with him. The king
agreed and that night he sent for Tun Perpateh Pandak, Benderang and their companions.
When they were came, they were entertained; meat and drink were set before them and
they made merry. Now Benderang sat side by side with Badang, and Badang squeezed
close up to him; whereupon Benderang laid his thigh over that of Badang and pressed it
down with all his might. Badang however raised his thigh and forced up Benderangs.
Then Badang laid his thigh over that of Benderang; and try as he might Benderang could
not raise his thigh. What happened thus between Badang and Benderang was seen by no
one else: they alone knew. After a nights feasting the envoys were drunk and the whole
party took their leave and returned to the ship. When they had gone, King Sri Rana
Wikerma asked Badang, Do you feel yourself a match for Benderang? And Badang
answered, Yes, your Highness, with your royal sanctity to help me I shall be a match
for him. Tomorrow let your Highness pit me against him. And the king replied, Very
well then, and he then retired, whereupon all those present returned, each to his house.
And when Tun Perpateh Pandak reached his ship, Benderang said to him, If you can so
contrive it sir, let me not be pitted against Badang, in case he should prove to be more
then a match for me, for I find him to be possesed of prodigious strength. And Tun
Perpateh Pandak answered, Very well, I can contrive that without difficulty. Day then
dawned. Early in the morning King Sri Rana Wikerma appeared from the palace and
gave a audience, and when Tun Perpateh Pandak presented himself, the king said to him,
Now we will pit Benderang against Badang. But Tun Perpateh Pandak answered, It
would be better not, your Highness: the defeat of either might mean pitting your Highness
against your Highness younger brother! And King Sri Rana Wikerma smiled and said,
Very well, Tun Perpateh Pandak, I wont oppose your wishes! Tun Perpateh Pandak then
sought leave to return to Perlak, and King Sri Rana Wikerma gave him a letter and
a present to take to the Raja of Perlak, whereupon he sailed home to Perlak. According to
one tradition it was Benderang who made the boom across the river which still exists at
Singapura. And when Tun Perpateh Pandak reached Perlak, the letter he brought was by
the Raja of Perlak (s orders?) borne in procession by elephant, the elephant being
brought alongside the hall of audience. And the king (? gave orders to) read the letter
and was well pleased with its wording. And he asked Tun Perpateh Pandak why it
was that the match between Benderang and Badang had not taken place. Tun Perpateh
Pandak then described what happened between Badang and Benderang when they were
drinking, and the Raja of Perlak received the story in silence (Brown, 1952:37-39).
The name Perlak which appears in this pericope is a little state that became a vassal
of Melaka in the fifteenth century. The earliest historical reference to Perlak, appears in the
work of Marco Polo. He noted that the inhabitants of the little town of Perlak on the
northern tip of Sumatra had been converted to Islam (Frampton, 1935:lvi). Vlekke in his
book, Nusantara, a history of Indonesia stated that Perlak in the thirteenth was still the
only Islamic polity in the Archipelago. Further, he mentioned that the oldest Islamic
tombstone, that of Malik al-Saleh at Samudera-Pasai is located in Sumatra, dates from the
year 1297, five years after Marco Polos visit. This tombstone still exists in the village of

38

Samudra, one hundred miles northwest of Perlak on the Sumatran coast. (Mohammad
Said, 1961:40; Vlekke, 1965:67).
In Chapter Six of the Sejarah Melayu, we are informed about the introduction of
Islam to the northen states of Sumatra, especially Perlak. The picture it provides
corresponds to what Marco Polo noted in the thirteenth century. The Sejarah Melayu
explains that the successive conversions of Fansuri, Lamiri, Haru, Perlak and finally
Samudra to Islamic states were performed by the missionaries from Mekah under the
leadership of Nahkoda Ismail. The Sejarah Melayu further mentions the marriage of the
king of Pasai, Sultan Malik-al-Saleh with the daughter of Raja Perlak (Brown, 1952:4043). According to Parlindungan, the Perlak state became well known in the history of
Islam in the Archipelago after this marriage of Princess Genggang of Perlak with Sultan
Malik-al-Saleh, the first Muslim ruler of the famous port Pasai (Parlindungan, 1964:577).
However, the history of Perlak and its role in the religious development of Islam in
Southeast Asia requires further historical research.
Badang becomes known in Perlak, and the Perlak champion, Benderang goes to
contest his strength with Badang. In the previous pericope, Badang overcame the Kalinga
challenger, but he was stopped later for diplomatic reasons from fighting with the
champion from Perlak. The point that demands attention here is that why the Kalinga
champion is treated in a different manner from the Perlak champion? Both Kalinga and
Perlak kingdom was demonstrated by the pericope as having close relationship with the
Singapura kingdom. Sri Rana Wikerma is married to Talai Puchudi, the Kalinga princess.
Meanwhile, the relationship between the Perlak king and Singapura is described as: Tun
Perpateh Pandak was given a place on the same level as Tun Jana Buga Dendang while
Benderang was given the same level as Badang (Brown, 1952:38). The pericope portrays
a more antagonistic attitude towards the Kalinga kingdom compared to Perlak, and this is
probably due to the similarities of culture and religion between Perlak and Melaka.
The traditions shows that the kingdom of Perlak was militarily weaker than
Singapura. However, the strategy of Badang can be described as cunning, which is an
admired quality in the Oriental culture (Brown, 1952:9). Finally, the contest is cancelled by
Tun Perpateh Pandak on behalf of Benderang. When the king of Perlak comes to know
why Benderang was made to withdraw from the contest, his reaction is describe thus: the
Raja of Perlak received the story in silence (Brown, 1952:38). The silence of the king of
Perlak presumably shows either his disappointment or loss of face.
In the following tradition, we are told that Badang died and was buried on Buru
Island, which is near to the Karimun Islands. Receiving the sad news, the Kalinga king sent
a stone for the grave of Badang. According to Matheson, there is a Buddhist inscription
found in Buru (Matheson, 1985:21). Perhaps the pericope is referring to this grave stone.
And after a while Badang died and was buried at Buru. When the news of his death
reached Kalinga, the Raja of Kalinga sent a stone for the grave, and that is the stone
which is there to this day (Brown, 1952:39).
The next tradition is the final pericope of the third chapter:
And after Sri Rana Wikerma had reigned for thirteen years he died and was succeeded
on the throne by his son Dam Raja, with the title of Paduka Sri Maharaja 82. Now the
82

Paduka Sri Maharaja, the name may be rendered The illustrious great king (Crawfurd, 1856:243).

39

consort of King Dam was with child: and when the time was accomplished she brought
forth a son. At his birth the midwife pressed too heavily on his head, with the result that it
became lower in the middle than on the other side: and the king gave the child the
name Raja Iskandar the Two-horned (Brown, 1952:39-40).
The pericope tells us that Sri Rana Wikerma died after thirteen years of rule and
was followed to the throne by his son called King Dam. On his accession, King Dam
assumed the name of Paduka Sri Maharaja. According to the story King Dam has a son
and the child is named Iskandar.
The name Raja Iskandar has a very significant position in the Malay royal
tradition. According to C.H. Wake, the name Iskandar had a strong and obvious appeal
to Malay rulers who wished to root their claim to Malay royal lineage to Iskandar DzulKarnain, the supreme ancestor of Malay kings (Wake, 1983:143). Next we must note the
rather peculiar phrase employed to define the physical features of Iskandar, whose head
was dented by the mid-wife, from which deformity the child was called Raja Iskandar
the Two-horned. We are told by the traditions in the sixth chapter of Sejarah Melayu that
this deformed child is the ruler of Melaka. Does this deformity have anything to say
about the fugitive Parameswara? The deformity demonstrates the physical feature of
Raja Iskandar, who was also named as the Two-horned (Brown, 1952:40). In the
Encyclopedia of Islam, Iskandar Dzul-Karnain, (Dzu or Dhu means the twohorned) is identified with Alexander the Great. Iskandar Dzul-Karnanin was given
power on earth to conquer the countries in the East and the West. Iskandars conquests
were so extensive that his name remained in the minds of the people of Southeast Asia
and became a legend of supernatural greatness (Encyclopedia of Islam, 1978:127). The
pericope designated Iskandar with the name of Two-horned because Iskandar was the
founder of Melaka and a great ruler. In Tome Pires account of Parameswara, he
describes Parameswara, the Melaka prince as a great knight and warlike man (Cortesao,
1944:231).
The traditions in the Fourth and Fifth chapter of the Sejarah Melayu accounts for
the existence of Singapura for about 100 years. The Sitz im Leben of the Singapura
pericopes in the Sejarah Melayu has a significant function. The period of Singapura can
be viewed as a eventful period for the development of the Malay royalty after the fall of
Palembang. Singapura was demonstrated by the traditions discussed above to have been
an important and glorious Malay kingdom. The greatness of Singapura and its founder,
Sri Tri Buana illustrates that Singapura at one time was an important Malay kingdom.
The traditions demonstrated Singapura to be a superior country, with a perfect
uninterrupted sovereignty, from Sri Tri Buana to Iskandar Shah.
3.4 Summary
This chapter has examined the Third, Fourth and Fifth chapters of the Sejarah
Melayu, which begin with the period immediately after the arrival of the three princes in
Palembang and end with the Singapura period. There is no written document in Malay of
any sort regarding the kingdom of Palembang and Singapura, and the traditions of the
Palembang and Singapura kingdom were evidently preserved entirely by mouth. This is a
fact of utmost significance for the understanding of the Sejarah Melayu tradition. During
the period of Palembang and Singapura, the traditions were preserved and transmitted
orally from one generation to another. In the light of what was written in this chapter,

40

Form Criticism has enriched our identification and understanding of the pericopes in the
chapters of the Sejarah Melayu discussed above. These pericopes have developed
independently before the period of Melaka to account for and to justify important events
and historical phenomena. The Author of the Sejarah Melayu then gathered and selected
these traditions. His main task was setting down the units of tradition and linking them
with glosses to provide a coherent account of the origins of the Melaka kingdom. Thus
to practice exegesis in regard to the Sejarah Melayu is to enquire what was the meaning
intended by the Author and, more significantly, what was his purpose of writing the
Sejarah Melayu. The process is one of uncovering the meaning which lies behind the
words of the Author. However, in interpreting this passages a number of different lines
of investigation must be followed. Textual and linguistic study, research into
background, study of sources, form and context, which all have their vital part to play in
exegesis. The application of the Form-Critical method has disclosed to us the extent and
importance of oral tradition in the Sejarah Melayu. In the ensuing chapter, I shall look at
in a more general way at the usefulness of the Form-Critical method for the
understanding of the Sejarah Melayu and the Malay political world.