Once upon a time, there were stories told of brave warriors, damsels in distress, clever mythical creatures and mystical wizards that allowed Melakan’s to imagine the spectacular realm of fabled myths and fact-based legends. These passed down tales have somewhat become part of their (and also our) lives, shaped their culture and embedded in their beliefs. Whether these stories were products of both ours and their ancestors’ vivid imagination or based on real accounts, the fact remains that without them, life would be snore-rendous.
Here’s a brief adaptation of what they’ve been told (time to get the popcorn):
Story #1 – Puteri Gunung Ledang
Puteri Gunung Ledang is said to be a gorgeous, fairy princess who lives at the mountain peak of Gunung Ledang (Mount Ophir). Some said that she was a Javanese princess who sought refuge in the mountains, while others believed that she was a mystical shapeshifter. She is also thought to be a princess who entered the supernatural dimension by accident when looking for a spot on the mountain to perform a meditation ritual.
The most famous tale of the princess dates back to the 1400s when she was apparently courted by the reigning Sultan Mansur Shah of Melaka. He sent an entourage made up of his trusted warriors, royal guards and servants carrying lavish engagement gifts to be presented to the princess. When they reached an enchanted garden somewhere near the mountain’s peak, they were met by her lady’s maid (whom they suspected was the princess in another form), and then later on the diva herself. After they have conveyed the Sultan’s proposal, she immediately accepted … provided that he can meet these conditions:
- A bridge made of gold to be built from the Sultan’s palace to the peak of Gunung Ledang.
- A bridge made of silver to be built from the peak of Gunung Ledang to the Sultan’s palace.
- Seven trays of mosquito hearts.
- Seven trays of germ hearts.
- Seven barrels of betel nut juice.
- Seven barrels of virgin tears.
- A silver bowl filled with the blood of the Sultan’s young (and only) son.
All the conditions set was done on purpose as most of these tasks were nearly impossible to achieve, especially the blood of the Sultan’s son. Everyone from the entourage immediately knew that this was a subtle rejection to the Sultan’s proposal, and so did the monarch himself when they delivered the princess’ message to him. Some versions say that he was unable to fulfill the request, swallowed his pride and admitted defeat.
Other annals depict that he oppressed his people in doing his bidding to complete the six requests. While he was holding a blade above his son’s chest to draw his cup full of blood for the last condition set, it seems the princess magically appeared just in time to stop the deed. She proclaimed that she will never marry someone who is weak and cruel to his people and to his son. Moral of the story – be happy with what you have.
Location : Gunung Ledang National Park
A local movie trailer of an adaptation of Puteri Gunung Ledang.
Story #2 – Bukit Cina
The area of Bukit Cina (Chinese Hill) is imbued with legend, myth and history. Apart from reputedly holding the record for the largest and oldest traditional Chinese cemetery outside China, it is said to be the place where the Chinese Princess Hang Li Poh and her 500 court followers settled after her marriage to Sultan Mansur Shah (yes people, the same one that pined after Puteri Gunung Ledang). Like all diplomatic ties during those days, she was the matrimonial seal between the kingdom of Melaka and the Chinese Empire.
Recently, disputes have arisen on her credibility as a princess, as apparently there haven’t been any records found to confirm her royal lineage. Maybe she was a product of one of the Emperor’s concubines or a royal handmaiden. No one knows for sure. But what they do know is that once the princess and her party settled at the foot of the hill, the Sultan commissioned for a well (Perigi Raja) to be dug for their usage. What makes it mystical is how the well manages to leave people in the state of conundrum as it never dries up. Never. Not even once during long drought seasons till this day.
It has now built up quite a reputation as a wishing well, judging from the mass of coins of different currencies left inside the well as evidence to this belief. A coin collector would be bawling with tears of joy.
The same can be said for renowned Chinese Admiral Zheng He’s (Cheng Ho) Seven Dragon Wells. He ordered his expedition crew to dig seven wells as a gift to the princess and added the word “dragon” for feng shui auspiciousness. Today, only 3 out of the seven wells remain, and like the Perigi Raja, these wells also never dry up.
Location : Bukit Cina Melaka
Make a wish at Perigi Raja
One of the Seven Dragon Wells
Story #3 – Pulau Besar
Shrouded with myths and legends, Pulau Besar, the largest island off the coast of Melaka apparently also resembles the shape of a pregnant woman lying on her back. How its seemingly shaped this way boils down to a mythical love story. It tells of a princess (obviously beautiful) from Melaka who fell in love with a fisherman from Sumatera. One day, he reluctantly had to return to his homeland for a spell and promised the princess that he would return.
When that fine day came, misfortune befell on the fisherman as his ship capsized in a raging storm. All this time, the princess waited for him while eagerly wanting to share the news of her pregnancy. But since she hasn’t heard any word of his return, in her despair she flung herself into the sea. It seems that her body miraculously floated to the site of her lover’s floundered ship and there she remained. Which again accounts for the shape of the island. Many tales of the mystical and spiritual thrive on the island and the following are just some of many to share:
Sultan Al-Ariffin Syeikh Ismail and Syarifah Rodziah
Hundreds flock to Pulau Besar for its somewhat sacred, mystical quality as the island entombs both the revered Muslim figures and mythical characters. One of them is the highly regarded Sultan Al-Ariffin Syeikh Ismail, the 18th descendant of the Prophet whose tomb is never short of fascinated yet humbled visitors. Legend depicts that while visiting the Prophet’s tomb in Medina, a voice instructed him to spread Islam across Java. So off he went on his mission and landed first on the shores of Pulau Besar in 1495. From here, he disseminated Islamic teachings throughout the Malay Archipelago right until his demise at the age of 58.
His relative’s tomb, Syarifah Rodziah or Siti Sarah, is also frequently visited by a majority of pilgrims, particularly from the Indian-Muslim community. The pilgrims believe that blessings will be showered upon them when they offer prayers of hope at their tombs.
Gua Yunus (Yunus Cave)
Said to be a small enclosure in a cave accessible only by an underwater entrance, Gua Yunus was, and still is one the most visited place on the island. The cave derived its name from the person who discovered it, Syeikh Yunus and converted it into his personal man-cave for practicing spiritual meditation. He would spend most of his days meditating and only came out for fresh air once a week when he needed to get provisions from the locals. Until one fine day, he just up and vanished without a trace.
When the local community went on a search for him, they discovered to their amazement that the boulder he used to sit on was white, a jarring contrast to the black cave surroundings. But Syeikh Yunus was never to be found and of course, the seeds of speculation started planting itself for the amusement of the locals. After a while, the community offered the cave to anyone who would like to meditate, especially those practicing the Malay traditional martial art of Silat.
Batu Belah (Split Boulder)
There once was a warrior whose name was Panglima Lidah Hitam (literal translation: Black Tongue Warrior). He was hanging out with other manly warriors one sunny day and decided at one point to show off their strengths. Some split and chopped down huge trees with a single swoop of an axe, and some separated hills with their various skills and might.
Panglima Lidah Hitam felt challenged and showed them his mighty talent of splitting a 3-metre high boulder … with only his tongue! The 35cm post-split crack has brought many to try and wiggle through it, but not all are attempted successes because apparently only the chosen (or those who are as slim as a cardboard) can pass through.
Location: Pulau Besar Melaka
The long abandoned Marina Resort. Tranquilly eerie …
There are other historical legends of Melaka to share which can only continue to fuel our imagination. Making us wanting it to be real, so that we can really experience the wonder of it all. Perhaps, in another set of legendary tales for another time.