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The Origin of Malacca

Melaka - Malaysia
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Malacca is one of the towns situated at the south of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The town has a lot of history that the people call it Melaka Bandaraya Bersejarah (Malacca, The Historic City). In Tun Sri Lanang’s The Malay Annals (1565), it is stated that the town used to be called as Sungai Bertam (Bertam River) and inhabited by Seletar people. But one time, came to the area a nobleman called Parameswara along with his men. Parameswara was a king who ran away from Palembang Kingdom after a Javanese King, Batara Tamavill, attacked as he established himself as a mjeure (a brave man).

According to Tan Sri Lanang, before Parameswara arrived at Sungai Bertam, he and his men had run off to Singapore first. Yet, after killing the King of Siam, Tamagi, he was then attacked and driven out by the Siam people. He and a thousand of his men moved to the west coast of Malay Peninsula afterwards to seek for protection. He moved along until arrived at Sungai Bertam and stayed there. Soon, the Seletar people who resided in the area asked Parameswara to become their king. Not long after enthroned a king, Parameswara who was Hindu then converted into Muslim and changed his name to Muhammad Iskandar Syah (in about the year of 1406).

Once upon a time, when he was hunting in the woods, King Iskandar Syah saw an amazing occurrence that he later changed the name of Sungai Bertam to Malacca. What kind of wonder seen by the King that could give him the idea to change the name of the area? Find out in this story!


Once upon a time, in an area that is now a part of Malaysia, there was a kingdom whose king was famous for his kindness and wisdom. His name was Muhammad Iskandar Syah. The king was a skilled archer and lancer. He liked to go for hunting. He was very sensitive about every move in the woods that he would notice even a slight trace or position of the animals. Every time he went for hunting, King Iskandar was always accompanied by his pet dogs which were very agile and strong in catching their prey.

One day, the king went for hunting in the woods along with some of his guards. As they entered the jungle, King Iskandar got down of his horse and sat down calmly with his eyes closed. He concentrated his mind and senses to detect the animals. His ears seemed to move once in a while, indicating that he had found them. The king then opened his eyes very slowly as he knew what to do next.

“Guards! Release the dogs!” commanded King Iskandar Syah.

“As you wish, Your Majesty!” the guards answered.

After that, King Iskandar instructed the dogs to go after the animals at the banks of Bertam River, which was not far from their position. While barking frighteningly, the dogs ran very fast to the river direction. King Iskandar and his guards followed the dogs with their weapon unsheathed. The King carried a magic bow, while each of his men held a lance or spear.

There were some deer and antelopes browsing at the river banks when the dogs came near quickly, barking and hunting them. Having just arrived at the place, the king held up his bow right away. He aimed an arrow to one of the antelopes. To his surprise, his shot was dodged by the agile animal. He took another arrow and shot the animal once more, but then again, he failed to hit it. Likewise, none of his men could catch an animal.

“The animals in this wood are very nimble and shrewd,” said the king in amazement.

“You are right, Your Honor. They are so fast. They can avoid all of our shots,” said one of the guards, admitting the animals’ great ability.

Exhausted after hopping here and there to avoid shots, the animals ran away into the bushes. King Iskandar Syah and his men tried to chase them, yet they lose their tracks. The animals had gone into the jungle.

Meanwhile, from the direction of a steep river bank nearby, their dogs barked very loudly.

“Guards! Do you hear the dogs barking from the bank?” asked the King.

“Of course, Your Majesty! I believe they are hunting down an animal,” answered a guard.

“We go there then!” King Iskandar commanded his men.

“As you wish, Your Majesty!” replied the guards as they picked up their weapons.

At the place, they saw a beautiful pure white deer being surrounded by the hunting dogs. It jumped hither and thither to dodge the dogs’ fierce pounces.

“No matter how agile you are, somehow my arrow will go through your flesh,” the king murmured confidently.

As he took an arrow, King Iskandar saw the gorgeous deer hopping around as if a master of martial arts performing his steps wonderfully. He was so amazed by the deer’s nimbleness. The arrow on his hand was kept unreleased. He and his men were all stunned. They enjoyed such an entertainment staged by the deer.

The dogs kept on trying to strike, while their prey was always able to dodge. One of the dogs attacked the deer at the right time and direction. But once again, the deer was too quick. It jumped very high, soaring, flipping its hind legs inward. When its front legs reached the ground, it used its hind legs to kick the dog. And it was right on the face of it that the dog was thrown to the river. The dog never gave up. It swam aside and tried to resume his hunting. However, the deer had gone. It ran off into the bushes.

King Iskandar was so impressed by what he had just seen.

“The deer’s agility is just marvelous. I have been hunting for years and this is my first time to go home empty handed,” revealed the king sadly.

Before leaving the wood, King Iskandar Syah and his men took their time for a rest after hunting all day long. The king leaned his body on a shady tree whose leaves were so soft. The king was still thinking of the amazing occurrence. While relaxing, King Iskandar Syah gathered all his men to have a discussion about a matter that seemingly had just come out of his mind.

“The animals in this wood are so witty and courageous. It seems that this place will be good for a kingdom. What do you think?” asked King Iskandar.

“Pardon me, Your Honor. But do not we already have a kingdom?” argued one of the guards.

“You are right, guard. But this place is excellent. There are a lot of animals here and the land looks so fertile,” asserted the king.

“But, what about our kingdom?” asked another guard.

“We will leave it. The center of administration will be moved to this place. What do you say about it? Do you guys agree with me?” answered the king.

“Yes, Your Honor!” answered the guards.

“But…., what name will we give to this place?”

Hearing the king’s question, all the guards were quite. It was silence. Nobody had any idea about the place’s name. Suddenly, the king asked the guards.

“What is the name of this tree I am leaning on?”

“It is Melaka Tree, Your Honor!”

“Melaka…., Melaka…., Melaka…. ,“ King Iskandar murmured the word repeatedly.

“It is a good name! Well, we should name this place Melaka then,” said King Iskandar.

And so it was the king’s decision. All the guards nodded their heads, implying that they all agreed. Afterwards, there set up a kingdom called Melaka (Malacca) with Muhammad Iskandar Syah as the first king. Under his rule, the people lived in harmony, peace, and wellbeing.


That is the story of the origin of Malacca from Malaysia. The story is categorized as an exemplary folklore that contains moral messages as guidance in daily life. One of the messages of this story is about the importance of discussion to reach an agreement. This is depicted when King Iskandar Syah involved his guards in the discussion on the idea of making the wood a kingdom. This is a good custom. It is one of the chief principles in the life of Malay people. The importance of such spirit is implied in the following Malay verses of local wisdom:

Apa tanda Melayu beradat,
Berunding tidak memilih tempat

Wahai ananda ingatlah pesan,
Duduk musyawarah engkau utamakan
Di situlah kebenaran engkau dirikan
Di sana keadilan engkau tegakkan

(what attests to civilized Malay,
The people discuss all the way.

Never you forget o my sons,
discussion is a matter of importance,
it is where you reveal truths,
it is where you fight for justice.)

Translation by Reza Daffi (terj/18/02-10)


  • The story is adapted form Puteh, Othman and Aripin Siad. 2004. Himpunan 366 Cerita Rakyat Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur: PRIN-AD SDN. BHD.
  • Anonymous. “Kesultanan Melaka: Parameswara”, (http://ms.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kesultanan_Melaka#Parameswara, accessed on January 17, 2008).
  • Anonymous. “Melaka”, (http://ms.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melaka, accessed on January 17, 2008).
  • Anonymous. “Semenanjung”, (http://ms.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semenanjung, accessed by January 17, 2008).
  • Effendy, Tenas. 2006. Tunjuk Ajar Melayu. Yogyakarta: the Center for Malay Cultur Studies and Development in cooperatin with AdiCita Karya Nusa.

Source of Photo: 366 Cerita Rakyat Malaysia

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