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Legends of Langkawi

Langkawi is a legendary island in more sense than one. Other than its wonderful beaches, its beautiful legends are what draws a visitor to its shores. The legends are all the more real simply because its people are convinced of their authenticity. As such, a keen sense of mystique and mystery surrounds the island and lends charm and intrigue to an otherwise quiet and calm faade.

and the curse of 7 years

Once upon a time, there lived in Langkawi, a childless couple, Pandak Maya and Mak Andam, who prayed for a child.

Their prayers were answered when they had Mahsuri, a sweet delightful child who grew into a beautiful young woman. Being such a beauty, she had many suitors but she soon married a warrior in her village. Their idyllic lives were disrupted when her husband went off to defend their village against attackers. A travelling poet arrived at the village and Mahsuri was said to have allowed him to stay at her house. This soon gave rise to the vicious gossip that Mahsuri was a faithless wife.

Another version claims that Mahsuri's mother-in-law was jealous of her while others say that a spurned suitor was behind the treachery. Yet another version says that the village headman was so enamoured of Mahsuri, that he tried to make full use of her husband's absence to his advantage. Needless to say, his wife was not amused and plotted to have Mahsuri Punished and done away with. Hence, she accused Mahsuri of being an adulteress, an offense punished by death. Despite her parents' pleas and the cries of her child at her skirts, Mahsuri was dragged away and tied to a tree. Vehemently protesting her innocence, she begged for mercy, but the villagers, under the influence of the headman's wife, gave her no quarter. The people really should have believed her when all the spears that they threw at her fell harmlessly at her feet. They were baffled but still convinced that Mahsuri was guilty of wrong-doing. They would not release her no matter what.

Finally, Mahsuri, having resigned herself that only her death would appease them, told them how they could kill her. She would only die by the blade of the ceremonial sword kept at her home. Someone was sent to fetch it and legend has it that the sky became overcast and there was thunder and lightning as Mahsuri was fatally stabbed. It is said that Mahsuri bled white blood, symbolising her innocence and purity, and with her dying breath, she laid a curse on Langkawi and its inhabitants, proclaiming that they would know no prosperity nor progress for seven generations.

Soon after her death, Langkawi was attacked by the Siamese. To prevent the invaders from getting the upper hand, the villagers poisoned their wells and burnt their padi fields, which effectively put an end to their food supply and means of income for the coming year. The evidence of this burning can still be seen today, two hundred years later, as charred and blackened rice grains surface from the ground especially after it rains heavily. Do you not think it strange that the rice grains have not turned into soil after so long? Some things have to be seen or experienced first-hand to be believed. The village headman and his sons were killed fighting the Siamese and neither was his wife spared an untimely death. As for Mahsuri's family, they left Langkawi and settled in Thailand.

Shortly after the tomb was erected, the Tunku was given a promotion and the contractor who had borne the costs of building the tomb became rather prosperous - he was handed several lucrative contracts. No one would have faulted the Tunku if he had thought that their good fortune could have been a token of appreciation from a woman who had died as a result of another's cruelty and whose grave had been so sadly neglected. The Tunku publicised this legend and lent his support in staging plays about Mahsuri and when there was a movie to be made about her. School children grew up reading about Mahsuri in their history textbooks.

To Malaysians, Mahsuri is more than a legend; she is the epitome that truth and goodness shall prevail and she reminds those who think that power enables them to do as they please, that their arrogance will only serve to hinder them. The Tunku did not live to see Mahsuri's descendants on Langkawi soil but it was he who had paved the way for their return. Had he been less interested in the legend and less of the man that he was, Mahsuri's tale would have been confined to the island alone. And just as he had freed Malaya from colonial rule, so too had he helped Langkawi to free itself from the shackles of its own past.