The Legend of Mahsuri – Langkawi Story
The innocent Mahsuri is forever remembered and cannot be separated from Langkawi, whether as a legend or a myth.
The diverse land and seascapes of Langkawi Islands are not only teeming with a wealth of fascinating wildlife.
Mythical beings in folk storytelling are used in Malaysian culture to depict power, evil, beauty, wisdom, cunning, and many more attributes of humankind.
The oral stories and collective memory from Langkawi’s famous legends help us further understand the nature of humankind.
Of all the many legends and myths surrounding Langkawi, the curse of the innocent Mahsuri is most remarkable.
The Langkawi Story
Myths and Langkawi legends have always held captive the imaginations of the locals on the lush island off the coast of Kedah, Malaysia.
Lagenda Langkawi Park, beside the Kuah Jetty, is a beautifully landscaped folklore-themed park.
The 50-hectare park has a collection of colorful statues, stone carvings, and cultural displays depicting Langkawi’s legendary tales, myths, and folklore.
The Legend of Mahsuri
The best-known legend of Langkawi is of a Malay woman, Mahsuri Binti Pandak Maya, who lived in Langkawi between 1762 and 1800.
The story goes that Mahsuri, the daughter of Pandak Mayah and Cik Alang, grew up to be a beautiful young woman of marrying age.
Mahsuri is also called Puteri Mahsuri and nicknamed Puteri Langkawi.
The most famous story about Mahsuri’s life is during her execution’s last moments, used as material for aristocratic theater performances to children’s stories.
The story of Mahsuri of Langkawi- Truth or Legend?
The facts about Mahsuri are true.
In the late 18th century, Mahsuri Binti Pandak Mayah was a young woman who lived in Pulau Langkawi, an island in Kedah, Malaysia.
Pandak Mayah and Mak Andak, Mahsuri’s parents, migrated initially from a small Muslim village called Prabang, near Phuket, Thailand.
According to folklore, she was accused of adultery and executed by stabbing.
Her tomb, Makam Mahsuri, is a tourist attraction on the island.
The Legends of Mahsuri’s Curse – The Story of Langkawi
We believe the story of Mahsuri to have taken place during the reign of Sultan Abdullah Mukarram Shah III (1778-1797) and Sultan Ziyauddin Mukarram Shah II ibni al-Marhum Sultan Muhammad Jiwa Zainal Azilin Muadzam Shah (1797-1803).
Mahsuri’s early life began in the 1880s.
During the reign of Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin Halim Shah II ibni al-Marhum Sultan Ziyauddin Mukarram Shah (1803-1843), Kedah-Siam relations became murky as both kingdoms struggled for power.
There are several versions of Mahsuri’s Curse narrated orally and in writing by the locals.
Mahsuri’s Ancestry on the Island of Langkawi
Mahsuri’s father, Pandak Mayah, is from Indonesia, while her mother, Endak Alang or Mak Yah, is of Chinese descent.
Pandak Mayah and his wife migrated to Tongka in Southern Thailand and later moved to Langkapuri (Langkawi’s old name).
The couple was childless, despite being married for a long time.
One day, as Pandak Mayah was resting in a hut after working in the fields, he found a rice crust that made the sound of a crying baby.
The magical rice crust was bought home by Pandak Mayah and mixed with a bit of water.
After that, he planted the rice crust.
Soon after, his wife Endak Alang became pregnant.
After Mahsuri’s birth, the poor couples’ livelihood increased folds, and the paddy they cultivated grew abundantly.
One day, Pandak Mayah discovers swallows’ nests in some caves and sells these to Chinese traders from Penang.
With this, their livelihood changed and Mahsuri’s father became known as Orang Kaya Pandak Mayah.
According to another story, Pandak Mayah found the Love Snake Mani or Duck Snake. He caught and ate it.
According to the ancients’ beliefs, the snake bestowed luck and wealth on whoever saw and ate it.
Mahsuri was raised as a Malay woman with values and a moral upbringing.
She was also well versed in the martial arts for self-defense.
Mahsuri was a virgin and became a household name because of her exceptional nature and beauty.
Mahsuri’s fame spread in Kampung Mawat and Mukim Ulu Melaka and throughout the island of Langkawi.
Apart from being idolized by many, several women were jealous of her beauty.
Among those who paid attention to Mahsuri was the Penghulu of Langkawi, a representative of the Sultan of Kedah, Datuk Pekerma Jaya Wan Yahya.
Wan Yahya’s wife, Wan Mahora, felt burning anger when she found out that her husband wanted to make Mahsuri his second wife.
Wan Darus, the younger brother of Datuk Pekerma Jaya Wan Yahya, also desired Mahsuri.
To prevent his household from faltering and maintain his respected name as an elder, Wan Yahya approved Wan Darus’ intention to propose to Mahsuri.
Mahsuri Weds Wan Darus
The wedding ceremony was very lively. However, the men and women of the island were upset.
The men had hopes of marrying Mahsuri, and the women had put their hearts on Wan Darus, said to be a mighty hero and equally handsome.
Mahsuri pregnant with her first child
When Mahsuri became pregnant, relations between Kedah and Siam (Thailand) became increasingly murky.
Siam began to conquer the northern part of Kedah, causing war.
His Majesty, the Sultan of Kedah, ordered his officials to gather commanders to defend the country.
Datuk Pekerma Jaya Wan Yahya called on the people of Langkawi to help the Kedah army that was at war, including Wan Darus.
Wan Darus left Langkawi to fight against an invading Siamese army in Kuala Kedah.
Mahsuri reluctantly had to let her husband go to fight.
Arrival of Deramang
One day, an immigrant named Deramang anchored on the beach of Langkawi.
There were stories that Deramang was from Batu Bara, Acheh, and some claimed he was from Sumatra.
Deramang stopped in Langkawi and, courtesy of Mahsuri’s parents, was allowed to stay at their house.
Pandak Mayah had hired Deramang to help him farm.
Apart from being hardworking and diligent, Deramang had a unique talent for humming and writing poetry.
Deramang stayed at Pandak Mayah’s house to teach poetry
Many villagers will gather every night to listen to the songs and poems delivered by Deramang.
At that time, Pandak Mayah’s family became the talk of the town.
Deramang’s skill in poetry raised Mahsuri’s name as the host, which aroused the jealousy of Wan Mahura, his sister-in-law, as the wife of the Langkawi island chief.
Mahsuri Gives Birth
Mahsuri, who was left behind, moved back to her parent’s house as she was pregnant.
When the time came, Mahsuri’s eldest son, Wan Hakim, was born.
Other stories said the name of Mahsuri’s son was Wan Mat Arus.
Wan Mahora Plotted Against Mahsuri
Wan Mahora did not like the fame gained by Mahsuri.
She felt her position as the wife of the magnate began to be wane in comparison.
Seeing the closeness of Mahsuri and Deramang, Wan Mahora saw it as an opportunity to plot against them.
Wan Mahora incited her husband, Datuk Pekerma Jaya Wan Yahya, to observe Mahsuri’s actions.
Wan Mahora Began to Slander Mahsuri
Wan Mahora, consumed by jealousy of Mahsuri’s beauty, began to spread malicious gossip that Mahsuri was a cheating wife.
One day, Deramang was seen entering Mahsuri’s house to babysit Wan Hakim while his mother was out in the fields.
Mahsuri soon became a victim of a conspiracy and was falsely accused of committing adultery with the handsome Deramang.
The birth of Mahsuri’s son, Wan Hakim, sparked slander when Wan Mahura accused Mahsuri of adultery (having an affair) with Deramang.
Consumed by slander
The rumors eventually prompted villagers to openly accuse Mahsuri of the crime of adultery, which was punishable by death.
The Sultan’s representative in Langkawi, Datuk Pekerma Jaya, was instigated by his wife, Wan Mahora.
For that reason, Mahsuri and Deramang were accused of adultery were arrested and sentenced to death by Datuk Pekerma Jaya, her brother-in-law.
Mahsuri was sentenced to death.
Datuk Pekerma Jaya Wan Yahya ordered his men, led by Panglima Hitam, to arrest Mahsuri.
A story said Mahsuri and Deramang were taken to Balai Adat in Padang Matsirat, the center of Langkawi at that time, to be sentenced.
Pandak Mayah and Endak Alang were shocked to hear the news and offered all their wealth to save the life of their only daughter, but Datuk Pekerma Jaya Wan Yahya rejected this.
Without waiting for Wan Darus to return, Mahsuri was taken to punishment and tied to a tree.
Despite her parents’ pleas and her child’s cries at her skirts, Mahsuri was dragged away and tied to a tree.
Before her execution, Mahsuri told the villagers her blood would turn white if she were innocent.
People who came to witness were shocked by the accusation thrown at Mahsuri.
The crowd was shocked when the spear or dagger used to stab her body failed to pierce her body.
This incident worried Wan Mahora, as it is proof of Mahsuri’s innocence.
Mahsuri continued to be tortured relentlessly by her tormentors.
After every execution attempt failed, Mahsuri finally tells the secret that she can only be killed using her family heirloom spear,
Some stories claimed it was her family’s ceremonial keris (a dagger)
Without wasting time, Datuk Pekerma Jaya Wan Yahya ordered the weapon taken from Pak Mayah’s house.
After obtaining it, Datuk Pekerma Jaya stabbed Mahsuri.
The sky became overcast, and there was thunder and lightning as Mahsuri was fatally stabbed and killed.
Some birds flew above her to cover her body.
As legend would have it, white blood spilled from her wound, signifying her innocence.
Mahsuri’s Execution Site
Mahsuri was not killed in her hometown, Kampung Mawat in Ulu Melaka, but was taken to Padang Matsirat to be executed.
Taman Tugu Keris in Padang Matsirat is where Mahsuri was sentenced to death.
A tree there, allegedly to be where Mahsuri was tied up and tortured for several days before being sentenced to death, still exists today.
Another story said that Deramang managed to escape but was hunted down.
Despite putting up a brave fight, Deramang was killed in Batu Asah.
The Curse of Mahsuri
Mahsuri is probably best remembered for her curse.
Mahsuri’s last words are very famous when they are often repeated in any performance.
As she lay dying, Mahsuri uttered the words considered a curse and remembered throughout the ages.
With her dying breath, Mahsuri placed a curse on the island of Langkawi by uttering, “For this act of injustice Langkawi shall not prosper for seven generations to come.”
With that, she cursed Langkawi to endure seven generations of misfortune.
The blood that flowed out of Mahsuri’s body was white and not red.
Another story said her blood floated like a cloud and disappeared in the air without dropping to the ground.
Her parents buried Mahsuri next to the ransom they wanted to used to redeem her.
Mahsuri is said to have died in 1819 AD, equivalent to 1235 AH.
7 Days After Mahsuri’s Execution
In 1821, the Siamese army advanced to all parts of Kedah.
Siam invaded Langkawi.
To starve the invading Siamese soldiers, Datuk Pekerma Jaya ordered all the rice fields on the island be collected and burned in Padang Mat Sirat.
The burning of the rice fields proved to be a foolish move, for the residents soon died from starvation.
As a result, of the burning of rice fields, Siam soon took over the kingdom.
In the decades that followed, Langkawi suffered from repeated crop failure and several invasions from the Siamese, encouraging locals to believe in the curse.
To this day, legend has it that remnants of the burned rice grains can be seen in a cordoned area, Beras Terbakar in Padang Mat Sirat, Kampung Raja, after torrential rains.
Beras Terbakar means ‘the field of burnt rice.’
Exactly seven days after Mahsuri’s death, death and destruction took place everywhere.
The Siamese army killed Datuk Pekerma Jaya, and his body was dumped in the Langkanah River southwest of Kampung Sungai Batu.
Wan Mahora’s End
Meanwhile, Wan Mahora is said to have been raped and enslaved by the Siamese army before being killed.
The crime of envy and slander Langkawi received great consequences.
Wan Darus Return to Langkawi
Wan Darus returned to Langkawi after defeating the Kedah army in Kuala Muda but was bitterly disillusioned to receive the news of Mahsuri’s death.
He took his son Wan Hakim along with Mahsuri’s parents and left Langkawi forever.
Langkawi’s Trials and Period of Tribulations
Decades after Mahsuri’s death, Langkawi experienced a tribulation period, with bad luck and her population dwindling in size.
The island became a derelict place, beset by a series of misfortunes.
Makam Mahsuri Story
Still, the legend of Mahsuri, a beautiful woman, makes for great stories, and a tomb claimed to be hers is located in Kuab, aptly named Makam Mahsuri.
Mahsuri’s Tomb is located in Ulu Melaka, which is in the Kota Mahsuri area.
The benefits of Telaga Mahsuri
Next to Rumah Mahsuri is Telaga Mahsuri – well-known for its magical healing powers.
Mahsuri is said to bathe often and wash clothes at the well.
It is believed that washing the face with water from Telaga Mahsuri can make the person look young like the beautiful Mahsuri.
The well water is said to be more relaxed than the normal well water found around Langkawi.
The water of this well also never dries, even during the dry season.
With God’s permission, this well water is said to be able to cure skin diseases.
As for Mahsuri’s family, they left Langkawi and settled in Thailand.
In 2000, the Kedah government located them on the island of Phuket.
According to Malaysia’s Kedah Historical Society, Wan Aishah Wan Nawawi (Sirintra Yayee) is the seventh-generation descendant of the legendary Mahsuri.
They were invited to Langkawi for a visit and to see if they would like to make the island their new home.
Wan Aishah received a warm welcome from Langkawi residents and was offered a place on the island as the descendant of the Langkawi princess.
However, she declined, choosing instead to continue living in Phuket.
Mahsuri’s tomb is now encased in white marble, quarried from the hills of Langkawi – white, symbolizing her innocence.
Nearby is a well, which Mahsuri used to wash and bathe.
Malay Film Adaptation of The Mahsuri Legend
Mahsuri was a classic Malay film adaptation based on folklore and released on January 01, 1958
Who is Who in The Mahsuri Legend
Pandak Mayah – Mahsuri’s Father
Endak Alang or Mak Yah – Mahsuri’s Mother
Datuk Pekerma Jaya Wan Yahya – Penghulu of Langkawi, a representative of the Sultan of Kedah
Wan Mahora – Wan Yahya’s wife
Wan Darus – Wan Yahya’s brother and Mahsuri’s husband
Wan Hakim – Mahsuri’s son
Deramang – Minstral and Pandak Mayah’s hired hand
Key Takeaway of The Mahsuri Legend
Mahsuri’s parents came to Langkawi Island from a village on the southern coast of Siam (Thailand). Mahsuri’s father, Pandak Mayah and his mother, Cik Alang, live in Kampung Mawat.
Mahsuri was born in the late 18th century and married a warrior, Wan Darus, the younger brother of the Sultan’s representative in Langkawi, Datuk Pekerma Jaya.
Kota Mahsuri in Ulu Melaka is one of the main tourist destinations in Langkawi, which houses the Mahsuri Tomb, site of Mahsuri’s House and Telaga Mahsuri.
The grave of Mahsuri’s son, Wan Hakim, was found in Kampung Kemala, Phuket, Thailand.
For generations, one storyteller after another has passed down the ‘Legend of Mahsuri’ in all its rather shameful glory.
Perhaps to keep oral history alive and remind the islanders that gossip can be newsworthy or just plain hurtful. It was true then, and it’s true now.
There is no denying that, after going through the curse of the seven descendants of Mahsuri, today Langkawi is one of the best international and local tourist and adventure destinations.
Langkawi is ranked among the ten islands and the best eco-tourism destinations in the world.
The physical effects associated with Mahsuri’s story can still be seen, like her residence and her tomb.
Mahsuri’s name will be remembered forever and cannot be separated from Langkawi, whether it is a legend or a myth.
After eight generations, the curse was lifted, Langkawi became prosperous again, hence the vitality of its tourism scene today.
The lure of Langkawi has always been its pristine beaches, especially the crowd favorite Pantai Cenang, overlooking the calm Andaman Sea – and of course, that legendary sunset.
As a duty-free island, Langkawi is legendary for shopping.
Some foreign tourists could not resist the shops at the Langkawi International Airport upon setting foot on the island.
This icon of Langkawi, the Eagle Square, is the favorite background for many tourist and Instagram shots.
According to local folklore, the eagle – lang or helang – is how it got its name.