Langkawi Folk Tales
The Fascinating Mysteries

Langkawi is a mystic island with the purest white sands, clear tropical waters and sun filled days. It's intriguing folk tales surrounds the island with a mysterious charm. This is an island where fact and fiction intertwines. Langkawi is not only famous for its world class resorts, beautiful beaches, age-old geological wonders of mysterious caves, mist-shrouded mountains and mystical lakes...

... but also for its tales of warriors, wronged maidens, giant birds, ogres and fairy princesses. Here are some of the famous folk tales of Langkawi.


Legend of Langkawi's Name

Local folklore has it that Langkawi derived its name from the eagle or "helang" as it is known in the Malay language. "Lang" for short and in old Malay, "kawi" denotes reddish brown - thus, Langkawi simply means reddish brown eagle. Where once, a group of 99 islands lay under a curse of a wrongly accused princess, there is today a new beginning, a new light, and as result a new budding and thriving holiday hideaway. The Langkawi you see today has been transformed almost beyond recognition. This is the legendary island where now major international businessmen meet to form new ventures and conclude deals whilst relaxing. The curse that lasted for seven generations can surely be said to have been lifted.

The "kawi" also can be refer to the Malay word for "limestone". This unique limestone rock formation is emerging from floor of the mangrove swamp surrounding Langkawi islands and the sea.


Mahsuri and The Langkawi Curse

Mahsuri Pandak Mayah
The best-known folk tale of Langkawi is about Mahsuri. Mahsuri was a pretty lady who cursed the island when she was wrongly accused of adultery some 200 years ago.

Mahsuri was married to Wan Darus, son of the Chief of Langkawi. While her husband went away to fight against the invading Siamese army, a travelling male musician called Deraman came along. Mahsuri and Deraman became good friends, causing her mother-in-law to accuse her of having an affair with the musician. The villagers speculated too.

When her father-in-law, Dato Karma Jaya heard about the rumor from the villagers, he was furious and ordered her to be sentenced to death. Despite her protests of innocence, Mahsuri was executed.

However, the swords and machetes used by the executors could not injure her. This is believed to be a proof of her innocence. They kept trying but to no avail. Mahsuri then told them to use a special sword kept in her house so that she could be executed. White blood was seen gushing out of her wound during the execution, as further proof of her innocence.

Mahsuri uttered her curse on Langkawi just before she died

"There shall be no peace and prosperity on this island for a period of seven generations."

Tomb of Mahsuri

Makam Mahsuri (Tomb of Mahsuri), located about 12km from Kuah.

Wan Aishah - Mahsuris 7th generation
Local folks believed that the curse did come true, as Langkawi soon fell to Siam and the residents died from starvation. The island became a desolate place, beset by a series of natural disasters. After her death, Mahsuri's husband and son moved to Phuket. Since the birth of Mahsuri's seventh generation descendant in southern Thailand, the curse is believed to be over. Pic: Wan Aishah - Mahsuri's 7th Generation (Now live in Phuket).

Numerous development projects have been successfully implemented on the island, and Langkawi has regained its splendor once more.


Padang Mat Sirat (The Field Of Burnt Rice)

In 1821, not long after Mahsuri's execution, Siam invaded Langkawi. To starve the invading Siamese soldiers, Dato Karma Jaya ordered all the rice on the island be collected and burnt in Padang Mat Sirat. This was a foolish move as villagers soon starved to death due to lack of food.

Remnants of the burnt rice could still be seen in a cordoned area in Padang Mat Sirat, Kampung Raha. The burnt rice is said to have been buried below ground before being burnt, but often appears on the surface after a rainy day.

Beras Terbakar (Burnt Rice)

Beras Terbakar (Burnt Rice)


The Fiery Phonix

The Cave of Stories is one of the many limestone caves situated along the north east coast of Langkawi. You can reach the cave within 30 minutes by a boat ride. It is actually consists of two caves, with one forming above the other.

You can see paintings on the outside wall, that is believed to be painted by the ancestors of the aborigines of Australia. You can also see on the walls of the cave - ancient inscriptions that resemble the holy verses of the Koran, although they are not legible enough to be read.

There are several langkawi legends associated with the caves, one relating to a mythological Malay character called Merong Maha Wangsa, and the emperors of Rome and China. This story was said to have occurred during the heydays of the Roman and Chinese empire. The rulers of these two countries planned to marry off their children, in order to build an even larger dynasty.

Gua Cerita
This was strongly opposed by the Garuda (Golden Phoenix), who felt that the union will threaten smaller kingdoms around the world. What the Garuda did to prevent the marriage was to kidnap the Chinese princess and hid her in Gua Cerita.

The Golden Phoenix then attacked the Roman fleet commanded by an ogre called Merong Maha Wangsa and the Roman prince, which was sent to rescue the princess.

The Garuda defeated Merong Maha Wangsa, but the Roman prince fell into the sea and was washed to the cave where the Chinese princess was hidden.

He was united with his bride and they got married in the cave. When the Golden Phoenix found out he was unsuccessful in stopping the marriage, he vanished from the world.

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