Myths and Legends of Langkawi Island

September 11, 2019
By Syahirah Mokhtazar

In this modern world that we live in, there’s just something so fascinating about discovering the legends and myths of the past.

Malaysia is home to many exotic islands that feature stunning beaches. Langkawi for one, is one of the most popular tourist attractions.

Beyond its beautiful natural landscape, mangroves rich in flora and fauna, is its lingering legend woven into its history.

Accorded the Global Geopark status by UNESCO in 2007, Langkawi is a cluster of 99 tropical islands just off the coast of Kedah, one of Malaysia’s northern states.

What attracts tourists to Langkawi is that it is very much shrouded in age-old myths and legends. So many stories have been told about Langkawi, here are a few:

 

THE TALE OF MAHSURI

This is a tragic story about love, jealousy and a curse. It was believed that a pretty young maiden named Mahsuri lived in Langkawi between 1762 and 1800. She was a beautiful girl who was married to a warrior. Legend says that her mother-in-law was jealous of Mahsuri’s beauty and conjured to conspire against her by accusing her of being unfaithful to her husband while he was away. She was then openly accused by the villagers of adultery and was sentenced to death. Despite pleading her innocence, no one believed her. When she was finally executed, white blood flowed from her wounds, signifying her innocence. Birds flew above her to cover her body, then with her dying breath, Mahsuri laid a curse on  Langkawi and its inhabitants to have seven generations of bad luck. Locals believed that this was true as the island experienced decades of failed crops following her death. Langkawi was also attacked by the Siamese, and it was only at the end of 20th, after the seven generations have supposedly passed, that Langkawi began to prosper. It is believed the descendants of Mahsuri lives in Thailand and occasionally visit her tomb in Langkawi. Visitors can pay a visit there too.

 

FIELD OF BURNT RICE

This relates to the ‘curse’ laid out by Mahsuri as this turbulent period supposedly happened a few months after her death. Padang Matsirat is a place on the island that has vast stretches of paddy rice fields, so naturally this has been the main source of supply and means of livelihood for the islanders. At the time, Langkawi was invaded by the Siamese. Not wanting the Siamese to get a hold of their rice harvest, the local leader sent a messenger to Padang Matsirat to destroy their rice harvest by burning it so that the Siamese would not get a hold of it. The villagers believe that to this day, during heavy rain, charred rice grains can be found at the site where the Field of Burnt Rice is located. There is not much to see now apart from a signage, but it does have its significance in the history of Langkawi.

 

DAYANG BUNTING LAKE

About 20 kilometres from Kuah town (Langkawi’s main town) is the Dayang Bunting Lake. In English, ‘dayang bunting’ means pregnant maiden. The story of how this island got its name begins with a beautiful fairy princess who fell in love and married a mortal prince. They conceived a child but unfortunately the child did not live long, so they decided to rest the child in the lake. The fairy princess then blessed the lake in such that infertile women will be able to conceive if they bath themselves there. What makes locals believe that the legend might be somewhat true is that the shape of the island, resembles the outline of a pregnant lady lying on her back. To this day nobody knows if this story is true or not.

(Credit photo: Tourism Malaysia website)

SEVEN WELLS WATERFALL

This place is named after the seven natural pools that was formed at different levels with water gushing down from Mount Mat Cincang. The story behind this is associated with fairies too. Due to the breathtaking beauty, it was believed that fairies would bath in the natural pools. Some believe the water contains healing properties as well.

(Credit photo: @naturally.langkawi Instagram)

Cover photo credit: Didier Marti / 123rf

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