Thursday, September 11, 2008

Who was Parameswara?

Who Was Parameswara?

Malaysia history books recorded the Malacca Sultanate as the beginning of Malacca (now Melaka). Much emphasis has been put on the glory of this empire as it not only covered Malacca itself, it controlled most parts of the peninsula and the eastern coast of Sumatra. Recently there seems to rekindle a need to know the history of the state prior to the Malacca Sultanate of the 15th Century. ( - this story is reproduced at the bottom of this article).

"Parameswara (1344 - 1414) (also called Iskandar Shah) was a Malay Hindu prince (from Palembang district of Srivijaya Empire) who founded Melaka around 1402. The historical Malay literary work, Sejarah Melayu, states that Parameswara was a descendant of Alexander the Great."1

Parameswara, born in 1344 (whose name means both Prince Consort and the bravest man in Palembang-Javanese; accoording to wikipedia, the name derives from sanskrit, a classical Indian language, meaning the supreme voice, the attribute of being god or a god and is another name for Lord Shiva) has been hailed as the founder of Melaka, but he was not from Malaya. He was from Palembang, a city in South Sumatra. He was a prince of the Srivijaya Empire, which was during that time a partly Hindu, partly Buddhist kingdom.1

In the 14th Century, Srivijaya Empire was losing its influence and under threat from Majapahit Empire, which was based in Java. The attack by Majapahit forced Parameswara to flee. He sailed to Temasek (now Singapore) and was accepted and offered protection Temagi, a Malay chief from Patani who was appointed by the King of Siam (now Thailand) as Regent of Temasek. Within a few days, Parameswara killed Temagi and appointed himself as regent. Some 5 years later he had to leave Temasek due to threats from Siam. During this period, Temasek was also attacked by a Javanese fleet from Majapahit.

He later headed north to found a new settlement. At Muar, Parameswara contemplated establishing his new kingdom at either Biawak Busuk or at Kota Buruk. Finding that the Muar location was not suitable, he continued his journey northwards. Along the way, he reportedly visited Sening Ujong (former name of present day Sungai Ujong) before reaching a fishing village at the mouth of the Bertam River (former name of the Malacca River). This evolved over time to become the location of modern day Malacca Town. According to the Malay Annals, it was here that he witnessed a mouse deer outwitting a dog while resting under a Malacca tree. He took what he saw as a good omen and decided to establish a kingdom called Malacca.He made all the facilities for Malacca so that they can trade at Malacca.1

In 1409, Parameswara married a princess of Pasai (a Muslim harbour kingdom on the north coast of Sumatra from the 13th to the 15th centuries CE) and adopted the Persian title (Iskandar Shah.)

Parameswara's conversion to Islam was unclear so far with no evidence as to whether Parameswara had actually converted. According to a theory by Sabri Zain, Parameswara became a Muslim when he married a Princesss of Pasai. There are also references that indicate that some members of the ruling class and the merchant community residing in Malacca were already Muslims. The Chinese chronicles mention that in 1414, the son of the first ruler of Malacca visited Ming to inform them that his father had died. Parameswara's son was then officially recognised as the second ruler of Malacca by the Chinese Emperor and styled Raja Sri Rama Vikrama, Raja of Parameswara of Temasik and Melaka and he was known to his Muslim subjects as (Sultan Sri Iskandar Zulkarnain Shah) or (Sultan Megat Iskandar Shah), and he ruled Malacca from 1414 to 1424.1

In 1414, Parameswara passed away at the age of 70. It is generally believed that he was buried on top of a hill at Tanjung Tuan (also known as Cape Rachado), near Port Dickson. A symbolic grave exists near Fort Canning in Singapore. Parameswara was succeeded by his son, Megat Iskandar Shah who in turn ruled Malacca until 1424.

The Malays refer to the third ruler of Malacca as Raja Tengah (or Radin Tengah) with the title Seri Maharaja but according to the Sejarah Melayu, he then embraced Islam and took the title Muhammad Shah. Other scholars believe it could have been due to him marrying a Tamil Muslim wife. On his death, he was succeeded by the son of a princess coming from Rokan, Raja Ibrahim.1

During the time of Raja Ibrahim, tension occurs in Melaka between the growing Tamil Muslim community and the traditional Hindu Malay because Raja Ibrahim did not embraced the new religion but instead adopted the traditional Hindu title Sri Parameswara Dewa Shah. As a result, Raja Ibrahim ruled for less than seventeen months and he was stabbed to death.1

Raja Ibrahim's elder half-brother, Raja Kasim, by a Tamil Muslim mother, assumed the throne and taking on the Islamic title Sultan Mudzafar Shah. This signalled a new golden era for the Melaka Sultanate.1


1. From the Wikipedia.

Saturday August 2, 2008

Malacca prior to Parameswara


(The Star) MALACCA: The state will set up a special fund for archaeologists and historians to carry out research to prove the historic city of Malacca existed prior to the establishment of the 15th Century Sultanate.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam said the fund, comprising allocations from the state and the Heritage Ministry, would be used to determine the existence of a civilisation before the 1400s.

“It is not disputed that Para–meswara founded the Malay Sul–tanate in the 1400’s but what we want to know is what was Malacca like prior to his arrival.

“There must have been a civilization here before he arrived. How else could he have established Malacca as a thriving port in such a short time?” he told reporters during a workshop on Malaysian historical research recently.

More than 24 speakers and 300 people took part in the workshop aimed at enabling local historians to publish works on the country’s history.

It has been taught in history books that self-exiled Sumatran prince Parameswara arrived in Malacca around 1396 to find a small fishing village and a community of sea gypsies.

He is said to have made a trip to China in 1405, following the arrival of famous Chinese Admiral Zheng He.

Meanwhile, Mohd Ali confirmed that four human skeletal remains discovered last year while excavating the ruins of the Dutch Middleburg bastion at the A’Famosa Fort ruins had been carbon-dated to the Malacca Sultanate period.

He said an analysis of the bones by Universiti Sains Malaysia confirmed that three males and one female aged between 17 and 45 were buried there between 1400 and 1450.


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