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Tony Boey johorkaki@gmail 🇸🇬 Singapore active senior food, travel & lifestyle diary

Duel with Hang Tuah & Death of Hang Casturi 📖 Sejarah Melayu Chapter 16

Hang Tuah. Youtube screengrab from 1955 movie Hang Tuah

During the reign of Sultan Mansur Shah (1459 to 1477) of Malacca, there were five famous warriors who were like brothers - Hang Tuah, Hang Kasturi, Hang Jebat, Hang Lekir, and Hang Lekiu. Chapter 16 contains the story of the duel of Hang Tuah and Hang Kasturi which ended in the death of the latter.

*I am studying the Malay Annals for insights into the roots of Malay cuisine.

Sultan Mansur Shah of Malacca. Youtube screengrab from 1955 movie Hang Tuah

Hang Tuah was hidden away by Sultan Mansur Shah's bandahara (prime minister) Sri Nara-di Raja after the warrior was accused of seducing a concubine.

Years later, Hang Kasturi was also accused of the same crime i.e. that he had an affair with a concubine. The enraged Sultan Mansur Shah executed the concubine and wanted Hang Kasturi to be killed as well. However, no one in the kingdom was Hang Kasturi's match.

Prime minister Sri Nara-di Raja then confessed that he had hidden Hang Tuah and pleaded with the sultan to pardon Hang Tuah so that he can be brought back to fight Hang Kasturi.

Sultan Mansur Shah agreed and Hang Tuah as brought back to duel with Hang Kasturi, one on one, man to man.

Years in captivity, Hang Tuah was no longer as sharp as before. Three times, his
kris (dagger) missed Hang Kasturi and got stuck to the wooden wall. Three times, Hang Kasturi allowed Hang Tuah to recover his kris as it was dishonourable to kill a disarmed opponent.

Kasturi class frigate of the Royal Malaysian Navy
However, the very first time Hang Kasturi's kris was stuck in the wooden wall, Hang Tuah immediately stabbed Hang Kasturi through the heart and killed him.

In his dying breath, Hang Kasturi asked Hang Tuah what is the honour in killing a disarmed man? To this Hang Tuah replied, what honour is there to speak of with a dishonourable man?

Sultan Mansur Shah was pleased with Hang Tuah and promoted him to the rank of Laksamana (admiral).

Street and coffee shop in Kuala Lumpur named after Hang Kasturi

Sejarah Melayu compiled in Jawi by regent of Johor, Yang di-Pertuan Di Hilir Raja Abdullah in 1612, translated into English by Dr. John Leyden in 1821. The Malay Annals has 30 chapters.

Chapter 123456789101112131415161718192021222324252627282930 📗

Original translation of Sejarah Melayu by Dr John Leyden

Chapter 16 of 30

The  Story of Hang Casturi.  

IT happened on a time, that Hang Casturi formed a connection with one of the raja's concubines in the palace, and being observed when he went to visit her, Sultan Mansur Shah, the Queen, and all the rest of the females left the palace, and went into another house, and Hang Casturi was surrounded in the palace which he had entered. 

Sultan Mansur Shah sat in the lesser hall, in the presence of those who had surrounded him. The bandahara Paduca Raja, with all the great men and men of property, and all the champions were also assembled, and such a crowd that no spot remained vacant, full of shields, bucklers, tridents, and spears, and lances, like clover in a field, but no one could mount up to Hang Casturi.    

He [Hang Casturi] locked all the gates of the palace but that of general access, and all the brazen pots, platters, bowls, and basons of brass, he spread over the bamboo lattice of the floor, and moved hither and thither on the floor, and all the cups and plates jingled beneath his feet. He then slew his mistress, splitting her from the face to the belly, and stripped her naked. 

The Prince ordered them to mount and attack, but no one durst mount, for Hang Casturi was no man of common might at that time, and then he began to think of Hang Tuah. "I regret," said he, "that Si-tuah is not here, or he would have quickly removed my disgrace."   

When the bandahara and the Pangulu Bandahari heard him mention Hang Tuah, they all requested the rajah's order to ascend to Hang Casturi; but he would not order them, saying, " if you were all to ascend together you would only perish, and a thousand lives such as Hang Casturi's, are not to be put in competition with yours." Then all the great men were silent. Then the Prince was indignant at all the young warriors who were afraid to mount to Hang Casturi, but not one of them could ascend, but the instant they mounted three or four steps, he advanced to attack them, and they instantly retreated and leapt down to the ground.   

When the Prince beheld this, he again began to reflect on Hang Tuah, and thus he three times mentioned his name. Then Sri Nara-di Raja made obeisance and said, "it appears to me, Sire, that you greatly regret Hang Tuah, if Hang Tuah were here, would he be pardoned?" The raja said, "is Hang Tuah still alive?" Sri Nara-di Raja replied, "Sire, pardon me, a thousand times pardon my folly, how should I venture to have saved his life after you had ordered him to be slain, but as I perceived Your Majesty remembered him with regret, I ventured to enquire if he would have been forgiven." The raja said, "were Hang Tuah here present, though his fault were greater than Mount Kaf, I would assuredly pardon him, and in my opinion he has been preserved by Sri Nara-di Raja. If he still exists let him quickly be brought hither, that I may order him to put to death Sri Casturi here."    

Then said Sri Nara-di Raja, "pardon, Sire, a thousand pardons, on the skull of my head, but when you ordered me to put Hang Tuah to death, I could not do it, and did not deem it proper on account of his fault, for Hang did not appear to me as a common subject, and I thought, perhaps, you might need his services on some future day. I therefore, confined him in fetters within my garden. Pardon the fault towards Your Majesty, which is solely mine."The raja was glad at this declaration, and said, "very good, truly, Sri Nara-di Raja is a perfect and wise friend;"and he ordered him an honorary dress becoming his rank, and ordered Hang Tuah to be brought up directly. 

Hang Tuah was brought up, pale and wasted, and unsteady in his walk, having been long confined in fetters. The raja ordered them first to give him victuals, and when he had eaten, the raja took his creese from his own girdle, and presented it to Hang Tuah, and said, "with this wipe off this stain from my face." Hang Tuah said, "very well, Your Majesty, may Your Highness be exalted;" and he immediately advanced against Hang Casturi.  

When he reached the stairs of the palace, Hang Tuah called aloud on Hang Casturi, and desired him to descend. When Hang Casturi saw Hang Tuah, he said, "are you too here, I supposed you had been dead, and thus I ventured to act as I have done. We alone are matches for each other, come up then and let us play." "Very well," said Hang Tuah, and began to ascend, but he had no sooner ascended two or three steps, than Hang Casturi rushed on him, and Hang Tuah retreated.   

Again he ascended, and again retreated, three or four times in the same manner. Then said Hang Tuah to Hang Casturi, " if you are a true man, come down, and let us fight man to man, that all may be pleased with the sight." "How can I come down," said Hang Casturi, "for the people are very numerous, and if I fight with you, others will rush on and stab me." Hang Tuah said, "I will suffer no one else to assist me, but we will fight man to man." 

Hang Casturi said, "how can that be, if I descend, some other will certainly stab me. If you wish to kill me come up." Hang Tuah said, "how can I come up, for as soon as I come up a step or two, you rush on. If you wish me to ascend, give me way a little."Hang Casturi gave way a little, and Hang Tuah quickly sprung up; and he saw on the wall a small buckler [shield], which he quickly seized.   

Then the two combatants began a single fight, Hang Tuah with the buckler, and Hang Casturi without one. Hang Tuah saw the mistress of Hang Casturi lying dead and naked, and he kicked the cloaths over, so as to cover her nakedness. Hang Tuah being newly released from fetters, was almost unable to stand upright, and in fighting his hand was out of practice. In passing a stab he struck his creese into one of the boards of the wall and fixed it. Hang Casturi was going to stab him, but Hang Tuah said, "is it manly to stab an unarmed opponent, if you are a true man let me first recover my creese." "Very well," said Casturi. Hang Tuah recovered his creese and straitened it, and renewed the fight. Two or three times his creese stuck fast in the boards of the wall or the doors, and Hang Casturi let him recover it.   

At last Hang Casturi stuck his creese iast in the boards of the door, and Hang Tuah quickly stabbed him to the heart, through the back. Hang Casturi said, "Ha! Si-Tuah, is that like a man, to stab clandestinely, and break your promise, after I had twice or thrice suffered you to disengage your creese, and you have stabbed me the very first time that I entangled mine." Hang Tuah replied, "of what use is fidelity to a wicked man like you;" and he stabbed him again. Then Hang Casturi died.   

Then Hang Tuah descended and presented himself before Sultan Mansur Shah, who was highly pleased, and bestowed on him every article of dress which he wore. The body of Hang Casturi was dragged away and thrown into the sea, and all his children and wives were put to death, and the earth under the posts of his house was dug up, and thrown into the sea. 

Then Sultan Mansur Shah conferred the title of Laksamana on Hang Tuah, and caused him to be conducted around the city in state, like the raja's son, and placed him on a level with Sri Vija di Raja.   

Hang Tuah now for the first time became laksamana, and was ordered to bear the sword of authority in the place of Sri Vija di Raja, for according to the custom of the older times, it was Sri Vija di Raja who bore the sword of authority, and stood at the side of the dais, which was the origin of the laksamana's standing always at first on public occasions: afterwards when he felt fatigued, he would lean against the rails of the gallery, which nobody could object to from his high station; or if he wished to sit, he might sit in the side gallery, and this custom has been handed down to the present time, that the persons who hold the swords of authority may sit in the side galleries of the right hand.   

With respect to Sri Nara di Raja, the raja greatly extended his favour to him, and made him a present of the district of Senyang Ujung, which had formerly belonged, one half to him and one half to the bandahara. Its chief was Tun Toukal, who had committed some fault against the Prince, who put him to death, and for this reason the people of the district had no longer paid allegiance to the raja. Even at the present time all the rulers of Senyang Ujung are the descendants  of Sri Nara di Raja. Sultan Mansur Shah then changed his residence, and would no longer reside in the place where Hang Casturi was slain. He directed the bandahara to prepare another palace, and the bandahara finished it himself.   

It was the custom for the bandahara to possess the government of Bentan. The palace consisted of twenty-seven partitions, each being three fathoms in breadth; the wooden pillars which supported it were each the grasp of the two arms in circumference: the roof consisted of seven stages with intermediate windows, the outer arches over them, extending breadth-wise, and facades including the bow windows, and wings crossing each other, all of  them being covered with fretwork, so that the workmanship was remarkably fine, and gilded over with fluid gold. The peak was of red glass, with great diversity of ornament.   

Thus the palace was finished, and the Prince went to reside within it. Some days after the raja's new palace was burnt down, suddenly catching fire at the roof, when it was quickly deserted by the Queen and all the ladies but all the property which it contained was consumed, there being no time to save them. The melted lead ran down the conduits of the roof, like water in a copious  shower of rain; for which reason nobody durst attempt to save the effects; and the fire was so fierce that nobody durst approach it. Then Sultan Mansur Shah changed to another palace.   

At this period many young nobles received titles and names, from their exertions in the raja's behalf, at the time of the burning of the palace. (So far of the relation has reached the present time, says one copy, another proceeds as follows;) . The first who entered the conflagration was Tun Isup, with a great shout and stamping of his feet, and laid hold of part of the raja's property, and brought it out; but he only entered once. He was accordingly named Tun Isup Beraga, or the bragger. The next was Tun Amei Ulat Bulu, the hairy caterpillar, who wished to enter, but was afraid, as it was so hot, that it would set fire to his hairy carcase. He got the name of Tun Mey Ulat Bulu. As for Tun Ibrahim, he wished to enter, but being afraid, he did nothing but skip round the palace. He got the name of Tun Ibrahim Mumusing Langit, the sky whirler. As for Tun Muhammed, he only entered once, but he brought forth as much as two or three. He was called Tun Muhammed Unta, the camel. As for Hang Isa, he entered nimbly three or four times, leaping in quickly; and he was called Hang Isa the nimble.    

Of the raja's property two-thirds were saved, and all the rest consumed. The lion throne of Nila Utama was also consumed. When the fire ceased, the raja rewarded the young nobles for their exertions. He again ordered the bandahara to have another palace constructed, and he required it to be finished in one month. The bandahara caused every one to exert themselves. First the people of Ungaran raised a great palace, and those of Tungal a little one. The labourers of Buru exerted themselves successfully,  and the men of Sawer constructed the lesser hall. The men of Panchor Sarapang constructed the great hall; the men of Marabbah formed the kitchen. The men of Sawang formed the hall of Jawa, near the Balei rung, or great hall of audience. The men of Pangor formed the fire-hall, with the two doors; and the men of Siantan formed the Balei candi, or place for boiling water. The men of Malei formed the bathing place. The men of Apung formed the bangsal; and the men of Tungal constructed the mosque. The men of Pagar formed the great inclosure; and the men of Moar the interior strength, or cotawang; so that this palace was much finer than that which had been burnt; and Sultan Mansur Shah took up his residence in it.   

Sri Nara-di Raja now fell sick, and summoned the bandahara Paduca Raja, in order to put his family in his charge. He informed him that he had five chests of gold in his possession, each of which required two men to lift. He told him he had five children, and desired him to divide the  property among them according to his pleasure. After this he returned into God's mercy.   

All his children continued to live with the bandahara. There was one of the sons one night sleeping in the veranda, and the bandahara came out, and was going to say his morning prayers, when he saw the head of Tun Mutaher illuminated with a light which ascended towards heaven. He went near and examined, and the light suddenly vanished. Then said the bandahara, "if this boy live, he will be a greater man than I am, but he will not last."He then took the five chests, and covered them with lead, and he furnished the children with all due necessaries. There was a son of Sri Nara-di Raja, by another mother, who was named Tun Abdal, who was extremely fond of ornament, with a great deal of self complacence. He would be three days in paring his nails. If he was on horseback, in the heat of the day, he would be adjusting himself by his shadow. If he had to dress, he would occupy the whole day about  it.   

Tun Taher and Tun Mutaher at last grew up, and became capable of guiding their own conduct. They both presented themselves before the bandahara, and said, that being now grown up, and capable of acting for themselves, they wished to entertain their friends, when they came to visit  them, but had not the means, nor yet that of gratifying any of their inclinations. "We have heard," added they, "that you have in your possession a chest of gold for each of us; and if it be your pleasure, we request you would now favour us with it; for we now want to enter into society." The bandahara said, "it is very true, your father left chests in my custody, according to your number, but the gold is mine, and I will not give it you. If, how-ever, you want to engage in business in reality, you may borrow money, and I will lend each of you ten tial." They said they would agree to what he proposed, and he lent them the money.   

Then Tun Taher and Tun Mutaher lent out the money for the space of a year ; after which they returned to the bandahara, and gave him back what he had borrowed. The bandahara said, "what gold is that?" They said, "that which you lent us." "What profit have you gained?" said the bandahara." As much as will purchase a slave," said they, "besides our necessary expences." "Where is the man who sold that slave?" said he, "I wish to ask him."Both the masters of the slaves made their appearance. The bandahara asked "where was the bill of sale?" They said, "in the hand of the dafter." The bandahara asked, "what is this one's name ?" One of the slaves answered, Datang. He said, "that is no true name, Si Datang." The other was called Si Datang Baru. The bandahara said, "bring both of them tomorrow."  

They arrived accordingly, and the bandahara said, " Si Datang Baru Mana, (new come,) where is Datang Baru, and where is Datang Lama (long come?") Then said the slave-master, " this is the old-comer (Si-Datang Lama,) and this is the new-comer, (Si  Datang Baru.") Then the bandahara asked what was the name of the slave he had lately sold? He said, "Salamat, Sir." The bandahara said, "what is the appearance of Si Salamat?" The other answered, "Si-salamat-lama, and this is Si-salamat Baru." "Very well," said the bandahara, "treat them well." Then said the bandahara to Tun Taher and Tun Mutaher, "do not return the money to me, I make you a present of it."   

He then brought out the chests full of gold, and delivered one to each of them. Tun Taher afterwards received from the bandahara, by the order of Sultan Mansur Shah, the title of Sri Nara di Raja, and was appointed pangulu-bandahara, in the place of his father, and Tun Mutaher became Tumungung, with the title of Sri Maha Raja. Tun Abdal was named Sri Narawangsa, and became the eighth mantri.

Written by Tony Boey on 19 Jun 2021


Image of kris courtesy of Wikipedia. Image of Hang Tuah courtesy of flickr. Image of Kasturi class warship courtesy of Wikipedia. Image of Jalan Hang Kasturi courtesy of Wikipedia.

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