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

Swordfish Attack, Legend of Bukit Merah & Fall of Singapura 📖 Sejarah Melayu Chapter 10

Chapter 10 is one of the better known chapters in the Sejarah Melayu as it contains the legend of the swordfish attack on Singapura, origins of Bukit Merah and the sack of Singapura by the Javanese Majapahit empire in 1398.

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

Singapura suffered a plague of swordfish attacks. Shoals of swordfish leaped from the sea, piercing and killing villagers with their long beaks.

Raja Paduca Sri Maharaja (fourth king of Singapura) ordered his warriors to form a human wall to block the swordfish. The swordfish attacked the human wall of warriors, killing many.

A boy named Hang Nadim then suggested to Raja Paduca Sri Maharaja to make a wall with trunks of banana trees. When the shoal of swordfish attacked the wall of banana tree trunks, their beaks got caught in the trunks. The soldiers can then slaughter the swordfish. There were so many that villagers could not eat them all, leaving many swordfish carcasses to rot.

Sadly, the king's ministers advised him to kill the boy as the latter could be a threat to the throne when he grows up. So, Raja Paduca Sri Maharaja ordered the murder of Hang Nadim in his sleep at his home in Bukit Merah.

The hill turned red with Hang Nadim's blood, hence the name Bukit Merah or Red Hill which is still in use to this day. The village where the swordfish attack took place became known as
Tanjong Pagar, the Cape of Fences.

The Majapahit empire of Java had long casted an envious eye on the kingdom of Singapura. Its opportunity came when there was discord in the palace of Singapura.

Raja Secander Shah (fifth and last king of Singapura) was enraged when he heard rumours from jealous concubines that his favourite concubine was having an affair. Raja Secander Shah ordered her execution, her body impaled on a stake and publicly displayed at the market.

The father of the raja's favourite concubine, Sang Ranjuna Tapa who was the bandahari (finance minister) of Singapura decided to avenge his daughter. Sang Ranjuna Tapa offered his services to the Majapahit empire to facilitate their attack on Singapura (in the year 1398).

Sang Ranjuna Tapa opened the fortress gate for Majapahit warriors when they landed in Singapura. Singapura was sacked and razed to the ground. Raja Secander Shah fled north to Muar and then to Malacca (where he later founded the Malacca sultanate).

King Wikramawardhana of Majapahit who invaded Singapura in 1398

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 10 of 30

IT happened in process of time, that a species of swordfish named todak came upon the coast of Singhapura, and springing ashore, killed a great number of persons on the beach. Striking the breast, they pierced through and through the body to the back; and striking the neck, they separated the head; and striking the waist, they pierced it from side to side; so that at last so many were slain, that nobody durst reside on the shore, but fled in consternation in every direction from the dread of the destruction.   

Then Paduca Sri Maharaja, mounted his elephant, and marched out with all his ministers and warriors to the shore. He was astonished on perceiving the devastation occasioned by the todak; the numbers slain, and that one stroke was sufficient. Then the raja ordered a rampart to be formed of the legs of his men; but still the sword-fish sprung out and pierced their limbs through and through, for these fish were numerous as the close-falling rain.  

Among the people there was a boy who said, "of what use is it for us to form a rampart with our legs, it  would be much better to make a rampart of plantain stems. "When the raja heard this, he said, "the observation is just," and he ordered them to bring plantain stems and form a rampart. 

The swordfish rapidly struck their beaks into the plantain stems, and remaining there fixed, the people came and slew them in great numbers, so that their carcases lay in heaps, and the people were unable to eat them up, and those that remained ceased from their ravages in the vicinity of the rampart, and sprung against the raja's elephant, and even struck the raja's coat. 

As it is said by the writers  of songs,  "The Todak springs up to rend the raja's garment, The Todak is not worsted of itself, It is from a child's understanding that it is worsted in the war."  

Then the Maharaja returned, and all the great men represented to him, "Sire, if this boy, though so young, possesses such an uncommon understanding, what will he do when he grows up. It will be best for us to kill him." 

"Very well, let us kill him, " said the raja. He was accordingly put to death, but the guilt of his blood lay upon the country. 

After this Paduca Sri Maharaja died, and his son Raja Secander Shah succeeded to the throne, and married the daughter of the mangcubumi, named Tun Parpatih Tulos, by whom he had a son named Raja Ahmed, also named Raja Resar Muda. He was extremely handsome, and when he grew up, he married  the daughter of Raja Suliman, of Cota Meligei (Fort-Place), named Putri Camar al Ajayeb, of exquisite beauty, excelling all her contemporaries. 

Raja Secander Shah had a bandahari, named Sang Ranjuna Tapa, whose origin was of Singhapura. He had a daughter of exquisite beauty, of whom the raja was deeply enamoured, but the rest of the raja's mistresses concerted against her, and accused her of infidelity.  

Raja Secander Shah was grievously enraged, and ordered her to be impaled at Ujong Pasar (Point market). Sang Ranjuna Tapa was deeply affected by the disgrace, at the situation of his child, and represented, if it be true that my child has acted improperly, put her only to death, but why put her to such shame. 

Sang Ranjuna Tapa immediately dispatched a letter to Java, and stated, "If the bitara of Majapahit wishes to possess  himself of Singhapura, let him come quickly, for there is disaffection in the fort. "The bitara immediately fitted out 300 junks, together with the vessels calulus pelang, and Jong kong, in numbers beyond calculation, and embarked on board of them two Cati of Javans (200,000). 

Then having set sail, they arrived at Singhapura, and immediately engaged in battle. After some time, Raja Secander Shah ordered the bandahari to issue rice for the subsistence of his troops, and he replied, that it was quite exhausted, because he meditated treason.  

The next morning, at daybreak, Sang Ranjuna Tapa opened the gates of the fortress, and Java entered into the town, and commenced an amok or indiscriminate carnage, and the people were slaughtered on all sides, and blood flowed like an inundation; and this is the blood which still marks the plain of Singhapura. At last, however, Singhapura was subdued, and Raja Secander Shah, saving himself by flight, reached Moar. 

For illustration only

By the power of God Almighty, the house of Sang Ranjuna Tapa faded, and its pillars were overturned, and rice ceased to be planted in the land, and Sang Ranjuna Tapa, both husband and  wife, was changed into stone, and those are the stones which appear beside the moat of Singhapura. 

After the conquest of Singhapura, the people of Java returned to Majapahit.

Written by Tony Boey on 13 Jun 2021


Image of two stones courtesy of Wikipedia. Image of Bukit Merah courtesy of flickr. Image of Wikramawardhana courtesy of Wikipedia. Image of swordfish courtesy of Wikipedia

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