Melaka Legends and Tales

By Sager Ahmad, New Straits Times

March 14th. 2005

MALACCA is sometimes known as "Dimana Segalanya Bermula" (Place where everything began). The name Malacca has its origins in a tree.

It all began when the founder of Malacca, Parameswara, was taking a rest under a tree during a hunt when he saw a mousedeer (kancil) cornered by his hunting dogs. Strangely, the mousedeer managed to fight off the dogs and Parameswara, amazed by the bravery of the mousedeer, decided this was where he wanted to settle down.

When told that the tree he was resting under was the Pokok Melaka or the Melaka Tree (Phylianthus emblica), he named the place Melaka.

Parameswara was a hot-blooded Palembang prince who had been exiled. As reported in the Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals), he fled to Temasek (Singapore) where he killed the ruler, a vassal of Siam. When the Siamese sent their soldiers to capture him, he fled to Malacca where he finally settled down. At that time, Malacca was nothing more than a small village beside a river, but under his rule, the kingdom flourished and its influence spread to the neighbouring countries of Sumatra and Indonesia.

Originally a Hindu, Parameswara converted to Islam and took the name Sultan Iskandar Shah.

According to another version of the story, it was Parameswara's son, Megat Iskandar Shah, who went hunting and saw the incident with the mousedeer and the dogs. He then got the consent of his father (Parameswara) to set up the Settlement at Malacca.

Parameswara was said to have ruled Malacca from 1401 to 1414.

Malacca was a peaceful and important trading port for about a century. Traders came from as far as Arabia, India and China to trade with Southease Asian Islands. But the peace was shattered with the coming of the white man. The Portuguese captured Malacca in 1511 and ruled for 130 years (1511 to 1645) before the Dutch took over and ruled for 183 years (1641 to 1824). Then it came under the British for 133 years ( 1824 to 1957) with a break in between under the Japanese Occupation ( 1942 to 1945 ).

You will be able to find the unimpressive looking Melaka Tree growing opposite the Malacca Natural History Museum.