It was only a few years ago that one of the princesses from the local legend has reentered the public imagination and consciousness of the Malaysian public in film and later on stage. She is the famous Puteri Gunung Ledang (PGL). The theatrical production, as I was told, was a sold out success. If she was denied the title of best “national” film in 2005 in a local film festival, in her onstage reappearance she reclaimed the “national” from the stage production held in the national theater.
Through her strength and sacrifices, we were once again informed of the glory days of the bygone empire. Through her, we were mesmerized by the scale of the production, budget, and promotion backed by the resources in which all of us have contributed to. Without failure, she has reentered the public consciousness as our legend. She might be heart broken and her broken soul was kept in Gunung Ledang on the pages of history book, it was her strength that is kept alive, allowing for multiple artistic interpretations.
Many would have argued and many would have also agreed that in the film the narrative was one of the greatest love story ever told. However, many would have also argued and agreed that “the greatest love story ever told” was a rejuvenated legend, skipping years and facts, bending time and space to tell the story of Hang Tuah. The story is about love and sacrifices and the story is about loyalty. Except this story of great love, sacrifices, and loyalty was not truly a story about her, her strength, her sacrifices, and her loyalty. Her story was to lend support to bring out the greatness in the feudal warrior re-imagined as national hero, who also filled chapters of our history book.
Reflecting on the current condition in Malaysian politics in which whether to swear or not to swear on the “hold book” is rapid dominating our public consciousness, I was reminded of another princess – Puteri Mahsuri. She, like PGL, is a legend who also swore. Her story is also tragic and heart broken. Legend has it that she was a princess from Langkawi, an Island that has since been transformed to hold international standard activities and has been promoted as a major Malaysian tourism hot spot.
According to the legend, Mahsuri’s beauty earned her infidelity defamation and her punishment was death. When she was tied to a tree in the town center to be punished, she swore before her death. She swore that her blood would never touch the ground because she is innocence. She swore that Langkawi will not be peaceful and have prosperity for seven generations. When Mahsuri’s body was pierced, a fountain of white blood flown forth testified to those who witnessed the execution of her indisputable innocence.
Today the inscription on her tombstone acknowledges that “Mahsuri, a victim of treachery and jealousy, was sentenced to death in 1235 Hijrah or 1819 A.D. As she died, she laid a curse on the Island: “There shall be no peace and prosperity on this island for the period of seven generation”.
She swore to her death to protect her innocence and yet her innocence was only revealed when she is dead. Legend also has it that after her death, her husband took their son to Phuket while Langkawi was attacked by Siam. Regardless of the debate on whether it is religiously appropriate to swear on the Holy book or on any other Holy books, has swearing become a puppet show for the public consciousness just like the cruelty of Roman theater was revitalized for light “entertainment” to kill time? Are we mistakenly confuses “swearing” with promises, just like those promises made by politicians before the election? If promises in Malaysia are like swearing in public, I wonder how many people need to die of horrible death and their blood will not be white.
The legend of Mahsuri was recently re-enacted by the Phuket Rajhabhat University. It was directed by the direct descendent of Mahsuri to highlight of the “Halal Food, Hilal Town” festival. Have we lost the legend of Langkawi and Mahsuri to Phuket while busy promoting development and promising change? Have we therefore lost sight and strength of the courage the other princess had once demonstrated? Have we lost this other princess in the history book? Facing death, she does not swear on the book. She swore her innocence on her life. According to legend, she is innocence but still she had to die to reclaim her innocence.
Will the story of this princess enters our public consciousness. Will she, like the other princess, mesmerize us on screen and on stage? Unlike the other princess, her story is not about a male counterpart. Her story is about her life and death, and her innocence. When the country is in the juncture haunted by political scrutiny and is saturated by rumors and defamations, have we forgotten the other princess? When does her curse of seven generations end? Do we have another seven generations? In the name of what “bangsa” will we be? She died in 1819, Singapore was found.