A few days ago when I wrote about the history of Istana Manggalela, a Tun Teja, a History teacher put up two very long comments about history but one in particular strike me as something I would like to pick up, namely the similarity between the three countries about the legend of a poor boy, who went abroad to better his lot in life. After many years, he achieved success, married a noblewoman and became the captain of a huge ship, forgetting his humble roots in the process. One day, in order to take shelter from an impending storm, his ship happened to berth near his birthplace. His ageing mother recognising him rowed out in a canoe calling out to her long lost son. He was too embarrassed to acknowledge her. She was very depressed and placed a curse on her unfillial son whereupon a storm appeared capsizing the ship and transforming it into rock.
In Malaysia, this is known as the tale of Si Tanggang, in Indonesia as Malin Kundang and in Brunei as Nakhoda Manis. Each and every single country has natural proof of it. Malaysia has the Batu Caves in Selangor where the caverns of the caves are said to resemble the cabins of the ship, Indonesia has the pieces of the ship in rock forms including that of a rock which resembled a man prostrating for mercy along the beach in Air Manis, Sumbar about 20 kilometers from Padang in Sumatra. Brunei has the Jong Batu, a small island which jutted out of the water in the Brunei River which resembled the keel of the boat jutting out. So, who is right?
Well, this blog is not a scholarly attempt to find out whose story it is. I am sure you can find someone who has written a PhD on this thing somewhere. But what I do find interesting is neither the Brunei or Indonesian version, ours and theirs are more straightforward and the natural rock formations look fitting as well. The story is so similar that it can fit in either one. The Malaysian one is more interesting as some has used it as an example about how the Malaysian Malays had ursurped what rightly was an Orang Asli's rights in this case, legend. In Malaysia, when the story first appeared in print form in a text book in the early 1960s, the story was that of an Orang Asli, in particular of the Temuans, as they live very near the Batu Caves. However by the 1970s, the Tanggang story became an all-Malay story and has remained so until now. The Batu Caves was discovered by an Indian in the early 1800s and rediscovered in 1878 by an American named Hornaday. By the 1890s, Hindu devotees began making pilgrimages and slowly turning the caves into a huge shrine for their Lord Murugan attracting some 1.5 million Hindus every year. Tell that to your Malaysian Malay friends.
Maybe it does matter to some, but to me, it doesn't really matter who has the right story - we don't even know our own origins - in the mist of time, it is possible that we all come from the same stock and therefore share the same stories passed down through legends and by finding natural rock formation in our areas, our elders try to fit those natural rock formation to the legend which has passed down the generation. But what's important is the lesson that the legend offers. The unfillial son's great sin for being unfaithful to his mother was both inhuman and unnatural and that sin can only be punished by being transformed in rock forms forever until the end of time as a warning and a lesson to all of us.
PS. Photo 1: Jong Batu - the keel of a ship now a small rock island in the middle of Brunei River; Photo 2: Rock formation said to be of a man prostrating for mercy found in Air Manis Beach, Sumatra; Photo 3: Batu Caves, Selangor, Malaysia - said to resembled the cabins of a ship; Photo 4: Rock formation said to resemble the remains of a ship turned into stone also at Air Manis Beach, Sumatra.