Friday, July 6, 2012

Radin the brave princess

When it comes to myths and legends, most of us grew up fed on a diet of beautiful princesses and their dashing suitors. The prince was brave, the princess had milky white skin, ruby red lips and was the epitome of what women should be - shy and sweet with a voice as sweet as a nightingale's.

Which is why I consider Puteri Gunung Ledang one hell of a kickass character. Spurned all her suitors, even the Sultan himself, and preferred to live all by herself up on a mountain. For the record I don't believe the faerie princess had any ties with Hang Tuah, hence Tiara Jacquelina's big budget on-screen depiction of her is at best a fairytale and at worst plain lame.

Well I digress, I have always felt that the stories worth knowing have been shrouded in obscurity, and what we have been fed time and again is cheesy crap. For instance, who doesn't know the story of Cinderella? The moral of that tale? If you need rescuing, wait for a fairy godmother, or a knight in shining armour. Not very good advice I dare say.

So a couple of Fridays ago when I came across the story of Radin Mas Ayu in theSundaily -

 It made me wonder why I had never heard of her when I was a kid. I loved myths and legends, still do, and devoured every book on local folkfore that I could find, but somehow I never came across Radin's story.

I read countless re-tellings of the legend of Mahsuri, came across many tales of Hang Tuah's bravery, but never came across the story of the young princess who sacrificed her life to save that of her father.

The article did not contain much information on Radin's origins and the events that led up to her death. So I googled up the stories on her and have summarised it here for you.

The princess from Java

Radin's father was of royal blood while her mother was a court dancer. The marriage of her parents was met with dissaproval by her paternal grandparents. The name of Radin's father was Kanjen Gusti Adipati Agung Radin Kusomowijoyo Diningrat ( he was better known as Radin Mas). Her mother's name was Mas Ayu. Hence they named her - Radin Mas Ayu.

Tragedy Strikes 

Determined to put an end to their union, Radin Mas was sent away on a hunting expedition by his parents. When he returned, he found that his palace had been razed by a fire which also claimed the life of his wife. Distraught, he left Java with his baby daughter.

In another version it is Radin's uncle the king who is angry that her father marries a commoner, and orders for the palace to be burned down when her father is away. In this version a loyal follower saves the baby princess Radin from the flames. Angry with his brother. Radin's father takes her and leaves for Singapore.

Singapore Beckons

Father and daughter then settled down to a quiet life as commoners in Teluk Blangah, Singapore. Then one day the village was attacked by pirates. Radin Mas fights bravely and defeats the pirates.

A Second Marriage

When the Sultan of Singapore hears of this, and also upon discovering that Radin Mas is of royal lineage, he decides to give him the hand of his daughter Tengku Halijah in marriage. A son Tengku Chik was born to them in due course.

The Step-mother Syndrome

In time Tengku Halijah came to hate her step-daughter. Two factors led to her feeling this way. Firstly she could not bear the closeness between father and daughter. Radin was naturally the apple of her father's eye. Secondly Radin had inherited the good looks of her mother, and this too jarred at her young step-mother.

The Plot Thickens

Tengku Halijah had a nephew - Tengku Bagus who did not like Radin Mas. He also desired the hand of the young beauty in marriage. Radin however could not stand him. Tengku Halijah at this point, decided to engage the help of her nephew to get rid of Radin.


To get Radin's father out of the way, Tengku Bagus invited him for a meal and drugged his food. When Radin Mas became unconscious, he imprisoned him in a well. He then forced Radin to marry him, threatening to harm her father if she did not.

During the marriage ceremony when Radin was asked if she had obtained her father's permission to marry, her step-brother Tengku Chik came forward and informed everyone present that his father was trapped in a well by the evil Tengku Bagus.

The whole wedding party then rushed to rescue Radin Mas. As soon as Radin Mas came out of the well, Tengku Bagus rushed forward to stab him with a keris. Radin who saw what was about to happen, rushed forward to shield her father. She died from her wounds in her father's arms.

Tengku Bagus was caught. One assumes he paid for his crimes. As the story goes, Tengku Halijah tried to escape, but was struck down by lightning. Radin's father I imagine, died of a broken heart.

The year of this tragedy was 1511. Radin's tomb, draped in golden yellow as a sign of her royal lineage, lies at the foot of Mount Faber in Singapore.

Makam Puteri Radin Mas Ayu
 She is indeed an unsung heroine in the annals of Malay history. A brave young woman who lay down her life to save her father. Combing back the centuries, I imagine that as much as Radin Mas must have grieved the loss of his daughter, he must have been proud of her too - her story is one of ultimate filial piety.

Father's day was sometime last month, but better late than never, I would like to dedicate this story to my father who raised me to be more than just any other girl. Thanks to my father - I'm independent, forthright, have no qualms about being true to myself and have the courage to go it alone when necessary.

I have a deep respect for life, not just human life. I'm no born humanitarian, if the plight of abused animals bother me today, it is because my father opened my eyes to it. He taught me that life in all it's forms deserve to be treated with dignity.

Father also taught me to see beyond the narrow confines of my own existence. He taught me to care about the wider world, he taught me that my concerns and worries are trivial in the face of greater suffering.

He also encouraged me to make the best of what I have, than to desire the things that I do not have. Yet this is the same father who is the reason that I return to a beautiful home everyday, and also the one who ensured that my line of work involves something I'm truly passionate about. 

Because you allow me to be so, though I am a part of society, I'm not chained by its narrow dictates.

Thanks to your ever present love and guidance, I'm finally growing into the person I'm meant to be. Thank you for everything Papa, love you always..........

No comments: