Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Taring of Anu

Who killed Megat Panji Alam? And who was he?

I've been asking myself this question ever since a talented cartoonist in Australia wrote in asking if I knew anything about this fearsome warrior, and of course I knew little beyond what's already passed into folk memory. That he was a brave warrior of Trengganu who was killed by Hang Tuah, that old stalwart from Melaka, is widely known. But let's leave that aside for a while and turn back to Trengganu. What's surprising is that I was told by this correspondent that there's now a tomb, supposedly of Megat Panji Alam — "with a draconian motif" — in Kuala Trengganu,"in front of Hotel Sri Malaysia."

What puzzles me about Megat Panji Alam is not how he got to be in front of the hotel, but when he went out at all. The story has it that he was killed in Pahang in the cause of Tun Teja, full name, Tun Teja Ratna Benggala, to whom, by all accounts, he was betrothed. Now the plot thickens, but at least we have a rough idea of when our Megat walked this earth. If the Tun Teja of Inderapura (now Pahang) was the same person whose grave is now in Kampung Sempang, Merlimau in Melaka, then she was married to the last Sultan Mahmud of Melaka. She, with husband Sultan Mahmud and his entourage, were fleeing the Portuguese, but she fell ill in Kampung Sempang in Melaka where she died and was buried.

This would have been 1511,Grave of Tun Teja in Kampung Sempang, Melaka. much too late in the day for Hang Tuah to be gallivanting around, as the Hikayat Hang Tuah claims. The Sultan Mansur, whom Hang Tuah served, came to the throne of Melaka in 1458 and died in 1477. There could well have been another Tun Teja, as even acccounts of her status varied. One said that she was betrothed to the Yang di Pertuan of Pahang, others, to Megat Panji Alam of Trengganu.

The Trengganu version that I've heard is in consonant with the Hikayat version, stating that it was Tuah and gang who took on the Megat, eventually managing to ambush him and stabbing him in the back. But the Sejarah Melayu placed the incident later in time, during the time of Sultan Mahmud, and the person who went to seek Tun Teja was Hang Nadim, Tuah's son. And then form there, another mystery: having died in Pahang, how or why was the Megat's body taken back to Trengganu?

The Trengganu Sultanate as we now know it started in 1717, well after the death of Tun Teja or the fall of Melaka, when Zainal Abidin, the younger brother of Johor's Sultan Abdul Jalil Ri'ayat Shah established his rule there under the title of Maharajah. History records that the Johor house — said to be descended from one Sayyid 'Aidarus of Aceh, scion of a long line of Sayyids from Hadramaut — spread itself to Pahang and Trengganu. I'll have to go back to the Tuhfat an-Nafis (that Bugis-centric work)for further clues on what went on there when the Sayyids and Megat Panji Alam held sway and how, from Perak, where he learnt his art under Megat Terawis, he drifted to Taring Anu.

Or, perhaps someone more knowledgable will enlighten me a little...

Photo: Grave in Kampung Sempang, Melaka, said to be that of Tun Teja.

posted by Awang Goneng


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