Where Did Parameswara Come From? The Origin Story


Warning: I intend this post in good humour. If you find this post to be insulting, deragotory, inconsiderate or otherwise ISA-worthy, then allow me to apologize. Someone hacked into my account and posted this under my name. As music artiste Shaggy said, it wasn’t me. Anyway, this is based on a joke routine I invented way back in Form 3. I still remember it clearly. Here goes…

Any born-and-raised Malaysian ought to know who Parameswara is. The founder of the Malacca Sultanate, legend holds that he founded the empire where he saw a kancil defend itself from a hunting dog by pushing the dog into the river. The tree he was resting under was a melaka tree, and so he named the city Melaka.

But where did Parameswara come from? The following I recall quite clearly from the Form 3 Sejarah textbook that we used back then. It was a dull orange or orangey-brown in colour, written in rambling story format and quite useless for scoring in exams. Too rambling you see. I sucked at Sejarah until I got a revision book. Nevertheless, this post is based on the contents of the textbook.

There are three origins described in the orange Sejarah book. The first is the generally acepted theory, that Parameswara was a Srivijayan prince who fled from Majapahit conquest. He arrived at the island of Temasek (where Singapore is today) where the Siamese-appointed ruler Temagi welcomed him. He repaid this kindness by killing Temagi and taking over. The threat of Siamese retribution forced him to leave, and thus some time later found Melaka.

The second theory is more unlikely, but still forwarded by some sources outside the orange Sejarah book. Legend has it that on one of his conquests in India, Iskandar Zulkarnain made it as far South as the Semenanjung. He sired several offspring, one of whom was Parameswara.

The third theory I have only ever encountered in the orange Sejarah book. To be fair, it was only mentioned in passing in the book. According to legend, at a certain village near the Melaka area one night the villagers saw lights descending onto a hill. Upon investigating, they met bidadari (fairies) who came and lived with them. After some time, the bidadari left the way they came, but Parameswara was descended from them.

And so, drum roll please… Who was Parameswara, founder of the Malay Malaccan Empire? He was:

a) An Indonesian
b) A kuai-lou (Caucasian)
c) A space alien

Thank you, and good night folks!

Clarification on Iskandar Zulkarnain: Many scholars equate him to Alexander the Great based on his accomplishments. Alexander, founder of the Greek Hellenistic Empire, is therefore considered a pious Muslim, even though he died almost a millenium before Islam was founded and was notoriously a polytheist in the best classical Greek style. Also, he apparently rode his horse to chase after the setting sun and found that it submerges in a pool of murky water, whereupon it becomes night. Um, wow. Too bad, Galileo, looks like you got your astronomy wrong after all.

——————

UPDATE: He may have been an Indian Hindu. See also this post on Parameswara’s sword, on a tip from hutchrun.


72 Responses to “Where Did Parameswara Come From? The Origin Story”

  1. AMS Says:

    You make a movie with that guy who created Starwars. Steven Speilberg, hope got his name right.

    And maybe you can collaborate Stephen King for the scary stuff… hehe..good read,

  2. Thevarajan Says:

    i am quite sure that parameswara, as the name suggests in sanskrit language, parama (supreme) and iswara (lord), came to temasek from palembang. but where was he before that??

    he and company were escaping from another place – sri lanka, after trying to settle and rule there. but even before that, his home was – you guessed, tamil nadu, india! he was an indian prince

    the chronology should read:

    parameswara, indian prince — sri lanka — palembang — temasek — melaka

    his final destination and subsequent rule was significant, but equally significant was his country of origin

  3. Marc Neal Says:

    Parames(h)wara was a tamil outlaw. Maybe from Mainland Tamil land or SriLanka (at that time predominently Tamil as the Aryans were still migrating there). The Tamils being seafarers, he fled to Sumatra and did what he knows best…became an outlaw there too. He had to flee there too and came to Temasik…Got into trouble there too.

    By now he got fed up of running so he sets up base in the jungles of Malaka his hideout. builds a small army of pirates and loots the straits and builds his rishes and declares himself king…

    The indian influence is too strong in south east asia to deny this fact…Hinduism, Sanscrit or more rightly tamil (south indian) names, sculptures all the way east in Angkor Wat which is similar to the Tamil sculptures found til date in Tamilnadu India…

    Parameswara converted to Islam to get protection from the traders from North Indians (Islamic Sultanates) and Arabs. Then, married a chinese noble lady to get protection from the chinese. Thus, avoiding any conflict or takeover of his small and fragile kingdom Hence, The Malay royality is actually half chinese royalty and half indian outlaw. Assuming any relation to Alexander the Great is just unfounded and ludicrous thinking

  4. Scott Thong Says:

    What about the aliens theory? :p

    Btw, any links for us to read up more on Parameswara as a historical figure? I’d like to learn more about his pre-Sumatera days.

  5. enkatesulujuval Says:

    Parameswara is Telugu as looking at the name itself as tamil names end with n. I have read his articles that says he is Telugu and his links with Central India (Andhra Pradesih) There are more Telugus than Tamil in this World. Even most spoken of the South is Telugu, Andhra Pradesh itself about 90 million while 40% of Tamil Nadu are Telugus and what other part of India, Malaysia,Singapore and others

  6. nahur Says:

    well guys, melaka history is my best subject, just wondering that, are there any written story in india history abt this guy? may be if there’s one then we can denied that he is originally from palembang…. very confusing but yet i’m very much wanted to know abt this great guy.. MR PARAMESWARA :)

  7. san Says:

    where got! i’m sure that Parameswara was definately a Tamil prince bcoz he had a background of Chola Samrajyam that is in Tamilnaadu.. huhu..

  8. san Says:

    where got! i’m sure that Parameswara was definately a Tamil prince bcoz he had a background of Chola Samrajyam that is in Tamilnaadu.. huhu…..

  9. T D Yean Says:

    It was Sang Nila Utama who fled from Palembang (Sumatra) and founded Temasik/Singapura. I am unsure if he killed Temagi or the island of Temasik was still uninhabited then.
    Parameswara could be:
    1. a descendent (great grandson) of Sang Nila Utama or
    2. he could be another prince from Palembang who also fled to Singapura at a much later date and murdered the descendent of Sang Nila Utama to take his place. (no 1 is more likely)
    Anyway he had to flee Singapura because the forces of Majapahit (not Ayuthaya) laid seige to the city.
    Parameswara is a Sumatran/Malay Hindu, not a Tamil Hindu. He was a prince of Sri Vijaya – a thallasocracy which lasted for over 700 years (600 AD – 1300 AD).
    Hinduism & Buddhism came to South East Asia at least 1,000 years before the Malacca Dynasty in the 14th Century. Angkor Watt in Cambodia and Candi Prambanan in Java testify to this. Hindusim could have been brought to SE Asia via Bengal, Sri Lanka or Malabar. The Kedah Dynasty is the oldest royal house in Malaysia – not the Melaka Dynasty. The Melaka Dynasty lasted only over a century (14th – 15th Century), Kedah dynasty is thought to have originated at around the time of Sri Vijaya.

  10. dean Says:

    Any where, malaysian history, are lot bulsh*ts then fact.

  11. nasaei123@yahoo.com Says:

    Yap Ah Loi was also like Siamese descendants Bajau or Dayaks in Malaysia – a Bumiputra as we called it !

  12. swadhin Says:

    Parameswara is definitely a prince from KALINGA-UTKAL or present state of orissa in INDIA.
    The Orissa king Gajapati Kapilendra deva has spreaded orissa rule from river Ganga to Godavari but he had chosen his son Purushottam deva as next king for throne, under the pressure of Brahmins. Because Prince Purushottam’s mother was Brahmin. But as per legend, the legitimate inheritance was another son Prince Hamvira deva, who was as brave as his father Kapilendra.He was the Orissa empire protector in south border at kondavidu fort. due to Brahmin conspiracy he is absconded. from that period the name of Parameswara comes in Melaka.
    it is assumed Hamvira deva reached melaka and rulled there. because the maritime relation between Kalinga and south east asia is very old.

  13. SUWEKA Says:

    parameswara is definitely a prince from oriss in INDIA

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  15. Heinz Guderiam Says:

    Early theories about the origins of south east asian hindu/buddhist civilisations concluded that Indians were responsible. This was acceptable in the colonial period as it supported the view that a superior civilisation (ie Europeans) was necessary for the advancement of the colonies. However further research discredited this view in favour of the theory that the Hindu/ Buddhist kings were indigenous in origin albeit borrowing ideas from Indians/ Sri Lankans or indigenous people who lived in the subcontinent. Sure the Cholas sacked Palembang but their activity was predominantly raids with little socio/political impact.

    Parameswara was most likely a Malay with sufficient power and influence to recruit people to his cause of establishing a state.

  16. Scott Thong Says:

    But what of the account in Malacca’s own Malay Annals which places him as a Srivijayan prince, and hence is Indonesian?

    (Although the reality is that indigenous sub-groups were spread out among the area without much heed for modern borders.)

  17. Heinz Guderiam Says:

    I am using the word Malay very loosely here as people generally from Malaysia / Indonesia. One has to be careful of court chronicles as they are intended to legitimise rulers. Hence Parameswara may or may not be a Srivijayan prince.

  18. Scott Thong Says:

    Speaking of legitimizing…

    I have wondered how likely it is that the man who rebelled against his emperor, then murdered the ruler of Temasek who showed him kindness, suddenly transformed into the benevolent ruler of a small kingdom.

    Did he finally have an epiphany and reform his ways? Or is it more likely that he remained a tyrant and simply dictated the history to be written down, as victors are wont to do?

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  20. Tan Says:

    Why did Parameswara fled from Palembang? Why he wanted to fled?

  21. Scott Thong Says:

    This:

    At this time, the last Srivijaya prince, Parameswara, emerged. He tried to revive the city as an independent center of commerce once again and breaking from Majapahit overlordship. Majapahit took this action as rebellion and sent massive punitive naval expedition to Palembang. Parameswara fled to Tumasik with Sang Nila Utama. There he killed the governor of the Tumasik Thai nationals, and when the Thai army attacked Tumasik, Parameswara and his followers moved to Malacca in the Malay Peninsula, and established the Kingdom of Malacca.

  22. Ben Hua Says:

    One can change its Religion but that can never change Race and origin for individual selfishness.. He is indeed a Indian King likewise for Sang Nila Utama too

  23. Heinz Guderian Says:

    Any accurate historical account of Parameswara is limited by the adequacy of the historical and archeological records. The records are limited primarily being court records which generally strive to legitimise rulers in terms of real or imaginary antecedents. Hence we cannot say with any certainty that Paresmewara was from the Srivijayan royal house. However we can certainly say he was not Indian and it would take strong historical and archeological evidence to prove otherwise.

  24. Scott Thong Says:

    True, as I conjectured Parameswara seems to have morphed from rebel (Srivijaya) and backstabber (Temasek) into benevolent ruler (Malacca) – which is more likely, that he had a true repentance, or that he dictated the official records as despot of Malacca?

  25. Heinz Guderian Says:

    We can certainly say with confidence that Parameswara had a status that gave him a following. What that status was is not so clear but it would have involved military prowess and diplomacy.. Certainly it would have been difficult for anyone outside the Malay world to gain such a status. We can also say that he was successful in establishing Melaka as an entrepot. There however are limited archeological remains to suggest Melaka was not a power in the same league as Majapahit, Pagan or Ayuthaya. To make any conclusion that Melaka was established by Indians would require the remains of Hindu temples entirely of Indian rather than indigenous design. This is clearly not there.

  26. adrien hngh yong bing Says:

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  27. adrien hngh yong bing Says:

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  28. loop Says:

    Where did Parameswara come from? He came from Adam.
    Why did Iskandar Zulkarnain consider a pious Muslim? Because he came from Adam too. And Adam is the first Muslim :)

  29. Scott Thong Says:

    Wait, who didn’t come from Adam?

    So George W. Bush, Tony Blair, Lim Guan Eng, Ariel Sharon, Chairman Mao, Charles Manson are all good Muslims eh?

  30. loop Says:

    Heh..the name you’re mentioned are from Adam.They’re good but not Muslim..like you!

  31. Heinz Guderian Says:

    Adam was not a muslim. He was a Jew born many centuries before the birth of Mohammed. For the same reason Iskander was also not a muslim but a Greek practicing pre-Christian religions.

  32. loop Says:

    True that Adam was before Mohammad saw but was giving birth of the same Creator ie Muslim’s God. It’s written in Bible Gen 2:7 and Quran 15:26.Therefore Adam was a Muslim. Iskandar Zulkarnaen is not Alexander The Great like written in your history books- you cant just based only on historians nowadays.Most probably like ‘a dull orange or orangey-brown in color.’
    Where did Parameswara come from? okey la said it from Tamil Naidu but the main point here that most of the rulers after him was all Muslim.

  33. Heinz Guderian Says:

    The bible was written long before the Quran. Certainly Adam according to the bible was Gods creation but that doesn’t make him a Muslim. Given the old testament is a Jewish set of books, the overall inference is that Adam was Jewish. He certainly was not Muslim, Hindi, Christian or Buddhist. However I accept that many muslims may believe this but you also need to understand that those who follow other beliefs would reject it.

    You also need to understand that any form of rational argument about Parameswara can only be based on historical and archeological evidence not beliefs, rhetoric and fairy tales. Religious books are intended to guide the faithful in their devotion. Religious books are not universally accepted as accounts of history.

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