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The Malacca Sultanate


The era of the Malacca Sultanate may well be considered the Golden Age of Malayan History. The Malacca Sultanate was the first Malay Empire with it centre in the peninsular itself. Malacca was not only the capital of this empire but soon became the great strategic port, centre of trade and cradle for expansion of Islam and literature of the Malay Civilization as a whole.

The Founder of Malacca
Historians have never been able to agree upon the exact date of the founding of Malacca. The Portugese writer - Tome' Pires suggests around 100 years before the Portugese Attack on Malacca, while de Barros, dates it around 150 years earlier. Gasper Cor'rea in his book "Lendas da India", records it 7 centuries before the Portugese conquest. Great travellers like Marco Polo (1292) and Ibn Battuta (1345) and the legendary Javanese Buddhist priest, and poet Prapanca never ever mentioned Malacca in their respective reports.

However it is accepted now that Malacca was founded between 1398 and 1402 by a fugitive Srivijayan Prince of Palembang in Sumatra who was called Parameswara. It is mentioned that following the war of succession in Majaphit, Parameswara fled that country and took refuge at Tumasik (old name of Singapore which was then under Siamese rule). He then killed the ruler of Tumasik and was later driven out by the Raja of Patani. He settled briefly in Muar and finally arrived at Malacca, which at that time was a small village of fishermen and pirates. It is stated that Malacca was named after the Malacca Tree (Emblica officinalis).

According to Ming records, when Admiral Yin-Ching visited Malacca, Malacca belonged to Siam and Parameswara paid Siam an annual tribute of "forty taels of gold". However Parameswara lived in constant fear of the Siamese (having killed a relative of Siamese at Tumasik) and wanted very much to be a vassal of China. In 1405 he sent an Embassy of Peking and was formally granted recognition as King of Malacca in the following year when a "seal", a suit of silk clothes and a yellow umbrella" were presented to him by the Emperor of China. In 1409 Admiral Cheng-Ho visited Malacca, once and for all to show Siam, that Malacca was under Chinese protection. It was at this time that Malacca was raised to the status of City and Kingdom. From that day onwards Malacca ceased to be a dependency of Siam. Tiles were left behind for roofing the Royal Palace.

The Growth of Malacca
The strategic position of its port, peace and political stability and efficient administration enabled Malacca to develop and grow. Throughout the 14th century, eastern trade were monopolized by the Muslim merchants of Arabia and India. When Parameswara converted to Muslim Faith in 1411, his subjects too embraced Islam. This further paved the way to wooing Muslim traders from Arabia,India, Java and Sumatra. the India merchants brought cotton cloth from Cambay, Pulikat and Bengal. The Arabs brought vermillion, weapons, perfumes, copper, and textiles. Traders from surrounding countries brought cloves (Molluccas), mace (Banda), sandlewood (Timor), black pepper and gold (Sumatra), tin gold and camphor (Borneo) rice (Pedir & Pasai), rubies, lacquer, tin and Brazil Wood from Pegu in the North.

After the death of Patameswara (Megat Iskandar Shat) in 1424, his son, Muhammad Shah, who adopted the Srivijayan title of Seri Maharaja gave Malacca 20 years of peace and prosperity. It was he who established the system of government which continued to operate in Malacca till the Portuguese attack in 1511.

SULTAN: The paramount ruler of the State, reserved sovereignty and absolute power on all matters pertaining to the general administration of the State, internal or otherwise, declaration of a state of war or peace. (Muzaffar Shah was the first ruler of Malacca to adopt the Muslim Title of Sultan).

To assist him to administer his functions, a number of offices were created:
1. BENDAHARA: s supreme minister to assist and advise the Sultan in matters pertaining to the general administration of the state. 

In the later years the Bendahara enjoyed as much power as the Sultan himself, as evidenced by the legendary Tun Perak who was easily the most powerful man in Malacca during the three reigns and had tremendous influence. He is referred to as the "King Maker". apart from being relatives of Tun Perak, Sultans, Mansur Shah, Alauddin and Mahmud were all children when they succeeded to the throne. It was his policy which led to the expansion of Malacca. During the reign of Mansur Shah, Tun Perak attacked Pahang (a vassal of Siam at that time) and placed Raja Muhammad as Viceroy of Pahang. He captured Johore, Bengkalis. the Karimun Islands, Bintan and Muar. To take full control of the Straits of Malacca, Tun Perak attacked Kampar, Siak, Aru, Pasai, Rokan and Indragiri on the Sumatran Coast. Only Pasai resisted his forces (see map of Malacca Empire in 1511).



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