Merong Mahawangsa is a legendary warrior and a ruler who is said to be the first king of Langkasuka, or modern day Kedah. His tale is mentioned in the Kedah Annals, where it mentions him as a hero who became the first king of Langkasuka.
The legend of Merong Mahawangsa
Some say that Merong was a descendant of Alexander the Great. More recent legends have also surfaced that say that he was a Hindu prince by the name of Maran Mahavamsam. "Maha" means "great" in Sanskrit while "vamsam" means "lineage or descent".
According to the Kedah Annals, which is supposed to be a record of the history of Kedah, Merong was a fighter and was a Hindu ruler of an unknown kingdom. He travelled around from kingdom to kingdom, but mostly stayed in Rome. One day, he left Rome to do some trading in China. But then, after he passed the Arabian Sea, he was suddenly attacked by a legendary giant phoenix called Garuda, that destroyed most of Merong's fleet. They fled to the nearest land, which is Bujang Valley, where they settled and founded the kingdom of Langkasuka.
Merong was the original ruler of Langkasuka before he made his son, Merong Mahapudisat, the king. He returned to Rome, leaving his son to rule after. His fate was unknown, as some say that he died on his way to Rome. His son ruled Langkasuka, along with his descendants, until Phra Ong Mahawangsa converted into Islam and changed the Kingdom of Langkasuka into the Sultanate of Kedah. He also changed his name into Sultan Mudzafar Shah.
Later, the salutation for the king of Langkasuka changed into the Sultanate of Kedah. The name 'Langkasuka' can be divided into two parts: for which 'Langka' meant 'the land of glory' in Sanskrit, while 'suka' was from the name of the Jain king Emperor Ashoka, who later converted into Buddhism.
Merong's tale is said to be a mythical legend and the Kedah Annals may not be a reliable source because this legend is not mentioned in the Malay Annals or other important annals.
The history of Merong Mahawangsa was not that famous or well known compared to the tale of Hang Tuah. However, KRU Studios has completed the production of its feature film entitled "Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa". The movie is based on the great tale and the myth of Merong Mahawangsa. It is Malaysia's second expensive movie production in the country.
Merong and his descendants
Below is the list of the eight rulers of Langkasuka, Merong and his descendants, according to the Kedah Annals:
- King Merong Mahawangsa: A ruler from Rome who later settled in Bujang Valley and founded the Kingdom of Langkasuka. He is said to be a descendant to Alexander the Great. He was a Hindu king. Merong have three sons, Merong Mahapudisat, Ganjil Sarjuna, and Seri Mahawangsa, and a daughter, Raja Puteri, who is the second youngest in the family. He was later succeeded by his eldest son, Merong Mahapudisat. Merong then left to Rome, leaving his son the ruler of Langkasuka.
- King Merong Mahapudisat: He became the king of Langkasuka after his father, Merong Mahawangsa went back to Rome. He was the eldest son. Legends say that he was also the first king of Siam.
- King Ganjil Sarjuna: He was crowned king after his brother's death. He was the second eldest in the family. He founded the Gangga Negara kingdom.
- Raja Puteri (in English, King Princess): She became the King of Langkasuka after her brother Ganjil Sarjuna died. She is the youngest daughter in the family. She was also the first ruler of Pattani.
- King Seri Mahawangsa: He became the king of Langkasuka after his brother, Ganjil Sarjuna died.
- Seri Maha Inderawangsa: He is the son of Seri Mahawangsa. He was called "King Bersiong" because of his cannibalistic behaviour of drinking human blood. He was the original successor of Seri Mahawangsa, but because of his behaviour, his father had no choice but to imprison him. He fled to Mount Jerai, where he remained hidden for a long time and later had a son, who was called Phra Ong Mahapudisat. Before his father's death afterwards, Seri Mahawangsa asked his soldiers of Langkasuka to hunt down and kill him. He was later found and was ambushed. His son, Phra Ong Mahapudisat was spared because he had royal blood.
- King Phra Ong Mahapudisat: After Seri Mahawangsa's death, Langkasuka needed a successor that had a royal blood. Phra Ong Mahapudist was crowned king after his father's death.
- Phra Ong Mahawangsa: He was the only son of Phra Ong Mahapudisat. He was originally Hindu, but when Islam first came to the Malay Peninsula, he became a Muslim, changed his name into Sultan Mudzafar Shah, and the Kingdom of Langkasuka into the Kedah Sultanate.
Merong Mahawangsa in popular culture
- A film made by KRU Studios named "The Malay Chronicles: Bloodlines" tells the life and adventures of Merong Mahawangsa.
- A Thai film named "Queens of Langkasuka" mentioned the Kingdom of Langkasuka being attacked by a rebellion allied with pirates.
- A Royal Malaysian Navy Vessel named KD Mahawangsa is named after Merong Mahawangsa's honor.