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Urduja was a legendary warrior princess recorded in the travel accounts of Ibn Battuta (1304 – possibly 1368 or 1377 AD), a Muslim traveler from Morocco. She was described to be a princess of Kaylukari in the land of Tawalisi. Though the locations of Kaylukari and Tawalisi are disputed, in the Philippines Urduja is widely believed to be from Pangasinan, and has since been regarded as a national heroine.

Ibn Battuta[edit]

Ibn Battuta described Urduja as the ruler of Kaylukari in the land of Tawalisi and leader of the Kinalakian. After reaching the Samudra-Pasai Sultanate in what is now Sumatra, Indonesia, Ibn Battuta passed by Tawalisi on his way to China. Princess Urduja was described as a daughter of a ruler named Tawalisi of a land that was also called Tawalisi. The ruler of Tawalisi, according to Ibn Battuta, possessed many ships and was a rival of China, which was then ruled by a Mongol dynasty.[1] Ibn Battuta sailed for 17 days to reach China from the land of Tawalisi.[2]

Ibn Battuta made a pilgrimage to Mecca and he traveled to many other parts of the Islamic world. From India and Sumatra, Ibn Battuta reached the land of Tawalisi. Ibn Battuta described Urduja as a warrior princess whose army was composed of men and women. Urduja was a woman warrior who personally took part in the fighting and engaged in duels with other warriors. She was quoted as saying that she will marry no one but him who defeats her in duel. Other warriors avoided fighting her for fear of being disgraced.[3]

Urduja impressed Ibn Battuta with her military exploits and her ambition to lead an expedition to India, known to her as the "Pepper Country." She also showed her hospitality by preparing a banquet for Ibn Battuta and the crew of his ship. Urduja generously provided Ibn Battuta with gifts that included robes, rice, two buffaloes, and four large jars of ginger, pepper, lemons, and mangoes, all salted, in preparation for Ibn Battuta's sea-voyage to China.[4]


Urduja is often described as a tall and beautiful lady having golden bronze skin, straight shiny lucious dark hair, and deep, dark-colored eyes. Clad in gold and is adept in sword fighting and horseback riding. Leader of the Kinalakihan (warrior women). She is a brave, smart and kind-hearted lady. She is also believed to be multi-dialect, which was a common characteristic of the nobles in pre-colonial Southeast Asia.


A long list of guesses to the location of Tawalisi have included Pangasinan, Luzon, Sulu, Celebes (Sulawesi), Java, Cambodia,[5] Cochin-China, the mainland Chinese province of Guangdong, and practically every island in South Asia beginning with ta.

Philippine theory[edit]

In the late 19th Century, Jose Rizal, national hero of the Philippines, speculated that the land of Tawalisi was in the area of the northern part of the Philippines, based on his calculation of the time and distance of travel Ibn Battuta took to sail to China from Tawalisi. In 1916, Austin Craig, an American historian of the University of the Philippines, in "The Particulars of the Philippines Pre-Spanish Past", traced the land of Tawalisi and Princess Urduja to Pangasinan. In the province of Pangasinan, the governor's residence in Lingayen is named "Urduja House".[6] A statue of Princess Urduja stands at the Hundred Islands National Park in Pangasinan. Philippine school textbooks used to include Princess Urduja in the list of great Filipinos.

Princess Urduja's gifts of rice, buffaloes, ginger, pepper, lemons, mangoes, and salt are products that are abundant in Pangasinan and India. The closely related Ibaloi people have an oral tradition of a woman named Udayan who ruled an ancient alliance of lowland and highland settlements in Pangasinan and the neighboring province of Benguet. Ibn Battuta also mentioned that Urduja had some knowledge of a Turkic language, which indicates contact with foreigners. Tawalisi was said to be in contact with Mongol-ruled Yuan China so the Turkic language may have been Mongolian.

Ibn Batutta's travel account suggests that he also saw elephants in the land ruled by Urduja. Elephants can still be found in Borneo, and may have been gifts or traded in Pangasinan in earlier times. Ancient Malayo-Polynesian sailing vessels (such as the Balangay), like the ones used by the ancient Bugis and those depicted in the Borobudur bas-reliefs, were capable of transporting heavy cargo, including elephants. There are depictions of such ancient ships in maritime Southeast Asia transporting several elephants for trade. A priceless Ding (Exclusive Symbol of Imperial Power) made entirely of pure Platinum estimated to be at least 3000 Year Old has been recently unearthed in Luzon near Pangasinan.[7] This may be proof that the legend of Warrior Princess Urduja which had enough power and moral authority to challenge the entire Mongol Empire, had legitimate precedence.

Java theory[edit]

The aforementioned gifts can also be found in Java. Chinese records showed that, almost all of Asian commodities can be found in Java during the Majapahit era. This is because the Javanese were skilled sailors and merchants, travelling as far as Ghana since the 8th century.[8] While the original name of the duchess of the said land was actually spelled in Arabic by Ibn Battuta as WHR DJ in his Rihlah which might be misread as Urduja instead of reading it as Wahre Daja (Bhre Daha) due to the lack of geographical perspective and the lack of knowledge in the Arabic script congruent to the period when it happened. Bhre Daha was a title given to Dayah Wiyat (literally means "princess vagina"), the twin sister of Bhre Kahuripan, as duchess of Daha (also known as Kediri). Both duchesses were daughters of Raden Wijaya and Gayatri. After the death of Kala Gemet both duchesses assumed power as rajah kembars (twin rulers) and both were given the title Tribhuana tungga dewi (meaning Majapahit empress). Another theory is that Urduja is actually a misspelling of Gitarja, the Bhre of Kahuripan, and also the Queent regnant of Majapahit. Tradition mentioned her as a woman of extraordinary valour, wisdom and intelligence. Javanese texts mentioned her as a brave woman, even riding into battle herself.[9]

Java had been attacked by Mongols they called Tatars for several times, first in the last part of the 13th century A.D. (the 1293 invasion), second during the reign of Kala Gemet. and few more unrecorded invasions.[10] Hence, it is very clear that Java at that time especially the royal court had also been linguistically influenced by the Turkic speaking Tatars. Thus, the Bhre Daha could talk in Turkic as was observed by Ibn Battuta during his visit in her court.[11]

Elephants flourished in Java during Majapahit era. Majapahit's cavalry usually consisted of elephants and horses. Majapahit also possessed one of the most powerful navy of Javanese junks (jong) during its era. Each junk is able to carry 500-1000 men, and several hundred horses. The number of junks possessed by Majapahit is unknown, but the largest expedition mobilized 400 large junks.[9]

In popular culture[edit]

Princesa Urduja, a live-action adventure film based on the legend, was released in 1942.[12]

Urduja, an animated feature based on the legendary princess,[13] was released on June 18, 2008. It stars Regine Velasquez (in the lead role of Princess Urduja), Cesar Montano (as Lim Hang), Eddie Garcia (as Lakanpati), Johnny Delgado (as Wang), Epi Quizon (as Daisuke), Ruby Rodriguez (as Mayumi), Michael V. (as Kukut), Allan K. (as Tarsir) and Jay Manalo (as Simakwel) as voice actors. Joey de Leon wrote the lyrics, and the music was composed by Ogie Alcasid.

Minor planet 5749 Urduja discovered by Eleanor Helin is named in her honor. The official naming citation was published by the Minor Planet Center on 8 November 2019 (M.P.C. 117229).[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ibn Battuta, The Travels of Ibn Baṭṭūṭa, A.D. 1325–1354, vol. 4, trans. H. A. R. Gibb and C. F. Beckingham (London: Hakluyt Society, 1994), pp. 884–5.
  2. ^ Ibn Battuta, p. 888.
  3. ^ Ibn Battuta, p. 887.
  4. ^ Ibn Battuta, pp. 886–7.
  5. ^ Yule, Henry (1866). Cathay and the Way Thither. London. p. 158. ISBN 978-1-4094-2166-5.
  6. ^ "Pangasinan government almost lost Urduja House lot".
  7. ^ "5 Things Why This Artifact May Change World History" By Kasaysayan Hunters. (2018) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VuRI30YeQj8
  8. ^ Beale, Philip (April 2006). "From Indonesia to Africa: Borobudur Ship Expedition". Ziff Journal: 22 – via http://www.swahiliweb.net/ziff_journal_3_files/ziff2006-04.pdf.
  9. ^ a b Nugroho, Irawan Djoko (2011). Majapahit Peradaban Maritim. Jakarta: Suluh Nuswatara Bakti. ISBN 9786029346008.
  10. ^ da Pordenone, Odoric (2002). The Travels of Friar Odoric. W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
  11. ^ Ibn Battuttah, "Rihlah"; M. C. Das, "Outline of Indo-Javanese History", pp. 1-173; "Sejarah Melayu"; Dr. Jose Rizal in his letter to Blumentritt; and Ibn Battuta, The Travels of Ibn Baṭṭūṭa, A.D. 1325–1354, vol. 4, trans. H. A. R. Gibb and C. F. Beckingham (London: Hakluyt Society, 1994), pp. 884–5.
  12. ^ "Princesa Urduja". IMDb. Retrieved 2009-10-07.
  13. ^ Urduja. Accessed August 28, 2008.
  14. ^ "MINOR PLANET CIRCULARS/MINOR PLANETS AND COMETS, M.P.C 117229" (PDF). November 8, 2019.

External links[edit]