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Kedah Sultanate

National History - Kedah Sultanate

The Sultanate of Kedah was the earliest sultanate in the Malay Peninsula and arguably the oldest Sultanate in the world. Prior to its formation in the year 1136, Kedah was a Hindu kingdom founded by Maharaja Derbar Raja of Gemeron around 630 CE. The ninth maharaja, Phra Ong Mahawangsa, converted to Islam and subsequently ruled as Sultan Mudzafar Shah. The Kedah Sultanate started with this first sultan and remained intact for over 8 centuries.


 Around 170 CE a group of native refugees of Hindu faith arrived at Kedah, joined by peoples from the nearby islands and from the northern Mon-Khmer region. Ancient Kedah covered the areas of Kuala Bahang, Kuala Bara, Kuala Pila and Merpah, and the inhabitants of Kedah appointed Tun Derma Dewa and Tun Perkasa as their village chiefs.

In the year 630 CE, Maharaja Derbar Raja of Gemeron (now known as Bandar Abbas) of Persia was defeated in battle and fled to Sri Lanka. He was later blown off course by a storm to the remote shores of Kuala Sungai Qilah, Kedah. The native inhabitants found this member of Persian royalty to be a valiant and intelligent person, and pronounced him the king of Kedah. In the year 634 CE, a new kingdom was formed with its capital at Langkasuka.

During its early days, Kedah was known as Kedaram, Kidaram, Kalagam and Kataha to the Indians and Kalah or Kalaha to the Persians. In the 7th and 8th centuries, Kedah fell under the domination of Srivijaya, and subsequently Siam, until the rise of the Malay sultanate of Melaka in the 15th century. In the 17th century, the Portuguese invaded Kedah after their conquest of Melaka. The Acehnese were to be their next captors. In the hopes that Great Britain would protect what remained of Kedah from Siam, the sultan of Kedah handed over Penang and then Province Wellesley to the British at the end of the 18th century. The Siamese nevertheless conquered Kedah in 1811, and it remained under Siamese control until transferred to the British by the Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909. 

Medieval History-The Invasion of Chola

In the early medieval era, Kedah became part of Srivijaya (a dominant Malay empire and a major power in the Indian Ocean trade). The commercial monopoly claimed by the Srivijayan Maharajas led to rivalries with the Indian states, especially the Cholas from the 9th to 13th centuries CE. The Cholas had powerful merchant and naval fleets in the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal. In 1025, Chola King Rajendra Chola I sent an expedition to invade Kadaram on behalf of one of its rulers who sought his assistance to gain the Kedah throne. The invasion was successful and the Srivijayan king Sangrama Vijayottungavarman was taken captive. Chola’s dominance over Kedah was lasted up til 1088, when a peace solution was achieved with the intervention of China. The Chola’s brief military reign effectively crippled the power of Srivijaya.
Historian George Spencer stresses the validity of this military campaign as it complemented the Chola pattern of compulsive expansion in this period, which owed much to the need to gain new sources of revenue and Rajendra’s aim to exceed his father's accomplishments Furthermore, there is existing evidence that the king of Kambujadesa sent a chariot to the Chola, arguably to appease him so that his strategic attention did not extend beyond the Malay peninsula.

Conversion to Islam.

After the Chola military left Kadaram in the late 11th century, the ninth Rajah of Kedah, Phra Ong Mahawangsa renounced Hinduism and converted to Islam, which was introduced by Muslims from neighbouring Aceh. Changing his name to Sultan Mudzafar Shah, he ruled the northern region of the Malay Peninsula from 1136 to 1179. 



Mohammad Isa Othman, Politik Tradisional Kedah 1681 - 1942Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur, 1990

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