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).