Langkawi, the leading summer destination in Malaysia, got its name from one of the island’s many legends. According to folk stories, ancient fishermen, the earliest settlers in Langkawi, saw a giant eagle clutching a stone as it hovered around the island. Inspired by the sight and probably considering it an omen of great significance, they decided to name the island from what they saw. “Lang” is Malay word for eagle, while “kawi” is a manganese stone. This explains the huge monument of an eagle clutching a stone at Eagle Square.
Eagle Square in Kuah is a wide 19-acre area located in front of the new Jetty Mall Complex, about 400 meters away from the Langkawi Legends Park. Kuah is the island’s capital and only real commercial center. The brown eagle statue is 12 meters tall and can be seen by travelers coming in through the jetty port.
Langkawi is a Malaysian archipelago located between Malacca Straight and the Andaman Sea, about 30 kilometers off the Malaysian northwestern coast. It has 104 islands but five of these disappear during a high tide, while only two are inhabited, namely Pulau Tuba and Langkawi Island, which is the largest. Only in 2008, Langkawi was christened “Langkawi, the Jewel of Kedah” during the archipelago’s Golden Jubilee. Located in the Malaysian state of Kedah, Langkawi deserves this name because it is by far the most popular island destination in Malaysia.
Langkawi is an interesting island shrouded in mystery and legends. Most of its islands are yet to be explored, while its pure beaches, lush mountains, picturesque waterfalls, eerie caves and clear waters are pretty much uncongested and untouched by modern facilities and commercialization since the island opened its arms to international tourism only in 1987. The people, culture and legends, too, are a puzzle. They are products of a mixture of cultures, beliefs, and religions. Langkawi is a Muslim nation but with Hindu influence, and is now regularly visited by liberal western tourists mostly from Europe. This is the only Muslim nation that tolerates the sale of liquor. The island is also known for its legends and myths.
Besides the legend of the giant eagle, a popular folk story involves a curse on the island. It’s called the Mahsuri Curse. According to the tale, Mahsuri was a pretty and faithful wife who lived in the island 200 years ago. Her husband, Wan Darus, was a soldier and the son of the chief. After Wan Darus went to war, Mahsuri developed a friendship with Deraman, a travelling male musician. They became very good friends to the point that Mahsuri’s in-laws doubted their closeness. To make the long story short, Mahsuri was accused of adultery and was executed. At her execution, however, her innocence was proven when white blood gushed out of her, instead of red. Just before she died, she was able to utter the curse, “There shall be no peace or prosperity on the island for a period of seven generations.”
According to the locals, Mahsuri’s seventh generation descendant was born in the 1980’s and so the curse has today been lifted. The local Langkawi people believe that the surge in tourism and the ensuing development of the island since it opened to international tourism is proof that Mahsuri’s legend is true and that the curse has indeed been lifted.
Fact and fiction is separated by a thin line in Langkawi. Eagle Square in Kuah is proof that legends are very important in the daily lives of the Langkawi people.