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Iskandar Shah, also spelt as Iskandar Syah, is closely associated with 14th and 15th century Singapore and Melaka. He is also associated with other names in Singapore history such as Parameswara and Sri Tri Buana. His identity remains an enigma - he was either the ruler of late-14th century Singapore who subsequently founded Melaka, or the successor of the founder of Melaka. Some scholars believe that Parameswara and Iskandar Shah were two names used by the same person. Parameswara became a Muslim and changed his name to Iskandar Shah. Others believe that Parameswara died around 1414 and Iskandar Shah succeeded him. His name is remembered in Singapore with a keramat (shrine) named after him at Fort Canning Hill, keramat Iskandar Shah.
The Malay Annals
The Sulalat al-Salatin (Genealogy of the Kings), better known as the Sejarah Melayu or Malay Annals, refers to Iskandar Shah as Sri Sultan Iskandar Shah (also romanised as Seri Sultan Iskandar Syah), descendant of Paduka Sri Maharaja and heir to the Singapura throne. He is the fifth in a line of kings and ruled Singapura for three years. He fled Singapura during a Javanese attack, and eventually established Melaka. He ruled Melaka for twenty years and was succeeded by his son, Raja Kechil Besar, with the title of Sultan Megat. In Leyden's translation of the Sejarah Melayu, he is referred to as Raja Secander Shah.
The Portuguese Accounts
Portuguese writers such as d'Albuquerque (son of Afonso d'Albuquerque who conquered Melaka in 1511), de Barros, and de Eredia wrote that the founder of Melaka was Parameswara, a vassal of Java who fled to Singapura, murdered the local ruler and usurped the throne. He was driven out some time later, and went on to establish Melaka. The historian De Couto was an exception, and he wrote that the last king of Singapura, also the first king of Melaka, was Iskandar Shah who was driven out by a Javanese attack, thus largely agreeing with the Malay Annals.
Another Portuguese, Tome Pires who was in Melaka from 1512 to 1515, wrote that Parameswara settled at Bertam after fleeing Singapura. His son, Iskandar Shah, persuaded him to settle at Melaka after he encountered a mousedeer there during a hunting session, which turned on his hunting dogs and sent them running away. Iskandar Shah succeeded Parameswara after the latter died. Pires also recorded that Iskandar Shah was born in Singapore, and married the daughter of an orang laut who was one of his father's nobles.
The Ming Dynasty Records
The Chinese records indicate that the ruler of Melaka, Parameswara, sent tribute missions to China in 1405, 1407, and 1409. In 1411, Parameswara, his consort, and a retinue of 540 persons went to China and stayed at Nanjing for two months. The records included details of banquets, gifts, and audiences that this mission had with the Chinese emperor, Yongle. Two more missions were led by Parameswara's nephews in the following two years. The Yongle Shi Lu (Veritable Records of the Yongle reign) for October 1414 recorded that the Melaka king's son, Mu-gan Sa-yu-di-er-sha (Megat Iskandar Shah) came to the Chinese court and memorialised that his father Bai-li-mi-su-la had died. An edict was then promulgated that Mu-gan Sa-yu-ti-er-sha should succeed his late-father as king and presents of gold, silver, brocades and fine silks, headgear and belts, and robes of woven gold thread were given. The Yongle Shi Lu also recorded the visit of the Melaka king, Xi-li Ma-ha-la-zhe (Sri Maharaja) in April 1424, newly succeeded to the throne after his father's death. Hence, Iskandar Shah died around 1424.
It has been suggested that Parameswara changed his name to Iskandar Shah, and this confused the Chinese into thinking that Iskandar Shah was a different person. However, it has also been argued that the Chinese, including the emperor, met Parameswara when he visited in 1411, and was unlikely to have mistaken him for someone else three years later. Furthermore, if Parameswara and Iskandar Shah were the same person, it is unlikely that he would allowed himself to be reported as having died, as was recorded in the Yongle Shi Lu.
Iskandar Shah and Sri Tri Buana
Iskandar Shah in the identity as the founder of Melaka has also been associated with another name in the Malay Annals- Sri Tri Buana (who is also known as Sang Utama, Sang Nila Utama, and Nilatanam), the first king of Singapura in the Malay Annals.
In the Malay Annals, Sri Tri Buana and his two brothers were discovered by two widows at the top of Bukit Si-Guntang Mahmeru in Palembang. The night before, the widows saw a glow like fire on the hill. They climbed up the hill the next morning and discovered that the padi they planted there had turned into golden grains with leaves of silver, and stems of gold alloy. Here, they also saw three youths adorned like kings. The eldest was made the raja of Menangkabau, with the title Sang Sapurba; the second was made raja of Tanjong Pura, with the title Sang Maniaka; and the youngest was made raja of Palembang with the title Sang Utama.
Sang Utama was later bestowed the title Sri Tri Buana. Later in the narrative, he and his entourage sailed to Temasek where they saw a strange animal while hunting. It had a red body, black head, and white breast, was rather bigger than a goat, strong and active in build and which moved with great speed. His chief minister told him the animal could have been a lion. He decided to establish a city in Temasek, and called it Singapura.
It has been argued that several critical aspects in the story of Sri Tri Buana in the Malay Annals was based on Parameswara, who also ruled in Palembang before establishing himself in Singapura. Hence, if Iskandar Shah and Parameswara are assumed to be the same person- the founder of Melaka- they are also equated with Sri Tri Buana.
Iskandar Shah- Iskandar Syah, Chaquem Daraxa, Xaquem Daraxa, and Xaquem Darxa
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Parameswara, Sultan of Malacca, d.1424
Sultans--Malaysia-- Malacca (State)--Biography