Tuesday Tales #21 : Dayang Isah Tandang Sari

bamboo

Origin: Pusa Malay Community, Betong
Translated by: Adrian Jo Milang
Edited by: Juvita Tatan Wan
Sketch by: Loretta Livan Milang

(This is Tuesday Tales, where we highlight folklores and personal stories from indigenous peoples from all across Borneo. These are stories shared with us. We strive to edit it to the best of our capabilities for your enjoyment. We welcome your feedback at hello@thetuyang.com)

The tale begins with Datuk Temenggong Kadir who has been married to his wife Dayang Siti Hajar for seven years but without a child. They live a happy yet quiet life. Nevertheless they still hoped and prayed that one day they would be blessed with a child of their own. 

One night after prayers, Datuk Temenggong Kadir went to sleep and he had a  dream. In his dream he heard a voice saying 

“My dear Temenggong Kadir, I empathise with you and have heard your endless prayers to have a child of your own. I would like to grant you the assistance. But you have to abide by all my will. Come tomorrow,  go upriver to Tandang Sari. There is a bunch of buluh betong there. Cut the bamboo open because there is an egg in it. Take the egg home with you and take good care of it.” 

Upon hearing those words, Datuk Temenggong Kadir woke up in bewilderment. He was puzzled and couldn’t make out if it was a dream or otherwise. He woke up his wife and told her about the dream. His wife was just as surprised and hoped that the dream would come true.

The next day, Datuk Temenggong Kadir made his way in his boat, to the place that was told in his dream and carried along his mystical sword named “Gempetar Alam.” On his way upriver, his eyes darted around looking for the bamboo. Finally he found it. His heart started wildly in his chest as he steered his boat on to the riverbank.

Still anxious, he swung his sword and cut one of the bamboos. Lo and behold, there was indeed an egg in it. He took the egg and brought it home.

That night before laying his head down to sleep, he placed the egg beside his head, on to his left. Then in the middle of the night, a child’s cries were heard. Both he and his wife woke up to a surprise. They saw that the egg was broken and a baby was next to it.

Although surprised by the odd sight, they were both happy nonetheless. They were grateful and happy that finally, their prayers have been heard regardless of how the child came to be. They named the female child Dayang Isah.

Time went by fast, and Dayang Isah had grown into a beautiful young lady. Every man that had her in their sight, wanted to take her as theirs, and would even kill each other if need be.

But Datuk Temenggong Kadir was uneasy with the notion so he decided to find a suitable person for his child as soon as possible. 

Abang Bunut, highly respected by the community and a well mannered man, who has been working at Temenggong Kadir’s palace knew Dayang Isah well. They became close, and eventually fell in love. Their relationship was favoured by Datuk Temenggong Kadir and his wife. 

One night,  Temenggong Kadir had another dream and heard the same voice as he had earlier but this time said:

“Temenggong Kadir! Heed my words, Dayang Isah is now a fully grown lady and longed by many! But if they were to take her hand in marriage, you must only accept those who can offer you a dowry of ten kati of gold!” 

Datuk Temenggong Kadir woke up from the dream full of anxiety and distraction. He thought of Abang Bunut whom he had come to care for and knew that Abang Bunut would not be able to come up with such offerings. 

The next day, Datuk Temenggong Kadir told his wife about the disturbing dream he had. She was saddened to know and reluctantly abided. They told the dream to Abang Bunut and Dayang Sari in guilt. Abang Bunut accepted the fate and realised that he would not be able to grant the dowry of ten kati of gold. 

The news of Dayang Isah and ten kati gold dowry has spread around and reached the ears of a Bugis trader and ship captain named Nakhoda Khar as he had been sailing from Palembang to Brunei and anchored in Saribas, whence he heard the news.

Without hesitation and even knowing who she is, and how Dayang Isah looked like, he made his way to Temenggong Kadir’s palace and told him his intentions. Datuk Temenggong Kadir was reluctant at first but he was forced to heed the order from his dream and accepted Nakhoda Khar’s proposal.

Their wedding came to be after a few days of engagement. Dayang Isah however felt sad and thought of her love, Abang Bunut. So did Abang Bunut towards her.

A month passed since Dayang Isah became the wife of Nakhoda Khar, he wanted to sail to Brunei to continue trading. As he passed by Pulau Burung, he realised that he had left his keris. He anchored his ship and took a boat back to Saribas. 

On his way back, he had a bad feeling at the pit of his stomach. He tied his boat on the rivermouth and started rushing back. From a distance, he heard his wife’s faint laughter with Abang Bunut’s voice. In fury, he cast a spell to put everyone in the palace to sleep. 

Nakhoda Khar took his keris and took Abang Bunut’s life and made his way back to his ship at Pulau Burung

Everyone at the residence in the palace woke up the next day. Shocked, Dayang Isah found that Abang Bunut had been slain. She realised that her beauty has taken so many lives. She decided to end herself but the keris would not pierce her. She then took seven strains of her hair and tied it around her neck and held it until she was breathless. 

In another version of this tale, she had asked her husband to end her life with her hair. 

Upon the tragedy that had befallen upon her daughter, Datuk Temenggong Kadir with Lancang Mayng went after Nakhoda Khar. It was told that the rowers were so fast, that the boat cut through the waters like a hungry dragon.

As they arrived at Pulau Burung, they saw Nakhoda Khar’s ship was still anchored there. Datuk Temenggong Kadir swung his sword and lo Nakhoda Khar’s ship split in two. The ship sank into the depths with the crew. 

Upon returning, Datuk Temenggong Kadir laid Dayang Isah into eternal rest in Tandang Sari. Her grave can still be seen today in Kampung Salok in Betong. 

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