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Headline : Enduring Tales Of Love
By Bissme S
A MOTHER’S love andaffection for her children is the stuff of legends that has lived on through the ages.In celebration of Mother’s Day, which falls this Sunday, three experts retell some local legends – metaphors included – from different cultures in Malaysia, that centre on a mother’s enduring love and
Subhead : The Legend of Si Tanggang
Saifulizan Yahaya of Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka (DBP) says the Malay culture has a famous story called Si Tanggang to depict a mother’s love for her son and the value of filial piety. Saifullizan, who is the language planning officer at DBP’s Research Literature Division, hopes to share the moral of this tale with the younger generation.
The story goes like this: When Tanggang was a young boy, he was always sick. His mother, Deruma, took pains in ensuring her son would grow up strong and healthy. Later, the young ambitious Tanggang wanted to see the world. So when a ship docked at his village to reload supplies and take on additional crew members, Tanggang volunteered to go along.
His mother tried to stop him, saying she needed him to be with her in her advancing years but Tanggang told her he would go away for a few years and then return home a wealthy man so they can live comfortably together. Tanggang eventually became a wealthy businessman. He also married a beautiful princess, but has completely forgotten about his mother back in the village and the
promise he had made to her.
One day, when his ship was docked at his village, his mother was so happy to learn that her son has returned. She rushed to meet him. But embarrassed by her poor appearance, Tanggang refused to acknowledge her as his mother in front of his royal bride.
Devastated and heart-broken, Deruma raised her hands to the sky and cried out to God to make Si Tanggang recognise her as his mother.Suddenly, the weather turned dark and stormy. There were flashes of lightning and thunder. When the storm subsided, Si Tanggang, his wife, his crew, and his entire ship had been
turned into stone.
“The story reminds us that we mustnever be ungrateful to our parents,” says Saifullizan.
“This is a retribution for being unfilial.”
He points out that some believe that Batu Caves is the ship that had been turned into stone. Interestingly, there is a similar tale in Indonesia known as Malim Kundang, where stones resembling human beings and a shipwreck can be found at Pantai Air Manis, in Padang, Sumatra Barat, while in Brunei, a folklore known as Nakhoda Manis also tells the same tale with a rocky outcrop called Jong Batu, located off Kampung Ayer on the Brunei River, that resembles a capsized ship.
Subhead : Devaki, mother of Lord Krishna
Shankar Kandasamy the head of Bharata Natyam Department of the Temple of Fine Arts, Kuala Lumpur, recounts the mythological tale of Devaki, the mother to Lord Krishna.
The story centres on the evil King Kansa, who heard a prophecy that the eighth child of his sister, Devaki, would kill him. So he imprisoned Devaki and her husband Vasudeva and killed all seven of the children she bore.
However, divine intervention saw that the eighth child, Lord Krishna, escaped. Years later, the mother and son were reunited. She asked Krishna why she was not given a chance to enjoy his childhood years as his mother. Lord Krishna explains to her that in her past life, she was a great queen who was unfair to her servant girl.
She wanted the servant girl to give her all the attention and had prevented the servant girl from spending any time with her own child.
“Lord Krishna told his mother that she had robbed the servant girl of her
motherhood,” said Shankar. “Therefore,she, Devaki in turn, had to suffer and was unable to spend any time with her own child.”
Being a compassionate god, Lord Krishna made a miniature idol of himself as a child and gave it to his mother. The idol then came to life.
“Lord Krishna then told his mother that now she has a chance to enjoy him as a child,” Shankar said.
Subhead: The ghost mother and other tales
The Principal of KBU International College, Dr See Hoon Peow (right), says that there are many folk legends in the Chinese culture that highlights the greatness of a mother. See, who is also a trained folklorist, tells this interesting tale of The Ghost Mother.
“There are several versions to this story,” says See.
“All the versions, however, indicate that a mother’s love is so powerful that even death cannot separate her from her child.”
One version, which happens during the Song dynasty, tells of a pregnant grieving widow who died and was buried. But then, she gave birth to a baby boy inside the coffin.
She appeared at the nearest provision shop to get the necessities to feed her baby. She told the shopkeeper that she was the daughter in- law of the wealthy Wong family and asked him to collect payment from her father-in-law.
At the end of the month, when the shopkeeper went to collect the
payment from the family, the father-in-law was shocked. He believed someone was impersonating his deceased daughter-in-law.
To find out who, he hid in the shop and when the woman appeared, the father-in-law was indeed shocked to see she was indeed his dead daughter-in- law. He then exhumed her body and found a healthy baby boy in the coffin
There is another version, linked to the famous Chinese poet, Su Dong Po, whose wife passed away after giving birth to baby boy. She returned as a ghost to the house every night to breastfeed her son.
She had to cross a lake to enter the house, so there were traces of water found around the baby’s cradle.
“On realising that his wife had come back to breastfeed their child the poet built a bridge from the grave to the house so that his ghost wife didn’t have to cross the lake and get wet," See says.
“Unfortunately, in the Chinese culture, there is always a god guarding every bridge, and because of this, the ghost wife was stopped from crossing.
“The ghost remained a tortured soul because she could no longer breastfeed her baby.”
Another popular tale centres on the famous Chinese philosopher and scholar Mencius and his mother (below) who lived in ancient times. Mencius’ father died when he was young. According to Confucius teachings, the family should mourn for three years. She and her son then moved to live near the grave of her deceased husband. But Mencius’ mother decided to forgo the tradition when she found her son imitating what took place at the funeral procession.Wanting something better for her son, the two moved again to a new home near a market.
“She soon found this location unsuitable because her son began to
take to the ways of the merchants,” says See.
“In those days, merchants were considered low class and she did not want her son to take up this trade.”
She moved again, this time to a home near a school. Inspired by the scholars there, Mencius began to study and his mother was content.
Then, one day, his mother found outthat he had been playing truant from school. Instead of beating him, his mother simply took a pair of scissors and cut up the cloth she was weaving.
Shocked, Mencius asked: ”Why did` you do that, mother? Now, you have to start all over again.”
His mother replied that what he did was no different from what she had done, as playing truant meant he had wasted his effort studying and now must pick up where he left off all over again. Mencius learnt his lesson and never played truant again.