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“I've Learned That People Will Forget What You Said, People Will Forget What You Did, but People Will Never Forget How You Made Them Feel”


Wednesday, November 26, 2008


The history of Muar started since the times of the Hindu empire. According to history, the name Muar appeared much earlier than the Melaka empire existed.

In 1361, there was a Bhuddist monk (a religious adviser in Majapahit Palace) named Prapanca wrote the famous poetry, Nagarakertagama. This poetry recorded the history of the empire of Majapahit in the Malay peninsular. The king was Hayam Wuruk and his prime minister was Gajah Mada (1350 - 1389). Muar was one of the state under this empire. This piece of history was recorded in JMBRAS Journal, October 1935 issue, Volume XIII, Part 2, pages 15 - 16.

There are other souces of history that proof the early existence of Muar before Melaka. Barros wrote in 1553 about Parameswara (Paramicura), founder of the Melaka empire, was exiled from Temasik (Singapore) after he killed the king. He stopped at Muar and built a wooden fort at a place called Pagoh.

In Sejarah Melayu (Malay Historical Literature), Temasik which then was ruled by Sultan Iskandar Syah, was defeated by the Majapahit empire. Sultan Iskandar Syah moved to Muar. Here he opened two areas near the river Muar called Biawak Busuk and built a fort named Kota Buruk. He eventually moved to Melaka and built its empire.

One event that proved the close relationship between Muar and Melaka was that in 1488, Sultan Alauddin Riayat Syah 1, died in Pagoh, Ulu Muar and was buried there.


Most people know the name Muar was used in accordance with its river, the Muar river. Muar river is frequently mentioned in Hikayat Malim Dewa-dewa Deman (Stories of Malim Dewa-dewa Deman).

From the above writing, it explains the river Muar was originally named Teluk Dalam. The name Teluk Dalam was used maybe due to the fact that many rivers join to one opening to the sea, or a very wide river opening to the sea or estuary.

Some say the name Muar is shortened from the word Muara, a word from Malay Sunda language meaning a very wide river opening to the sea or estuary.

One interesting opinion says, the word Muar was related to the word Muak which means tired of rowing the boat in this very big and winding river. (Jazlan's note: My late grandfather used to tell me this story and I thought he was joking!!!)

Another opinion says the name Muar is from the Hindu word Munu, meaning three, and Ar, meaning river. Here, it was believed to have been originated from a big state in south India in ancient times called Munar or Muar, meaning state of three rivers. This state was formed from three rivers joining into one opening to the sea (estuary). These ancient Hindu people came to Muar looking for gold and they discovered there are three rivers (Muar river, Serting river and Pahang river) joining to one opening to the sea, same as what they had in thier homeland. These people named this place with reference to their homeland.


The town of Maharani was officially opened in 1887 by His Mejesty Maharaja Abu Bakar. It was called town of Maharani meaning Town of the wife of the Maharaja. The opening ceremony was done by Maharaja Abu Bakar by a special ceremony of burying a Azimat at a place later called Tangga Batu (now an area full of seafood restaurants by river Muar at the Muar Bus Station for buses going to Melaka and Batu Pahat).

Bandar Maharani grew as a small port at the opening of Muar river, supporting the area for economic activities. During this time, Maharani was the capital for the district of Muar.

Towards 1890, Bandar Maharani grew to become the largest and center for administration and commercial activities in the west coast of Johor state. An English tourist, Florence Caddy wrote:

"The town of Maharani is a beautiful town with a population of around 5,000 people, among them are the Malays who stays around the villages around the town, Chinese and some Indians retailing within the town itself. The town have a few buildings, a saw mill and a small brick manufacturing factory."

The main commecial goods are the port were gambir, pepper, pinang kering (dried betel nut palm), dried coconuts, coffee, sagu ubi (tapioca flour) and fruits. Gambir and local fruits were the main commodities. According to the Johor Government Annual Report 1911, Muar is the biggest producer or Gambir products in Johor between 1887 and 1911.


Maybe, most of people today do not know how Muar is called City of the Maharani and has become one of the most well known towns in Johore. Muar also used to be a state under the government of Johore.

According to history, Muar used to be a small port since the time of Portuguese ruling in Malacca until the time Johore is under the ruling of Sultan Abu Bakar who is also known as Maharaja. The Portuguese knew Muar as Muara, which means port and the small port service is provided at the estuary of the Muar River.

The name Maharani was given when Sultan Abu Bakar ruled Johore after the official opening of City of the Maharani in 1884. He officiated Muar as a state ruled under Johore and to as the same status as a state. City of the Maharani means City of the Queen and he presented this city as a gift to his Queen as accordance to her name, Maharani. Since then, The City of the Maharani becomes the capital of Muar. Muar is now a district of Johor.

In the history of the Malay government of Malacca, Muar becomes a partial focus for the Dutch and Portuguese because of its fertile land. Other than spices, pepper and gambir, gold is one of the valuable minerals available in Muar, mostly at Ledang hill, located near the city.

During that time, Kesang River and Ledang River becomes a major transportation route for Portuguese and Dutch, carrying commercial goods to the estuary of Muar River. Muar River becomes an important route for the locals who travel to Pahang, because the river started from Lake Bera in Pahang.

Among the history that has become a legend at the Muar River, a prince called Malim Deman was travelling along the river looking for a princes call Puteri Bongsu, which was said to be hiding at a place near was is now known as Panchur.

In the modern history of Johore, the Muar River becomes an important witness to the downfall of the Malay government of Malacca to the Portuguese in 1511. It was in this river that Sultan Mahmud Shah fled from the Portuguese attack. He and his men built a fort at Bentayan, however the Portuguese managed to track him. Finally, Sultan Mahmud Shah and his men fled to Kota Biawak, of which the Portuguese was still tracking him down. This led him to Kota Pagoh in Kuala Pagoh.

Historian confirmed that Kota Pagoh is one of the attractive and important forts because it is made of clay. Even though now, some parts of the fort have worn out through natural aging, its character can still be seen.

During the Bugis empire, the famous five brothers, Daeng Marewah, Daeng Parani, Daeng Celak, Daeng Manambun and Daeng Kenasi, also have relation with Johore's history. They were said to have come to Muar and stayed at Liang Batu in Lenga.

History also shows, Muar have relation with Malacca since the ruling time of Sultan Alaudin Riayat Shah 1. His death in Pagoh becomes a mystery and a legend. Some said he died while relaxing and some said he died after accidentally stabbed with a pin (???).

According to legend, Sultan Alaudin was white blooded and have relation with the legend of Mahsuri in Langkawi Island. Nobody can confirm how true that is and historian cannot analyse this story with accuracy.

Some historical finding at the Muar beach facing the Straits of Malacca, that is between Tanjung Emas to Parit Jawa is Makam Panglima Lidah Hitam (Grave of the Black Tongue General) in Parit Sakai. This area was also known as Padang and was opened by the immigrants from islands of Sumatera and Bugis. Malay history have described this as highly populated and they used the Straits of Malacca as a main route between Muar and Malacca.

After the fall of old Johore government, Sultan Abu Bakar, popularly known as the Father of Modern Johore, turned the Muar River into a significant transportation system and economic resource to the state.

A lot of interesting stories and events, behind the history of Muar happens during the growth of the city now, and a lot of historical facts are being preserved, some road are named after a historical fact. These histories are remembered and referred to by the new generation.

-the end-