Puteri Gunung Ledang: The fairy princess and the spiritual healer
by C S Wan
|Puteri Gunung Ledang: The Movie|
A long time ago, as a teenager, I knew of another ‘Puteri Gunung Ledang'. She was neither young nor garbed in resplendent attire. She was a simple elderly lady dressed in a sarong and a baju panjang( a long tunic that reached to the ankles). She was my grand aunt who lived in Bukit Rambai, Melaka. My grand aunt or chimpoh as she was known to us was a spiritual healer who had the ability to invoke the spirit of Puteri Gunung Ledang to assist her with her healing and was fondly addressed as ‘Datuk Puteri Gunung Ledang’. She was not only renown for her spiritual healing but much sought by the women folks for her advice on marriage and domestic problems.
|Our kampung house|
The evening sun had just dipped behind the clump of rubber trees in front of our house when she arrived at our doorsteps. Following prior instructions from grand aunt, the moment she stepped into the house mother hurriedly latched the door behind them. Mother was about to close one of the front windows when a murky shape in the shadowed woods caught her attention. Was the shifting shadows of the setting sun playing tricks with her eyes? She paused to watch and finally convinced with what she had seen she quickly closed the window.
|A lighted candle|
The petal-shaped wax began to swirl slowly round the bowl and finally settled to form some kind of patterns. Lips quivering in prayer, she paused to study the wax formation and in a soft and calm voice began to interpret what she had seen. I remember that night she told mother the exact number of people working in father’s office, and pointed out the seating arrangement in the office and the exact location of father‘s table.
We were all clearly intrigue, as she had never been to father’s working place.
Finally, after all her clients had consulted her and satisfied that there were no further questions she prepared to take her leave. She lowered herself onto the mat and soon drifted into a deep sleep.
A dish of water and a hard-boiled egg meanwhile were placed at the entrance of the front door. Grand aunt first ate the egg and then going down on her hands and knees, and raising one of her hand she began to wipe her face in imitation of a cat grooming itself. Then using only the tip of her tongue she began to lap the water in the dish.
The water, we were told, was for Puteri Gunung Ledang’s pet cat which accompanied her wherever she went while the egg was for her rimau kramat (spirit tiger) which ferried her from her abode on top of Gunung Ledang to her desired destination.
We were not sure if she rode her spirit tiger to our house that evening, but mother was certain a tiger accompanied her.
“You remember that evening when I was about to close the window,” she told us the next day.
|Rimau Kramat( spirit tiger)|
Mother realised why grand aunt had advised her to close the door immediately after she had stepped into the house. Pandemonium would have broken loose if the tiger had strayed into the house and settled next to us. That night after ensuring that no tiger was lurking in the vicinity, mother slowly opened the door. She watched as the neighbours dispersed contentedly into the darkness, oblivious of what she had seen that night. While the spirit tiger transported the Princess swiftly back to Gunung Ledang, grand aunt and her granddaughter had to make the long and slow journey back home aboard a rickety bus.
Last Chinese New Year, my niece made arrangement to meet up with my cousin as I wanted to seek certain clarifications about her grandma who had since passed away.
“ Can you still remember the verses of the syair?” I asked her.
“I can only remember some of the verses,” she replied, “and even if I know the whole syair, I don’t want to recite it,” she continued.
“You know I’m a Christian now and I don’t want to go into a trance,” she said with a faint chuckle.
I then asked her why she always accompanied her grandma on her visits.
“Well, once my grandma went to visit her client, unaccompanied.”
“We waited for her the whole night, but she did not return.”
“The next day we went to her client’s house and we found her sleeping soundly. The family did not know that someone had to wake her up. Since that incident I had to accompany her on her visits.”
“Did anyone learn the arts from her?” I inquired.
“Someone was keen to learn from her, but was unsuccessful and was subsequently informed that only a person who was descended from the same lineage could inherit her spiritual power.”
That afternoon as my cousin and her family bade us farewell, she left us with some unanswered questions.
‘Who was grand aunt ancestral lineage?’
‘Where did they come from?’
We knew both our grandfathers came from Yongchun, China and had married the local women or nyonyas, but somehow not much is known about their wives ancestral lineage. I once asked mother about my own grandma’s root and she said grandma told her she only know her ancestors had lived in Melaka for a very long time. Perhaps, like Puteri Gunung Ledang whose origin is shrouded in mystery, the origin of the nyonyas too will remain a mystery and a subject of conjecture.