This is our translation of a legend from the Jambi Province.


Kota Jayo is a village located in the Tanah Tumbuh Kecamatan (county) of the Murara Bungo Kabupaten (region) of the Jambi Province.  This is one legend from that village, and though it’s quite interesting, its origin is uncertain, because the people in that village have never heard of it.

You can read the 53 (or more) Jambi legends that we’ve translated by clicking this link.


The Legend of Kotajayo

The small Village of Kotajayo, located in the Jambi Province of Indonesia was in the ancient past named Malaka Kecil. This city took its name from the Kingdom of Malaka, which at that period of time was the most powerful in the region. Malaka Kecil was at this same period of time governed by a person named Sutayuda. Merchants and leaders in Malaka Kecil, because they admired the Malaka Kingdom, named their city after that great kingdom.

It was clearly evident that the harmonious relationship between Malaka Kecil and the Malaka Kingdom, and all the trading that was going on between the two, was a threat to the authority and dominance the Dutch was exerting over the region now known as the Jambi Province. To confront this threat, the Dutch built a fort in the city of Muara Bungo, a short distance to the north of Malaka Kecil. The Dutch authorities also took the additional step of forbidding trade with the Malaka Kingdom. Even so, Sutayuda, Malaka Kecil’s governor, ignored the Dutch’s restriction and continued their trading as before. The citizens also maintained their relationship with the Malaka Kingdom because they felt a kinship, because they were both of the same race (melayu), had the same culture, and used the same language. They didn’t see any harm in maintaining this relationship.

Dutch representatives pressuring the Koto Rayo leaders to submit to their demands.

Dutch representatives pressuring the Koto Rayo leaders to submit to their demands.

With the trade between the two continuing like before, the Dutch sent a delegation to meet with Sutayuda. Sutayuda welcomed the Dutch representatives with full honors, but when this delegation conveyed the message that the Dutch were exerting their authority over the entire region of Jambi, and stopping all trade with the Malaka Kingdom, Sutayuda became extremely angry.

Inflamed with passion, Sutayuda replied to the delegation, “Pass this on to your leaders, Malaka Kecil isn’t below the authority of anybody. We are free to trade and do business with anyone we please. As we have in the past, we will continue on into the future. We will exercise our full sovereignty.

The faces of those that were in the meeting became exceedingly tense. Those standing with Sutayuda were ready to draw their knives (keris) and kill the Dutch delegation, but Sutayuda restrained them. Without saying a single word, the Dutch quickly made a retreat to their boats.

After the Dutch delegates took several steps away from the leaders of Malaka Kecil, on their way back to their boats, Sutayuda, burning with rage exclaimed before his followers, “The Dutch are a bunch of #@/*%!  Do they really think they can so easily separate us from others of our same race? You all need to quickly make preparations, because sometime in the future the Dutch will certainly return and attack us.”

Seeing the attitude of Sutayuda, the Dutch immediately assembled their forces and launched an attack against Malaka Kecil. The Dutch attacked by sending a force of solders they called the Green Army.

The Dutch attack was repelled by Malaka Kecil. It is said that Sutayuda, the generals, and the citizens used a magical art that caused the Dutch soldiers to experience severe stomach pains. This sickness caused them all to retreat and the attack was abated.

For a period of time after this Malaka Kecil lived in safety and there wasn’t any more trouble with the Dutch. Nevertheless, this period of security didn’t endure forever, because the Dutch enticed the Javanese King to attack Malaka Kecil.

At first a delegation from the Javanese King came and conveyed the order for Malaka Kecil to stop all trade with the Kingdom of Malaka. Sutayuda firmly and bitterly rejected this order, knowing that the Dutch was behind this scheme.

When the Javanese King heard how Sutayuda responded, he immediately became infuriated and planned a major attack. Sutayuda then gathered his generals, along with all his governing advisors, and in front of them all he laid out his plans.

“Generals of Malaka Kecil, advisors, and leading elders,” said Sutayuda with full authority, “It appears as though the Javanese King will attack us in the very near future. To oppose their attack, I have an idea that we must all embrace and work together on. We must build a defensive fortress. This fort must have several trenches or moats. We will make only one entrance to this fort, and before the door we must create a swamp that will be filled with deep mud. Do you all agree? Or is there a different proposal?”

With one voice the entire group agreed with Sutayuda. The trenches were dug and water was flooded into them, along with a large amount of mud. If any would try to enter the swamp that was created they would get stuck in the mud. It wasn’t only people, but any animal that would wander into the newly created swamp would also get stuck in this mud.

Without being forced to build the swampy trenches, the entire citizenry worked sincerely and diligently to complete the task. Finally, in just a short period of time, the trenches were all finished.

Not long after that, the Javanese army arrived, and seeing the swampy trenches, they knew they couldn’t progress with their attack on the fortification.

The Javanese army then built a fort of their own, opposite the fort of Malaka Kecil. Day and night the Javanese army was attacked by the Malaka Kecil troops. As time wore on, the Javanese grew weary of the stalemate, and in addition to the wide swamp they couldn’t cross, there were also other problems. 1) Mosquitoes continually harassed them; 2) They experienced frequent stomach sicknesses; 3) They suffered from hunger. All of these reasons caused the Javanese to retreat.

Hearing of the Javanese retreat, the Malaka Kingdom gradually stopped their trade with Malaka Kecil and there was no longer a relationship between the two kingdoms.

With the change of attitude the Malaka Kingdom had towards Malaka Kecil, Malaka Kecil decided to change their name to Malaka Jaya (The Great Malaka), to always remind them of their greatness as they opposed attacks from two different kingdoms, the Dutch and the Javanese. Finally the name of Malaka Jaya became Kotajayo (the great city), and it carries the same name still to this day.