Time taken : ~10mins
Republished with permission from World Scientific Education (WSE)
How is Badang, Singapore's legendary strongman, connected to the Singapore Stone, a sandstone that is believed to be the oldest record of writing found in Singapore? Read the story to find out more.
The characters from Badang the Strong are going to introduce themselves. Let’s find out more about them!
I am a warrior in the royal court of King of Singapura, Sri Rana Wikrama. The King holds me in high regard as I have brought fame and wealth to Singapura. I am big and strong. I can uproot trees with one hand! But I was not always like this. Once, I was the weakest among all the coolie workers. What is the secret to my transformation, you ask? Read this story to find out!
I am a water demon who lives in the water. I feed on fishes and other living things. People cannot see me as I usually glide through the waters in search of food. But when they do, they run away because of my hideous appearance. Little do they know that I have magical powers.
I am the strongest warrior in India. The King of India is proud of me as I am always able to defeat our enemies. No challenge is too big for me. I love my country and will do anything to defend its honour.
Somewhere in Salwang (a place believed to be modern-day Aceh in Sumatra, Indonesia), a coolie named Badang was working hard to clear the forest to make way for a plantation.
Badang, who was of small build, was perspiring profusely under the hot sun.
“My master will be very angry if I don’t clear this forest. I wish I were strong like the others…”
Badang was the weakest worker among the coolies. He had to work doubly hard on his master’s plantation.
To earn extra income, Badang sold fishes which he caught in his fish traps set along a stream. Of late, he noticed that his traps were strewn with scales and bones. No fishes meant that Badang had no extra money. Angry, he was determined to catch the thief.
One day, Badang woke up before dawn. He hid behind the bushes near the stream. To his horror, he saw a hantu air or water demon opening his fish traps. The water demon was tall, hairy (its hairs were like rattan hanging down to its feet) and extremely ugly. The demon’s sharp fangs ripped the fishes and it gorged on them vehemently.
Badang sprung on the demon. Mustering all the energy he had in his small body, he tied the demon’s hair with his fishing net. Badang then tightened the rope, causing the demon to choke.
“Please... release me… I can give you whatever you want…” pleaded the demon.
Still holding the rope tightly, Badang asked the demon to grant him the power of strength—Badang wanted to be the strongest man alive. The demon then vomited a mush of nauseating slosh.
It instructed Badang to eat his vomit, after which Badang would have unparalleled strength. Badang hesitated but eventually agreed. He felt a certain energy flowing into his veins as he swallowed the last morsel of vomit slosh.
“Let’s see how strong I am!” thought Badang.
With the demon in tow, Badang went to the nearest tree and uprooted it with one arm. Badang was no longer weak. His body had grown as big as his strength. Satisfied that the demon had kept its promise, Badang let it go.
With Badang’s newfound strength, he was able to clear the jungle very quickly. His master was impressed and granted him his freedom. Badang decided to seek out new fortunes. He had heard of Singapura and made his way to the prosperous kingdom.
News of a newcomer with incredible strength reached the King of Singapura, Sri Rana Wikrama. The King appointed Badang as a warrior in his court.
On many occasions, Badang proved his worth as the King’s warrior. Once, he single-handedly pushed a large boat into the water; the same boat that four to five hundred men had failed to move, even though they had been pushing their hardest. Badang’s fame spread like wildfire across the Indian Ocean.
The King of India caught wind of this strongman from Singapura. He could not believe there was a man more powerful than his own pride and joy, Nadi Bijaya Pikrama. He commanded Nadi Bijaya Pikrama to challenge Badang.
“Sail to Singapura with seven ships of precious goods. Challenge Badang to a wrestling match. If you lose, give the King of Singapura our seven ships. If you win, demand from them seven ships filled with the same precious cargo.”
Nadi Bijaya Pikrama sailed to Singapura and sought an audience with the King. The King accepted the challenge and set a date for the wrestling match. He was confident that Badang would win. Thousands of people came to watch the two strongmen wrestle.
Badang felt pressured. He had to win or give up seven of the King’s ships. Worse, Badang would face the humiliation of defeat. On the other hand, Nadi Bijaya Pikrama was very confident of his victory.
“Badang is no match for me!” he thought and smiled smugly at Badang.
Alas, Nadi Bijaya Pikrama lost the wrestling match, much to the delight of the people of Singapura. To hide his humiliation, the Indian strongman quickly proposed that they show their might by lifting the most massive boulder they could find.
He told Badang that the ultimate winner would be the one who could lift and carry the boulder. That last test would be the final proof of strength.
The Indian strongman tried lifting the boulder. Unfortunately, he could only lift the boulder past his knees. The tremendous weight of the boulder was too much for him to bear. Nadi Bijaya Pikrama dropped the boulder to the ground.
“It’s my turn,” Badang said to himself with great confidence.
He carried the boulder past his knees and slowly lifted it to his shoulder. With all his might, Badang flung the boulder across the estuary of a river (now known as the Singapore River).
“You did it!”
Shouts of victory could be heard across the island. Nadi Bijaya Pikrama hung his head low and admitted defeat. He left Singapura in disgrace. The King of Singapura was overjoyed as he was now in possession of seven ships laden with treasures. Singapura’s honour had been reinstated, all thanks to Badang the Strong.
The boulder which Badang threw was later called the ‘Singapore Stone’. Fragments of the stone are on display at the National Museum of Singapore.
Once upon a time: A small boy saved the island of Singapura from a terrifying garfish attack. A clever Melakan Prime Minister outwitted a Chinese Emperor. A poor coolie was challenged by a water demon to do the unthinkable. These are all stories of valour, wit and intrigue from the literary Malay Annals. Handed down and cherished from generation to generation. Now made accessible to modern readers.
Taking classic stories from Asia and the West, Pop! Lit for Kids reimagines them into easy-to-read stories that provide the perfect introduction to classic tales. The most well-loved stories from around the world have been adapted into a form that will excite and entertain children everywhere. Readers can embark on new adventures with famous beloved storybook characters. In addition, the books come to life with augmented reality features, giving readers an enhanced experience that they'll never forget!
Hidayah Amin is the author of children’s books and non-fiction books pertaining to Malay culture and literature. She has written children’s books such as My Name is Mikhail. I have Cerebral Palsy., Mina Meets Cambridge and many more. Her book, The Mango Tree, won the 'Hedwig Anuar Children's Book Award' and was the Grand Prize winner of the 'Samsung KidsTime Author’s Award' in 2015
Eliz Ong is an freelance illustrator cum designer based in ever sunny Singapore. She has worked with various publishers and design companies both local and overseas. Doing children’s book illustrations is her first love, with her second love being lino printing!