Sang Nila Utama, who?

If you are a local, Sang Nila Utama would sound very familiar. You see, back in School, I was told that Sang Nila Utama was indeed the first person to discover Singapura (or Singapore).

There are many versions of Sang Nila Utama’s story. The one that I was told in School was that Sang Nila Utama, a prince from Srivijaya ruling house, saw this island, Temasek. He and his men stopped their boat and alighted wanting to know about this piece of land. While on exploration, they saw an unfamiliar animal. The then Prime minister explained that it was indeed a lion. Considering that Sang Nila Utama was within the Indo-Malay Archipelago back in the late 13th Century – Singa was a directly translate of Lion.

This is so much that I learnt back in School. I am sure there is more to it, but I was too busy taking naps in between classes. (I regret it!)

Interestingly, I just had a conversation with my grandmother. Now, bear in mind, that my grandma is about 83 years old this year. So, she started her story by saying, “Dulu, nenek pergi sekolah dorang bagi baca Sejarah Singapura”. Loosely translated, “Back in the days, I went to school and they read us the history of Singapura”.

It was about 10 pm on a Tuesday night; I just got back from a day of travelling and was just having tea at the dining table. She then went on to tell the version of Sang Nila Utama – she grew up with.

According to her books back during her younger days, Sang Nila Utama went hunting with his crew. He then spotted the famous island, Temasek. It was said that people travelling along the island had already seen the fierce creature and avoid the island as much as possible.

So when travelling along the island, Sang Nila Utama spotted the fierce creature. He and his crew were all armed ready for an attack. It was said that they were only metres away.


PHOTO: Little Travel Bug- Singapore

However, after a short staring game, the creature just went away. It was then that Sang Nila Utama named the creature, “Singapura”. “Singa” as we known lion and “Pura” means pretend in Malay. Which implies that the Lion was just trying to play pretend.

She went on to say that this story was taught in Malay schools along with the stories of Hang Jebat and other historic Malay figures. She said that Sang Nila Utama was only given that name after he named “Singapura” and that his actual name was Parameswara.

This is only a Malay version of the story. On other versions, it was said that the word, “Singapura” meant “City of Sea Lions” in Sanskrit. While some believe that Sang Nila Utama is just a myth.

Tell us what you think of these stories and share with us your version of Sang Nila Utama!  Have you heard this version of the story?