The agricultural heartland of Malaysia, Kedah, is a beautiful state blessed with vibrant green plains, rolling hills, and the alluring beach islands of Langkawi.
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Kedah, known as the rice bowl of Malaysia, is the agricultural heartland of the country. The state has one of the oldest recorded histories, and the remnants of an ancient settlement in the Bujang Valley dating back to around 4 AD are one of Kedah's more intriguing attractions. Traditionally linked to agriculture, Kedah conjures up scenes of green paddy fields as far as the eye can see. Its prominence in agriculture is not just a matter of providence, but also of human ingenuity. One of the most ambitious agricultural projects ever undertaken by Malay rulers was to build a 31 kilometre irrigation canal that stretched from Mount Jerai to the state capital, Alor Setar. This canal, known as Terusan Wan Mat Saman, was reputed to be wide enough to allow boats to travel along it.
The state's most famous attraction would definitely be the Langkawi islands, a UNESCO designated geopark. A collection of 99 islands, this archipelago is located off the coast of Kedah and is a major tourist destination. A tropical beach paradise, the Langkawi islands are a place of local myths and legends. The major islands of Langkawi are breathtaking to behold, especially Dayang Bunting Island, with high mountains encompassing a beautiful fresh water lake.
Several international events are hosted yearly at Langkawi, including the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition, which features an extensive collection of aircraft and ships from manufacturers worldwide, and the Tour de Langkawi, a prestigious bicycling event around Malaysia.
If there is one fact about Kedah which most historians would agree upon, it would be that it is the oldest state in Malaysia. The state’s rich history, dating back to the 4th century AD is often mentioned in the country’s history books. Till this day, the remains of an ancient Hindu-Buddhist kingdom that thrived the Bujang valley can still be seen.
There are two differing accounts regarding the origins of the Kedah Sultanate. One version tells that the first king, Merong Mahawangsa, founded Kedah’s first Sultanate in the 7th century. The other states that the Sultanate originated from Maharaja Derba Raja, who became the king in the year 1136. One common factor which exists in both versions is that both kings accepted Islam and took on the name Sultan Muzaffar Shah.
When the state came under attacks from the Portuguese and the Achenese in the 17th century, the Kedah Sultan ceded Penang Island to a British adventurer, Captain Francis Light in hopes of gaining British protection and military support. Sadly, this plan did not work out and in 1821, Siam conquered Kedah. The Siamese split the state into several regions, including Perlis, under the administration of different governors. The Siamese would rule for another 21 years before returning the state to the Kedah royal dynasty, with the exception of Perlis, which had its own soverign ruler by then. Kedah would remain under the dominion of Siam until the early 20th century when the British intervened.
The Bangkok Treaty signed between the Siamese and British saw all four northern Malay states, including Kedah, under the control of the British. As no Malay leaders from Kedah were privvy to the agreement, efforts to inculcate British ways of administration were met with great resistance by the local populace, led by Malay noblemen and chieftains. While some advocated rebellion and uprising, others like Tunku Mahmud strove to preserve the state's traditions and customs, which has survived to this day thanks to his efforts.