Timothy Tye
Keramat Iskandar Syah, Fort Canning

Keramat Iskandar Syah, SingaporeKeramat Iskandar Syah, Singapore (9 July, 2006)

Keramat Iskandar Syah (GPS: 1.29436, 103.84728), or the Shrine of Iskandar Shah, is believed by some locals in Singapore to be the burial site of Raja Iskandar Shah, the last of five kings to rule Singapore in the 14th century. Some scholars and historians have matched him as Parameswara, the founder of the Sultanate of Malacca, although more research is being presently under study.

Since 1822, this site has been regarded as the keramat and makam or tomb of Raja Iskandar Syah. According to Malay traditions, the first Malay king and his chief minister were buried on Fort Canning Hill. According to the interpretation board, Iskandar Syah is the last of five kings to rule Singapore in the 14th century. When Singapore was attacked, Iskandar Syah is said to have escape and moved north, where he subsequently established Malacca. Chinese chronicles recorded the demise of Iskandar Syah in 1420, but did not state the location of his burial place.

When the British cleared the land at Fort Canning Hill, they discovered ruins on this site. Archaeologists have also discovered pottery and other artifacts dating to the 14th century in the vicinity.

Keramat Iskandar Syah, SingaporeKeramat Iskandar Syah, Singapore (9 July, 2006)

Keramat Iskandar Syah, SingaporeKeramat Iskandar Syah, Singapore (9 July, 2006)

Keramat Iskandar Syah, SingaporeKeramat Iskandar Syah, Singapore (9 July, 2006)

Malay chronicles state that the first King of Malays, Sri Tri Buana and his Chief Minister, Demang Lebar Daun were buried at Bukit Larangan, now known as Fort Canning. The grave called Keramat Iskandar Syah has been known as early as by 1822, a few years after the modern establishment of Singapore, and had been venerated by Muslims, Chinese and Hindus. Although the original structure has since disappeared, recent archaeological excavations unveiled 14th century artefacts a few metres north and east of it.

Malay Annals
According to Malay Annals, Sri Sultan (Raja) Mohammad Iskandar Shah, who was also known as Parameswara before his conversion to Islam, was the last of five kings from Majapahit royal blood. Iskandar Shah had moved to the Malay Peninsula and ruled over Malacca and Singapore in the 14th century. He is sometimes identified with Parameswara, the descendent of Sang Nila Utama. Sang Nila Utama, also known as Sri Tri Buana, is credited to have arrived at Temasek, as Singapore was called at that time. He saw a lion-like beast on the island, and renamed the island Singapura.

Iskandar Shah is said to have fled Singapore for Muar and then Malacca. There is no conclusive evidence whether his remains are buried in the Keramat Iskandar Syah. The grave is still being maintained by a Muslim family and their descendants who keep the burning of incense there.

Portuguese Records

Portuguese records, based on accounts of Alfonso d'Alburquerque, the Portuguese governor of Malacca, stated that the founder of Malacca was Parameswara, a runaway Javanese prince who fled Palembang for Temasek where he murdered and usurped the island's throne. However, he was forced to flee again again, when Thai forces invaded the island to avenge the murder of the ruler, their vassal.

Chinese records

Another account on Iskandar Shah came from Chinese sources. Ming dynasty tablets indicate that on 3 October 1405, Pai-li-mi-su-la, interpreted as Parameswara, paid homage to the Chinese Emperor. However, after five further visits over a span of two years, the Ming court was informed of his death on 5 October 1414 by his son, Mu-kan-sa-yu-ti-er-sha, interpreted as Megat Iskandar Shah.

Several Malay rulers called themselves Iskandar, claiming to have descended from Iskandar Zulkarnain, or Alexander the Great.However, only one, Iskandar Shah, was mentioned in the Malay Annals, as being the founder of Malacca. This ruler, however, is believed to have died and was buried in Malacca, not in Singapore. In all likelihood, it was Sri Tri Buana who was buried at Bukit Larangan, and not Iskandar Shah, blurring the claim that the grave is that of the latter's.

Keramat Iskandar Syah, SingaporeKeramat Iskandar Syah, Singapore (9 July, 2006)

Keramat Iskandar Syah is on the map of Fort Canning

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