Soother of sorrows or seducer of morals? The Malay Hikayat Inderaputera – Asian and African studies blog of The British Library

“Probably composed in the late 16th century, Hikayat Inderaputera was one of the most widespread and popular Malay tales, and is known from over thirty manuscripts dating from the late 17th century onwards. The story is found from Sumatra to Cambodia and the Philippines, not only in Malay but also in Acehnese, Bugis, Makasarese, Sasak, Cham, Maranao and Maguindanao versions (Braginsky 2009). At its core is probably a Persian mathnawi based, in turn, on the Hindi poem Madhumalati written around 1550 (Braginsky 2004: 388), but it also drew on Malay Islamic epics such as Hikayat Amir Hamzah and Javanese Panji stories.” Read more.

Opening pages of the Hikayat Inderaputera, with the double decorated frames digitally reunited (as the MS is currently misbound). British Library, MSS Malay B.14, ff. 1v-2r.

Sirat al-mustakim, composed by Nuruddin al-Raniri between 1634 and 1644, a copy from Aceh, 19th century. British Library, Or 15979, ff. 2v-3r.

The manuscript of Hikayat Inderaputera is written in a distinctive neat small hand, with two styles of the letter kaf. In the middle in red is the word al-kisah, with a decoratively knotted final letter, ta marbuta, signifiying the start the episode of Inderaputera’s abduction by the golden peacock: Al-kisah peri mengatakan tatkala Inderaputera diterbangkan merak emas. British Library, MSS Malay B.14, f. 5r (detail).

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