Credit by The statue display along the Singapore River promenade during the Singapore Bicentennial celebrations | Flickr
The Legend of Sang Nila Utama, The Founder of Singapore
FUN FACTS Singapore

The Legend of Sang Nila Utama, The Founder of Singapore

Once upon a time, there was a prince named Sang Nila Utama. He was born in Palembang, Sumatra, Indonesia, to the Srivijayan Empire. He saw a deer and chased it up a hill one nice day while hunting on Bintan Island. The stag was a swift and difficult to capture prey animal. But the hunter was hard on his tail and had no intention of letting the deer escape his razor-sharp and single-pointed sight.

The deer strangely vanished when Sang Nila Utama finally reached the top of the hill.

"Where did it go?" he enquired to no one in particular.

Instead, Sang Nila Utama was met by a massive rock. He resolved to climb it since he was an explorer at heart. When he reached the top, he noticed an island in the distance with a pristine sandy beach.

"What is that island?" he inquired of his chief minister.

"Temasek Island," the chief minister said.

Sang Nila Utama soon resolved to travel to this mystical island of Temasek, with its beautiful beaches hidden in white sheets of fluffy clouds from afar.

But no voyage is without danger.

A violent storm occurred when he and his men were at sea, and the Ocean threatened to devour both the ship and her crew as if they were its food. The ship began to sway in the massive waves and began to absorb water. To keep it from sinking, the crew tossed everything heavy on board into the sea—but it didn't work. Those who go into the raging seas of the Great Lady of the Sea do so at their peril.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Good News From Southeast Asia (

Sang Nila Utama, on the advise of the ship's captain, cast his crown overboard as a gift to placate and maybe quiet the Sea. The Sea became placated by this magnificent gift... and ensured the crew's safe arrival to Temasek.

Sang Nila Utama set out to hunt wild animals near the river on what is now known as the Padang after arriving on Temasek's beach. He came upon a bizarre creature with a crimson body, a black skull, and a white breast. The creature's beauty captivated him right away. But before he could completely view the animal, it vanished into the woods.

"What kind of beast was that?" Sang Nila Utama enquired with his chief minister.

"A lion," he firmly said.

Sang Nila Utama, believing this to be an auspicious omen, chose to create his new city in Temasek. Because the animal he saw was thought to be a lion, he nicknamed the island 'Singapura,' which means 'The Lion City' in Sanskrit.

He died in 1347 after governing Singapore for 48 years. Sang Nila Utama was laid to rest atop Bukit Larangan, presently known as Fort Canning. The actual site of his tomb is as enigmatic as the narrative of Singapore's founding—the mysterious small island that is now endearingly referred to by its people as "the little red dot."


What do you think?

Give a comment