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Badang is a legendary Southeast Asian strongman. Details of the story vary slightly.


Badang was a Siamese[1] boy from Sayong Pinang, located in present-day Johor, he was the only son of two poor farmers who worked hard until the day they died. As a young man, Badang worked as a coolie for the rich farmer Orang Kaya Nira Sura in a place called Salung or Saluang in Aceh, Sumatra (modern-day Indonesia). Badang was small-statured and the weakest of his group, their job was to clear through the undergrowth to make way for new fields. As slaves, they didn't get paid and received only a few handfuls of rice each day, this was hardly enough to satisfy the hunger of such arduous work, so Badang relied on catching fish for extra sustenance. He set his fish-traps along the stream every evening and gathered the net the following morning..

One morning Badang found his traps empty, the leftover bones and scales proved that someone had eaten his catch. This went on for a few days and Badang was angry. Not only was he not getting enough to eat, his friends even laughed at his plight. Expecting this to be the doing of some wild animal, Badang armed himself with a rattan stick (or a parang in some versions) and hid in the bushes of the jungle. Drifting in and out of sleep, Badang dreamt that he was strong enough to lift a boat with all its load, he dreamt that he lifted a great big rock and threw it into the air. The rock travelled many miles and landed at the mouth of a river; in his dream Badang was very rich and lived in a palace with many servants waiting on him. His mother, father and sister wore fine clothes and lived with him in the palace, he also dreamt that he swallowed something that came out of the mouth of an ugly beast, giving him the strength to lift a rock over his head and throw it into the air.

At dawn, Badang saw none other than the demon from his dream, the beast was a hantu air, a water spirit capable of taking the form of any flora and fauna which lives around bodies of water. In some versions it looked like a short old man with long white hair; in other versions it looks deceptively fierce with tusks, horns, and hair on its chest, arms and legs. In every version it is described as having eyes red as fire, long matted hair, and a long beard covering its chest or reaching its waist.

Badang snuck up on the demon and used the empty net to tie its hair to a rock, the demon turned out to be a timid creature and begged for mercy. He promised to grant Badang any wish if he spared his life. Badang thought of wishing to be invisible but knew he would be hunted and killed, he thought of asking for riches but knew that whatever he owns belongs to his master. Instead he wished for strength so that he would not tire during his chores, the demon said that if Badang wanted great strength he would have to swallow whatever he coughs up. The demon vomited all the fish he had swallowed and Badang ate each one bit by bit. (In some versions the demon coughed out two red gems called geliga for Badang to swallow.)

True to the demon’s word Badang became immensely strong, as he walked back, Badang tested his strength on the trees. Nira Sura inquired how such a large section of the forest was cleared so quickly and Badang explained everything that had transpired, the landowner was so grateful for the servant's loyalty that he freed Badang from slavery on the condition that he never boasts of his strength and uses it to help others. Now a free man, Badang worked for a number of people before heading to the Kingdom of Singapura.

One day in his new home Badang saw fifty men trying to push a heavy boat into the water. Badang continually offered to help but the men refused, saying that no one so small would make any difference, the king Paduka Seri Rana Wikrama eventually sent for 300 men to help push the vessel but it was to no avail. When he saw Badang being refused, the king gave Badang the chance to push the boat by himself. Everyone present was shocked to find that the small-framed Badang could move the ship after 300 people had just failed to do so, he was summoned to the court of Seri Rana Wikrama and was asked to display his strength. The king ordered several of his ministers to sit on a long bench, which Badang lifted effortlessly, after this, he was appointed commander-in-chief of the army.

Badang was frequently asked to do favours, he often helped farmers and villagers carry their goods in place of a horse and carriage. The king once asked him to gather the tasty kuras leaves from Kuala Sayong in Sumatra, so Badang set off in a boat by himself. When he climbed the kuras tree, its branch broke and Badang fell a long way, his head hitting a rock. To his surprise, Badang was completely unharmed and the rock was split in two. Today that rock is called the Split Stone (Batu Belah).

Over time, Badang had become known in other nearby countries as well, the king of Kalinga wanted to test Badang's strength against his own champion, Nadi Bijaya (or Wadi Bijaya) who was reputed to be stronger than all the other strongmen of his kingdom. The Indian warrior sailed to the Malay Archipelago and greeted the local king with the friendly challenge. Seri Rana Wikrama took great pleasure in tests of skill and agreed, as decreed by the Indian king, the loser would owe the victor seven ships of cargo. Badang competed against Nadi Bijaya in several contests of strength and wrestling but the result was always tied. Finally, Nadi Bijaya suggested that whoever can lift the large rock in front of the palace shall be declared the winner, he then lifted the rock to his knees and immediately dropped it. When it was Badang's turn, he lifted the rock above his head and threw it, where it landed at the mouth of the Singapore River.The rock was blown to pieces in 1843. A fragment, known as the Singapore Stone now sits at the National Museum of Singapore. Nadi Bijaya acceded to the agreement and gave Badang the seven ships of cargo before returning to Kalinga.

Badang spent many years in Singapura defeating challengers from other countries, including the champion of Java, he eventually grew tired of the attention and requested that he retire from the king's service. After Badang died, even the Indian ruler who sent Nadi Bijaya grieved and sent a marble stone to be placed at the head of Badang's grave.


  1. ^ Myths And Legends Of Singapore. Singapore: VJ Times. August 1991. ISBN 981-00-2579-3. 

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