Sarawak: Why Sarawak's Malay Avoid Eating Patin Fish

In the heart of Sarawak, there is a fascinating urban legend among the Malay community. Years ago, a kind-hearted fisherman named Awang Gading found a baby girl crying by the river. People believed she was descended from the legendary fish king of that river. The fisherman, touched by compassion, took the baby, named her Dayang Kumunah, and raised her as his own.

Dayang Kumunah grew up to be a beautiful and wise young woman, captivating everyone who saw her. One day, a handsome young man named Awang Usop saw her and fell deeply in love. He wanted to marry her, but she set a strange condition: he must never make her laugh. Bewildered yet undeterred, Awang Usop accepted and agreed, driven by his love for her.

They had a grand wedding, and their life was filled with joy. However, their happiness was short-lived. Awang Gading, Dayang Kumunah's adoptive father, passed away, leaving her heartbroken. But the birth of their five children brought joy back into their lives. Once again, love and happiness radiated within the walls of their home, intertwining their destinies.

One evening, as their youngest child took his first steps, laughter filled the air. Everyone laughed except for Dayang Kumunah. Driven by an insatiable desire to witness her laughter, Awang Usop pleaded with his beloved wife to join in the joy. At Awang Usop's insistence, she reluctantly laughed, and to everyone's surprise, fish-like gills appeared in her mouth. Realizing the consequence of breaking her condition, Dayang Kumunah ran to the river and transformed into a fish, disappearing beneath the water.

Awang Usop was devastated by his mistake, knowing he had broken their agreement. Before leaving, Dayang Kumunah asked him to take care of their children and forbid their descendants from eating patin fish, as it would be like consuming their kin. Awang Usop and their children honoured her wishes, passing down the prohibition through generations.

Even today, some Sarawakian Malays avoid eating patin fish to respect the legend of Dayang Kumunah. The truth of the curse is unknown, but the story continues to captivate people, reminding them of the power of love, sacrifice, and the deep connection to their ancestral heritage.

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