The Dato’ Maharaja Lela

Orang Kaya Kaya Maharaja Lela Tenjana Putra otherwise known to many as the Dato’ Maharaja Lela was the most senior chief among the Orang Besar Lapan. His territories comprised Pasir Salak, Sungai Dedap and Sungai Kerang. Traditionally, his role was to execute punishments as per the Sultan’s instructions or mandates. The Dato’ Maharaja Lela was assisted by his deputies the Maharaja Anakanda (successor to the post) and the Maharaja Seri Rama.

An artist's impression of Dato' Pandak Lam, the last Dato' Maharaja Lela Tenjana Putra, who was executed by the British in 1877. (Source: Wikipedia)

Wilkinson describes in his Notes on Perak: “This chief ruled the district about Pasir Salak.  He had the right to stand prominently forward with a naked sword at all court ceremonies and to behead instantly any unfortunate person who behaved improperly or showed contempt for the dignity of the ruler.  He was above the law.  His peculiar privilege made a great impression on the Malay mind – in Perak, he was styled ‘Maharaja Lela panchong tak bertanya‘ (the Maharaja Lela who beheads without asking leave). At that time in the whole of Malaya, the expression “bermaharaja lela“, ie to act like the Maharaja Lela, is used to describe a chartered libertine.

“The wife of a Maharaja Lela was a To’ Puan. The Maharaja Lela drew revenue from his own feudal district of Pasir Salak and from certain customs dues drawn from Sungai Dedap.”

The position of Maharaja Lela is now ceased and is never to be filled again as the last holder of office, Dato’ Pandak Lam bin Maharaja Lela Maulud, was executed in Taiping in 1877 for complicity in the assassination of the British Resident J.W.W. Birch two years earlier. The title of his deputy, the Maharaja Anakanda, was also made defunct. However, the post of Maharaja Seri Rama had been transferred as the assistant of Orang Kaya-Kaya Setia Bijaya Diraja (replacement for Dato’ Sagor) to take charge of Kampung Gajah.

Among the other holders of the title of Dato’ Maharaja Lela were Tuk Pati, Tuk Pekah, Tuk Teraweh, Nakhoda Zainal bin Maharaja Lela Jalil Pekak and Tuk Maulud. With the death of Dato’ Pandak Lam, the Perak state government had created a new post called Orang Kaya-Kaya Mahakurnia Indera Diraja and Tuan Alang Ahmad bin Mohammad Yunus (at that time the Orang Kaya-Kaya Imam Paduka Tuan which was also one of the Orang Besar Lapan) was appointed as the first holder. In 1929, the post of Orang Kaya-Kaya Mahakurnia Indera Diraja was held by Raja Dato’ Seri Shahriman bin Raja Abdul Hamid with his brother, Raja Razman (Ku Nick), deputising as Toh Muda.

1. Wilkinson RJ. History Part II (Notes on Perak), being part of ‘Papers on Malay Subjects’. J Russell for FMS Government Press; 1909.
2. Fawzi Basri. Cempaka Sari: Sejarah Kesultanan Negeri Perak.


One thought on “The Dato’ Maharaja Lela

  1. Pingback: Dato’ Maharaja Lela Pandak Lam « SembangKuala BLOG

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