Women Sultanate in Pattani 1584-1699

By SaraHasliza

Pattani was a small trading port on the rise from the mid of 16th century endowed with a good natural and sheltered harbor. Internal political turbulences and fighting over succession among the royal members right after the death of Sultan Mansur Shah in 1572 led to the accession of the first Queen of Pattani, known as Ratu Hijau (The Green Queen), to the throne. All male heirs were already assassinated during political conflict and this pave the way for Ratu Hijau to gain power as she was the first daughter of Sultan Mansur Shah. According to the European traders and travelers who visited the Islamic Kingdom at that time, Ratu Hijau has been assisted by a group of capable ministers, and ruled from 1584 until 1616.

In 1616, the throne had passed to Ratu Hijau’s second sister, known as Ratu Biru (The Blue Queen), who ruled until 1624. After that, the throne ascended to Ratu Ungu (The Violet Queen), who was the third sister and ruled from 1624 until 1635.  Ratu Ungu managed to ascend the throne to her daughter, Ratu Kuning (The Yellow Queen). Ratu Kuning was the last female ruler of Pattani that ruled from 1635 until 1699.

For more than one hundred years, from 1584 until 1699, accordingly, Pattani was ruled by women. During that time, Pattani had reached its greatest prosperity in terms of maritime trading activities, especially with Europe, Japan and neighboring Southeast Asian kingdoms. Trading activities developed significantly, in particular during the rule of the first two queens. During that period, the economic condition of all strata of society, regardless of being rich and poor, improved as well. According to the records, the farmers enjoyed the large benefits from the irrigation projects, which were initiated and supervised by the queens.

As historical accounts reveal, the queens proved themselves to be capable rulers perfectly proving their political skills in controlling the internal and regional political affairs. For instance, Ratu Hijau sent her sister, Ratu Ungu, to be a bride of Sultan Abdul Ghafur Mohaidin, Shah of Pahang. Among these queens, Ratu Ungu was the only queen who was married and later gave birth to Ratu Kuning. This marriage arrangement shows Ratu Hijau’s sound knowledge of regional politics as she estimated the importance of securing regional relationship in order to bring prosperity to her country. Such insightful diplomatic measures of queens had resulted in the establishment of close relations with the Sultanates of Pahang and Johor, as well as with other strong adjacent political sultanates.

During her reign, Ratu Kuning initiated several important developments that eventually led to the return of Pattani to its glorious era of international trade. She expanded the mouth of Pattani River and dredged the river’s tide way in order to increase the number of traders’ cargo. According to Hikayat Pattani, Ratu Kuning made her own income and refused to spend the royal revenue for her personal expenses. She received income from the crops in her own garden and also turned her personal possessions into the royal property. Besides that, she paid a visit to the Ayutthaya Kingdom in 1641 to establish friendly relations with them and was welcomed by King Prasat Thong of Siam. As a consequence of her visit, she managed to secure Pattani from Siam interference. She was the last queen of Pattani who ruled for about 50 years and is estimated to be the greatest Queen of Pattani.

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