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Naga Sri Gumum, the dragon of Lake Chini

Graphics by Johanna Anuar

Long, long ago, there lived an old woman in the thick jungle of Pahang. Nobody knew who she was or where she come from. Sometimes, the villagers would see her, but she would not speak to them.

“Hello!” they would say.

“Mmm….err…mmmm,” she would grunt back before hurrying off and disappearing among the thick trees in the jungle.

One day, the village head, Tok Batin, decided they needed more land to cultivate crops. The village had expanded and there were more mouths to feed.

The next day, he gathered some of the men at the village and headed out to seek a suitable plot of land to cultivate more paddy, corn and vegetables. The villagers were busy clearing the jungle when the old woman suddenly appeared.

“Stop! What are you doing? Get out of my land. Go away!” she shouted angrily at the men, waving a thick wooden staff as she tried to shoo them away.

The village head begged for her forgiveness, explaining that they did not know the land belonged to her. Since they had already cleared much of the land, he sought her permission to allow them to plant paddy there, promising to give her a portion of the harvest.

The old woman agreed but she laid out a condition to the village head. She planted her wooden staff firmly into the ground and demanded that they must never pull it out. They villagers were puzzled, but agreed to her conditions.

Suddenly, the villagers’ dogs started barking loudly at a thick, log that lay nearby. Curious, one of the village men poked at the log with his spear and blood begun to gush out. The sky quickly turned dark and bright flashes of lightning zigzagged overhead, followed by loud claps of thunder.

Frightened, the villagers started running helter-skelter and in the confusion, one of them knocked over the wooden staff that the old woman has planted into the ground. Water started gushing out and kept on gushing out flooding the area.

“Roar! Roar!”

The thick, wooden log was actually a dragon! It broke through the ground, roaring loudly as its powerful tails splashed the water. It looked angry for being disturbed. The dragon then slowly sank into the water that had now become so deep.

That night the old woman appeared in the village, the wooden staff in her hands.

“You have awoken the great dragon, Naga Sri Gumum,” she told them.

“Now, you must be good to him. You may fish in his waters, but not too much. You may use his waters for your daily needs, but never pollute it. You may play on his lakeshores but not too noisily. Heed my advice and he will protect you,” she said.

The gushing waters formed the second largest lake in Malaysia, known as Lake Chini, in Pahang. According to the villagers, the dragon, Naga Sri Gumum still lives there.

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