Enter your keywords:
State Kedah

About Kedah


Kedah has the distinction of being the "Rice-bowl of Malaysia" - a term that takes on aesthetic significance when one sees the rice fields for themselves: the flat expanse of padis against a backdrop of rolling hills provides a picture of utter serenity that lulls the senses.

Off Kedah's western shores are clusters of sun-drenched islands that comprise the legendary archipelago of Langkawi, easily the most popular resort location in the country. More than a land of mere scenery, however, Kedah is also the site of Malaysia's most extensive ruins. In the Bujang Valley are the sprawling remains of a Hindu kingdom believed to date back to the 6th century A.D.

Like Malaysia's other states, Kedah has its share of rich cultural traditions, songs and dances. Due to its close proximity to Thailand, some of these traditions are Thai in influence and origin, and faces of Kehah's people often bear signs of Thai or Achinese ancestry.



Archaeological evidence suggests that Kedah is the site of Peninsular Malaysia's oldest civilization. Before the sea route around the peninsula was firmly established, trade between India and China was conducted across the peninsular isthmus. One of the primary trading centers for this overland trade was a Hindu-Buddhist kingdom that flourished from the fourth to the seventh century in the Bujang Valley, just south of the peak of Gunung Jerai (and thus easily located by early Indian mariners). Like Malacca a thousand years later, the Bujang Valley civilization attracted a cosmopolitan population of merchants and traders, including Indians, Chinese, Achenese (from Sumatra), Burmese, and Arabs. With the arrival of Arab traders, Islam arrived on the Peninsula for the first time, though the most substantial cultural influence came from Pallava India.

As was the case with many of Malaysia's greatest trading civilizations, the Bujang Valley kingdom's prosperity made it an attractive target for outsiders. The region came under the influence of the Sumatran kingdom of Sri Vijaya in the 7th and 8th century, followed by a period during which Kedah was dominated by the Thai states to the north. Kedah's ancient civilization waned in importance by the 15th century, when Malacca assumed a more dominant role. The establishment of Islam in Kedah is due to Malacca's influence.

When Malacca fell to the Portuguese, the influence of its Sultanate over Kedah weakened. However, other powers soon asserted themselves in Kedah, including both the Portuguese and the rising Achenese, and by the end of the 18th century the Thai threat arose once more. Fearing renewed domination by its northern neighbours, Kedah appealed to the British for assistance. As inducements to a commitment, Kedah ceded first Penang (1796) and then the adjoining strip of coastal land (1800) to the British. Nonetheless, Kedah fell to the Thais in 1821. Thailand transferred their sovereignty to the British in 1909. With the exception of the period of occupation by the Japanese during World War II, Kedah remained under British influence until independence.


Bujang Valley (Lembah Bujang)
The Bujang Valley is a sprawling historical site located in the foothills of Gunung Jerai. It is the richest archaeological area in Malaysia. Archaeological research indicates that an ancient Hindu-Buddhist kingdom ruled here as early as 300 AD. Relics of the kingdom found at the site and now on display at the Archaeological Museum include inscribed stone caskets and tablets, metal tools and ornaments, ceramics, pottery, and Hindu icons. More than fifty ancient tomb temples, called candi, have also been unearthed, many of which were built during the Bujang Valley civilization's heyday. Near the most impressive and well-preserved of these, in Pengkalan Bayang Merbok, is the Bujang Valley Archaeological Museum. It is open from 9.30am-5pm daily.

Gunung Jerai
Gunung Jerai (1,200 meters) is the highest spot in the northern region of Peninsular Malaysia, and as such it has for millennia served as a landmark for seafaring traders. Myths and legends concerning this peak abound. One is of a 'king with fangs' who resided at the foothills of the mountain in the Bujang Valley, now known to be the site of Kedah's ancient kingdom. The peak of Gunung Jerai offers a breathtaking vista, and can be reached via the nature trail or by road.


Balai Nobat (Hall of Drums)
Balai Nobat belongs to the old Sultanate of Kedah. The Hall features the nobat, the instruments of the royal orchestra. It comprises drums, gongs and a traditional flute. These instruments are played on special ceremonial occasions only. The musical skills of the nobat are generally passed on from father to son.



Pulau Langkawi
Pulau Langkawi is an internationally famous resort destination and an island of exceptional natural beauty. Explore Langkawi in our Islands & Beaches pages.



Masjid Zahir
Officially opened in 1912, this mosque is an architectural landmark. With black domes set off against slender minarets, the Masjid Zahir is one of the most elegant and aesthetically pleasing mosques in Malaysia. The state's Quran reading competition is held annually within the premises of the mosque.


State Museum
Although it is only about fifty years old, the State Museum (Muzium Di Raja) is another fine example of local architectural integration of Thai design characteristics. It houses an interesting collection of objects and artifacts of Kedah's royal and cultural heritage.


Pekan Rabu
In translation Pekan Rabu means "Wednesday Market," but the popularity of this vibrant market has extended its business hours throughout the entire week, from morning till midnight. Its colourful stalls sell handicrafts as well as delicious food. Located near the Government offices in Alor Setar.

Pantai Merdeka
Located 60 km south of Alor Setar, this 1 km beach is a popular day spot for bathing and makes for a refreshing stop after a day of touring around the Bujang Valley area. Pantai Merdeka also offers both diving and sport fishing off its coast. A day trip fishing for mackerel and sailfish runs about RM40 per person, as does a day of diving. Qualified diving guides are available