Encompassing an area of 658 sq. km, Melaka or previously known as 'Malacca' is one of the thirteen states belong to Malaysia. It is located on the south-western coast of Peninsular Malaysia, about 147 km or a 2 hours drive from Kuala Lumpur. The state is divided into three districts; Melaka Tengah or Central Melaka, the District of Alor Gajah to the north and the District of Jasin to the south, the capital of the state is Central Melaka, and almost all the interesting and historical sites are located in Central Melaka and mostly in the town area. Also Melaka was dubbed as Malaysia's Historical City.
Melaka's population is a polyglot of races comprising Malays, Chinese, Indians, and descendants of the Portuguese and the Baba-Nyonya community who have adopted much of the Malay culture into theirs.
Visitors to the state invariably head for the city of Melaka as most of the historical attractions in the state are located within the city. Of particular interest is the Heritage Trail within the city center where the major historical sited can be found. It is best to take a walking tour to the various spots. One can also take a leisurely trishaw ride through the city's narrow, winding streets and allow one's imagination to be stirred by the images of a bygone era.
According to the legends which have been recorded by the Malay Annals and by the Portuguese, an exiled Hindu prince who is known by the title of Parameswara from a dying kingdom of Srivijaya came to Tumasik (Singapore), killed the ruler who paid tribute to Siam and reigned there for five years until the Siamese drove him out.
While in exile, Parameswara chose Melaka as his new kingdom because here, near the hill and along the river bank, a small but aggressive white mousedeer caught his attention when the mousedeer so intimidated his hunting dogs that they turned and fell into the water. The place where the weak can triumph over the strong, Parameswara decided, would be a good location for a settlement.
The original inhabitants of Melaka were fishermen and when Parameswara settled at Melaka in about 1400, he was soon joined by other refugees from Palembang and then he became the first ruler of the famed Melaka Sultanate. He subsequently embraced Islam and established the foundations of an empire which reached its heyday during the reign of Sultan Mansor Shah.
Melaka had the advantage of being on the narrowest part of the Straits where the deep water channel was near to the Malaysian side. The river mouth formed a small harbor overlooked by the hill on which the ruler and his chiefs could build a fortified stockade protected on the land side by marshes. At first, no doubt, piracy and fishing were the main occupations but soon traders began to call and the little settlement prospered.
Its lucrative spice trade and importance as a sea port made it a prized possession in the Far East, resulting in the Portuguese conquest in 1511. After 130 years of Portuguese rule, the Dutch wrested control of Melaka in 1641 and ruled the state until 1826 when it was taken over by the British, who stayed on until the country attained independence in 1957.