Princess Urduja

Urduja was a legendary warrior princess recorded in the travel accounts of Ibn Battuta (1304 – possibly 1368 or 1377 AD), a Muslim traveler from Morocco. She was described to be a princess of Kaylukari in the land of Tawalisi. Though the locations of Kaylukari and Tawalisi are disputed, in the Philippines Urduja is widely believed to be from Pangasinan, and has since been regarded as a national heroine.


Ibn Battuta described Urduja as the ruler of Kaylukari in the land of Tawalisi and leader of the Kinalakian. After reaching the Samudra-Pasai Sultanate in what is now Sumatra, Indonesia, Ibn Battuta passed by Tawalisi on his way to China. Princess Urduja was described as a daughter of a ruler named Tawalisi of a land that was also called Tawalisi. The ruler of Tawalisi, according to Ibn Battuta, possessed many ships and was a rival of China, which was then ruled by a Mongol dynasty. Ibn Battuta sailed for 17 days to reach China from the land of Tawalisi.

Ibn Battuta made a pilgrimage to Mecca and he traveled to many other parts of the Islamic world. From India and Sumatra, Ibn Battuta reached the land of Tawalisi. Ibn Battuta described Urduja as a warrior princess whose army was composed of men and women. Urduja was a woman warrior who personally took part in the fighting and engaged in duels with other warriors. She was quoted as saying that she will marry no one but him who defeats her in duel. Other warriors avoided fighting her for fear of being disgraced.

Urduja impressed Ibn Battuta with her military exploits and her ambition to lead an expedition to India, known to her as the "Pepper Country." She also showed her hospitality by preparing a banquet for Ibn Battuta and the crew of his ship. Urduja generously provided Ibn Battuta with gifts that included robes, rice, two buffaloes, and four large jars of ginger, pepper, lemons, and mangoes, all salted, in preparation for Ibn Battuta's sea-voyage to China.


Urduja is often described as a tall and beautiful lady having golden bronze skin, a straight shiny lucious dark hair, and a deep, dark-colored eyes. Clad in gold and is adept in sword fighting and horseback riding. Leader of the Kinalakihan (warrior women). She is a brave, smart and kind-hearted lady. She is also believed to be multi-dialect, which was a common characteristic of the nobles in pre-colonial Southeast Asia.


A long list of guesses to the location of Tawalisi have included Pangasinan, Luzon, Sulu, Celebes (Sulawesi), Cambodia, Cochin-China, the mainland Chinese province of Guangdong, and practically every island in South Asia beginning with ta.

In the late 19th Century, Jose Rizal, national hero of the Philippines, speculated that the land of Tawalisi was in the area of the northern part of the Philippines, based on his calculation of the time and distance of travel Ibn Battuta took to sail to China from Tawalisi. In 1916, Austin Craig, an American historian of the University of the Philippines, in "The Particulars of the Philippines Pre-Spanish Past", traced the land of Tawalisi and Princess Urduja to Pangasinan. In the province of Pangasinan, the governor's residence in Lingayen is named "Urduja House". A statue of Princess Urduja stands at the Hundred Islands National Park in Pangasinan. Philippine school textbooks used to include Princess Urduja in the list of great Filipinos.

Princess Urduja's gifts of rice, buffaloes, ginger, pepper, lemons, mangoes, and salt are products that are abundant in Pangasinan and India. The closely related Ibaloi people have an oral tradition of a woman named Udayan who ruled an ancient alliance of lowland and highland settlements in Pangasinan and the neighboring province of Benguet. Ibn Battuta also mentioned that Urduja had some knowledge of a Turkic language, which indicates contact with foreigners. Tawalisi was said to be in contact with Mongol-ruled Yuan China so the Turkic language may have been Mongolian.


Ibn Batutta's travel account suggests that he also saw elephants in the land ruled by Urduja. Elephants can still be found in Borneo, and may have been gifts or traded in Pangasinan in earlier times. Ancient Malayo-Polynesian sailing vessels (such as the Balangay), like the ones used by the ancient Bugis and those depicted in the Borobudur bas-reliefs, were capable of transporting heavy cargo, including elephants. There are depictions of such ancient ships in maritime Southeast Asia transporting several elephants for trade.


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