Kedah also known by its honorific Darul Aman or “Abode of Peace”, is a state of Malaysia, located in the northwestern part of Peninsular Malaysia. The state covers a total area of over 9,000 km², and it consists of the mainland and Langkawi. The mainland has a relatively flat terrain, which is used to grow rice. Langkawi is an archipelago of islands, most of which are uninhabited. Kedah was called Kadaram by ancient and medieval Tamil people and Syburi by the Siamese when it was under their influence.
To the north, Kedah borders the state of Perlis and shares an international boundary with the Songkhla and Yala provinces of Thailand. It borders the states of Perak to the south and Penang to the southwest.
The state’s capital is Alor Setar and the royal seat is in Anak Bukit. Other major towns include Sungai Petani, and Kulim on the mainland, and Kuah on Langkawi.
Reference to ancient Kedah was first mentioned in a Tamil poem Paṭṭiṉappālai written at the end of the 2nd century A.D. It described goods from Kadaram “heaped together in the broad streets” of Chola capital. Other than Kadaram, Kedah was known with different names at varying times in Indian literature; Kataha-Nagara (in Kaumudi Mahotsava drama), Anda-Kataha (in Agni Purana), Kataha-Dvipa (in Samarāiccakahā), and Kataha (in Kathasaritsagara). In the middle eastern literature, ancient Kedah was referred as Qilah by Ibn Khordadbeh in Kitāb al Masālik w’al Mamālik, Kalah-Bar by Soleiman Siraf & Abu Zaid al Hassan in Silsilat-al-Tawarikh (travels in Asia), and Kalah by Abu-Dulaf Misa’r Ibn Muhalhil in Al-Risalah al-thaniyah. The famous Tang dynasty Buddhist monk, Yi Jing who visited Malay archipelago between 688–695, also mentioned about a kingdom known as Ka-Cha in the northern part of Malay peninsular, which according to him was 30 days sail from Bogha (Palembang), the capital of Sribogha (Srivijaya).
In the 7th and 8th centuries, Kedah was under the loose control of Srivijaya. Indian and Arab sources consider Kedah to be one of the two important sites during the Srivijaya period, often calling the king of the straits “the ruler of Srivijaya and Kataha”. In 1025, Rajendra Chola, the Chola king from Coromandel in South India, captured Kedah in his invasion of Srivijaya and occupied it for some time. A second invasion was led by Virarajendra Chola of the Chola dynasty who conquered Kedah in the late 11th century. During the reign of Kulothunga Chola I Chola overlordship was established over the Sri Vijaya province Kedah in the late 11th century.
According to Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa or the Kedah Annals, Kedah was founded by a Hindu king named Merong Mahawangsa. According to the text further, the Sultanate of Kedah started in year 1136 when King Phra Ong Mahawangsa converted to Islam and adopted the name Sultan Mudzafar Shah. However, an Acehnese account gave a date of 1474 for the year of conversion to Islam by the ruler of Kedah. This later date accords with an account in the Malay Annals where a raja of Kedah visited Malacca during the reign of its last sultan seeking the honour of the royal band that marks the sovereignty of a Muslim ruler.
It was later under Siam, until it was conquered by the Malay sultanate of Malacca in the 15th century. In the 17th century, Kedah was attacked by the Portuguese after their conquest of Malacca, and by Aceh. In the hope that Great Britain would protect what remained of Kedah from Siam, the sultan handed over Penang and then Province Wellesley to the British at the end of the 18th century. The Siamese nevertheless invaded Kedah in 1821, and it remained under Siamese control under the name of Syburi. In 1896, Kedah along with Perlis and Setul was combined into the Siamese province of Monthon Syburi which lasted until transferred to the British by the Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909.
Kedah’s Constitution was promulgated by its Ruler in July 1950. The various provisions laid down in the Constitution include the role and powers of the Monarch, the State Parliament and the State’s Civil Service.
The Sultan of Kedah is the constitutional ruler of the State. His position is hereditary and he holds office for life. The Ruler is the head of the religion of Islam in the State and the executive power of the state government is vested in him. The current Sultan is Tunku Mahmud Sallehuddin, who has reigned on September 12, 2017 after his elder brother Abdul Halim of Kedah died on September 11, 2017.
The State Executive Council, which along with the Sultan is Kedah’s executive branch of government. It is composed of the Menteri Besar, who is its chairman and Kedah’s head of government, and ten other members. The Menteri Besar and other members of the council are appointed by the Sultan of Kedah from members of the Dewan Undangan Negeri (State Assembly).