Perlis,[note 1] (Northern Malay: Peghelih), also known by its honorific title Perlis Indera Kayangan, is the smallest state in Malaysia by area and population. Located on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia, it borders the Thai provinces of Satun and Songkhla to the north and the Malaysian state of Kedah to the south. It was called Palit (Thai: ปะลิส) by the Siamese when it was under their influence. Perlis had a population of 227,025 as of the 2010 census.[1]

Other transcription(s)
Perlis (Transliteration)
Perlis Indera Kayangan
ڤرليس ايندرا کايڠن‎‎
Anthem: Amin, Amin, ya Rabaljalil
Amen, Amen, o Majestic Lord
   Perlis in    Malaysia
Coordinates: 6°30′N 100°15′E
(and largest city)
Royal capitalArau
  TypeParliamentary constitutional monarchy
  Menteri BesarMohd. Shukri Ramli (PN-PAS)
  Leader of the OppositionGan Ay Ling (PH-PKR)
  Total819 km2 (316 sq mi)
Highest elevation
(Bukit Pelarit)
553 m (1,814 ft)
  Density310/km2 (800/sq mi)
State Index
  HDI (2019) 0.805 (very high) (9th)[3]
  GDP (2019) RM 6.518 billion ($1.564 billion) (10th)[4]
  Per capita (2019) RM 25,656 ($6,157) (15th)[4]
Postal code
01xxx to 02xxx
Calling code04
ISO 3166 codeMY-09
Vehicle registrationR
Establishment of Kota Sena as capital of Kedah1653
Vassal state of Siam governed by Raja Long Krok1839[5]
Kingdom formed when Syed Hussain appointed as King by Siam[6]20 April 1843
Accession into the Federation of Malaya1 February 1948
Independence as part of the Federation of Malaya31 August 1957

The capital of Perlis is Kangar, and the royal capital is Arau. Another important town is Padang Besar, at the Malaysia–Thailand border and Kuala Perlis, the ferry town to Langkawi. The main port and ferry terminal is at the small village of Kuala Perlis, linking mostly to Langkawi Island. Another important lately developed area is Pauh Putra within subdistrict of Kurong Anai which houses the main campus of Malaysia University of Perlis[8] and Politeknik Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin. Perlis has a famous snake farm and research centre at Sungai Batu Pahat. Perlis State Park and Gua Kelam are among the popular tourist attractions.


It is unclear how the name Perlis came about. There are several hypotheses:

  • According to a Malaysian historian, Mohd Yusuf bin Adil, the name comes from the Thai phrase "Phrao Loi" (Southern Thai: พร้าวลอย) which means kelapa hanyut (coconut washed ashore) since there were many coconuts found on the shores of Kuala Perlis. The phrase has been shortened by locals until it sounded like "pereleh" or Perlis.
  • It has also been suggested Perlis may be a shortened form of a Malay word "peroleh" (obtain) as the state was a "gift" from Kedah, since it was a part of Kedah before becoming a state on its own.
  • According to Negeri Perlis Indera Kayangan: Sejarah Pembentukan Sebuah Negeri Berdaulat by Ahmad Ismail, the name comes from a tree of the same name, which may have gone extinct.
  • Some researches suggests the name is derived from a Northern Malay dialect word "perelus" which roughly translates as "foot falling into a crack", since Perlis is said to have a wide land filled with mud, and the people's feet may sink into the mud.[9]
  • Additional suggestions include being named after someone, or derived from the French word "perlite" which means "rock" due to a huge rock near Sungei Perlis.[10]

The honorific Indera Kayangan was given by Tuanku Raja Syed Hussin Jamalullail (who ruled Perlis from 1843 to 1873) after the royal town of Indera Kayangan II (1797 until 1813) he was raised in now located in Kampung Langgar, Kayang within the Kuala Perlis area.[11] However, this epithet became less popular under the recommendation of Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Putra Jamalullail in 2015, in which according to him is inline with the official singular name given in the state constitution his father signed without any long epithets in general "which is related to deities, or any 'Darul'..."".[7]


Kangar, capital of Perlis
Limestone hills in Perlis
Map of Perlis as Vassal to Siam in 1900[12]

Perlis was originally part of Kedah, although it occasionally came under rule by Siam or Aceh. Perlis was historically an important realm within the Kingdom of Kedah. Sultan Muhyiddin of Kedah made his capital in Kota Sena, while Sultan Dhiauddin II made Kota Indera Kayangan his capital.[13] Sultan Dhiauddin II of Kedah was honorifically titled as Raja Muda of Perlis and Kedah,[14][15] akin to the title Prince of Wales in the United Kingdom. During his reign as the Sultan of Kedah, he oversaw a treaty with George Leith to cede Province Wellesley to Penang. He was titled as Raja Muda of Perlis and Kedah.[16] This fact depicted Perlis was a special realm within the Kedah sultanate.

Sultan Dhiauddin then made Syed Harun Jamalullail, father of the future first Raja of Perlis as chieftain of Arau as a wedding gift to his marriage with his daughter, Tengku Sofiah. Syed Harun's descendant will eventually become deputy governor (1839) and King of Perlis.[17]

After the Siamese conquered Kedah in 1821, the British felt their interests in Perak to be threatened. This resulted in the 1826 Burney and Low Treaties[18] formalising relations between the two Malay states and Siam, their nominal overlord. In the Burney Treaty, the exiled Kedah sultan Ahmad Tajuddin was not restored to his throne. Sultan Ahmad and his armed supporters then fought in a series of war known as Perang Musuh Bisik for his restoration over twelve years (1830–1842).[19]

In 1842, the Sultan finally agreed to accept Siamese terms and was restored to his throne of Kedah. However, Siam separated Perlis into a separate principality directly vassal to Bangkok. The Siamese made Raja Long Krok as the Governor of Siam in Perlis while Syed (or Sayyid) Hussain Jamalullail as deputy governor. Finally, on 20 May 1843, the Siamese made Sayyid Hussain Jamalulail, the paternal grandson of a Hadhrami Arab Sayyid immigrant and maternal grandson of the Sultan of Kedah, became the first Raja of Perlis.[20] This made Perlis as a sovereign state. His descendants still rule Perlis, but as rajas, instead of as sultans.

In 1897, Kedah led by its Prime Minister, Wan Mat Saman started effort to end the sovereignty of Perlis as what had become to the Kingdom of Kubang Pasu, which was returned to Kedah crown. After several tense occasions and disputes, Siamese King Chulalongkorn sided with Perlis.[21] Perlis also had several disputes with the state of Setul before the 1900s.

As with Kedah, the Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909 forced Siam to relinquish its southern Malay vassal states of Kelantan, Trengganu, and Monthon Syburi (comprising Kedah, Perlis, and Satun (which remained with Thailand)) to Great Britain. The British installed a Resident in the Perlis Royal capital of Arau. Perlis was returned to Siam in World War II as a reward for Siam's alliance with Japan, but this brief annexation ended with the Japanese surrender. After World War II, Perlis returned to British rule until it became part of the Malayan Union, then the Federation of Malaya in 1957, and lastly, Malaysia in 1963.

Since 2000, the Raja or hereditary monarch has been Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin. He was the Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia from 13 December 2001 to 12 December 2006.[22] Tuanku Syed Faizuddin Putra was the Regent of Perlis during the five-year period when Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin was Yang di-Pertuan Agong. The Chief Executive or Menteri Besar is currently Azlan Man[23] of Barisan Nasional.

The Coat of Arms of Perlis consists of a sturdy green wreath of padi, indicating the wealth of the kingdom and the chief economic activity of the people.

The shield in the centre represents the pride of the people. Inside the shield is a ring of golden rice surrounding the name "Perlis" written in the Jawi script.


Arau, the royal capital of Perlis.

Perlis is ruled by the House of Jamalullail. Unlike other Malaysian monarchical states, in which the ruler is a "Sultan", the Perlis ruler is called the "Raja".[24]

Legislative power in the state is exercised by the Perlis State Legislative Assembly, a unicameral chamber in which all 15 seats are elected from single-member constituencies. After the 2022 state election, the Perikatan Nasional coalition, led by the Malaysian Islamic Party, holds 14 of the assembly's 15 seats.

Raja appoints Menteri Besar (Chief Minister) and an Executive Council (akin to a Cabinet). Generally, the chief minister is a member of the legislative assembly who can command a majority on the assembly's floor. The Raja's appointment powers were at the centre of a brief constitutional crisis in the state after the 2008 general election. The Raja sought to appoint a Barisan Nasional assemblyman, Md Isa Sabu, as chief Minister despite Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, who led the national coalition, nominating the incumbent Shahidan Kassim to continue in office. The Raja prevailed, and swore in Md Isa, who proceeded to serve a full term as chief minister.[25]

The state elects three members of the federal House of Representatives, for the constituencies of Arau, Kangar and Padang Besar. After the 2022 general election, all three seats are held by Perikatan Nasional.

The state also has two federal senators; like all other states, the senators are not directly elected but appointed by a vote of the state legislative assembly.

Perlis, being the smallest state by area in Malaysia, is not divided into administrative districts. Nevertheless, it is still divided into several mukims (communes), namely:

Mukims of Perlis
  • Abi
  • Arau
  • Beseri
  • Chuping
  • Jejawi
  • Kaki Bukit
  • Kayang
  • Kechor
  • Kuala Perlis
  • Kurong Anai
  • Kurong Batang
  • Ngulang
  • Oran
  • Padang Pauh
  • Paya
  • Padang Siding
  • Sanglang
  • Sena
  • Seriab
  • Sungai Adam
  • Titi Tinggi (Padang Besar)
  • Utan Aji; and
  • Wang Bintong
Affiliation Coalition/Party Leader Status Seats
2022 election Current
  Perikatan Nasional Mohd Shukri Ramli Government 14 14
  Pakatan Harapan Gan Ay Ling Opposition 1 1
Total 15 15
Government majority 9 9


Historical population
1970 121,062    
1980 144,782+19.6%
1991 183,824+27.0%
2000 198,288+7.9%
2010 225,630+13.8%
2020 284,885+26.3%
Source: [26]
Perlis Hokkien Association

The ethnic composition for the year 2000 in Perlis was: Malay (174,805 or 79.74%), Chinese (21,058 or 9.6%), Indian (2,658 or 1.21%) and others (20,690 or 9.45%).


Religion in Perlis – 2010 Census[27]
religion percent
Chinese Ethnic Religion
No Religion
Unknown / None

As of 2010 the population of Perlis is 87.9% Muslim, 10.0% Buddhist, 0.8% Hindu, 0.6% Christian, 0.2% Taoist or Chinese religion followers, 0.2% non-religious, 0.2% unknown / none, and 0.1% followers of other religions.

The Malaysian constitution strictly defines what makes a "Malay", considering Malays those who are Muslim, speak Malay regularly, practise Malay customs, and lived in or have ancestors from Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore.[28] Statistics from the 2010 Census indicate that 83.6% of the Chinese population identify as Buddhist, with significant numbers of adherents following Taoism (3.4%) and Christianity (11.1%), along with small Hui-Muslim populations in areas like Penang. The majority of the Indian population follow Hinduism (86.2%), with a significant minority identifying as Christians (6.0%) or Muslims (4.1%). Christianity is the predominant religion of the non-Malay bumiputera community (46.5%) with an additional 40.4% identifying as Muslims.[29]


Majority of Perlis' population speaks Perlis Malay which is a sub-dialect of Kedah Malay but also has its own unique features compared to those of neighbouring Kedah. Besides that there is also Hokkien, Mandarin, English, Tamil, Malayalam as well as small numbers of Southern Thai speakers, mostly ethnic Malaysian Siamese. However, large numbers of Perlisians regardless of ethnic origin mainly uses Perlis Malay as a lingua franca. In particular, Perlis is well known for its distinctive Hokkien language, known as Penang Hokkien. Hokkien serves as the lingua franca among the various ethnic Chinese communities in Perlis.


Some of the tourist attractions in Perlis are:

Gua Kelam (Kelam Cave) entrance in 2010
  • Perlis State Park – Situated on the longest continuous range of limestone hills in the country called the Nakawan Range, the park consists of Mata Ayer Forest Reserve and Wang Mu Forest Reserve with a total area of about 5000 hectares. Some of the attractions in the park include various caves such as Gua Kelam and Gua Wang Burma which is located within the 500-year-old Setul limestone formation.[30]
  • Kuala Perlis – One of the popular activities here is fishing. There are also many seafood restaurants that offer fresh seafood that is relatively cheaper than in the capital city.[31]
  • Gua Kelam – A limestone cave that used to be one of the most visited destinations in Perlis.[32] Located about 33 km north of Kangar, the capital of Perlis state, near to a small town called Kaki Bukit (Foot Hill).


There is an outdoor rock climbing in the limestone hills of Bukit Keteri with over 50 sport climbing routes that are bolted by the world's climbing team Mammut & Camp5; the crags split into 2 next to each other and the rockfaces rising up about 350 m. The range of difficulty is from beginner to expert and many varieties of climbs are available.

See also


  1. "Laporan Kiraan Permulaan 2010". Jabatan Perangkaan Malaysia. p. 27. Archived from the original on 27 December 2010. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  2. "Perangkaan Demografi Suku Tahun Pertama". Department of Statistics, Malaysia. 2018. Archived from the original on 12 February 2016. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  3. "Subnational Human Development Index (2.1) [Kedah – Malaysia]". Global Data Lab of Institute for Management Research, Radboud University. Retrieved 22 December 2019.
  4. "Department of Statistics Malaysia Official Portal". Retrieved 30 September 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. "State should be called 'Perlis' only, no 'Indera Kayangan', says Raja of Perlis". The Star. 26 May 2015.
  8. "PM rasmi perpustakaan UniMAP April ini - Sinar Harian". Archived from the original on 14 October 2018.
  9. Yazid Mat, Dato’. Perlis: Dari Jajahan Takluk Ke Negeri Berdaulat.
  10. Ruxyn, Tang (26 April 2017). "The Stories And Facts Behind How The 13 States Of Malaysia Got Their Names". Retrieved 5 February 2019.
  11. Syed Sirajuddin Putra Jamalullail (PDF). Kangar, Perlis: Kerajaan Negeri Perlis & Perbadanan Perpustakaan Awam Negeri Perlis. 2001. pp. 18, 20. ISBN 983-99768-2-6.
  12. Timtsunami8 (31 August 2020), English: An updated version of the map, retrieved 21 June 2021
  13. "Pusat Pentadbiran".
  14. "Sejarah: Tempat Bersemayam". Raja Perlis. Retrieved 18 May 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. "Hari Ini Dalam Sejarah". Archived from the original on 25 April 2018.
  16. "Dato' Yazid Mat, Page 3". Archived from the original on 14 April 2018. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  17. "Dato' Yazid Mat, Page 4 and 5". Archived from the original on 14 April 2018. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  18. Stern, Duncan (14–20 May 2004). "Dr. John Crawfurd and the Mission to Thailand, 1822" (Column). A Slice of Thai History. Pattaya Mail. Retrieved 11 August 2011. This in turn helped Captain Henry Burney conclude a treaty of commerce with Thailand in June 1826.
  19. Suzalina Halid (18 March 2015). "Sultan Kubang Pasu". Berita Harian.
  20. Ulrike Freitag, W. G. Clarence-Smith (1997). Power Hadhrami Traders, Scholars, and Statesmen in the Indian Ocean, 1750s–1960s. BRILL. pp. 85–7. ISBN 90-04-10771-1.
  21. "Dato' Yazid Mat, Page 8". Archived from the original on 14 April 2018. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  22. "Pejabat Penyimpan Mohor Besar Raja-Raja - Senarai Yang di-Pertuan Agong". Retrieved 25 November 2017.
  23. "Menteri Besar dan Ketua Menteri". Archived from the original on 11 July 2017. Retrieved 25 November 2017.
  24. Ooi Keat Gin (2009). Historical Dictionary of Malaysia. Scarecrow Press. p. 252.
  25. "Palaces intervene in appointment of two MBs". The Star. 15 March 2008. Archived from the original on 29 June 2017. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
  26. "Key Findings Population and Housing Census of Malaysia, 2020" (in Malay and English). Department of Statistics, Malaysia.
  27. "2010 Population and Housing Census of Malaysia" (PDF). Department of Statistics, Malaysia. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 November 2013. Retrieved 17 June 2012. p. 13
  28. World and Its Peoples: Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Brunei. Marshall Cavendish Corporation. 2008. pp. 1160, 1166–1192, 1218–1222. ISBN 978-0-7614-7642-9.
  29. "Population Distribution and Basic Demographic Characteristics" (PDF). Department of Statistics, Malaysia. p. 82. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 May 2014. Retrieved 4 October 2011.
  30. "Perlis State Park". Tourism Malaysia. Archived from the original on 22 May 2014. Retrieved 22 May 2014.
  31. "Kuala Perlis". Tourism Malaysia. Retrieved 22 May 2014.
  32. "(Actionline) Dark future for Gua Kelam | New Straits Times". 3 January 2017.


  1. "Perlis" singular is used officially in the state's constitution.[7]
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