Resting place for remains of pious sultan

Royal Mausoleum: The 'Makam di Luba' housing the grave of the pious long-lived Sultan Husin Kamaluddin, Brunei's 16th Sultan. Picture: Rozan Yunos collection

Sunday, October 5, 2008

IF ONE were to drive along Jalan Tutong, immediately past the Shell Filling Station at Kampung Bunut, one will see a simpang entering into Kampung Bunut with a sign that reads "Makam di Luba".

For the non-Malays, "Makam" means a grave or mausoleum normally associated with royalty or great men and women. In the busy Jalan Tutong, many countless motorists have passed by that road sign so many times, only a few have been tempted to turn and go in but a great many remained who have never gone in to see what is "Makam di Luba".

The drive to the Makam from Jalan Tutong takes less than five minutes. Once one enters the simpang from Jalan Tutong, one can drive straight all the way to the end of the road.

Along the way one will be passing by the Bunut Post Office, a Nasi Kandar restaurant, past a ready mixed cement company and at the end the road will do a 90-degree turning to the right before coming across two abandoned police trucks.

Then another "Makam di Luba" sign will be sighted. One must turn off that road to find oneself in a small car park right by a river and a small pedestrian bridge connecting the car park to an island across the river.

The Makam is actually on an island in the middle of the river called "Pulau Luba" or Luba Island. The island separated the two rivers, the Damuan River and much larger Brunei River on the other side. The pedestrian bridge allows one to cross the Damuan River.

Across the river, one will see that the domed mausoleum is halfway up a hill. At the foot of the hill next to the river, a small boat landing has been built with a dome of the same style as the mausoleum. The bridge is a popular place for fishing.

The Makam is the grave of Sultan Husin Kamaluddin, Brunei's 16th Sultan. He was the second son of Sultan Haji Muhammad Ali, the 12th Sultan. In those times, it was a fairly tumultuous time in Brunei's history.

The civil war occurred then and it was during those times that Brunei probably lost control over the south eastern and north of Borneo allowing Sambas and Sulu to become independent and setting up the loss of Sabah at the same time. Sultan Haji Muhammad Ali was known as Al-Marhum Tumbang Dirumput because he died garroted to death on the lawn of the palace. His throne was seized by Pengiran Bendahara Abdul Hakkul Mubin because his son was stabbed by Pengiran Muda Bungsu who lost in a rooster fight. Sultan Haji Muhammad Ali died in November 1661 and his death sparked off the civil war between the 13th and the 14th Sultans of Brunei, Sultan Hakkul Abdul Mubin and Sultan Muhyiddin.

Sultan Husin Kamaluddin was probably quite young when he took over the throne from his cousin, Sultan Nasruddin, in 1710. Sultan Nasruddin did not leave a male gahara heir. Sultan Husin Kamaluddin was the younger of two infant sons of Sultan Haji Muhammad Ali who had been spared from the massacre of his father and brothers which sparked off the Brunei Civil War. Sultan Husin Kamaluddin was said to be a very pious man. He studied hard and was responsible for spreading the Islamic aqidah or creed. He much preferred the hereafter and concentrated all his efforts into it. He was supposed to possess supernatural powers. He was said to be able to transform "buah ngirih", an inedible fruit, to "pitabu", an edible fruit. He was also said to be able to transform seawater kept in a loop of rattan into drinkable fresh water.

Surprisingly for such a period in Brunei's history, it was during his and his son-in-law's reigns, the Salasilah — the Brunei's Royal Genealogical Tablet — was done. One can argue that both were aware of what was happening to the Sultanate — the beginning of the loss of the coastal regions of Borneo.

In the economic field, there are also sources crediting both him and the son-in-law for creating Brunei's first currency known as the Brunei "Pitis". Though technically they were not the first Sultans to issue currencies.

But both Sultan Naseruddin and Sultan Husin Kamaluddin are remembered by history for issuing coins which have their names on it compared to many other unidentified coins used in Brunei Darusslam.

This set of coins widely used in Brunei was the soft tin lead alloy issued by the various Brunei Sultans. These are further subdivided into about three sets — the first having names of known Sultans, the second of unknown sultans and the third with an anonymous flowery design that nobody knows who issued them. These coins were issued from about the 16th century to about the 19th century.

What was unusual about Sultan Husin Kamaluddin's rule was that he was the only Sultan to have ruled twice and abdicated twice. He ruled from 1710 to 1730 before abdicating in favour of his son-in-law, Sultan Muhammad Alauddin, who became the 17th Sultan of Brunei. Sultan Muhammad Alauddin was the son of Sultan Muhyiddin but Sultan Muhammad Alauddin only ruled for seven years before he died in 1737.

Sultan Husin Kamaluddin himself did not have any prince but a number of princesses. So his immediate heirs were not able to ascend the throne.

Sultan Alauddin's heir was still an infant when he died after reigning for seven years. As a result Sultan Husin Kamaluddin was asked to be the caretaker for the throne. He took over the throne again 1737 to 1740. But in 1740 he abdicated for the second time in favour of his son-in-law's infant son. His grandson is known as Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien I who ruled Brunei from 1740 to 1795.

Begawan Sultan Husin Kamaluddin died in 1770 at the age of 86 at Kampung Luba and was henceforth known as Marhum di Luba. During his reign he has shown that life in the hereafter is much more important than the worldly belonging. That was also why he was able to abdicate twice in favour of his son-in-law and his grandson.

This Makam like Sultan Bolkiah's Makam in Kota Batu is probably one of the easiest royal graves to visit. There are a number of other royal mausoleums but not as easily accessible or signposted as this one.

It's a good half day visit and with this one you can even see the relative quiet life of the Brunei River as an added bonus.

You might even glimpse a Proboscis monkey in the forest or a crocodile in the river.

The writer runs a website on Brunei at bruneiresources.com.

The Brunei Times