DURING a recent trip to Sumatra's Lingga Island, I got the opportunity to take a closer look at the relics of the Riau-Lingga Sultanate located near the city of Daik.
The Riau-Lingga Sultanate which once extended across southeast Sumatra, the Riau Islands and much of the southern part of Malaya reigned over the glorious Malay empire before its rule was abruptly cut short by the Dutch in 1911.
The writer's interest in the sultanate was piqued by the story of Tengku Abdul Rahman Tengku Mohamed Yusoff, who says to have descended from the Riau-Lingga royalty.
Tengku Abdul Rahman's story appeared on a Malay website in Singapore, an island state that was once known as Temasik and was part of the Riau-Lingga Sultanate.
However, all that remains of the sultanate now are artefacts and monuments in the city of Daik in Lingga.
On my visit to Daik, I came across the ruins of a palace that had once formed the centre of the Riau-Lingga empire.
It was sad to see that only some pillars and part of a staircase of the original palace now stand as testament to a great empire with which even the British and the Dutch had once established treaties.
The palace, known as Istana Damnah, was built around the 1860s during the reign of Sultan Sulaiman Badrul Alamshah.
According to Lazuardy of the Lingga Province Cultural and Tourism Department, Istana Damnah was one of three palaces built by the rulers of Riau-Lingga the other two being Istana Kenanga and Istana Kedaton all of which are located within Pulau Lingga.
Although other palaces built by the rulers of this kingdom have been mentioned in the annals, their numbers and locations have yet to be ascertained.
"Damnah" is the combination of two Malay words "dam" which means "far", and "nah" which means "really". Therefore, "Istana Damnah" literally means a palace located "really far".
And sure enough, this place is located 20km away from the city of Daik, Lazuardy explained to Bernama.
As in the heydays of the Riau-Lingga Malay Sultanate, Daik is still the principal city and continues to be an important economic centre for the Malays.
According to Lazuardy, the Istana Damnah grounds measured 100 metres to 150 metres and housed two buildings, with the building in the front serving as the main palace while that at the back constituted the private residence.
He described the main palace as comprising five halls: Balai Rong Seri, where the Sultan met with dignitaries; Balai Titah, where the Sultan had audience with the people and emissaries; Balai Peraduan, where the Sultan rested with his consort; Balai Gambang, where he held confidential meetings; and Balai Lintang, where funerals were conducted.
In the early 1900s, Sultan Abdul Rahman II Muadzam Syah abandoned Istana Damnah as well as the other palaces around Kota Daik and shifted the sultanate's capital to Pulau Penyengat.
"The remnants of Istana Damnah still stand strong, even though they were made from a mixture of clay, sand, chalk and egg yolk. However, the building was desecrated when people started stripping down the building material, which they considered 'advanced' then, to strengthen their own homes."
"Now only the site, the collapsed staircase and some pillars remain, while the palace's original building material can be found in the old homes here," he pointed out.
In 2003, the Indonesian government took some steps to conserve these relics, which can serve as a reminder of the now-extinct Riau-Lingga Malay Sultanate. For attracting tourists, the government has built a replica (pictured) of the Istana Damnah beside the original site.
Lazuardy noted that the Linggam Cahaya museum highlights many of the spectacular attributes of the Riau-Lingga Sultanate.
"There are many cultural items made of copper, manufactured in the nearby village of Kampung Tembaga literally named after the material in Daik. The production of these items flourished between 1832 and 1841.
"The items include the pahar (a storage case for small items), tepak sireh (a storage case for betel leaves and gambier nuts), talam (tray), keto (bin) and bon (sewing box)," he remarked.
Apart from the copper items, the museum displays weapons such as keris (dagger) and tombak (spear), traditional musical instruments, and old coins and pottery that were manufactured during the prime of the Riau-Lingga Malay Sultanate.
Even though the Riau-Lingga Malay Sultanate faded into history after Sultan Abdul Rahman Muazzam Shah refused to sign a treaty with the Dutch, the artefacts and monuments that remain stand testament to the glorious Malay empire that once existed in this region.
Sunday, May 20, 2012
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