Sunday, December 15, 2013

Go Local :: Malaysian Royal Family Graveyard {Tanah Kubur Diraja}

Sometimes you really don't need to travel far for an adventure. All you have to do is take the time to explore your own backyard.

And by "own backyard" I mean my own country, Singapore. There are just so many hidden gems and places waiting to be discovered.. so many of these are rich in history and heritage as well so it's a pity if they disappear before you even know about it.

One hidden gem is the Malaysian Royal Family Graveyard, also known as Tanah Kubur Diraja. Did you know a place existed in Singapore? I sure didn't, until one early morning when Jerome and Juria brought me there.

The Royal Family refers to the Malay sultanate and kings during the early 16th century, who originated from Jambi, a northern state in Sumatra. A Singaporean-Malay caretaker lady and her family takes care of the graveyard now. She spoke mainly in Malay, and I was glad Juria and Jerome were there to help translate. We weren't allowed to enter because we weren't dress properly {I was in a tanktop & shorts, while Juria was wearing a sleeveless dress}, but we could view the different tombs from the entrance. Apparently we should be fully covered to enter, but then later the lady said she didn't have the key.. which seemed a bit confusing to us as earlier she said we could go in if we returned with proper attire. Anyway, we didn't probe further on that as we assumed she wanted to protect the sanctity of the graveyard. 

She gave us a brief history and introduction to the place, and told us more about the different people who were buried in the small graveyard. Tombstones wrapped in yellow cloth belonged to royalty, while those that were in green belonged to probably descendants of Iraqi sheiks. Exactly who are buried there remains a mystery but Jerome said for sure the last Riau-Lingga Sultan, Sultan Abdul Rahman Muadzam Shah II is.

The caretaker and her family seem to stay in a makeshift house in front of the cemetery, so if you want to access the cemetery, you have get their permission to go through their home first... which can be a little difficult as they don't seem to want too many outsiders to visit the cemetery.

Next to their home is another make-shift house {above} that used to be a famous barber shop. I was thinking of bringing the boy back to cut his hair there heh. Unfortunately, the barber said he just closed his shop one month ago! Not sure if this family is related to the caretakers though.

It was very interesting {and surprising!!} to spot their houses in the middle of the HDB blocks and developed district. Really had an old kampong {Malay village} feel with the lush greenery and simple homes made of corrugated metal, wooden planks and dried leaves. Honestly, the first thought when I saw their houses was.. is this legal?? Well, it apparently is or at least an eye is closed because of the heritage significance of the place.

By the way if you want to see an actual kampong, go to the last one in Singapore - Kampong Buangkok.

Does this seem like modern Singapore to you???

The pathway to the caretakers' home.

There are actually many cats in the area. I guess the caretakers take care of them.

Meow meow~

A glimpse of the Royal Family Graveyard from the back.

It is so enriching to go on walks like this to learn more about Singapore's history and community. There's a wealth of knowledge out there and all we have to do is to reach out and talk to people to discover the different cultures & ways of life. I would like Lil Pumpkin to experience and understand that the world is more than modern lifeless gadgets, shopping malls, theme parks, tall buildings etc... These are the places that we need to preserve for the sake of our children to help them understand our past and how we came to be as Singaporeans. Actually, these places help all of us understand better what makes Singapore a unique city, a unique home to people of so many races, cultures and beliefs. Unfortunately, perhaps they may not last very long at the rate Singapore is changing... what do you think?

It's a pity we couldn't enter the graveyard, but at least I got to learn more about the Riau-Lingga sultanate family and Malay funeral customs, and spend time with some heritage enthusiasts.

For more historical information about this place, read this ST article and Jerome's post. We also visited Makam Puteri Radin Mas, the {unverified} tomb and shrine of a 16th-century Javanese princess.

Malaysian Royal Family Graveyard {Tanah Kubur Diraja}
532 Kampong Bahru Road
Limited admission.

Other Singapore heritage places:


mail4rosey said...

It does sound fascinating. And I agree, there are always great places to find close to home if you look a bit for them. :)

An Apel a Day said...

That place looks magical. It's so pretty!

Serenely said...

I guess there are really quite a number of hidden little gems tucked away across this island. I have never heard of this place either... thanks for sharing your discovery!

Stacy said...

That totally does NOT look like Singapore... Just imagine how much this place would be worth commercially!