A Tale of Two Heritage Homes (Part 1)

Istana Raja Muda

Istana DYTM Raja Muda Perak Teluk Intan – 1976

My first taste of palace life happened during my early teens. Although my late father was the Raja Muda of Perak (1963–1983), I only spent a few years living in his official residence, the Istana Raja Muda Perak in Teluk Intan. Before that, my mother, sisters and myself lived in a bungalow in an affluent part of Ipoh. After the house was sold I moved to be with father in Teluk Intan. For someone who had, until then, spent many years growing up in ‘metropolitan’ settings, the quaintness and size of a backwater sleepy town came as a bit of a shock. In retrospect however, some of my most memorable moments were spent in Teluk Intan. It was there that I, for better or for worse (!) saw more of father, became more exposed to official functions and also got to know the rest of my rather large family. After father’s demise in 1983, the istana, as was the tradition, was vacated to make way for the next Raja Muda. Since then, I have only made one visit there, during Raja Ahmad Sifuddin Iskandar’s brief tenure as the new Raja Muda.

Sultan Abdul Aziz

A young Raja Musa with his parents, Sultan Abdul Aziz and Raja Perempuan Khadijah (picture courtesy of Y.M. Raja Muzaffar Raja Muda Musa)

In my early 20s, I moved back to Ipoh where I spent several years living in a Malay kampung. The house belonged to a family whose male children had served as manservants during different periodsof father’s life.  Except for a drastic reduction in scale and grandiosity, and with a little imagination I might add, one could imagine it wasn’t that far different from living in the old istana. In a sense, both an istana and a traditional Malay kampung are ‘active’ receptacles of traditions, cultural practices and oral histories, their occupants handing them down from one generation to the next. Although they appear to be obstinately unchanging, these fierce bastions of tradition slowly but eventually adapt to, and change with, the times.


Left: Tenas Effendy’s Rumah. Right: A contemporary kampung house as depicted in Rumah (Ahmad Harun, artist)


Istana or kampung, the rustic charms of a traditional Malay house have been featured in movies, paintings, films and literature. Among them is a newly published translation of Tenas Effendy’s prose poem Rumah. Originally written in Bahasa Indonesia, it has recently been translated into English by the Malaysia-born, Australia based academic Raimy Ché-Ross and published by Areca Books Penang in August 2014. I was first introduced to Rumah in April 2013. Initially perplexing and enigmatic, it slowly revealed its inner secrets after several readings and reminded me of my own experience of living within traditional households. Utterly unique, the poem has really no peer or precedent and any attempts at comparison would only reveal disparate counterparts. That notwithstanding, the compositional style of Rumah occasionally reminded me of classic Sufi poetry, particularly Farid Attar’s Conference of the Birds and Rumi’s The Guest House. The architecture and design of a traditional istana and a kampung house bear certain similarities, as do the building materials. A porch serves as the main entrance for people and vehicles, and there are public social and dining spaces for guests and private ones for family members. ‘Secret’ passageways and staircases abound, and these were set well outside of the main spaces. My guess is that these clandestine corridors were once meant as a means of escape from threats (!) but a more mundane and likely explanation was that they served as entrance and exit points for the hired help.

Istana Raja Muda2

Left: Two events in full pomp and splendour – the circumcision ceremony of Raja Musa; Right: the wedding of his second eldest daughter Y.M. Raja Aminah to Y.A.M. Tengku Ibrahim Sultan Abu Bakar of Pahang. (Pictures courtesy of Y.M. Raja Muzaffar Shah Raja Muda Musa)

Che Puan Besar & Pintu Malim

Left: The Raja Muda and the Che Puan Besar Perak posing in front of the smaller Balai Rong Seri. (Pictures courtesy of Y.M. Raja Muzaffar Shah Raja Muda Musa). Right: A Pintu Malim, or Pintu Curi provides discreet mobility for females within the house. (Ahmad Harun).

Apparently such passageways are a common feature in  kampung houses, as described in Rumah:

The Pintu Malim is where modesty lies,                                                                         The Pintu Belakang is where laughter bides,                                                                 The Pintu Tengah is where the Adat resides.                                                                                                                         (from Rumah)

Floors and walls were fashioned from planks of hardwood, and the former, as sturdy as they were, often creaked and clacked noisily under the weight of human footfalls and footwear. Parts of the walls were fashioned from hardwood too. Two balai rong seri, set on the istana grounds, were used for official functions like the birthday of the Raja Muda, Hari Raya, weddings and kenduris. The Raja Muda’s fully equipped office, replete with a secretary, clerk and office boy, was also situated within the Istana. Here, various official assignments and personal businesses were attended to. Servants’ quarters, the earlier ones built in the style of modest kampungs on stilts, were situated at the back portion of the istana. The help comprised cooks, gardeners, grounds keepers and stable boys. One could say that the istana was a self-contained ‘village’ of sorts.

A large home contains smaller houses,                                                                        Like wood and its concentric rings,                                                                            Three tiers of gable blinds to the left,                                                                         Three tiers of gable blinds to the right,                                                                              A place where sovereign rulers reside,                                                                             A place where noblemen bear the Adat,                                                                           A place for an assortment of Penghulu.                                                                                                                (from Rumah)

End of Part 1

Written by:                                                                                                                    Y.M. Raja Abdul Razak bin Raja Muda Musa


Tiga Puluh Tahun Bersemayam Diatas Takhta Singgahsana Negeri.


Duli Yang Maha Mulia Paduka Seri Sultan Azlan Muhibbuddin Shah Ibni Almarhum Sultan Sir Yussuf Izzuddin Ghafarullahu-lah,
Telah dilantik sebagai Paduka Seri Sultan Perak oleh Dewan Negara Negeri Perak Darul Ridzuan pada tanggal 3 Feb 1984.

Tegas Memperlihatkan Prinsip Pengharapan,
Mempamerkan Kebijaksanaan Dan Kearifan,
Itulah Paduka Seri Sultan Azlan,
Sultan Perak Darul Riduzan,

Payung Pemerintahan Paduka Seri,
Tiga Puluh Tahun Bersemayam Ditakhta Negeri,
Memperlihatkan Kebijaksanaan Raja Negeri,
Raja Berperlembagaan Dan Negara Berdemokrasi,

Indah Peterakna Merchu Negeri,
Singgahsana Takhta Keraja’an Negeri,
Menjadi Lambang Tunggak Negeri
Tempat Bersemayam Paduka Seri,

Dibawah Naungan Duli Baginda,
Negeri Bersultan Rakyat Beraja,
Rakyat Bersatu Penuh Bahgia,
Berbilang Kaum Berbilang Bangsa,

Paduka Seri Payung Negeri,
Penyambung Tradisi Membangunkan Negeri,
Negeri Sentosa Ilahi Memberi,
Bijak Bestari Memerintah Negeri,

Nasihat Dan Pandangan Paduka Seri,
Memelihara Dan Melindungi Tradisi,
Kerja Strategik Dan Berdimensi,
Adat Bangsa Tidak Ditenggelami,

Paduka Seri Berilmu Berpengetahuan,
Penguasaan Ilmu, Pengalaman Kerjaya,
Bidang Perundangan Dan Kehakiman,
Sumber Keadilan Dan Tunggak Keutuhan,

Duli Yang Maha Mulia Paduka Seri,
Bersemayam Di Atas Takhta Negeri,
Tiga Puluh Tahun Menjadi Penyuluh Seri,
Arif Bijaksana Menaungi Rakyat Negeri,

Sepanjang Memimpin Rakyat Negeri,
Pelbagai Pembangunan Dikecapi,
Kemakmuran Negeri Kesejahteraan Dinikmati,
Dibawh Naungan Paduka Seri,

Memelihara Kemuliaan Pemerintahan Bertradisi,
Rakyat Bersultan Negeri Beraja,
Warisan Turun Temurun Diwarisi,
Merentas Waktu Peredaran Masa,

Patek sekalian Editor SembangKuala Merafak Sembah,
Berlandaskan Adat,
Bersempena Tiga Puluh Tahun Pemerintah Duli Yang Maha Mulia Paduka Seri Sultan Perak Darul Ridzuan.
Duli Yang Maha Mulia Paduka Seri Sultan Azlan Muhibbuddin Shah Ibni Almarhum Sultan Sir Yussuf Izzuddin Ghafarullahu-lah

Ucapan Y.A.M. Raja Di Hilir Perak – Raja Idris Shah Ibni Sultan Iskandar Shah

A young Raja Idris on his appointment as Raja Di-Hilir in 1934. Standing on his right are his father, Sultan Iskandar Shah, and nephew, Tengku Ahmad Shah (the present Sultan of Pahang). (Source: YM Raja Mariam Raja Mohamed)

A young Raja Idris on his appointment as Raja Di-Hilir in 1934. Standing on his right are his father, Sultan Iskandar Shah, and nephew, Tengku Ahmad Shah (the present Sultan of Pahang). (Source: YM Raja Mariam Raja Mohamed)

Pada hari Jumaat yang indah bertarikh 9 Jan 1935. Yang Amat Mulia Raja Di Hilir Perak – Raja Idris Shah Ibni Sultan Iskandar Shah berangkat untuk menunaikan solat Jumaat berjemaah di Masjid Ridzuaniah, Kuala Kangsar. Di iringi oleh beberapa orang-orang besar.

Setelah selesai menunaikan solat Jumaat.Yang Amat Mulia telah mengambil kesempatan untuk memberi ucapan di atas Mimbar Masjid tersebut. Ucapan pendek yang diungkap oleh Yang Amat Mulia adalah amat memperlihatkan keperibadian.

“Tuan, cuba kita pandu dengan bersungguh-sungguh menyukakan Tuhan kita dan Raja kita, iaitu menuntut ilmu dan beribadat seperti sembahyang lima waktu dan jemaah dan lainnya.
Cubalah kita pandu dengan bersungguh-sungguh supaya jangan dimurkai oleh Tuhan kita dan Raja kita, kerana siapa-siapa yang dimurkai oleh Tuhannya di dalam Neraka nampaknya, dan siapa-siapa yang dimurkai oleh Rajanya, tiada berguna duduk di dalam negeri ini.

Saya ini budak lagi bodoh, tetapi apa-apa yang saya dengar dan apa-apa yang saya lihat nanti saya khabarkan kepada bapa saya; hanya doa saya Selamat Umur Panjang sekalian isi negeri Perak ini”.

Ucapan itu sungguhpun pendek tetapi mempunyai nilai yang sangat berharga kepada sekalian rakyat negeri Perak. Seperkara lagi, sekalian hamba rakyat yang hadir merasai betapa indahnya keperibadian Raja Kecil yang bakal menjadi Raja, Yang Dipertuan bagi Negeri Perak kelak setelah mendengar ucapan tersebut yang pada ketika itu baru berusia sekitar sepuluh tahun.


Warta Malaya, 16 Jan 1935