Previous Social Custom of the Malays- Birth of Anak Raja (part 1)

On the occasion of the birth of a child in the royak family (Sultan, Raja Muda or Raja Bendahara) the following ceremonies are customary

Three or five sages femmes (bidan) are employed. A large curtain or cloth is hung from the roof. It is square and is taken up in the middle and fastened by a chain ( gold or silver) from the roof, so that the corners and ends hang down round the bed of the woman in labour. (This called pondong).

The Bidan and a number of high born dames in attendance on the sufferer go inside. If the the delivery is protracted (for which a technical word srat is used, it is customary for chiefs to come and ask leave to make vows for her recovery. They say “If she recovers, I shall slay a goat”. In token of the vow, one of the female attendants ties a ring around the wrist of the patient. If delivery is still delayed, the husband or mother of the princess puts dollars under her back, which are to be given in charity if she recovers.

While labour is going on, draughts of various kinds are given to the women to drink, prepared by all sorts of wise people. These beverages are called salusoh. If the child is born quiet and does not cry, the women says it’s lemas. Then the master of the house (the Raja or others) orders guns to be fired, gongs to be beaten, and a tremendous noise to be made. As soon as the infant cries, the women commence to sing (berdabul). The child is then placed on a small mattress (kasau)on which embroidered clothes folded up are first placed. Its arms are placed beside its body and swathed in white cloth from the feet to neck. This is called (bedong). Up to this time the infant has been attended by the family nurses, who have tended previous infants, or by the women of the household. A suite of attendants is however now procured for it by sending off parties of men (juwak-juwak) to impress nurses in certain kampongs and families which have always supplied them. The women are brought by force sometimes. They are called nanda and their husbands manda.

On the morning after the birth of the child, a salute is fired – nine guns for the child of the Sultan, seven in the case of the Raja Muda, or five for the Raja Bendahara. Well-to-do people then flock to the palace bringing presents of cloths to place on the baby’s bed and little pillows, richly ornamented, for his use. No mosquito curtain may be used, but a cloth is strung upon rattan case and waved backwards and forwards by a female attendant. One relieves another and it never stops waving (berkirap-kirap).

The next ceremony is bersembah ayer susu. Women of good family who have young children of their own take the royal infant, one after another, and give him breastfeeding. Each of her children thus becomes foster brother or sister of the royal infant and they can never inter-marry. To have this effect, properly speaking, the royal mother should in her turn breastfeed to the infant of the foster mother (this is called sempornia-kan sa-susu or berbalas susu-nia).

Secretary, T. H. (1886). Social Customs – Birth Ceremonies in Perak. Journal of the Straits Branch Royal Asiatic Society. Supp. Notes and Queries. , 74-75.


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