Raja Teh Kelsom was born at Kuala Dipang in 1901, the eldest daughter of Raja Kulop Muhammad Raja Bendahara Alang Iskandar and Raja Sofiah Raja Pandak Ibrahim.
She was married to Raja Bendahara Alang Iskandar ibni Sultan Idris (Tuanku’s first wife of royal blood, Tengku Nong Fatimah of Pahang, had then passed on and he, albeit not an absolute rule, was seeking a consort that was bergahara) in July 1918 and was styled Raja Perempuan when Raja Alang Iskandar ascended the throne as Sultan of Perak in October 1918.
One of her grand-daughters, Raja Azmatul Azfa binti Raja Mohamed Iskandar (Ku Nyum), recalls her bah fondly, “Bah memang penyayang orangnya. Tak pernah dengor dia marah anak cucu dia. Kalau dia marah sekali pun, dia takkan tunjuk – dia nampak selamba je macam biasa. (Bah was a loving person. I’ve never heard her scold her children. Even if she was cross, she would never show it.)” Ku Nyum also described her bah‘s demeanour, “Bah memang nampak pendiam, tapi kalau duduk ramei-ramei, dengan anak cucu, memang dia melabun betoi-betoi. Melabun pasei masak, pasei pokok bunga. (Bah may seem reserved, but when she is in the company of those close to her, she would love a good conversation on anything from cooking to gardening.)”
As one can discern from the photo of Raja Perempuan Kelsom above, Ku Nyum describes that her bah was already comfortable with the western way of dressing from way back in the early days when it was not the norm for a Malay woman to do so. “Bah tu memang dari dulu dah pakei moden. Sophisticated. Kalau dia naik kuda dengan Mohom Iskandar, dia memang akan pakei jodhpur.” Apart from her horse-riding ability, Raja Perempuan was well known for her artistic talent. “Memang pandei lukih. Kalau lukih bunga macam idup. Bah tu pun pandei buat tekat. Bah tak jahit, tapi dia draw dan dia buatkan empulor untuk tekat tu. Lepeh tu orang lain yang jahit benang emeh kat tekat tu. (She was very talented in art – if she were to paint a flower, it would look so realistic. She was also good in designing the tekat. She would design the empulur and the actual embroidery with the gold thread would be done by someone else.)” Such was her talent that the late Tunku Abdul Rahman requested that she designed the tekat for the muskat (robe of office) of the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong! It is also no surprise that her children showed similar talents, for example Almarhum Sultan Idris Shah II was known for his paintings, apart from his music.
Ku Nyum then went on describing Raja Perempuan Kelsom’s relationship with her relations, “Bah memang ambik berat tentang hei keluarga. Dengan anak-anak dia, walaupun duduk lain-lain, dalam satu hari mesti anak-anak dia akan datang ziarah wan deme. Kalau dengan sedara pulak, kalau ada sedara meningge, dia suruh bawah jenazah ke rumah dia. (Her children would always visit her at least once a day, even if they lived apart. As for relations, whenever there was a death, she would insist for the jenazah to be prepared at her home.)”
After the demise of her husband, Almarhum Sultan Iskandar, Raja Perempuan Kelsom later remarried to Tengku Adlan Adil. Raja Perempuan Kelsom died on 9 May 1972 at Kuala Kangsar and was interred at the Al-Ghufran Royal Mausoleum in Bukit Chandan. Almarhumah had issue with Sultan Iskandar – eleven children, which included Almarhum Sultan Idris Shah II and Raja Muda Ahmed Siffudin.
Sekolah Raja Perempuan Kelsom, an all-girls day school founded in 1949 and originally named Government English Girls School (GEGS) in Kuala Kangsar, was renamed after her in 1970.
Many thanks to YM Raja Azmatul Azfa and YM Raja Mariam for providing a personal insight to the life of their paternal grandmother Almarhumah Raja Perempuan Kelsom.
This was Almarhum Sultan Iskandar’s third marriage.
1. Raja Nur Jannah Raja Hirdan