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January 28, 2015

Still Searching Without Luck

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – And it's still raining! Major flooding now but not in Kuching where I live. Southern kampongs are all awash, schools closed and the government is flying in relief.


I have tried to get to Kampong Lidah Tanah for a couple of weeks now, but the graves I want to see are all under water. I want to scrub the years of tropical decay off the faces and see if I can get a date of some kind. I believe that the kampung is much older than the people realize, but I need proof and the graves will provide it. I hope.


We went to Santubong, about 24 kilometres from here and visited the mausoleum of the first Sultan and last Sultan of the area, Pengirian Muda Tengah.


It seems there was a dispute over the successor to the throne, so the wise old Sultan appointed one of them to be our Sultan. This was back in 1599 or so.


The Sultan came here with about a 1,000 men and built a fort and palace. None of this remains today, but the area has yet to be archeologically explored. The structures were made of wood so that not much will be found.


The Sultan, after appointing three people to rule for him, then travelled across the sea to visit his aunt in Pahang. She was of noble blood. There are two versions of what happened next. The first one said the Sultan was dancing with somebody and her handkerchief nearly hit him in the face. Enraged, he slapped his dance partner. He was asked to leave the area.


The second version has him being offered the hand in marriage of the daughter of the Sultan of Johor. He refused the offer and was advised to leave. He set sail for home after either version.


While sailing home, a typhoon caused him to lose his main sail and blew him off course. He ended up on South Borneo, in a place called Sukdana. There he studied Islam with a dignitary from Mecca.


Re spirited, he elected to spread Islam throughout the area. He married one of the princesses and she gave birth to three princes. One prince would become the Sultan of Sambas, another, the Sultan of Matan. You must remember these were very small kingdoms with about 200 people, if that.


Finally, after several children and a few grandchildren, he elected to reclaim his throne in Sarawak, where I live today. He travelled to Batu Buaya, just outside of Santubong, where he was killed by his deranged servant. He was buried in the same kampung.


The mausoleum, it has been said, was built by the Sultan of Brunei. It is about 30 feet tall and spreads majestically for about another 30 feet forming a rectangle. The elevated center holds the Islamic grave, rectangular with another rectangle in the center. The center one is of earth. It proceeds down to the remains. A large stone is at the head and at the base. These stones are covered with yellow cloth, the color of the people of Sarawak.


I was hoping to find some writing or other information on the stones but there was nothing there. It was another dead end (pardon the pun) but an enjoyable trip was had by all.


...Life is good. . . . .


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