Saturday, 5 March 2011

Negeri Jauhar @ Johor

How did Johor get its name?

Possibly from the Arabic word "jauhar", meaning gem or precious. What was Johor famous for? Did it have gems, gemstones and precious stones? No. It possibly referred to the strategic location of Johor with regard to sea trade routes frequented by the Arabs. Yes, most possibly. Why the Arabs and not the Indians, Chinese, or Europeans? No idea.


In Kelantan, there is Istana Jahar (in local dialect) but it could be Istana Jauhar (in Arabic script).

The Malays also have a proverb, "Jauhari tak kenal manikam". What does it mean?

Transliteration becomes a problem for old Malay documents written in Jawi script as there is ambiguity in the vowels. Jawi has vowels but which can be omitted in normal writing - you read it without the vowels! Jawi also has vowels but with different pronunciation: a (alif as aa, ii, uu), ya (ya as ya, yi, yu), ya (ya as ee),  alif-wau (alif-wau as ou), hamzah (as short aa, ii, uu) and others. When, translating even the script alone, there's ambiguity and variation. For this reason, the proposed book is limited to documents written in romanised Malay and a few documents written in Jawi. The assistance of experts in 3 or 4 languages are needed at times for transliteration purposes, especially when the Jawi scripts are not the usual ones we see today.

Laksamana Bentan dan Puteri Dang Anum

This Sumatran warrior along with his wife forms a classic story in Malay court history.

Laksamana Bentan was a warrior and had served under Sultan Mahmud II of old Johor. He was away on duty (war against straits pirates) when his pregnant wife was murdered for having eaten a slice of jackfruit (seulas buah nangka) from the royal garden belonging to the young sultan (about 24 years). Her womb was cut open to reveal  her unborn child indeed had the jackfruit in its mouth. Of course upon his return from duty, the Laksamana was angry when he found out his pregnant wife (and child?) was murdered and wanted to revenge.

The opportunity to revenge arose when both were on the way to Friday prayers. The sultan was being lifted (dijulang) before his dais was brought down to the ground. The sultan was ambushed and the Laksamana stabbed the sultan while being held high (dijulang). Before the sultan fell he managed to stab the Laksamana, and cursed that the Laksamana's people would vomit blood should they step on Kota Tinggi soil, and that the curse would last for seven generations.

Both Sultan Mahmud II and Laksamana Bentan died but were buried separately in Kota Tinggi. Sultan Mahmud II was buried in a royal mausoleum named Makam Sultan Mahmud II Mangkat Dijulang while Laksamana Bentan and his wife were buried side-by-side in a lesser mausoleum in Kampung Kelantan by Sungai Kemang, Kota Tinggi, Johor. All their tombstones have yellow cloths to mark their royal ancestry.

Sultan Mahmud Shah II or the 10th Sultan Johor (Raja Mahmud; born 1675; reigned 1685-1699), grandson of Sultan Alauddin Riayat Shah II, the first Raja who opened Johor Lama (old Johor) in 1530. Raja Mahmud was only 10 years old when he became Sultan Mahmud. As such the administration was placed under the Bendahara. He died of stab wounds on Friday, August 1699. He was 24 when he died. His name after death was styled Marhum Mangkat Dijulang or Marhum Kota Tinggi. He was buried at Makam Sultan Mahmud Mangkat Dijulang in Kampung Makam, Kota Tinggi, Johor. 
Laksamana Bentan @ Megat Seri Rama also suffered from stab wounds and died. He was buried nearby in Kampung Kelantan, Sungai Kemang in Kota Tinggi. He hailed from Bentan, Sumatra. He had served as an admiral in Sultan Mahmud Shah II's fleet (1685-1699).

Map of locations of the tombs of Sultan Mahmud Mangkat Dijulang, Laksamana Bentan and Dang Anum in Kota Tinggi, Johor:

Map of locations of Pulau Bintan (Pulau Bentan), Riau Islands, Indonesia and Kota Tinggi, Johor:


Laksamana Bentan was Megat Seri Rama. Both he and wife were from Pulau Bentan and were of royal Bugis extraction.

A 7th generation male descended from Puteri Dang Anum had recently died outside Johor - he was an early Malay doctor; one is still surviving but not on Malay soil. Puteri Dang Anum is survived by males of her 8th and 9th generations today.

Jungle Trails and Jungle People

Why do the West think we lived on trees? Do they still think so?

The early Western people who came to study Malaya and other countries of southeast Asia were animal hunters - they were zoo keepers and circus owners. In their search of animals, they had come here, to Malaya (now Malaysia). We had tigers (harimau), elephants (gajah), monkeys (monyet), chimpanzees (beruk), snakes (ular), orang utan and gorillas. Some of these animals are arboreal (living in trees). 

Humans were also known to be living up on trees in Malaya but these were jungle tribes, not us. These jungle tribes had to live up high on the trees to avoid being attacked by wild elephants and tigers. Elephants are known to suddenly run amok. Tigers are known to attack humans even in the dark. Living up on trees was a means for safety. Robinson Crusoe also lived in a tree-top house while his Black slave, Man Friday lived below.


In the early days where roads and cars were limited to big towns, on the west coast of Malaya, foot trails and elephants trails dominated most parts between these big towns and the hinterland of Malaya. One great elephant trail was the one from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Bharu (KL-KB elephant trail). This elephant trail is difficult to find nowadays since nobody knows of the exact GPS coordinates of that trail.

One account that was related to the author was by Matron Chong Nyet Lin @ Mariah, circa 1965. She had narrated about the KL-KB elephant trail. According to Matron Chong, she had travelled with a Malay doctor (Dr Che Lah bin Mohd Joonos) on elephant backs, carrying medicine for the hospital in Kota Bharu (I gather this would have been the Rumah Sakit Besar Kota Bharu; hospital is 'rumah sakit' in Malay). In retrospect, her story would be after the Japanese occupation, 1948 onward, where she had worked at the Bangsar Hospital in Kuala Lumpur.

Gajah (elephants). Photo from Penang Museum.

Bangsar Hospital was meant for the Europeans according to Coco (Tan Sri Abdul Majid, second Director-General of Health Malaysia). But later, Malay mothers also delivered their babies at Bangsar Hospital. Arasu's father was a gardener at Bangsar Hospital. I will  need more stories about Bangsar Hospital and life that surrounded that hospital before it was demolished. According to (click) Arasu (in his Facebook), only a few buildings of Bangsar Hospital complex remain today. Please contact Arasu in Facebook for pictures of Bangsar Hospital.

Serangoon Road in Singapore

One of the early Malay doctors was Dr Mohamed Ibrahim bin Sheikh Ismail who operated Selamat Clinic in Serangoon Road.
Serangoon Road in Little India, Singapore.
Serangoon Road is situated in Little India in Singapore. It is a main road much like Penang  Road in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia. It has goldshops, spice shops, a wet market, garland shops, sarees shops,  temples, etc. Sometimes there are Chinese roadside operas. Thaipusm procession also use Serangoon Road.

Keppel Harbour in Singapore

Accounts from at least two early Malay doctors from 1910 to 1957 mentioned Keppel Harbour in Singapore.

Dr Pandak Ahmad had arrived at Keppel Harbour to go to the King Edward College of Medicine.

Keppel Harbour in Singapore

Keppel Harbout was also mentioned in an account of the surrender of the Japanese Army in Singapore in 1945.


Map of Singapore (1)

This map shows the locations of Masjid Sultan (Sultan's Mosque), Hospital Kandang Kerbau (HKK), Serangoon Road, and North Bridge Road.