Saturday, 15 October 2011

Che Siti Wan Kembang and Kubur Che Siti

Che Siti Wan Kembang was a Kelantan royalty. She was an intelligent and beautiful princess. Kelantan was named in her honour, Negeri Che Siti Wan Kembang. 

She is buried in Kubur Banggol in Mukim Banggol. Since she was a royalty, yellow is used for her grave, columns, gravestone and retaining wall. She had lived in early Kelantan, at the time when Hindu reigned in this region, some practices of that era have lingered on and can be seen at some of the graves within this enclosure. Whether it is grave worship, I haven't the faintest idea.

There were some long wooden dolls planted in some of the graves here. There were female dolls with scarves and long skirts (like they use for Mak Yong dances or Wayang Kulit). I would think that the people who planted these dolls in these graves could still be practicising some form of grave worship from a past era (from the times of the Hindu reign in this region). The men here have dark brown skin - maybe from being fishermen and exposed to the sun for extended periods. They could have descended from Tamil Indians. The "Raja" prefix in their names gives a clue to their origin. However, the ladies here have fair complexion and look in between Chinese/Thai/Cambodian.

The word banggol refers to a mound, a high land (higher than the river or lowland) or embankment. The graveyard of Kubur Banggol is on a mound and is surrounded by swamp or marsh which open to the South China Sea.

Kubur Che Siti Wan Kembang, the princess and founder of Negeri Kelantan Darulnaim

Kubur Banggol (Kubur Che Siti)

Kubur Banggol is better known as Kubur Che Siti as Che Siti Wan Kembang was buried here. Kelantan is better known by its poetic name, Negeri Che Siti Wan Kembang. She was a Kelantan princess.

There are a few people who are helpful in finding the graves of people buried here. The graves are not computerised and location of graves depends on sheer memory of the elderly. Here is a useful contact for Kubur Banggol:

Raja Sulaiman @ Raja Semail bin Raja Soh
Lot 291, Kg Banggol Badang, Jalan PCB
15350 Kota Bharu, Kelantan
H/P: 019-963 5198 / 010-918 9792 / 012-986 5583
Pembekal bahan-bahan binaan seperti tiang simen, bata block, kerek telaga, belindan granit, batu nisan dan urusan menggali kubur.

Raja Sulaiman (left) and Affandi

Dato' Dr Haji Abdul Aziz bin Omar

My husband and I went to search for some old graves today, under the scorching sun. We went to search for Kubur Banggol or better known as Kubur Che Siti. Che Siti Wan Kembang was a princess in early Kelantan.

We asked a lot of people before we finally found the graves. We drove into Jalan Pos Ofis Lama by Muzium Perang Dunia Kedua in Kota Bharu. We passed by Padang Merdeka in Kota Bharu, which is bordered by old shophouses, Ridel Hotel Kota Bharu, vantage tower by Sungai Kelantan, Tambatan DiRaja, Jabatan Kastam DiRaja Malaysia and Muzium Perang Dunia Kedua and then turned into Jalan Pos Ofis Lama, passed Masjid Zainab/Zaiton?, and exit at a small roundabout. We proceeded to a grocery store to ask for directions.

We asked Irfan (serban) in front of the grocery store. He was very friendly and gave us 2 locations of Bongor which is the short for Padang Bogor. This was the wrong information we gave him. We did not know whether it was Bongor or Banggol. I quickly checked my notes which says Kubur Banggol and not Bongor. We asked him for directions to Kubur Banggol. He said to proceed straight to masjid (no mention of its name). 

Before we proceeded, we met Ariffin who stopped to ask us whether he could offer help. We told him we wanted to search for Kubur Banggol. He said there is Kubur Che Siti. We got confused as we have never heard of Kubur Che Siti nor did we know which "Che Siti" was meant. I thought it was Siti Nurhaliza and I panicked. We had to ask him again in case he heard us wrong or we heard him wrong. Affandi explained we wanted to see a particular person's grave and that is located at Kubur Banggol near PCB. he said Kubur Banggol is better known as Kubur Che Siti in the area and by the Kelantan populace. He gave us directions to a masjid further down the road. He said the graveyard is very long, more than a kilometre long and asked us to go to a coffee shop by the graveyard and ask there. We thanked him and left in the direction of the masjid. 

We arrived and parked our car outside the main entrance to the masjid Masjid Sultan Ismail Petra, Mukim Banggol. I remember praying in this masjid when we visited the area many years ago on the way to the beach and campsite. We had thought the graves were just behind the masjid. Ariffin caught up with us and pointed to a small lane by the masjid. He said it is better to take the car and drive to the graveyard. We were lucky to have Ariffin helping us. We went down the lane and turned right passed the school, Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan Redang, and parked at a wooden wakaf by the graves. There were many graves within view. Little did we know that the graves we saw were just the tip of the iceberg - there were other graves behind them for miles (more than a kilometre) and they go right up to Kampung Uda in Pengkalan Chepa. This is the longest Muslim graveyard I have ever seen, miles and miles of Muslim graves.

We stopped at the coffeeshop to ask some elderly men who knew the deceased person whose grave we were looking for. Affandi introduced ourselves in Kota Bharu Kelantan dialect which sounded good. The men understood and decided to help us. Affandi grew up in the Kelantan royal court and he knew the correct language to use. At once they knew him even without telling who he was. It seems that the people here are very warm and friendly. They speak softly in a quiant Kota Bharu dialect which I think people outside Kelantan may have never heard. I enjoyed the conversation. I gave them 2 of my business card for keeps. The men were happy but I felt sad as my business card was typed with romanised letters. In Kelantan, the Jawi script is preferred and the lay people can read that. That I think it a weak point of the universities today and I am at fault too. Anyway, one of the elderly man called on the phone to the gravestone mason. He asked us to see him. The grave keeper had died and the gravestone mason was standing in.

Affandi was talking to Nasir, a staff of Pejabat Sultan Kelantan, at the coffeeshop when Raja Sulaiman @ Semail called (I think the Arabic name is Ismail and in Kelantanese it becomes Semail). Raja Sulaiman is the gravestone mason. Ariffin said we should go to see Raja Sulaiman immediately.

We left the coffeeshop and followed Ariffin down the dusty tiny road to Raja Sulaiman's gravestone shed. His 3 sons work with TV3 but help him with the gravestone masonry. Raja Sulaiman came out from his office to meet us. He looked like Megat Khas and I almost fainted! Raja Sulaiman asked us whom we were looking for and we explained to him. I showed him a portrait of Dato' Dr Haji Abdul Aziz and he jumped! He has met the doctor at his clinic! We were happy that Raja Sulaiman knew Dato' Dr Haji Abdul Aziz. I mentioned to him the wife's name and some of his sibs and son who have died and were buried in Kubur Banggol. He said he knew the man and his family and asked us to follow him to the family graves. Arffin and Nasir followed on Ariffin's bike. Raja Sulaiman went with us in our car. 

We drove a long distance before arriving at the family graves. We parked the car and I was overjoyed that at last we found the graves.

Dato' Dr Haji Abdul Aziz bin Omar has a family burial plot, about an acre long piece of sloping sandy burial land with chain-linked fence, a wakaf (shed), a coconut tree, and a well. There were 16 graves in this family plot. Only 6 of the 16 graves belonged to the family:

Haji Che Abdullah bin Omar (died 9 July 1982),
Dato' Hj Ab Aziz bin Omar (died 12 June 1985),
Che Abdul Rahim bin Omar (died 2 Dec 1986),
Hjh Siah bt Omar (died 3 Sept 1991),
Abdul Hamid bin Abdul Aziz (died 10 Sept 2004),
Hajjah Wan Sharehah binti Hj Ash'ari (died 23 Sept 2007)

Family graves of Dato' Dr Haji Abdul Aziz bin Omar (died 12 June 1985/ 23 Ramadhan 1405), Kubur Banggol @ Kubur Che Siti, Mukim Banggol, Kota Bharu, Kelantan. Taken with permission of Raja Sulaiman. I visited the graves with Affandi, Raja Sulaiman (tukang buat batu nisan & belindan kubur), Ariffin and Nasir on 15 Oct 2011, from 10.52am - 11.15am. It was a hot and sunny day.

There are about 5 'reject' or previously used old black belindan (enclosure) and batu nisan which are no longer in use near the wakaf and by the fence. There are others buried at this family plot. I don't know the others who are buried here.

External link

Ships (steamers)

This is a good website for ships: Rob Ossian's Pirate Cove!

Speaking of ships, The Ancient Mariner (Capt Muhammad Yusoff bin Haji Ahmad) springs to mind. He is deceased. Inna lillahi wainna ilaihi rojiuun. It was from his blog (The Ancient Mariner) that I came across Tan Sri Dr Mohamed Said bin Mohamed, an early Malay doctor (in TEMD) who became the first elected MB for Negeri Sembilan. There is a useful saying by Jimmy Dean at his blog (The Ancient Mariner):

I cannot change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination - Jimmy Dean

Some of the early Malay doctors had to inspect ships (steamers) which plied the region. Some ships/steamers came from China and stopped over at Singapore before proceeding onward to India. Other ships/steamers went the reverse direction. They were inspected for rats, for possible carriers of the plague infective organism, Yersinia pestis. Necessary fumigation was common.

One steamer that is connected with TEMD was the Sealda. I can't find a photo of it. I guess the Sealda could be like the ship in a photo that Museum Kelantan gave me.  It could be like the ocean liner that I boarded from Kota Kinabalu to Collier Quay in Singapore, circa 1968 - the journey took 3 days of nonstop sailing, and we had to pull anchor far from the Singapore coastline and take a small boat to Collier Quay. I guess it could also be like the ships used as "kapal haji" (Hajj ships). It could be like any of the large ships that anchored off the Penang coast near Pulau Jerejak which can be seen and heard on New Year's Eve as they blow their horns to welcome the new year. There are many possibilities as to what the Sealda could have looked like. It should not look like the Cutty Sark at Greenwich nor the Portuguese galleon, Flor de la Mar (Flower of the Sea; passion flower), which attacked Malacca in 1511. I'm not taking sides when it comes to Malacca History (will blog on this).
The Cutty Sark in Greenwich, UK; August 1980. Recaptured 13 June 2010
Shipping Corporation of India (SCI), from Who is Who in Malaysia and Singapore 1971-1972
Steamship on Sungai Kelantan (Kelantan River). This was before the Sultan Yahya Petra bridge was built, circa 1939. When Dr Ali O Merican came to Kota Bharu via Thailand, he had to take a ferry across Sungai Kelantan to reach Kota Bharu by boat. The river then was wide and deep, unlike now (according to Museum Kelantan staff). Photograph courtesy of Museum Kelantan.
The Kunak steamship that I took from Kota Kinabalu to Collier Quay, Singapore; 1968
Ships in Penang harbour (far bkgr) as seen from the minaret of Masjid Kapitan Keling, Georgetown, Penang. I obtained permission and climbed to the top of the minaret to get this view. I maybe the first woman to get to enter and climb the minaret to the top (I was told women are not allowed in this minaret but I climbed with my husband and the mosque tour guide, a male). Being claustrophobic, I did not take many photos. I was scared to come down after taking photos! Our tour guide said the pink buildings at centre left were bombed during WWII as the Japanese planes had thought the lancas and bullock carts contained ammunition; they were actually carrying washed linen as the buildings were dhoby shops (kedai dobi). Ghat Lebuh Acheh is somewhere at right mid-ground.