The Grave in the Middle of the City

I was speaking with my brother yesterday about a few historical research articles that he had to be added on to the library at He gathered the articles when he was at Tourism Unit and one of the projects which he did was to gather all the information about historical sites in Bandar Seri Begawan. One of them was an article on the rather unknown but quite famous graveyard across the road in front of the General Post Office or rather in the carpark yard of the TAIB Building.

A lot of us must have seen the grave or rather the walled part of it and there is a roof structure over it. I am not sure whether the younger generation if you passed by it actually realised it is a grave. The older generation know it as Kubur Dang Ayang or rather the Dang Ayang's Grave. Dang is the Brunei colloquial term for Dayang and Ayang is the name of that person.

I have not had the chance to read the said article but my brother described the contents of the paper to me. The grave is not exactly a grave as such and it may or may not contained the remains of one or more persons. It is a very sad story. Apparently in the old days, a sister and a male sibling was caught in an unlawful relationship (sumbang mahram is the Malay term). According to the laws then, the crimes must be punished by being stoned to death.

However nobody then had the heart to stone them to death but neither could they leave them unpunished. So they compromised. what they did was to build a cavern in the middle of the forest (remember most Bruneians in those days live along the river and this 'kubor' was about a mile inland then - so it is quite far from the other Bruneians) and forced the two of them to live in it. Some versions said only Dang Ayang was forced to live in it and some versions said both of them. The cavern was fitted with an air ventilation and presumably some food was left with them as there was supposedly a small chimney where smoke can be seen coming out of the chimney. This smoke indicated that they were still alive. They must have been kept there for a long while until one day no more smoke was seen coming out of the chimney and everyone presumed that she or they died.

According to elder Bruneians, the place was actually a mound and during the bombing of the second world war, the mound was flattened and up to now that's why there is no mound left. Nobody knew when the graveyard started to be walled but presumably someone did it because it is still technically a grave and up to now it is left there - to be left unknown and a rather sad testimony to an indescretion of a young Brunei lady.
PS. I finally managed to read the article and according to the research based on the gravestones found there, the lady in question named Raja Ayang was a member of the aristocracy (and whose father was said to be the son in law of the third Sultan) and most likely the crime was during the time of Sultan Sulaiman (circa 1432-1485). It was said that the lady realising what she committed was very serious that she and her entourage (so it wasn't just one person but the whole household) voluntarily went to to their deaths. Before the second world war, the mound was said to be as high as 10 meters but when bombed it was flattened with some saying that it is possible that the mound is empty in the first place.

PPS. I was chatting with my driver about my entry and he told me that his wife had studied another version in school as part of her Malay Literature class something along the line of a 'were-crocodile' (buaya jadi-jadian) and that she hid inside the cavern to escape from him. I will be getting more details on this one and maybe post this as well.


Widarchitect said…
fantastic! I remember this story. My
parents told me when I was little...
Snippets of an older age in Brunei are the pieces of our heritage that often get left behind only to travel through time via storytellers. Thanks again for the post! xxw
Anonymous said…
sad story... i learned of this story since i was young. hopefully the new generation will pass down the stories to others. a lesson to learn.
Anonymous said…
Nice post again Mr. BR. But by the way the spelling should be 'sumbang' and not SUBANG as you mentioned. I guess must be your typo error!
Anonymous said…
why is the tale of Dang Ayang only passed through 'word of mouth'? I think it's a tale worth retelling and safekeeping so that many would learn from their mistakes. Maybe if we could humanize the characters even more, like the tale of Hang Tuah, Sultan Melaka dan Puteri Gunung Ledang, it would make a blockbuster!
Anonymous said…
I've lived in Bandar all my life and I've never knew there was a grave there. Thanks for the article!
anakbrunei said…
I've always wondered whose grave it was... Thanks for clearing that up for me Mr BR!
Anonymous said…
Saw the same story on RTB just last week. Reminded me to watch RTB more often other than to catch the news. Kudos to Mr. BR and RTB for continuing to generate interest in local culture and heritage which could so easily be lost in our times.
Anonymous said…
I remembered the story about that grave, told to me via my grandmother, though I am not sure who gave the story to her.

Grandma said that Dang Ayang refused to have her marriage arranged with the nobility, and wanted to remain single all her life.

And so, due to that, she angered her father, who then ordered her to be placed in the cavern along with her entourage as a punishment.

My grandma also mentioned that there was a chimney fitted there so that smoke can be seen whenever her servants cooked meals for the people in the cavern.

I guess the story evolved over the centuries and thus now have a lot of versions.
According to the research paper (I don't have permission to reprint the paper - it is written by an emminent local historian), the gravestone contained this writing:

Hijaratun Nabi Muhammad SAW 856 ... ibnata Ismail bin Yusof Al-Aziz Al-Khawlani [the name of the person is not known but in the gravestone only known as the daughter of Ismail - the name Raya Ayang comes from folklore]

Perbuatan yang dicontohkan (yang dilakukan) sperti itu sudah memadai (pembalasan yang dikenakan);
Dengannya (pembalasan) itu lebih baik dari kejahatan (yang dilakukan)
Dan inilah badan orangnya (yang melakukan kejahatan itu).
Insya Allah mereka di dalam aman
Sebahagian nikmat dunia yang didahagakan (dibandingkan dengan balasan yang akan diterima pada Hari Kiamat)
Ya Allah, berilah rahmat sesudah keterlanjuan ini. [this indicated that it is hoped that by the punishment of her being buried alive is punishment enough for the indescretion she committed]

Based on this research, any other versions of the story of Dayang Ayang are not as accurate but nevertheless make interesting readings.
Anonymous said…
Good post big man. You're doing good by writing about our history that we just never bother to look up. I saute you. Now if you could just write about another 'monument' that was built along the Kianggeh River, the empty shell of a building that sits there uncompleted..that would be a great story.

visit me at
Hey! Thank you so so much for enlightening us with that story. I do see the structure when I pass by the post office but I never bothered to wonder about what it was. And now I know. I have absolutely no idea that it was a small grave, until now!
Anonymous said…
Such an interesting information. Thank you :)
Anonymous said…
Jack: I saute you.---> Buh, hahahahah. Baik bisai2.

My version was that she was "buried alive". Yeap. Gruesome. It made a nice bedtime story.

We were a people who killed each other pasal SABONG AYAM, burying alive an incestuous female is believable. Hehe.
Anonymous said…
i grew up in bandar and must have walked by that spot a million times. i had no clue there was a grave there. thanks for the info; it's definitely worth telling my overseas friends about =)
Anonymous said…
There are actually bits and pieces about the grave and it's occupant at the Brunei History centre. There's a particular picture which has the gravestone with the writings which Mr Br actually spoke of above.
Anonymous said…
I have never known that that roof was part of a grave (I just thought it was something that had to do with beautifying Bandar). Thanks Bruneiresources for teaching us about the history lying underneath our noses.

But I must confess I am confused about certain aspects of Brunei history...if the young woman was in an incestous relationship, how come most of the stories about the grave have only her punished? Was the man in the legend/myth not punished?

And how come you have posted that it was the "indiscretion of a young Brunei lady"? What about the indiscretion of the man in this story?
reading & learning: you are right, the man was never mentioned in any of the legend - it is always her. that i can't answer. with regard to the grave as a symbol of indescretion, with hindsight, i should have said, yes, indescretion of a young Brunei couple.

jack: i think you blogsite is more suited for the question you posed to me :) - when i first started with only a readership of 2 (me and my wife) was the time when i am freer. with 1,000+ a day, it gets a little bit harder to write certain things. like your blog.
Anonymous said…
BR man, yes you're right. I dont think you can be as free with your words as i can. haha. The downside to success my man. But it really would be interesting to find out what, why, when? Anyway, keep up the brilliant work. You're doing a good job my man. Keep it up.
jack: *grin* i know the whys, whats and whens of many things and even if i don't, i know who knows. but like you said, i can't be free with my words, so... anyway, you keep doing what you are doing best...
Tina D said…
When I was little, my mom used to scare me with Dang Ayang. She said, "Kalau ko inda barus gigi, ada karang tu si Dang Ayang!"

When I grew up, she told me a story about her being buried alive, and that grave is where she rest.
Anonymous said…
so the grave was around TM1435 or 856 hijriah, just like Mr Br said during the time of Sultan Sulaiman, interesting... i've always wondered whose grave it was and what's the real story behind it, i've been told by some, whoever it was in that grave, it was told that the person was buried alive, however, ,my curiosity is..... why bury people alive?? perhaps the deceased might have been punished accordingly to death........ if only it was possible to dig in and see what's going on, and do some DNA stuff like CSI's, and find out how they died, what age, sex, race, some time frame of year bla bla bla

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