Old Brunei Palaces

It would be quite impossible to find anybody in Brunei who don't know where Istana Nurul Iman is. The degree of knowledge obviously tapers off as you go down the list of Istanas or palaces in Brunei. Istana Nurul Izzah in Jerudong, Istana Darul Hana in Jalan Tutong, the guest palace Istana Edinburgh in Jalan Menteri Besar, Istana Darussalam in Kampung Sumbiling, Istana Manggalela in Belait and Istana Pantai in Tutong. I have written about the latter two.

During the 100th year anniversary exhibition of Brunei's capital moving to dryland (still on at the Commercial Centre in Bandar Seri Begawan), there was a number of old photographs on other recent past Brunei's palaces. There were three in particular - Istana Mahkota, Istana Majalis and Istana Kaca. I was lucky that during the ceremony, there were enough people who happened to have gone through those eras and managed to see the buildings themselves.

Istana Mahkota was in fact used by Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin (27th Sultan) and located where Istana Darul Hana currently is. I was told that the building was demolished to make way for Istana Darul Hana. Someone further commented that the current Istana Darul Hana is built lower than Istana Mahkota as the hill where this old palace was located was too high. So the hill was flattened slightly but still high enough that Istana Darul Hana is still on a hill. This photograph of Istana Mahkota is about the only one I know. Most people asked why is that man standing on the roof. I have no idea.

Another major Istana being used by the royals was Istana Majalis. This was used in the 1920s and 1930s. I am not sure when it was demolished but many records indicated that a number of princes and princesses of Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam died there - so the palace was used quite extensively by the royal family then. Istana Majalis used to be located where the General Postal Office is currently in Bandar Seri Begawan.

Another two palaces - more like guest houses - are very near the Istana Majalis. I suspected that these two are annexes to Istana Majalis originally. Unfortunately only one of the two had surviving photographs which is Istana Kaca. Though by the 1960s, this Istana was so dilapidated that one of my senior PS colleagues during the exhibition was telling me how when he was a kid, he and his friends used to break the window panes there to make 'belahan' for the kite. 'Belahan' are powdered glasses that one rubs on the strings of kites so that the string can cut other kites' strings.

Istana Kaca is also known as Istana Sugara. Another nearby palace is called Istana Cermin. I don't have a photograph of this Istana but I have been told that this Istana is next to Istana Kaca. I saw the location of this Istana on a 1950s map where it was located next to Istana Kaca or Istana Sugara. Both Istana Kaca and Istana Cermin are located where the Lapau is currently. Both were in fact demolished to make way for the Lapau.

There were a number of other Istanas being used during the late 19th and early 20th century. So far I know the names of Istana Kampung Ayer, Istana Pekan, Istana Kota at Kampung Sultan Lama and lately I came across another Istana's name called Kafidunya. I have not seen any photograph and other than only one source citing them, I have not seen any additional sources. Future blog fodders should I be able to come across new materials regarding these.


Anonymous said…
Thank you Mr.BR for such insightful information. My Family & I went to see the exhibition a couple of nights ago and I was extremely impress with it. I did asked my mother where Istana Majalis, Istana Kaca & Istana Mahkota was located before, but unfortunately she was also not so sure. So I am really happy to have my questioned answered.
I wish that we have restored these old Istanas, and also old offices & public buildings, instead of demolishing them and have it maintained like the National Heritage Foundation does for old buildings in the UK. I am all for modernisation but sometimes its good to have these buildings to remind us how far we have achieve in the past decade or so.
Anonymous said…
Very interesting article. I was sorry to miss the Exhibition but I think the relevant authority should consider making it a permanent display at the Museum, which I think is not? Then the locals could visit it and learn more about our heritage at any time.
Anonymous said…

I enjoyed your article, thank you very much! Great blog :-)

I was wondering if you have any pictures of Istana Darul Hana? I can't find any on the internet.

Thanks in advance
24 said…
hey basman, i believe these picture include istana darul hana

http://www.itqshhb.edu.bn/v1/images/stories/itqbuilding1.jpg (black roofings)


https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f0/Wasserdorf_Nordufer_Istana_Darul_Hana.JPG (only black roofing of istana is visible)


http://i566.photobucket.com/albums/ss102/OMBugge/Brunei/P5204814.jpg (also only the black roof is visible~ *sigh*

while a single picture contains the whole istana is impossible, because it is forbidden to take a picture of the istana~

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