The Coronation of the Sultan of Brunei

[Note: I wrote the following article for Brunei Times as it was running a special feature on the 40th Anniversary of His Majesty's Coronation. This was published yesterday on BT under the Focus Feature page.]

In the early morning of 1st Febuary 1968, while the folks of Brunei Town (now Bandar Seri Begawan) were just starting to go and do their daily chores, two groups of men were preparing to ascend two hills to carry out centuries’ old traditions. One of the hills was in Tutong while the other was in the Brunei-Muara District.

Far from the crowds at Jalan Sultan, the two groups tackle the ascent up the hills. The Tutong crowd was led by Pehin Orang Kaya Shahbandar Haji Awang Ahmad. Once they reached the top, they raised a big yellow flag at the summit.

The other group in the meantime was led by Pehin Seri Wangsa Haji Awang Muhammad. They too raised a big flag but this time it was red, at the summit of Bukit Sungai Kebun.

For the many Bruneians who saw the flags flying high on top of the two hills, the flags can only mean one thing – a new Sultan will be coronated soon. Some shouted ‘Daulat Tuanku’ knowing that it is very seldom that a Coronation for a new Sultan can be witnessed by everyone during his or her lifetime.

The flag raising ceremonies marked the beginning of the six months’ preparation for the Coronation proper. The Menteri Besar (Chief Minister), YAM Pengiran Dato Seri Utama Haji Mohd Yusuf has announced on radio, about 2 months before the raising of the flags ceremonies, that the Coronation will take place on 1st August 1968.

For the citizens and residents living in Brunei Darussalam, a country steeped in tradition, the announcement was something that they had been waiting for. His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah ascended the throne when his father, His Majesty Sultan Omar Ali abdicated in October 1967.

Since then Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has been the ‘Sultan of Brunei Darussalam’ but not as the ‘Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam’. According to the laws then, a Sultan cannot be the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan, until he has been coronated twelve months after he ascended the throne.

The flag raising ceremonies were to inform everyone in Brunei that the Coronation was about to begin. The red flag was to inform the foreigners in Brunei and the yellow at Bukit Panngal was to inform the citizens of Brunei.

Forty days before the coronation was supposed to take place, the ‘gendang jaga-jaga’ was opened at the lapau. All the lights and decorations at the Lapau and the Istana are fixed and lighted up. The ‘jaga-jaga’ ceremony lasted for seven days. In that time, His Majesty would have invited everyone to a special banquet which will be held seven days after the coronation.

On the day of the Coronation, His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah waited at the Palace wearing his government dress and a keris named ‘Si-Naga’. According to traditions, he would be waited upon by Pengiran Bendahara, Pengiran Pemancha, Pengiran Shahbandar, Orang Kaya Digadong, Jawatan Dalam, Jawatan Luar, Orang Kaya Lasamana, Orang Kaya Shahbandar, Dato Perdana Menteri dan Kadhi Besar. They will be accompanied by bearers of royal regalias and candles. There was a 21 cannon salute.

The Sultan was then carried to the Lapau on top of the ‘usongan’ or chariot accompanied by all the Wazirs and the bearers of the Royal Regalias. According to traditions, along the road to the lapau, there should have been a white puadai (piece of cloth).

On his arrival at the Lapau, His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah inspected a guard of honour outside the Lapau before going into the Lapau.

The nobat was sounded when His Majesty entered Lapau and all was quiet. Upon his arrival, His Majesty was proclaimed by Pengiran Maharaja Lela. Four candles were lighted up and at the same time, all the Wazirs stood at their allotted places together with all the bearers of the Royal Regalia. His Majesty then sat to the Peterana (Throne).

His Majesty Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Saadul Khairi Waddien as the abdicating Sultan placed the crown upon His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah’s head. Then His Majesty Sultan Omar Ali unsheathed his sword followed by the other wazirs. Pehin Orang Kaya Digadong announced to the audience that they should pay allegiance and respect to His Majesty by calling out ‘sembah’. Everyone present then would present their respects in unison to His Majesty.

All the wazirs then would also unsheathed their swords and declare their allegiance to His Majesty before the doa selamat read by Pehin Dato Seri Maharaja.

According to the book ‘Adat Istiadat Diraja’ written by M. Jamil (now Pehin Dato Jamil), the words to be said during the coronation of His Majesty should be the following:-

1. Sudah dengan kehendak Allah Tuanku menjadi Rajaa dalam Negeri Brunei ini;

2. Sudah dengan kehendak Allah Tuanku menjadi junjongan rakyat Negeri Brunei ini;

3. Sudah dengan kehendak Allah Tuanku menjadi pemimpin kepada rakyat Negeri Brunei ini;

4. Sudah dengan kehendak Allah Tuanku menjadi penaong kepada rakyat Negeri Brunei ini;

5. Sudah dengan kehendak Allah Tuanku menjadi turus tunggak Negeri Brunei ini;

6. Sudah dengan kehendak Allah Tuanku menjadi Yang Di-Pertuan bagi Negeri Brunei ini;

7. Mudah-mudahan Kebawah Duli Yang Maha Mulia Tuan Patek kekal karal di atas Singgahsana Kerajaan Brunei turun temurun memerintah dan memimpin rakyat Negeri Brunei Darussalam Amin Ya-Rabbal Alamin.

The ceremony did not end there. Simultaneously at the palace, Her Majesty the Raja Isteri underwent the same coronation traditions with the exception of the words of ‘Yang Di-Pertuan’ to be replaced by ‘Raja Isteri’.

After the end of the Coronation rites at the Lapau, His Majesty was paraded back to the Palace on his Usongan.

His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Muizzaddin Waddaullah, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, the 29th of a long line of Islamic Brunei Sultanate, in his maiden speech as the Sultan, has declared that he will continue his father’s footsteps to ‘raise the quality of life of the rakyats through development projects’ and ‘to protect the Islamic Religion and the traditions of the country’. Looking at the development in the country and the peace and tranquility of Brunei Darussalam, clearly His Majesty has been able to achieve those goals. Daulat Kebawah Duli Tuan Patek!


Al-Qadr said…
Daulat Kebawah Duli Tuan Patik! Kitani baru jua budak ingusan beumur 5 tahun tu BRo.. hehehh:)

We were both only 5 years old then but what I could remember vividly then was the "Perpuspaan" song sung by Cikgu Hussin Hj Tuah, if I am not mistaken. So your re-write on the Coronation would be complete if you could download that good old theme song, BRo - just a suggestion. The other excitement was probably the involvement of my uncles who were amongst the "Pahawai"? (Young male descendants of the Awang-Awang clan of Pandai Emas or Sungai Kedayan or where else?) Don't know much about "Adat Istiadat",BRo.

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