*This article is an edited translation of the original article titled “Istiadat Menjunjung Duli” written in Malay on 7/12/2013.
In front of the Singgahsana (the Throne), at Istana Iskandariah, Kuala Kangsar, Perak, 19 April 2010.
The “Istiadat Menjunjung Duli” in the state of Perak is a royal tradition in the court of Malay kings practiced for generations in the state. It is an official ceremony held to confer a royal title to any member of the royal family or any subject of the king.
Literally the phrase “Menjunjung Duli” means to be “at the foot of the king”. But in modern times, it is a ceremony to pledge loyalty to the king, by a subject upon being bestowed with a royal title.
In April 19 2010 I participated in the Menjunjung Duli ceremony as a requirement to receive the royal title Toh Muda Orang Kaya Besar Maharaja Di Raja, a successor title to the Orang Kaya Besar Maharaja DiRaja, one of the four major chiefs in the court of the Sultan of Perak. This title was first awarded to me in 2003.
I was awarded the title Toh Muda Orang Kaya Besar Maharaja Di Raja, Perak as a cognatic heir of a male line from a previous holder. Fifteen generations ago my ancestor Syed Husain al Faradz Jamalullail was one of the Orang Besar Empat during the reign of Sultan Muzaffar Shah I (1528 – 1549), the first sultan of Perak. My grandfather Syed Abdul Hamid bin Syed Safi Jamalullail and his grandfather Syed Jaafar bin Syed Yunus Jamalullail were also once holders of the title.
Briefly, the Menjunjung Duli ceremony which I participated was conducted in four stages:
- Morning of ceremony day, at the entrance to the palace
- At the Balairong Seri (the throne room)
- Leaving the palace and entering a period of seclusion
- Return to the palace, after a period of seclusion.
Morning of ceremony day, at the entrance to the palace
At dawn of the ceremony day on 19 October 2010, I performed the Fajr (dawn) prayer at Masjid Ubudiah, a short distance from Istana Iskandariah, Kuala Kangsar where the main ceremony was to be held. After prayer, my family and I proceeded to a specified location at the outside stairs of Istana Iskandariah. This was where the ceremony started.
I was dressed in the traditional Baju Melayu (Malay dress). There were two other would-be-recipients of royal titles with me that morning. Together we stood in a row at the lower stairs of the palace gate. With folded arms, we stood in silence. A broad banana leaf was held by a bentara or palace official over our head. The shelter by the banana leaf symbolised protection by the king over his subjects.
Start of ceremony. Arms folded and observing silence.
The Menjunjung Duli ceremony was conducted by the Toh Seri Nara DiRaja (Toh Nara) from beginning to the end.
Toh Nara took his position on the upper stairs of the palace gate and started the morning ceremony referred to as the Sumpah Chiri (literally: a pledge based on the Surat Chiri). He gave some introductory words of advice, before proceeding to read the ancient royal address called the Surat Chiri. In his introductory words of advice Toh Nara, among other things mentioned the following:
- The names of the would-be-recipients of royal titles for the day,
- A reminder on the daulat (sovereignty) of Malay kings of the past.
Toh Nara reminded us of our sacred pledge of loyalty to the king. Subject to the laws of Allah and his Rasulullah, all recipients of royal titles were required to pledge complete loyalty to the king.
Sumpah Chiri – Toh Nara reading the Surat Chiri.
Toh Nara then read the Surat Chiri, which had its origin from the courts of Malay kings of the ancient kingdom at Bukit Siguntang, in Palembang, Sumatera. The original Surat Chiri was written in the old language of Sanskrit, but the copy in present times has some old Malay and Arabic words added. The language of the Surat Chiri was poetic and the text glorified the greatness of past Malay kings up to the current ruling king.
(For further reading on the Surat Chiri please see W.E.Maxwell, “An Account of the Malay Chiri: A Sanskrit Formula” 1881, (Reprint: Forgotten Books: Hong Kong 2013), and “The Chiri or Coronation Address” in R.O.Winstedt and R.J.Wilkinson, ”A History of Perak”, M.B.R.A.S. (Reprint No.3, 1974) pp.175-176.)
Sprinkling the tepung tawar and rose-scented water
Toh Nara sprinkled the tepung tawar (literally: pure rice flour) and air mawar (rose-scented water) on all three participants, as a sign of blessing on the ceremonial process so far, and to mark the completion of first stage of the Menjunjung Duli ceremony.
All three participants then were allowed to enter the palace ground, waiting to be called to the Balairong Seri (the throne room).
At the Balairong Seri (the throne room).
All the would-be-recipients of royal titles were then attired in full ceremonial dresses according to their titles, and assembled at a specified waiting area just outside the Balaiong Seri. We waited for our turn to be summoned before the king.
I was then in full ceremonial dress for the occasion. I wore the Baju Melayu made of full songket material, and put on a tengkolok or headdress. The tengkolok is a piece of cloth of the same material as the dress, which was folded to form a headdress of certain shape according to Perak tradition.
The tengkolok or headress worn by the king and members of his nobility in Perak are folded in many ways, each given a name of its own. The tengkolok shown above is styled as Lang Menyusur Angin (The Eagle Flies With The Wind).
I was attired in light green, which was the colour assigned to the title holder of a Toh Muda Orang Besar Empat. I had a ceremonial keris (Malay dagger) tied with cloth, and the keris was slipped at my waist. In addition, all participants had to put on all our decorations, if any.
Soon it was time to enter the Balairong Seri. I heard a loud announcement from the Balairong Seri: “The King summon …(my name).. to enter”.
Entering the Balairong Seri.
As I entered the Balairong Seri, I observed that members of the nobility and other guests were then seated , both on the left and right sides of the aisle. At the far end of the aisle I saw the king and the queen seated on the throne.
At a specified spot along the aisle I sat down on the floor, in a position called bertenggul, that was to sit on the left leg with both hands clasping the right knee. As a custom when facing the king I took the sembah, which was to raise both hands, clasped together, at the forehead. This was done several times.
The Toh Nara was already there at the specified spot. As head of the ceremony he accompanied me in my ceremonial progression to the throne, and until the end of the ceremony for the day.
Bertenggul at the Balairong Seri.
I then removed the keris from my waist, and placed it on the floor, on my right. My ceremonial keris was a Keris Semenanjung. The blade had five lok (curves), and the hilt was styled as Ayam Teleng. As customary, when appearing before the king the hilt was turned to face sideways, i.e. not in a combat position, denoting good and peaceful intention. The keris was also tied with a piece of cloth to prevent it from being unsheathed.
My ceremonial keris – a Keris Semenanjung.
While still in a bertenggul position, I lowered my head and observed silence. At that moment the Secretary of the Dewan Negara (the royal council) Perak read the royal proclamation granting the royal title by the king. This was followed with a cry of Daulat three times by all members of the nobility and guests present, as symbolic acceptance of the king’s decision.
Hearing proclamation of royal title .
Immediately after the cry of Daulat the progression to the throne began, with the first step forward to be taken by the right leg. Both my left and right hands remained clasped on my right waist.
The royal Nobat music was then played during the progression and this lasted until the end of ceremony for the day.
Progression towards the throne accompanied by the Nobat music.
In my progression towards the throne I had to make three brief stops to perform the intai-intai, which was to look at the throne from a distant. This was done by raising the head slightly to the right as if to see from far the image of the king at the throne.
In a bertenggul position in front of the throne.
A few feet from the base of the throne, I began the mengesot movement, that was to move forward on one leg while in a bertenggul position. This lasted in three leg movements before I reached the base of the throne.
The king then came down from the throne to where I was positioned.
The king performed four ceremonial actions:
- The king unsheathed the Pedang Chura Si Manjakini, the hereditary sword of ancient Malay kings of Perak. He placed the tip of the sword on my head and on both my left and right shoulders.
- The king then placed the Pacak Ketor on the right side of my tengkolok (headdress). The Pacak Ketor is a metal flower with a spring-type stalk. The spring gave the flower its movement while worn on the head.
- The king then sprinkled the tepung tawar (flour) and rose flower to bless the ceremony.
- Finally, the king awarded the official document awarding the royal title. He then returned to the throne.
Touch of Pedang Chura Si Manjakini on my head and left and right shoulders.
Pacak Ketor (metal flower) placed on the headdress.
Receiving the official document of title.
After the king has returned to his seat on the throne, I began my movement of retreat, back to the spot where the ceremony started in the Balairong Seri, where I had earlier left my keris on the floor.
The movement began by mengesot in reverse way, that was to move on one leg in reverse, for three steps. Subsequently I stood up facing the king, and with Toh Nara at my side we began moving backwards, starting with the left foot.
In this reverse movement I had to make a few brief stops to perform the sembah. The reverse movement ended at the starting position, where my keris was placed on the floor.
Leaving the Balairong Seri with head covered. Beginning of period of seclusion
Subsequently the departure from Balairong Seri began. I sat in the bertenggul position and took the sembah a number of times. After the last sembah I picked up my keris from the floor and placed it back at my waist.
Then I turned my head away from the king and faced the door of the Balairong Seri at my back. At this moment a bentara covered my head with a large piece of cloth, such that the king and the Balirong Seri was no longer visible to me. The period of mandatory seclusion began.
Leaving the palace, and period of seclusion.
With my head covered I was taken to a waiting car. The cover on the head was to remain until I had crossed the Perak River, north of the palace. I proceeded to Kuala Lumpur where I was to be in hiding for seven days.
During this period of seclusion I was forbidden to see any image of the king, whether in printed form or any other form of media including the internet.
Return to the palace, after a period of seclusion.
After being in seclusion for seven days I returned for an audience with the king at Istana Iskandariah, Kuala Kangsar. I was accompanied by my wife, children and relatives.
This return ceremony was attended by a small group of guests. They included the titled rajas, members of the nobility and some civil servants in the state of Perak.
At this return ceremony I was not required to be attired in full ceremonial dress. I wore an ordinary Baju Melayu in light green, that is the colour of my full ceremonial dress. It was the official colour for the Toh Muda Orang Besar Empat.
I brought seven trays of presents each carried by a member of my family and my relatives. The presents included the customary pulut kuning (yellow rice), two pieces of cloth for the king and queen, and other gifts. The practice was for a receiver of royal title to bring five or seven trays of gifts, and the contents were to be according to what one could afford.
Sprinkling of tepung tawar and rose water. The Menjunjung Duli ceremony officially completed.
At the end of the ceremony the king sprinkled the tepung tawar and rose water on my wife and I. This indicated the completion of the Istiadat Menjunjung Duli to confer the title of Toh Muda Orang Kaya Besar Maharaja Di Raja, Perak.
The greatness of a civilisation in any country does not depend merely on its material wealth. It includes the existence of a rich culture and tradition. The Istiadat Menjunjung Duli as practiced for hundreds of years in the past reflected richness of the traditions of Malay kings in the past. This ceremony exists in similar ways in other Malay states in the Nusantara. The Surat Chiri, Pedang Chura Si Manjakini and the Nobat are all rich heritage from past Malay kings in Perak.
It is my hope that the brief note above would generate interest among the younger generation , and would inspire them to know more on the rich cultural heritage of Perak.
(Written by Dato’ Dr. Syed Jaafar bin Syed Aznan, Toh Muda Orang Kaya Besar Maharaj DiRaja, Perak).