Reign Of Splendour
By Johan Suhaimi

In an announcement that shook Brunei Darussalam at 8.45pm on a Thursday evening of the 29th Jamadil Akhir 1387 corresponding to October 4th 1967, Yang Teramat Mulia Duli Pengiran Pemanca Pg Muda Hj Muhammad Alam announced from the Balai Singgahsana (throne room) that His Majesty Duli Yang Maha Mulia Paduka Seri Baginda Maulana Al-Sultan Sir Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien has made the following proclamation:

'Yang terbit daripada Laila hati hening lagi jernih yang tidak menaroh syak dan waham daripada Beta Sir Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan dan Yang Di-Pertuan Negeri Brunei, memaklumkan kepada seluruh rakyat dan penduduk Negeri Brunei bahawasanya Beta dengan suka cita mengatakan diri Laila hasrat hati beta pada mengistiharkan kepada Kerajaan dan kepada seluruh rakyat dan penduduk Negeri ini bahawa dengan kesukaan Beta sendiri turun dari takhta Singgahsana Kerajaan pada hari Rabu 4hb Oktober 1967, adalah tetap dan muktamat dan sekali-kali tidak boleh ditarek balik. Oleh yang demikian, sekali lagi beta mengistiharkan kepada rakyat selurohnya mengenai maksud Beta turun dari Takhta Singgahsana Kerajaan adalah dengan kesukaan Beta sendiri'

This translates into "It is with clear and honest intention and without any dispute or ill feeling that I, Sir Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei, announce to the citizens and residents of Brunei Darussalam that it is my heart's desire to willingly abdicate the throne on Wednesday October 4, 1967. The decision is final and cannot be altered. Therefore I once again announce to the Brunei citizens and residents that I am acting on my own free will."

The announcement that was broadcast throughout Brunei Darussalam caught the people by surprise but it also brought about a new era for the nation. On stepping down, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien II took the title of Paduka Seri Begawan and Duli Raja Isteri Pg Anak Damit was known as Paduka Suri Seri Begawan.

Soon after the announcement was made, a committee on Sultan's coronation confirmed the appointment of the new Sultan who at that time held the title Yang Teramat Mulia Seri Paduka Duli Pengiran Muda Mahkota Hassanal Bolkiah D.K as the legitimate Sultan in accordance with the law. The appointing ceremony for the new Sultan was held at the Balai Singgahsana of Istana Darul Hana in accordance with the Royal tradition.

At exactly 3.30 pm of the 1st of Rejab 1387 corresponding to October 5, 1967, in a military uniform, His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah ascended the throne for the first time as the new ruler of Brunei Darussalam. He was 21 years old.

Yang Teramat Mulia Duli Pengiran Bendahara of the time read the announcement letter officiating the new Sultan. A Salute of 'Daulat Tuanku' (His Majesty the sovereign) followed the announcement. 21 cannon shots were fired to conclude the ceremony.

A further salute of 'Daulat Tuanku' was done three times led by Pehin Orang Kaya Di Gadong Indera Laila Dato Hj Muhammad Yusuf and was followed by those present. A recital of obedience to the new Sultan was read, led by Pengiran Dato Seri Paduka Hj Muhammad Yussof bin Pg Hj Abdul Rahim who was the head of administration of Brunei Darussalam.

According to aristocratic etiquette, the newly appointed Sultan must undergo the 'Perpuspaan' (coronation ceremony). The 'Perlantekan' (appointment) is to formally legalise the position of the new ruler in the monarch's office while the Puspa (the actual aristocratic term for crowning) is to introduce the new Sultan to the people. Soon after the appointment, His Highness Paduka Seri Begawan Sultan readied for the event that came at a later stage, resurrecting an age-old tradition of crowning the new Sultan.

About 1000 craftsmen of various skills of old Brunei cultural arts were employed to generate the mechanism of the 'Perpuspaan' ceremony with a range of materials made from metal, fabric, encrusted with gems etc. Also preparing for the event were the people of Brunei Darussalam.

Various activities and events were organised to mark the event. The date that had been picked coincided with the royal birthday of the new Sultan.

Some time later, on January 8, 1968, at 8.15pm, the acting Mentri Besar, Yang Amat Berhormat Pengiran Dato Seri Utama Hj Mohd Yusuf Bin Pg Hj Abdul Rahim (Now titled Pengiran Setia Negara), through Radio Brunei, announced that the coronation of the new Sultan of Brunei will take place starting Thursday 6th Jamadil Awal 1388 (corresponding to August 1, 1968).

The first event to take place was the traditional announcement of regal and cultural origin hailing from the time radio communication was not available.

On Thursday February 1, 1968, two groups of men went to two different strategic positions. One went across the Brunei River - Sungai Kebun Hill to hoist a red flag to announce to the foreigners that a coronation will take place.

The group was led by Pehin Seri Wangsa Hj Awg Muhammad while the other group that went to the Bukit Panggal, in the Tutong district to hoist a yellow flag to announce to the residents of Brunei Darussalam that a coronation will soon take place, was led by Pehin Orang Kaya Shah Bandar Hj Awg Ahmad.

Forty days before the coronation of the new Sultan of Brunei Darussalam, the beating of the 'Gendang Jaga-Jaga' (royal Orchestra) was initiated.

The Gendang Jaga-Jaga is of the Naubat Di Raja comprising two Nakara (main drums), 4 Gendang Labek (cylindrical drums), 4 Chanang, (rhythmic gongs), 2 Gong (Base Gongs) and 4 Serunai (Royal Oboe). But the gong and Chanang were not brought into the Lapau as it is only used to accompany the procession of the coronation with the melody of Raja Lalu.

At the same time the music was played, royal decorations were set in place at the Lapau Di Raja (Ceremonial Hall), Darul Hana Palace and along the route that will be used by the new Sultan. The colourful street decorations such as the Tunggol Kawan, Payong Ubor-ubor, Ambal and Dadap came in many colours such as pink, orange, yellow, red, green and others to symbolise the hierarchy of the aristocrats of Brunei Darussalam. The Balai Pemajangan on the other hand was decked with decoration such as Sumbu Layang, Payong Haram, Payung Tiga Ringkat, Sapu-sapu Ayeng, Panji-panji, and Ula-ula Besar.

The Brunei public then started to gather along the main road of Bandar Brunei, the new road that has been recently tarred. Families thronged as early as 6 am with 'Bata' (take away food) and paper umbrellas in tow and ready at hand. Shops and businesses closed for the day. At the same time, it also gave the public a chance to view more closely the new equipment of Radio Television Brunei as well as the flashy Mamia 'Kamera Melatop' (replaceable flash lights) that was the rage of that time.

At 8.30 am on the coronation day, the Istiadat Bersiram (royal ceremonial bath) was held at the Istana Darul Hana to begin the day's ceremony. The ceremony Istiadat Bersiram Berkandang Dengan Kain Putih involved the extract of fragrant flowers, sandalwood, Langir (vine soap) and Limau (kaffir lime). There were also 16 candles held by dayang-dayang (court lower attendants) and a Dayang carrying a Kamol Pesalinan (after shower attire). Spontaneous to the occasion was a firing of 21 cannon shots to announce the commencement of the coronation ceremony for that day.

By 9 am, invited guests went in according to protocol with the men going to the Lapau Di Raja and the women to the Pasiban Singgahsana of Istana Darul Hana. Among those present at the ceremony were foreign dignitaries and representatives of the sultans of the states of Malaysia such as Kelantan, Johor, Selangor, Pahang, Negeri Sembilan and the British Residence to Brunei at that time - His Excellency AR Adair who was also the personal representative of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the II of England.

His Majesty the Sultan was dressed in a locally woven red brocade suit with a design of Arab Gegati Berpakan with an Amban (sash) of the same design, but in purple colour. His Majesty's majestic décor included a sash and a regal 'Tara' (aigrette) on his 'Dastar' (folded cloth head gear). To complete the attire, His Majesty wore a gem studded 'Kuas' (shoulder ornament) and a Keris slipped onto his left side. His Majesty then waited to be conveyed to the Lapau Di Raja by the Wazir on a chariot. Her Majesty Duli Raja Isteri Pg Anak Saleha was also dressed with the same fabric but remained at Istana Darul Hana.

By 10 am, the new Sultan arrived before the Fire Department on Jalan Tutong. The procession was accompanied by "Changkah", 40 men dressed in a Sa-parampun merah bersinjang and dastar bertanun, bersesandang kain bersulam wali kuning (dressed in red attire with a torso wrap around and head gear of woven fabric and a yellow shoulder cloth with the embroidery of wali) carrying Sinipit (spear) and Taming (shield), 16 Awang-awang (men) wearing Sa-parampun hitam, bersinjang and berdastar bertanun bersesandang kain bersulam wali kekuningan (men dressed in black with torso wrap around and head gear of black woven fabric and a yellowish shoulder cloth) carrying Pedang Bersampak Emas (gold capped sword) and Perisai (shield), 16 men dressed in Sa-parampun hitam, bersinjang dan berdastar kain bertanun, bersesandang kain bersulam wali kekuningan and carrying Tumbak Bendaranagan (ceremonial spear), 8 Pengarah carrying 8 Alam Bernaga candles and Panglima Raja carrying Pemuras (royal Gun) and Kampil (bullet bag) and Panglima Asgar carrying Kalasak (royal sword) and Kampilan (royal shield). Other decorations in the procession were the Chogan Di Raja (royal mace) carried by Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Bakti Di-raja and Chogan Ugama (religious mace) carried by Pehin Si-Raja Khatib.

In the royal chariot, among the items carried were the Mahkota (royal coronation Crown) borne by Pengiran Paduka tuan Sahibol Kharib, Keris Si Naga (a Keris / dagger by the name Si Naga the dragon) and Kim Hap or Tungkat Ajai (chin rest in the shape of an arm) borne by Setia Usaha Kebawah Duli Yang Maha Mulia Paduka Seri Sultan.

The coronation ceremony was held at the Lapau Di Raja which was also the throne room at that time. Souvenir books were distributed for that special occasion in colours of yellow and green. Upon arrival, His Majesty received a salute by the Royal Brunei Armed Forces at the ground of the Lapau Di Raja. His Majesty stood regally on the one-foot high podium. Soon after the inspection of the guard of honour, His Majesty proceeded into the Lapau Di Raja.

The Lapau Di Raja was solemnly decked in the proper decoration of a pure gold covered 'Petaratna' (throne chamber) with 'Ganta' (several fruit like ornaments joined by rope) hung at the base of 'Alamat' (an ornament that was originally made form silk and moves), 'Patra' (leaf like ornament on the roof), 'Nanglong' (studs that point to the sky), 'Buah Buntun' (fruit ornament that is under the patra and nanglong).

The hipped gabled roof of the Petaratna is decorated with calligraphic writing at the 'Pelihiran' (neck of the roof). Placed inside this was the throne of the Sultan awaiting the Perpuspaan to begin. Also at the Singgahsana, the Kuching Emas (solid gold ceremonial cats) were placed, a man dressed in black sitting in front of the throne with his chest open bare and holding a dagger with his right hand on his chest.

The Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Penggawa Laila Betara Adat Istiadat Di-raja requested the consent of Paduka Seri Begawan Sultan to crown and slip the Royal Keris to the new Sultan as a symbolic gesture of handing over and appointing him as the new Sultan. When consent was received, Seri Paduka Duli Pengiran Pemanca presented the Mahkota and Keris Si Naga.

The Mahkota that is made from gold is in the character of the 'Penambat' (an aristocratic head gear) that is of a 'Sarban' (hat like appendage) as the base that is decorated with 'Tajok Tiga Ringkat' (three tiered spangled ornament) with a 'Karang Tambusa (back Flap), 'Subang Dua Ringkat' (ear studs) and 'Melur Turun' (Jasmin shaped dangles) underneath each of the pair.

The crown is also studded with rubies, sapphires, diamonds and pearls on it with the work in the Brunei styles of 'Pahat Bunga Timbul' (embossed chiselling designed), 'Pahat Bunga Cawi' (engraved chiselling design) and 'Bunga Bertabok' (lacy pierced work). The upper part is covered with a spherical 'Tampuk' and a Majestic 'Tara' (aigrette) sitting in front of the Mahkota.

As soon as the Sultan was crowned, Paduka Seri Begawan took his sword and pointed it as a signal for every one present to stand. At the same time, the Wazir, Cheteria and Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Di-Gadong also drew their swords. Led by Seri Paduka Pengiran Bendahara, those present saluted seven times, a 'Puja' (salutation), to the new sultan. With each salute there was a Titir (beating) of the Nobat and firing of the cannon. At the same time Pehin Orang Kaya Di-Gadong announced a 'Sembah' (paying homage in honour of the new sultan) with the 8th firing shot of the cannon till the 21st shot. A thanksgiving prayer was read to conclude the ceremony.

The procession passed through the main street that was named after the coronation event and is known till today as Jalan Sultan. The pure gold-covered royal chariot was powered by men who pulled the regally- wheeled vehicle around the route selected. The royal chariot was followed by dignitaries and the Naubat Di Raja playing the accorded tune. It also gave the public a look at the heritage of Brunei in use, with military and regal ornaments, that were made from gold, silver, gems, silk embroideries, silk covers, brass wares and metal.

The ceremony continued after the coronation at the Lapau Di Raja with a procession on the royal chariot around Brunei Town (now Bandar Seri Begawan). The procession ended at the same place it began, the Fire Department at Jalan Tutong.

The royal procession then headed towards the Istana Darul Hana, where the spouses of Seri Paduka Duli Pengiran Bendahara, Seri Paduka Duli Pengiran Di-Gadong, Seri Paduka Pengiran Pemanca and Pengiran Perdana Cheteria received His Majesty.

The processions proceeded to the Balai Singgahsana of the palace and the new Sultan 'Bertimbang' (sat along side) Pengiran Isteri Pg Anak Saleha. The invited male guests and female guests sat at designated areas at the Balai Singgahsana.

The spouse of Pengiran Penggawa Laila Betara Adat Istiadat Di-Raja Dalam Istana asked for the consent of Paduka Suri Seri Begawan to crown the new Raja Isteri.

The Crown was borne by the spouse of Pengiran Paduka Tuan Sahibol Kharib into the ceremony. The Crown that is also made of gold is studded with fine diamonds and multicoloured gem stones with a trimming of ermine at the base. The spouse of Duli Pengiran Pemanca presented the crown to Paduka Suri Seri Begawan.

A 'Puja' (salutation) was recited seven times in honour of the new Raja Isteri and with every salutation, a cannon was fired. The spouse of the Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Di-Gadong announcing 'Sembah' (Homage and salute to the new Raja Isteri) at the 8th firing of the cannon till the 21st concluded the ceremony. A Doa Selamat was recited after the occasion. The Gendang Jaga-jaga continued for another seven days after the coronation ceremony during which banquets were held by the new Sultan, for His Majesty's invited guests.

The nation celebrated the Perpuspaan ceremony with various fairs that were held at various venues. - Borneo Bulletin (5th Oct 2007)