Dated: Some of the household furnishings of the Gunung Tabur Sultanate still remain.While Gunung Tabur and Sambaliung were formerly separated because of a trading policy of the Dutch East Indies Company, now both sultanates coexist, united, adding color to social life in coal-rich Berau regency in East Kalimantan, which recently marked its anniversary.
A tremendous cheer arose from supporters of the Jelau Tukung longboat team from Kampung Bina Baru, Berau, to celebrate the team’s victory after beating 14 other groups in a longboat competition on the Segah River as part of the regency’s anniversary commemorations.
“We’ve got to keep training as the other teams this time have shown tougher resistance. Next year we must win the race again,” said one of the Jelau Tukung rowers. Sharing the joy was Berau Regent Makmur HAPK, who was proud of the preservation of this tradition with the support of PT Berau Coal, an Indonesian coal mining company.
The annual event is like Peh Cun, a Chinese boat race festival dating back to the Zhou dynasty. In the Fujian dialect, the term means rowing a boat. Longboat festivals are found not only in China but also throughout parts of Southeast, East and South Asia.
No literature and historical records describe the longboat contest tradition in Berau. But, the boats used in Berau resemble those in a similar festival in Thailand, bearing no dragonhead adornments as in Chinese racing vessels.
Before the race, hundreds of people packed the palace of the Gunung Tabur Sultanate for a ritual called Menguati Banua (healing the native land), meant to protect the region from natural disasters and transmittable diseases through God’s intervention.
The ceremony began with prayers led by 12 mosque personnel, who went to villages vulnerable to disasters, accidents and diseases and invited people to pray with them.
The ritual also attracted tourists, who were interested in the history of the palace as related by Aji Putri Kannik Berau Sanipah, a princess of the sultanate. Called Ibu Puteri, she told guests that many people and noblemen died in the battles against Dutch troops.
The palace was also bombed by the Allied forces in World War II. “When the war broke out, I hid in a river. As a disguise, I covered my whole body with leaves,” she said. Despite her age, she could recall the Allied attack on Japan in Berau in 1945. “After the war, only a small number of palace heirlooms were left,” she added.
The rescued objects symbolizing Gunung Tabur’s past glory are now displayed at the royal museum and also kept by Ibu Puteri.
The Berau regency administration and PT Berau Coal have rebuilt the destroyed palace, and along with her older sister Aji Putri Nural Aini, Ibu Puteri occupies the court beside the museum.
Ibu Puteri and Aini are the children of Sultan Achmad Maulana Muhammad Chalifatullah Jalaluddin, who ruled Gunung Tabur from 1921 to 1952. Sultan Achmad’s other daughter, Aji Putri Nurul Hayati Putri and crown prince RM Badaruzzaman have passed away.
“This is a small cannon made of brass. People here call it a child’s cannon,” said Ibu Puteri, guiding visitors at the Gunung Tabur palace with its hundreds of well-maintained relics. “This is the sulimbar, where the queen gave birth. If a baby boy was born, there was a 12-gun salute and if a girl a 6-gun salute.”
Before seeing off her guests, Ibu Puteri showed pictures of Kaharsuhung, a gold crown. “This crown
was formerly worn by the royal groom in a wedding procession in Gunung Tabur. Since the demise of Sultan Achmad Maulana Muh. Chalifattulah Jalaluddin, it has never again adorned sultanate weddings,” she noted.
For the royal bride, the gold crown is called Silaberanti. “These photos were contributed by PT Berau Coal to demonstrate the company’s care for the preservation of the Gunung Tabur Sultanate’s cultural heritage,” she said.
Observing: A ceremony marks the conferment of the title Aji Datu Suraja from the Sambaliung and Gunung Tabur sultanates on East Kalimantan Governor Awang Faroek. The tourists’ exploration of the former kingdom in Berau continued. Opposite Gunung Tabur, across the Segah River, sits the Sambaliung Sultanate. It was separated from Gunung Tabur to serve the Dutch divide-and-rule strategy. In 1810, Berau was split into Gunung Tabur and Sambaliung sultanates, coinciding with the entry of Islam. Imam Sambuayan first spread the religion from Sukan village.
Although separated, on September 21, 2011, both sultanates organized an event by conferring the title of Aji Datu Suraja on East Kalimantan Governor Awang Faroek in a procession held at the Sambaliung Sultanate’s palace.
“Aji” was granted by the Gunung Tabur Sultanate and “Datu” by the Sambaliung Sultanate, while “Suraja” was derived from the name of Berau’s seventh king, Aji Sura Raja, the first sovereign to embrace Islam since the kingdom became a sultanate before the split. Aji Sura Raja governed the Berau Sultanate from 1524 to 1550.
“The title is conferred purely for cultural preservation rather than the revival of feudalism,” said Sambaliung Sultanate customary chief Datu Fachruddin.
Receiving the sultanate’s dress and heirloom, Awang Faroek expressed gratitude for the safeguarding of Berau’s cultural values.