Makam Diraja Johor Telok Belangah

I’ve been wanting to post these pictures up for quite some time.

If you’ve been to Vivocity or Harbourfront, chances are you know that there is a mosque in that area. What’s unique about the mosque is that it belongs to the state of Johor. The name of the mosque is Masjid Temenggong Daeng Ibrahim.

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Temenggong Daeng Ibrahim was the son of Temenggong Abdul Rahman. For Singaporeans, we will be familiar with the name Temenggong Abdul Rahman, having learnt in our history lessons that he played a key role in Raffles’ founding of a British base in Singapore. Temenggong Abdul Rahman died in 1825.

Temenggong Daeng Ibrahim was born in 1810. He inherited his father’s position as Temenggong and saw his influence over the region grow. He passed away in 1862. His son Abu Bakar succeeded him as Temenggong. Temenggong Abu Bakar later styled himself as Maharaja of Johor before proclaiming himself as Sultan of Johor in 1885, with recognition from Queen Victoria herself. He thus created what is usually referred to as the “Temenggong  Dynasty”. The incumbent, Sultan Ibrahim Ismail is the great-great grandson of Sultan Abu Bakar.

The history of the Johor Sultanate is very complex, and is something I will save for the future – assuming I am able to comprehend it. I find it very interesting that our government, through our education system, gives a cursory nod to our shared history with Johor, only in explaining how Singapore ceded to the British in 1819. What happened eventually to the brothers Sultan Hussein (Tengku Long) and Sultan Abdul Rahman? Where are their graves? What of their descendants? Insya Allah, it’s something to be saved for the near future.

Anyway, I chanced upon a comprehensive site providing details on the history of the Telok Belangah Royal Johor Mausoleum (Makam Diraja Telok Belangah). I took it from a blogsite, which in turn took it from a published article. The link to the original article however, is broken.

Masjid Temenggong Daeng Ibrahim Johor Darul Takzim is the mosque next to Temenggong Abdul Rahman’s first residence in Teluk Belanga.
 
I have read and written about Teluk Belanga for this column but I don’t know where in Singapore it exactly is.
 
Datuk Abdul Rahim Ramli, the secretary of the Johor Council of Royal Court and Chancellor of the Most Honourable Order of the Crown of Johor, provided me the answer in one of his emails on the state.
 
Telok Belanga covered an area of about 80.94 hectares on what is now called Mount Faber,” he wrote.
 
In fact, I read that Mount Faber was originally known as Telok Blangah Hill but was later renamed after Captain Charles Edward Faber of the Madras Engineers, the superintendent engineer in the Straits (and brother-in-law of Governor Major-General William John Butterworth), who arrived in Singapore in September 1844
 
It was Sir Stamford Raffles who persuaded the Temenggong to move to Teluk Belanga after Arab trader Syed Yassin who stabbed Singapore’s first resident Major-General William Farquhar was found hiding in the settlement.
 
Raffles had also provided compensation for the construction of houses for the Temenggong and his followers.
 
“The buildings then were not pretentious,” Rahim wrote. “The residence for Temenggong Abdul Rahman and his family could hardly be known as a palace of modern days. This building was situated in an area known as Bukit Tanjong Aur. A mosque, octagonal in shape, was built and was also used as a Balai Rong Seri (Audience Hall).”
 
According to Rahim, the land was on lease from the East India Company with a proviso that if the Temenggong, his heirs or successors should prefer to move from Singapore and reside permanently in Johor, the company will pay him 15,000 Spanish dollars. In return, the Temenggong and his successors should relinquish all rights and title to all his immovable properties including land and buildings there.
 
However, it was his grandson, Sultan Abu Bakar who successfully negotiated with the English for a permanent title of Telok Belanga on Aug 15, 1864. This land was one of the territories of Johor where the Johor flag was flown.
 
Sultan Abu Bakar built a palace on 17.5ha of land at Bidadari Estate in the Serangoon district of Singapore for his consort Enche’ Puan Besar Zubaidah. The palace was known as Istana Bidadari (The Singapore government subsequently acquired the land in 1904 and turned it into Bidadari Cemetery for Muslims, Hindus, Singhalese, and Christians of different denominations).
 
It was sometime in 1860 that Sultan Abu Bakar purchased a landed property once owned by his legal adviser William Napier that was advertised for sale in March 1857 by Boustead and Co.
 
The house called Tyersall stood on 26ha of land in the Tanglin area in Singapore.
 
The house was demolished in 1890 and both Sultan Abu Bakar and his consort Sultanah Fatimah planned a new building, which had been described back then as “one of the grandest homes built in the Victorian Eclectic idiom, combining not only gothic and classical motifs, but also some Indo-Saracenic elements into the design”.
The building was rectangular in shape with a central courtyard, a red-tiled roof and a tower nearly 21.3 metre high, was topped by a symbolic star and crescent.
 
Its architect was Datuk Yahaya Awaludin, who drew up the plans according to the wishes of Sultanah Fatimah. Yahya was the chief engineer in Abu Bakar’s Cabinet.
 
The building was completed in 1892, a year after Sultanah Fatimah’s death.
 
Sultan Abu Bakar named the palace “Istana Tyersall” and made it his official residence. Tyersall was described as “a lavishly appointed palace whose splendour made a great occasion.
 
“It was adorned with Chinese and Japanese curios collected by Sultan Abu Bakar on his travels. It was officially reopened on Dec 3, 1892 by Governor Sir Cecil Clementi at a ball attended among others by the rulers of Pahang and 
Riau and leading lights of Singapore and Johor society,” Rahim said
 
On April 4, 1895, Sultan Abu Bakar executed a will expressing his intention for Tyersall to become state property after his death for the use and enjoyment of his heir and successors.
 
Tyersall was destroyed in a fire, caused by faulty electrical wiring, on the morning of Sept 10, 1905. Part of its grounds excluding the building was acquired by the Singapore government in November 1990 under its Land Acquisition Act.
 
In the same will, Sultan Abu Bakar had bequeathed a house called Woodneuk and the surrounding gardens spreading across 12.14ha at Tanglin Singapore (adjacent to Tyersall) to Sultanah Khatijah.
 
Sultan Ibrahim bought the property from Sultanah Khatijah before she died. In 1930, the sultan and Sultanah Helen 
rebuilt Woodneuk into another magnificent palace.
 
Woodneuk, according to Rahim, was often mistaken for Tyersall because of its proximity. “The difference was that Woodneuk had a blue tiled roof,” he explained.
 
The palace and its grounds is now the private property of the current ruler, Sultan Iskandar.
 
Meanwhile, the mosque next to the Temenggong Abdul Rahman’s first residence in Teluk Belanga, is known as Masjid Temenggong Daeng Ibrahim Johor Darul Takzim. According to the Singapore Islamic Religious Council, the mosque is managed by the Johor government.
 
Adjacent to the mosque is the Makam Temenggong, where Temenggong Abdul Rahman and his son, Temenggong Ibrahim, are buried.
 
The mausoleum is the final resting ground of 34 other members of the royal family including Sultanah Khatijah, a consort of Sultan Abu Bakar (son of Temenggong Ibrahim and grandson of Temenggong Abdul Rahman), who died at Istana Woodneuk in Singapore on Feb 1, 1904.

Lastly, here’s a site that discusses the lesser known history of Telok Belangah and the Istana Kampung Gelam – Untold History: The Forgotten Palace of Temenggong Johore in Singapore and Untold History: Forbidden Wall of Johore in Singapore. I’m unsure if the pictures of the mausoleum in the second page are the same ones from Telok Belangah or a completely  different, undiscovered site. (I warn you though the language is pretty bad and I don’t really have an idea what the author is driving towards. The source materials are useful though..)
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2 thoughts on “Makam Diraja Johor Telok Belangah

  1. Nice article, its quite a detail for me, btw, what does Temenggong means, and why they were buried in Singapore and not in any other part of the Johor state, given the vastness of the Johor state?

    • Thank you brother Jalaluddin for the words of encouragement.

      The Temenggong is a title of Malay nobility and can be considered (in today’s context) perhaps as a chief of staff or the military.

      To answer your second question, the Temenggong was in charge of the island of Singapore, with Telok Belangah being the official residence till the mid 19th century.

      Temenggong Abu Bakar had strong ties with the British. He moved to Johor and eventually was crowned Sultan of Johor.

      This is but a summary – the actual politics behind it all being more complex. Hopefully I’ll be able to write about it soon. Incidentally, there were two articles in Berita Minggu on this which I hope to translate.

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