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Treasure trove of Pahang's rich cultural heritage and historical past

Story by Pritam Singh


THE 24-year old Sultan Abu Bakar Museum in Pekan has much to offer visitors as it houses a rich collection of anthropological, archaeological historical as well as cultural items.

Built in 1926, the building itself has much historical significance. It was previously the official residence of the British Resident of Pahang, P. Rodger. During the Japanese Occupation, it became the base of the Japanese Army. "It was then used as a prison and executions were carried out outside the building on the riverbank," said Muhammaed Zahari, a museum official.

Following the Japanese surrender and after restoration and renovation works had been completed in 1948, the building was named Istana Kota Beram, the palace of Sultan Abu Bakar. In 1954 a new wing - the Balai Rong Seri - was built. The building was converted into a museum on Oct 21,1976, right after the Sultan moved into his new palace - the Istana Sultan Abu Bakar.

The State Museum's main attractions are its eight galleries: History, Brass and Silverware, Malay weapons, Textiles, Ceramic, Natural History, Royal and Industry, Games and Pastimes.

"Our main purpose is not only to document and exhibit rare collections but also create an awareness among the people on the State's rich cultural heritage and historical past," said Muhammad. The ground floor of the main building houses the History and Brassware and Silverware galleries. Among the collections found at the History gallery are artifacts of the Neolithic Age - stone axes, pottery shards and decorative ornaments, stone axes of the Hoabinhian period and Ban Chiang wares.

At the Brassware and Silverware gallery, visitors can get a peek at traditional Malay household items. Rare exhibits include the pending (a Malay traditional belt fastener), bekas alat solek (makeup containers), cucuk sanggul and sepit rambut (traditional hair pins and clips). Among the items on display in the Malay Weapons gallery are kris of various shapes and designs, spears, swords and the sundang - a 17th century parang - with its origin from Sulawesi.

In the Textiles gallery, visitors are treated to Gujerat's Chindai clothing, which date back to as far as the 12th century. Hand-woven silk fabrics with eye-catching colours, designs and motifs are also on display. The exhibits include a bridal dress made of antalas or perlas and embroidered in gold and silver threads. It was worn by Tengku Long Sultan Ahmad for her wedding to Sultan Zainal Abidin III, the Sultan of Terengganu in 1985.

The Industry, Game and Pastimes gallery has collections of such items as Tembeling earthenware, gasing Pahang and musical instruments like gendang, gong and gedombak.

A tour of the museum will not be complete without a visit to the Ceramic gallery which gives one an insight into Pahang's trade links with neighbouring countries. Here, you will be able to see wares - plates, cups, vases, water containers.

Also not to be missed is the Royal gallery where visitors will be able to trace the lineage of the Pahang sultanate, view a special collection of costumes worn by the late Sultan Abu Bakar, and listen to musicians playing the gamelan.

Behind the museum is a dua lapis Malay house which was translocated from Kampung Raja Songsang, Temerloh, to the museum in 1993. "It was in this house that Sultan Abu Bakar sought shelter from the advancing Japanese army," said Muhammaed.

Reprinted from the New Straits Times,
Tuesday July 25, 2000

Updated: 25 July, 2000