"THE centuries-old tombstone in the heart of the capital has revealed a tragic love story between two blue blood siblings who were banished to live in an underground house by the then king.
That part of the story found inscribed on the tomb of Raja Ayang, located at the heart of the capital just in front of the Brunei Post Office building, will soon be open to the public as a new tourist attraction in Brunei Darussalam.
The tomb is now housed in a new building, which was officially handed over from the Public Works Department to the Brunei History Centre yesterday after six months of construction work that cost around BND$400,000.
The guest of honour who witnessed the hand over was Pehin Orang Kaya Setia Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Hj Ahmad bin Hj Jumat, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports.
Pehin Jawatan Dalam Seri Maharaja Dato Seri Utama Dr Haji Awang Mohd Jamil Al-Sufri bin Begawan Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Seri Paduka Hj Awang Umar, head of Brunei History Centre received the key from Dayang Hajah Marhani binti Abdullah, Acting Director General of Public Works Department.
Pehin Jawatan Dalam Seri Maharaja Dato Seri Utama Dr Haji Awang Mohd Jamil Al-Sufri described the story of the tombstone saying, “According to written history, Raja Ayang was part of the Brunei royal family, a sibling who committed unlawful acts that contravened Islamic religious laws and due to their action, they were sentenced to death.
“According to inscriptions on the tombstones of Raja Ayang, both siblings were not prince or princess because the name Ismail doesn’t exist in the Brunei royal family.
“However, there is a possibility as Ismail bin Yusof Al Aziz Al Khawlani could have been the son-in- law of the Sultan of Brunei or a person who was called King (not from Brunei).
“From the date on the tombstones, the incident took place during the reign of Sultan Sulaiman (1432-1485). Two concerned members of the royal family were punished and willingly served out the punishment because they understood that their action was against the Islamic law,” he added.
“During that period, Sultan Sulaiman was known as a king who strictly adhered to Islamic principles. However, in their case, the punishment was different from others. The siblings were banished to stay in an underground house, which looked like a hill.
“Inside the underground house were rooms and they were provided with daily necessities and cooking utensils.
“The siblings stayed in the underground house until their last breath. It was believed that after a week (some say 40 days) the siblings died,” he added.
During World War II, the hilly tomb of Raja Ayang, three metres tall and 12 metres wide, was hit by a bomb from the allied forces during the landing in June 1945. The damage to the hill is seen until today.
“The tomb was found empty inside. Based on the historic evidence in the primary form such as the inscription on the tombstone of Raja Ayang and secondary items such as Boxer Codex and Sulaiman Legacy, the story of Raja Ayang is not that of a legend, but part of history that tells a lesson and stands as an example.
“The incident also provides a clear picture of the Brunei Sultan at that time who was firm in carrying out punishments on anyone who went against the Islamic law and that those who were punished were willing to receive the punishments.”
The aim of Brunei History Centre to renovate and build a new Raya Ayang tomb building, the head of the centre said, “is because this is part of our history that needs to be taken into account for years to come”.
During the excavation of the Raja Ayang site, pieces of porcelain, coins, broken glasses, pieces of green ceramics and numerous wooden fragments were found.
The new Raja Ayang tomb will not be open to the public until a caretaker is hired. At the building’s wall, the story of Raja Ayang in English, Malay and Arabic has been engraved.
“We will definitely promote this new site through our brochures and web site.
“And we will inform our tour operators about the new tourism site to visit,” he added."
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