“This is an annotated transcription and translation of the Syair Tabut (Poem of the Tomb Effigies) of Encik Ali, a Malay-language, Jawi-script syair account of the Muharram commemorations of 1864 at Singapore. The only known part lithograph and part manuscript of this text, on which this edition is based, is held in the library of Leiden University, shelfmark Kl. 191. For a full discussion of this Syair, see the accompanying article by Lunn and Byl (2017).”
The Syair is a riveting account of Muharram commemorations in #Singapore in 1864 – the last year Muharram processions were permitted before the colonial authorities banned them. For an image of Muharram in late colonial Singapore, here's a glimpse: Schlitter, 1858. pic.twitter.com/vt9x5b0xui
.@juliasbyl and I also published a (rather long) analysis of the Syair, looking into the court cases that emerged from the "Muharram riots" that year, the music, and the many rich details in the poem – that article also seems to be open access! https://t.co/PIxcAtY0nb
The Syair itself is a #Jawi-script scroll that lay unexamined in @ubleiden for over 150 years – here's a sense of the beautiful lithographed opening, and the messy, manuscript end: pic.twitter.com/lE33YSeAA1
Anyway, open access, for who knows how long: I hope people will enjoy at least the Syair, and for a sense of some of the most colourful aspects, check out the Muharram Scroll, from c. 1840s Madras Presidency, now in the collections of @acm_sgpic.twitter.com/ua8rfOBkld
And (finally? maybe) it was the wonderful @michaeltalbotuk who directed me to the map collections of the @UkNatArchives – who knew (apart from real historians) that such gems existed? The snippet below was crucial in reconstructing 19thC Singapore geography. pic.twitter.com/YANiWA4vUJ
“Probably composed in the late 16th century, Hikayat Inderaputera was one of the most widespread and popular Malay tales, and is known from over thirty manuscripts dating from the late 17th century onwards. The story is found from Sumatra to Cambodia and the Philippines, not only in Malay but also in Acehnese, Bugis, Makasarese, Sasak, Cham, Maranao and Maguindanao versions (Braginsky 2009). At its core is probably a Persian mathnawi based, in turn, on the Hindi poem Madhumalati written around 1550 (Braginsky 2004: 388), but it also drew on Malay Islamic epics such as Hikayat Amir Hamzah and Javanese Panji stories.” Read more.
Opening pages of the Hikayat Inderaputera, with the double decorated frames digitally reunited (as the MS is currently misbound). British Library, MSS Malay B.14, ff. 1v-2r.
Sirat al-mustakim, composed by Nuruddin al-Raniri between 1634 and 1644, a copy from Aceh, 19th century. British Library, Or 15979, ff. 2v-3r.
The manuscript of Hikayat Inderaputera is written in a distinctive neat small hand, with two styles of the letter kaf. In the middle in red is the word al-kisah, with a decoratively knotted final letter, ta marbuta, signifiying the start the episode of Inderaputera’s abduction by the golden peacock: Al-kisah peri mengatakan tatkala Inderaputera diterbangkan merak emas. British Library, MSS Malay B.14, f. 5r (detail).
I often laze about, deep in thought, Watching the sky aglow, Vaguely visible, joyful, Sweeping all away, my contemplative thoughts.
What is there to say, what does the future hold? Weak is my heart, without any strength, Watching the stars shining gloriously, Far atop the mountains.
Oh God of all nature, What is the point of being here, Worrying about my lot, after night has fallen?
The stars are shining now and it is dark, Leaving me sitting here like this Longing for love . . . leave me here to drown in my thoughts.
Based on and adapted from the work of Keith Foulcher (“Perceptions of Modernity and the Sense of the Past: Indonesian Poetry in the 1920s.” Indonesia, no. 23, 1977, pp. 39–58. www.jstor.org/stable/3350884.) First published in Indonesian in the Dutch language journal Jong Sumatra : organ van den Jong Sumatranen Bond, Batavia, June 1921.