weblogUpdates.ping Taneak Jang, Rejang Land, Tanah Rejang http://rejang-lebong.blogspot.com Taneak Jang, Rejang land, Tanah Rejang: LOOKING AT PALEMBANG THROUGH ITS MANUSCRIPTS




Author: Titik Pudjiastuti
DOI: 10.1080/13639810601130234
Publication Frequency: 3 issues per year
Published in: journal Indonesia and the Malay World, Volume 34, Issue 100 November 2006 , pages 383 - 393


After the fall of Sriwijaya and the arrival of Islam, in the 18th century Palembang grew to become a renowned centre of Islamic learning. Active royal patronage for visiting Arab scholars led to the emergence of a new generation of local religious scholars and writers, whose many theological and literary works are now held mainly in manuscript collections in the Netherlands and Jakarta. A new catalogue has, for the first time, documented the collections of manuscripts still held in private hands in Palembang itself.


Palembang is the provincial capital city of South Sumatera. The city, with an estimated population in 2000 of 1.6 million inhabitants

(Taal 2003: 1-2), is located in a key position, being surrounded by Lampung in the south, Jambi in the north and the Barisan Mountains in the west. Palembang is renowned as one of the oldest cities in Indonesia because it is believed to be the site of the great kingdom of Sriwijaya.

The Kedukan Bukit inscription, which was found at the foot of Bukit Siguntang to the west of the city of Palembang, is dated Ccedilaka 604, 11 Ccediluklapakccedila, equivalent to 16 June 683 AD. The inscription contains information about the formation of a wanua (city) in Sriwijaya, and is assumed to refer to Palembang (Sedyawati et al. 2004). In a later period, the areas surrounding the nearby Musi River became the centre of the kingdom and played a great role in international trade. Ancient Malay inscriptions from the 7th to the 9th century reveal Palembang's political standing on the international scene (Collins 1998: 7; de Casparis 1956: 1-36). Sriwijaya was recognised as the most powerful maritime kingdom in Southeast Asia, its influence stretching from Sumatra to the Malay peninsula.

By the end of the 8th century, Sriwijaya was known for its propagation of Buddhism although it had been a centre for intellectual and spiritual activities well before then, as recorded by the Chinese traveller I Ching, who stopped in Sriwijaya to study Sanskrit and Buddhism in the 7th century. However, all tangible traces of the intellectual and spiritual activities of this era disappeared with the fall of Sriwijaya to Majapahit in the 14th century, which is mentioned in the Nagarakertagama (Pigeaud 1962).

When Islam arrived bringing with it the Arabic script, a second cultural wave enriched Indonesia's literatures. Some parts of Nusantaran society began to express their thoughts using a new writing system, adopting the new script (Arabic) - while still using earlier Indic scripts - and adapting it to the particular needs of their own phonological systems. These various modified forms of the Arabic script, adapted for the needs of local languages, are called respectively Pegon (for the writing of Javanese and Sundanese), Jawi (for Malay) and Hurupa (for Bugis-Makassar). Literature in Malay now came to be written in Jawi script, and according to Iskandar (1996: 431) the coming of Islam led to the renaissance of literature in Palembang. While from the 7th to 9th century Sriwijaya had once been a centre for the study of Buddhism, in the 18th century Palembang re-emerged as a great centre for the study of Islamic knowledge, renowned throughout the Malay-Indonesian world (Faille 1997; Gajahnata 1986). The evidence can be found in the numerous religious works in both Malay and Arabic, mostly written in the 18th and 19th centuries, which refer to Palembang writers or scriptoria (cf. Drewes 1977).

It should be stressed that the main source of stimulus for the new generation of religious scholars (ulama) and for the development of Islamic knowledge in Palembang were the sultans of Palembang and Arab ulama who were invited to give lectures on various branches of Islamic studies. From the beginning of the 17th century onwards, the Palembang sultanate showed a strong interest in Islam. The sultans of Palembang made efforts to invite Arab ulama to visit and stay in Palembang, and as a result, by the middle of the 18th century there were several prominent Arab ulama playing important roles in establishing the tradition of Islamic learning in Palembang (Azra 1994: 244). These ulama contributed to the emergence of the court of Palembang as the centre for Islamic studies and as the repository for a very large collection of religious works by local religious scholars (ulama Jawi). Among the most productive ulama in the 18th and 19th centuries were Syihabudin bin Abdullah Muhammad who wrote Kitab Hakikat al Bayan and his son Muhammad Muhyiddin bin Syihabuddin who wrote Hikayat Syeikh Muhamad Syaman, Kemas Fakhruddin who wrote Fath al-Rahman, and Muhammad Ma'ruf bin Abdullah Khatib Palembang who wrote Tariqah yang dibangsakan kepada Qadariyah dan Nakshabandiyah. The most famous was Abdussamad al-Palimbani who wrote Ratib Samman, Zuhrat al Murid fi Bayan Kalimat al Tauhid, and many other works (Iskandar 1996: 438-49).

As the protector of the state, the Sultan of Palembang ordered local religious scholars, among the most prominent being Kemas Fakhruddin, to produce translations and interpretations of religious texts. Apart from religious texts, historical works and traditional law texts were also copied, written and studied. Most of these texts such as Undang-Undang Palembang, Undang-Undang Simbur Cahaya, Asal Raja-Raja Palembang and Sejarah Pasemah are now only known from manuscripts held in various institutions outside Palembang (Ikram 2004: 8). Literary works were also produced, including hikayat, syair, shadow-puppet stories (cerita wayang) and pantun. Iskandar (1996: 457-59) describes this genre of belles-lettres, including prose titles such as Hikayat Dewa Raja Agus Melila, Hikayat Raja Babi and Hikayat Raja Budak and numerous syair. According to Iskandar (1996: 496-505) these works were written by men of letters (pujangga), some of whom were court officials such as Ahmad bin Abdullah, Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin (r.1804-1821) himself and his younger brother Pangeran Panembahan Bupati. Some literary works by identifiable authors are Hikayat Palembang by Kiai Rangga Sayanandita Ahmad bin Kiai Ngabehi Mastung, Silsilah Raja-Raja di dalam Negeri Palembang by Demang Muhyiddin, Cerita Negeri Palembang by Pangeran Tumenggung Kartamenggala, and Syair Nuri by Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin.

Information on the treasury of religious and literary texts contained in Palembang manuscripts can be found in Iskandar (1986; 1996: 431-507), Woelders (1975: 28-66) and Wieringa (1998). One of the most important accounts is by Drewes (1977: 198-241), who provides notes on Palembang manuscripts owned by or known to be written by Palembang people. He also discusses about 12 Palembang authors and their works.

A new catalogue of Palembang manuscripts

The written heritage of the glorious era of Palembang is now mainly preserved in manuscripts kept in libraries in Indonesia and the Netherlands. In the library of Leiden University there are at least 65 manuscripts from the collection of Sultan Badaruddin brought from Palembang after it was defeated by the Dutch colonial powers in 1825 (Mulyadi 1994; Iskandar 1999; Wieringa 1998).

The National Library of Indonesia, Jakarta, holds 45 Palembang manuscripts (Sutaarga et al. 1973; Behrend 1998). According to Sutyani (2000) the National Library of Indonesia holds quite a few manuscripts of traditional law from Palembang such as Undang-Undang Palembang, Undang-Undang Bolang Tengah, Undang-Undang dan Aturan Palembang, and Undang-Undang Pasemah. There are also works by Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin such as Hikayat Martalaya dan Pantun Sultan Badaruddin, as well as manuscripts based on the Mahabharata such as Hikayat Pandawa Lebur and Hikayat Pandawa Lima.

Within Palembang itself, most manuscripts are now kept by individuals and are treated as heirlooms inherited from the ancestors of the family. A new catalogue of Palembang manuscripts compiled by Ikram et al. (2004) reveals that such individual collections contain no fewer than 216 manuscripts and lithographs3 classified into 17 categories. Listed below are the subject categories used in the catalogue to classify the Palembang manuscripts:

  1. Astronomy (astronomi). There are three manuscripts on ilmu falak (astronomy), texts explaining the movements of the moon and the passage of the year, such as Risalat Wasilatu al-Mubtadi'ina.
  2. Language (bahasa). There are three texts on the teaching of Arabic and Malay, or Arabic grammars such as Mutammimah al-Ajurumiyyah.
  3. Prayers (doa). There are ten manuscripts containing Islamic prayers, including four copies of the Dala'il al-khairat
  4. Islamic law (fikih). There are 38 manuscripts concerning Islamic law and order, especially ibadah, such as Irsyadu al-Anami.
  5. Hadith (hadis). There are six manuscripts containing Traditions about the Prophet Muhammad (stories relating the words or deeds of Muhammad).
  6. Prose literature (hikayat). There are eight hikayat manuscripts containing stories such as Hikayat Indra Bangsawan, Hikayat Gul Bakawali and Hikayat Dewa Mandu.
  7. Theology (ilmu kalam). There are 11 manuscripts on ilmu kalam. The texts concern aqidah, tauhid and the attributes of God, such as Jauhar Tauhid.
  8. Medicine (obat-obatan). There is only one text on traditional medical care, entitled Kitab Mujarobat.
  9. Divination (primbon). There are 12 manuscripts on primbon. The texts contain spells, the interpretation of dreams, astronomy, and lucky and unlucky matters based on traditional calculations, such as Kitab Rajah.
  10. Qur'an. There are 10 manuscripts included in this category; all are texts containing Qur'anic verses. Listed here are both handwritten manuscripts and lithographed copies of the Qur'an.
  11. History (sejarah). There are six manuscripts on sejarah. The texts consist of legends and myths, such as Ini turunan Raja Palembang satu-satunya.
  12. Genealogy (silsilah). There are two manuscripts in this category: Al-Urwatu al-Wusqa, a genealogy of the Samaniyah tarekat, and a genealogy of the Palembang sultanate entitled Silsilah Sultan Badaruddin.
  13. Letters (surat). There are 37 entries for letters, including personal letters (between students and teachers, and children and parents) as well as formal letters from the Palembang sultanate to the Governor-General of the Netherlands Indies. These are listed as Kumpulan surat, Surat Sultan Badaruddin II, etc.
  14. Poetry (syair). There are 11 syair manuscripts, which contain stories in poetical form such as Syair Abdul Muluk, Syair Johan Malikan, Syair Inu Kertapati, Syair Perang Menteng and Syair Jaya Sempurna.
  15. Mysticism (tasawuf). There are 35 manuscripts on tasawuf, mostly Sufi works such as Bidayah al-Hidayah.
  16. Shadow-puppet stories (wayang). There are two manuscripts containing stories from the shadow puppet theatre such as Parta Krama.
  17. Others (lain-lain). This category is used for texts which do not fit into the categories specified above. There are 20 manuscripts on this category such as calendars, seals and diaries; for example, Buku catatan nikah.

The catalogue also gives information on the owners of the manuscripts. Here is a description of the relationships of some owners and their collections.

R.H. Muhammad Syafei Prabu Diraja

R.H.M. Syafei Prabu Diraja is a descendant of Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin and is perceived by Palembang people to be the heir to the sultanate. The exact extent of his manuscript collection is unknown but at least 21 manuscripts are documented in the catalogue. These collections, now kept in Jalan Veteran Lorong RRI No.1-A, Palembang, originated from Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II and were handed down from one generation to the other, from father to son, through Raden Abdul Habib, Raden Abdul Syarif, Raden Abdul Hamid and then to Raden Muhammad Syafei Prabu Diraja.

Kemas Andi Syarifuddin

Kemas Andi Syarifuddin, who resides in Jalan Fakih Jalaluddin no. 105, Palembang. has 60 manuscripts and 40 kitab kuning ('yellow books', printed religious texts). His collections are from his grandfather, a prominent religious leader during the time of the Palembang sultanate, who lived in Majelis Taklim Umariyah Library in front of the Palembang mosque.

Sayid Ahmad Assegaf

The grandson of Habib Alwi, Sayid Ahmad acquired the collections of his grandfather from his mother, Ragwan binti Muhammad, and they are now his responsibility. His collections are stored in a small building in Lorong BBC 12 Ulu, Jalan Azhari no. 101 RT 06, Palembang. Most of his collection has been damaged by termites. At least 12 manuscripts are listed in the catalogue.

Haji Muhammad Zainuddin Syawaluddin

Syawaluddin Muhammad Zein obtained these manuscripts from Syawaluddin bin Lamuddin, and then passed them down to Haji Muhammad Zainuddin Syawaluddin as his inheritance. However, in the course of time the manuscripts were dispersed and only five manuscripts can now be documented.

Abdul Aziz Amin

This collection belonged to K.H. Abdul Amin Azhari who was also known as Cek Ming. Seven of these manuscripts are recorded in the catalogue.

Rizal Pahlevi

Rizal Pahlevi, who resides in Jalan S.H. Wardoyo no. 992 RT 25 RW 7, Ulu Darat, Palembang, inherited the manuscript collection of his grandfather, Haji Munir. Haji Munir had in turn inherited it from his father, Usman bin Mukmin bin Haji Roni. Haji Munir was a religious teacher and the founder of several religious foundations such as Nurul Falah, al-Hidayah and Azhariyah, and until 1965 he regularly copied texts in his collections. After his death, the hundreds of manuscripts in his collection gradually disappeared since no one took care of them. Only a few have been preserved, and six are recorded in the catalogue. According to Rizal Pahlevi, a few manuscripts are still held in a building in front of the Azhariyyah School at 12 Ulu, Pedatukan, Palembang.

Nyimas Laily Yunita

Nyimas Laily Yunita is the oldest daughter of Nyimas Ayu, and she inherited the manuscript collection of her grandmother, Hajjah Siti Hawa who sang syair at gatherings of family and close friends when she was young. She also collected books, buying from bookstores that sold lithographs published in Singapore, Mecca and Cairo. A village fire in 1966 destroyed most of her collection. Several manuscripts were saved and 20 are listed in the catalogue.

Ali bin Ahmad

Ali bin Ahmad acquired the manuscript collections of his father, Alwi bin Ahmad Baasin, who was also known as Mualim Nang. He owns ten manuscripts, and these are kept in Pondok Pesantren Darul Aitam, an orphanage which he manages.

Muhammad Jufri

The collections of Muhammad Jufri, also known as Cek John, are now kept in his house in Lorong Famili Setia, 7 Ulu, Palembang. He started collecting manuscripts as a hobby and later on traded in them. He has 17 manuscripts.

Baba H. Machmoed Abbas, Bchk

His manuscript collections came from his ancestor, Kiai Pedatukan. The manuscripts were kept in a large house at 3 Ulu, Lorong Jayalaksana, Palembang, but since no one had responsibility for them the manuscripts were moved to the house of K.H. Muhammad Amin Azhari, also known as Kiai Cek Ming, one of Kiai Pedatukan's great-grandchildren. Soon after that, the manuscripts were returned to the original house so that Kiai Pedatukan's descendants could study the contents. Through the initiative of Ki Agus Idrus, a member of Baba H. Machmoed Abbas' family, the manuscripts were moved to the Hidayatussalihin Mosque in Jalan M. Asyik 3, Ulu, Palembang, so that the congregation could read them. Most of these manuscripts have now disappeared due to the frequency of relocation and the lack of supervision. The catalogue documents at least 12 manuscripts.

Besides these individual collections, there are three institutions in Palembang, which hold manuscripts, namely Museum Balaputradewa (MSB), Perpustakaan Sultan Badaruddin, and Perpustakaan Keraton Palembang.


Colophons in the manuscripts give us information about the scriptorium or place of copying, copyist, author, owner and the background of the manuscript.

An example of a colophon which mentions the place of copying is in a manuscript in the collection of Kemas Andi Syarifuddin, titled Matnu ad-Daurrah (20/AS):

Ditulis pada empat hari bulan Jumadilakhir hari Isnen jam dua tahun 1293 Hijriah dan katabuha al faqir Kiagus Haji Abdul as-Samad bin Kiagus Haji Shadar yang ditulis di Kampung 19 Ilir.

(Ikram 2004: 123)

Written on Monday at 2 o'clock, 4 Jumadilakhir 1293, by Kiagus Haji Abdul as-Samad bin Kiagus Haji Shadar in Kampung 19 Ilir [The date corresponds to 7 July 1876].

A colophon mentioning the copyist can be found in a manuscript of Kitab Maulid Syaraf al-Anam (23/AS), as follows:

disalin oleh Lanang bin Abdul Madjid 37 Ilir Palembang pada tahun 1296

(Ikram 2004:175)

copied by Lanang bin Abdul Madjid in 37 Ilir Palembang in 1296 [The year 1296 corresponds to 1878-79 AD].

A colophon giving information about the owner is found in a manuscript of Kitab 'Atiyyat ar-Rahman (10/AS):

Alamat Kitab 'Atiyyat ar-Rahman yang empunya Nyimas Anak binti Kemas Haji Abang al-Jawi Palembang, di dalam Kampung Sepuluh Sembilan Ilir dekat masjid. Barang siapa yang meminjam minta pulangkan kepada sebab payah menyuratnya dan jikalau tuan membacanya jangan dekat pelita sebab kalau kena minya adanya

(Ikram 2004: 17)

Signifying that the owner of Kitab 'Atiyyat ar-Rahman is Nyimas Anak binti Kemas Haji Abang al-Jawi Palembang, in Kampong Sepuluh Sembilan Ilir near the mosque. Whoever borrows this, please return it, because it was written with much effort, and when you read it do not place it near the lamp in case it gets smeared with oil.

A colophon citing the manuscript's history can be found in a manuscript of Kitab Syair Inu Kertapati (5/AS):

Ini syair yang empunya Nyimas Rahmah binti Kemas Haji amak, istri Ki Agus, Haji Ung yang (tinggal) di kampung 19 Ilir yang empunya ini syair Najamuddin. Menulis ini surat kepada empat hari bulan terang bulan.

(Ikram 2004: 238)

This poem belongs to Nyimas Rahmah binti Kemas Haji Amak, the wife of Ki Agus, Haji Ung who lives in kampung 19 Ilir; the owner of this poem is Najamuddin. This note was written on the fourth day of the month, at moonlight [?]

Lending libraries in Palembang were the subject of a study by Kratz (1977). The presence of lending libraries in Palembang is also recorded in a manuscript of Hikayat Pandawa Lebur, held in the collection of Palembang manuscripts in the National Library of Indonesia (Ml.514), which has notes at the end which read:

Adalah saya nama Tahar suda sewa Hikayat Pandawa Lebur ada dua malam, tarif (i.e. takrif?) tahu adanya di Palembang kepada 20 Syawal 1328, adalah saya nama Sulaiman di Kampung 11 Ulu adanya sewa Hikayat Pandawa Lebur

(Ikram 2004: 17)

I, Tahar, borrowed Hikayat Pandawa Lebur for two nights, certainly[?] in Palembang, on 20 Syawal 1328 (25 October 1910); I, Sulaiman, of Kampung 11 Ulu, borrowed Hikayat Pandawa Lebur.

It is from notes in some of the volumes then we find information on Palembang's relations with neighbouring states. A printed Qur'an4 in the collection of Abdul Azim Amin contains a statement by Haji Muhammad Azhari ibn Kemas Haji Abdullah Palembang mentioning links with Singapore and Malacca:

Maka adalah yang mengerjakan cap ini Ibrahim ibnu Husayn, Sahab Nagur nama negerinya Singapura tempat kediamannya daripada murid tuan 'Abd Allah ibnu 'Abd al-Qadir Munsyi Malaka. Telah selesailah daripada mengecap dia pada hari senen dua puluh satu hari daripada bulan Ramadhan atas rukyat negeri Palembang pada hijrah Nabi - Salla Allahu 'alayhi wa-sallama - seribu dua ratus enam puluh empat tahun 1264 hellip Maka adalah banyak bilangan Qur'an yand dicap itu seratus lima Qur'an. Maka perhimpunan mengerjakan dia lima puluh hari, jadi di dalam satu hari dua Qur'an tiga juz, dan tempat mengerjakan cap itu di dalam daerah negeri Palembang, di dalam kampung tiga ulu pihak kiri mudik kampung demang Jayalaksana Muhammad Najib ibnu almarhum demang Wiralaksana 'Abd Allah al-Khaliq.

The person who has executed this print is Ibrahim bin Husin, Sahab Nagur is his place of origin and Singapore his place of residence, a pupil of Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir Munshi Malaka. The printing was finished on Monday the 21st, when the moon of Ramadan was visible over Palembang, in the year of Prophet's Hijra - May God's blessings and peace be upon him - twelve hundred and sixty four, 1264 21 Ramadhan 1264 (21 August 1848) hellip The number of Qur'ans printed was one hundred and five. The time necessary to complete the task was fifty days, so on one day two Qur'ans and three chapters [sic, i.e. juz'] (were printed), and the place where they were printed was the city of Palembang, in the neighbourhood of Three Ulu, on the left bank, upstream, the neighbourhood of Demang Jayalaksana Muhammad Najib son of the deceased Demang Wiralaksana Abdulkhalik.

(Peeters 1995: 182-83)

The catalogue also gives information on the language, script and material of the manuscripts. Palembang manuscripts use a variety of different languages such as Arabic, Malay and Javanese,5 written in Arabic, Jawi, Latin, ka-ga-nga (ulu) and Javanese script. Quite a few manuscripts are written in two languages and scripts such as Kitab Rajah (03/MJ), which is written in Arabic and Malay, and in Arabic and Jawi script. Materials include European paper (ranging from high-quality laid paper to modern account books), beaten tree-bark paper (dluwang), tree bark and bamboo, and formats range from folding books, gelumpai (pieces of bamboo) and bamboo cylinders. In Palembang, tree bark manuscripts in the form of folding books which use the ulu or ka-ga-nga script are called naskah ulu or kakhas. Some manuscripts are decorated with gold ink such as a Qur'an, probably of Ottoman origin, in the collection of Syafei Prabu Diraja (Figure 1). ./CIMW_A_212955_O_XML_IMAGES/CIMW_A_212955_O_F0001g.jpgFIGURE 1. Opening pages of an illuminated Qur'an manuscript, probably of Ottoman origin. Collection of Syafei Prabu Diraja, Palembang (3/MSPD) ./CIMW_A_212955_O_XML_IMAGES/CIMW_A_212955_O_F0002g.jpgFIGURE 2. Surat-surat dayang kuala, a manuscript incised on bamboo (gelumpai) in ka-ga-nga or ulu script. Museum Balaputra Dewa, Palembang (10/MBD)

Concluding remarks

In conclusion, the key legacy that Palembang has inherited from its glorious past is knowledge. Sriwijaya was famous as a centre for Buddhist teaching, and subsequently, during the period of the Sultanate, Palembang became a centre for Islamic teaching renowned throughout the Malay-Indonesian world. This can be seen from the numerous theological and literary works written in Palembang in the 18th and 19th century. These manuscripts provide information on Palembang culture, both intellectually and spiritually.


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