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Tuesday, 29-Apr-2008 20:03
KUBUR BANGGOL : The Wooden Mausoleum

The Wooden Mausoleum

Concrete buildings are rather new to Kelantan.
The British brought the idea to the state, during their early 20th century colonial endeavour.

The first ever concrete structure in Kelantan is said to be the Bank Pitis ( late 19th century ), which can still be found just outside the front gate of Istana Balai Besar and the first concrete fully functional office cum residential building is the Bank Kerapu ( 1912 ), at what is now Jalan Post Office Lama. Followed later by the Greco-Roman style shop houses, which came up mostly around 1920s.

Prior to that, virtually everything was made of wood, the most abundant material of old Kelantan. Wood was applied in practically every form of construction, from royal palaces, homes of the nobilities to mosques, from shop houses to wayside rest pavilions.

However, in those days, despite the extensive use, wood was actually hard to come by. Wood of excellent quality, had to be floated downstream from logging camps, further inland, taking days to reach the town's sawmills and workshops. No machineries were involved and all had to be done either by human force or that of beast of burden. Things were very slow and time consuming. But amazingly, these limitations had lead to the birth of the idea that each work should last for eternity. An end result that required almost no maintenance. The idea became necessary to fulfil, and necessity became the mother of all inventions.

Indeed, that was exactly what past master builders had up in mind.
For that, they came up with the unique method, which still could be seen through the surviving few scattered throughout Kelantan, like the mausoleums of Kubur Banggol.

* mau·so·le·um

( /ˌmɔsəˈliəm, -zə-/ [maw-suh-lee-uhm, -zuh-] –noun, plural -le·ums, -le·a )

2. a burial place for the bodies or remains of many individuals, often of a single
family, usually in the form of a small building.

Reference : http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/mausoleum
" A mausoleum (plural: mausolea) is an external free-standing building constructed
as a monument enclosing the interment space or burial chamber of a deceased
person or persons. A mausoleum may be considered a type of tomb or the tomb
may be considered to be within the mausoleum. "

Reference : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mausoleum(Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Old and neglected, and in some sort of suspended decay, few do realise that these wooden mausoleums ( yes, they suit the basic, commonly accepted definition ) at Kubur Banggol are actually the still surviving instances of the now virtually lost, old Kelantanese wood working art and techniques. Despite the existing appearance, they were in fact, products of ingenious, creative, passionate mind of past master builders. A cultural heritage, also architectural masterpiece, resulted from the need for durability, strength, beauty, elegance and perfection.

Closer inspection revealed that each part was patiently, somewhat painstakingly hand crafted from the best tropical hard woods - Cengal or Merbau, to name a few - into prefabricated forms. These prefabricated forms or parts were then pieced together on site using a combination of brilliantly designed, mutually supporting system of interlocking joints ( called, Tanggam ) and a generous amount of wooden pegs ( called, Pasak ). Unlike present day practice, no nails, screws even bolts and nuts were used at all thus not surprisingly, none is found on the structures ( except for a recently added few, just to reinforce the ageing parts ).

Note that, the purpose of prefabrication was not only meant to ease up the transportation of parts to the site, but also to ease up future moving work if should there be any need. Here the movable wooden pegs and joints play the important parts - to be taken out and again re fix - without damaging the parts. This unique innovation owns the Malay wood working an outstanding spot in the World of wooden construction. Perhaps, nowhere else in the World, wood was worked with intention similar to that of the old time Malays. How amazing was that ?

This methods of construction was common throughout Kelantan in the old days, but were gradually abandoned when the British arrived and introduced the Western standard of construction, through the incorporation of nails and of course, concrete. Constructing buildings became faster and cheaper but cruder and the venture turned from artistic into merely monetary and economical, which going on to this day.

I would say that these structures i.e. mausoleums of Kubur Banggol are among the surviving few from the era when wood working was not merely taken for granted. If the practice of these days were used then, I seriously doubt that they would survive a decade or two. The remaining few survived because of the thoughtful hands that made them and the hands that cared for them, ironically also, as in the case of Kubur Banggol, because of the graveyard's state of desertion, that people tend to leave things as they were. At other places, the push for Western style development had already brought down so many of them. I have a feeling that someday and somehow, so would the mausoleums of Kubur Banggol. Will there be any attempt to save them ? I seriously doubt.

But while they are still standing, these old mausoleums worth a good study.
I believe that they would be a good source of reference, for those keen to have a rest pavilion ( wakaf ) as a part of their home décors ( a trend I regularly see nowadays ). No, I am not promoting a mausoleum for a home décor, d'oh ! I mean, take the essence, learn how they built it ! I noticed that most modern wakaf are crudely built, with all the nuts and bolts, screws and nails forced into their places that somewhat damaged not only the physical nature, but also the structural strength of the wood itself. Forget the metallic reinforcement, just stick to these brilliant ideas left by our forefathers.

Only then you would know why you should be proud !

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* An old mausoleum, with graves dating back to the 1910s.

The exact date of its construction is unknown, very much probably around the same time as the tombs it housed. Singhorra tiles for the roof, structure out of durable high quality hardwood ( Cengal ), no sign of termite infestation. Smooth finishing - a distinct sign of hand crafting.

* Another old mausoleum, housing numbers of " undated " tombs.

( " Undated " as there was no attempt for a closer inspection but probably from early to mid 20th century. Thus, the building might be from the same period of time too. )

Singhorra tiles roofing - with two types, the more common smaller one at each roof fringe, with the very rare, wider and bigger type at the centre roof. In Kelantan, I only see the application of the latter at only two places, one on an old house at Tuan Padang Roundabout ( Clocktower Roundabout, behind Kia Showroom ) and the other, on a pre-War shoplot at Jalan Temenggong - Tok Hakim junction.

* Bad condition. Unknown date of construction.

Probably early to mid 20th century, judging by the graves. There's even a magnificently carved marble tomb housed inside one. Again, Singhorra tiles for the roof with some reinforcement works done to the structure.

* A rest pavilion ( wakaf ) in the foreground and a mausoleum in the background

* A simple, wall-less old mausoleum. Date unknown. Probably early to mid 20th century.

Looks more like a shed to me. With several graves and a bench for visitors. Except for some missing roof tiles, conditions are fairly good, sturdy and strong, showing no sign of collapsing.

* Another simple, wall-less old mausoleum. Date unknown. Probably early to mid 20th century.

Missing roof tiles. Tilting. With reinforcement works already done to the structure.

* Smaller one, with simple fencing.
Date unknown. Probably early to mid 20th century.

This one seems to have problem with balance but mutually supporting columns are holding it to its current position until no one knows. No reinforcement works seen on the structure.

* The roof structure.

This one comes from the first image, at the top.
Interconnecting parts are fixed together using a system of interlocking joints and wooden pegs. This one seems to be completely " clean " from nails. On the other hand, the old wooden frames are showing signs of fungal attack but remained strong with no signs of heavy decay or rupture.

* What I mean by " interlocking joint ".

Cracked due to old age and weight. Designs like this one, explains why nails are not needed.

* Wooden peg.

A type of wooden peg, used to lock two parts together, one being the roof support.
Most wooden pegs used are small and with texture and colours that blend well with the main parts. Unlike its modern counterparts - nails, screws, nuts and bolts.

* An ornamental wooden appendage known as " Buah Buton " or " Buah Butong " or " Buah Gutong " or " Buah Guntong ". I have no idea which term is correct.

Subordinate parts like this are very rarely seen these days.
It was common in the past, adorning the gates and houses of the ruling class and houses of worship i.e. mosques. To find one at a graveyard is remarkable.

" You remain preoccupied with hoarding. Until you go to the graves "

( Bermegah-megahan telah melalaikan kamu sampai kamu masuk ke dalam kubur )

http://www.submission.org/efarsi/arabic/sura102.html(At Takaathur, verse 1 ~ 2.)

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