by Eric Lim
The starting point of Sungai Langat is at Gunung Nuang on the Titiwangsa Range. The river flows westward across the state of Selangor covering a total distance of 190 km, passing through Kajang, Dengkil, Jenjarom and Jugra before it drains into the Straits of Melaka,. This article focuses on the town of Jugra, which was the royal town and administrative centre of Selangor during the reign of Sultan Abdul Samad and the period of the British intervention in the state. Sadly, today, the town has been left out of the state economic activity and it has slid into obscurity.
History, Tales and Remnants
The discoveries of large quantities of pottery shards, legs/stands of tripod pots and stone adzes at Kampung Jenderam Hilir near Dengkil proved that the Sungai Langat basin had been inhabited since the Neolithic times, believed to be between 3,000 – 4,000 years ago. The area later became a feeder point and regularly supplied local produce to the entrepot at Bujang Valley. At the height of the Melaka Sultanate in the middle of the 15th century CE, Sultan Mansur Shah made his son, Paduka Sri China, the Raja of Jeram near Langat. When the Sultanate of Selangor was set up following the installation of Raja Lumu as Sultan Salehuddin by Sultan Mahmud of Perak, the state was divided into five semi-autonomous districts based on the five major rivers in the state, namely Sungai Bernam, Sungai Selangor, Sungai Klang, Sungai Langat and Sungai Lukut. The settlements were at the estuaries, namely Sabak Bernam, Kuala Selangor, Klang, Bandar Langat (aka Bandar Temasya) and Lukut respectively.
Up until the third Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Mohamed (1826-1857), Kuala Selangor was the main administrative town and capital of Selangor and Raja Abdul Samad was assigned the charge of Kuala Selangor while his father, Raja Abdullah, ruled the Langat Valley. When Raja Abdul Samad took over the reign as the fourth Sultan of Selangor in 1857, he retired from Kuala Selangor and chose to reside in his ancestral fief of Langat, thus moving the capital to Bandar Langat. His eldest son, Raja Musa, who assumed the title of Raja Muda was put in-charge of Kuala Selangor. During the turbulent time of the Klang War/Selangor Civil War from 1867 to 1874, Sultan Abdul Samad issued a letter dated 26 June 1868 that delegated wide executive powers to his son in-law, Tunku Dhiauddin Zainal Rashid or Tengku Kudin in short, and Langat given as a gift to him.
The war was initially fought at Klang and it then spread to Kuala Selangor, Ulu Selangor and finally landed at Kuala Lumpur. After seven long years of fighting, in March of 1873, Tengku Kudin and his allies Yap Ah Loy and Pahang forces recaptured Kuala Lumpur. In November the same year, Kudin’s forces and a Pahang contingent retook Kuala Selangor, the last stronghold of Raja Mahadi in Selangor and it signalled the end of the war. In the middle of 1878, Tengku Kudin relinquished his position as Viceroy of Selangor and returned to his home state of Kedah.
After the war, and after a court trial at (1) Kuala Jugra to settle a piracy case that happened in November 1873 in Selangor waters, Colonial rule in Selangor was established. John Guthrie Davidson became the adviser and aide to Tengku Kudin in Klang and a young Frank Swettenham of the Straits Settlements Civil Service was appointed the Assistant Resident in August 1874. He was to reside at the (2) Sultan’s fortified stockade by the river which according to him, was flooded twice daily! During his incumbency, Swettenham made many field trips, travelling the length and breadth of the state, including the key mining towns of Hulu Langat, which took him extra days to arrive and Kuala Kubu, where he commented on the gigantic dam that the locals had constructed. Davidson’s position as the first Resident of Selangor was confirmed the following year and at the same time, Swettenham left Bandar Langat and moved to Perak.
The next phase was the development of the royal capital, which was shifted to Jugra, a Malay village south of Bandar Langat. The hill at Jugra was already a known spot and had served as a natural guiding beacon for seafarers in the Straits of Malacca for centuries. The earliest record came from the Chinese source through the sailing charts that recorded the expeditions of Admiral Zheng He in the early 15th century CE. They were published in a book in 1628 and it showed the location of Bukit Jugra, which the Chinese called Mian Hua Yu (綿花嶼) or Cotton Islet in English. Legend has it that when the Malacca Kingdom was ousted by the Portuguese in 1511, Puteri Gunung Ledang escaped and arrived at Bukit Jugra with her husband. One day, she killed her husband and buried him at the foot of the hill and their two cats turned into ‘rimau keramat/ghost tigers’ guarding the grave ever since. ‘Even to this day she pays periodical visits to Jugra Hill’. The hill was also mentioned in ‘The Oriental Navigator, Or, New Directions for Sailing to and from the East Indies’, an important guide to navigating the seas to the far reaches of Asia, which was first published in 1794. Bukit Jugra was known as Parcelar Hill, and the book mentions another hill with a similar name i.e False Parcelar Hill, which is Bukit Jeram today, located at Kuala Selangor. The name ‘Parcelar’ derives from the Arabic word ‘balasar’, which literally means above the head.
In the 1850’s, some Americans opened a tin mine upstream of Sungai Langat at Sungai Tangkas near Rekoh but was later met by altercations from the locals as they did not possess any consent and the mine was soon abandoned. They travelled down to Bandar Langat and while there, made a significant contribution by improving the communications in the area. They succeeded in making a (3) canal to provide a shortcut from Sungai Langat and the Straits of Malacca at the Jugra inlet (see the top/first photo). The canal later turned into a channel and a reference was made in 1877 that Emily Innes, wife of District Officer James Innes, had used the channel to transport her goods and chattels including a piano, which was a wedding present from her parents, in a big cargo boat from Bandar Langat to Bukit Jugra. At the summit of Bukit Jugra, the British had built a lighthouse to guide ships approaching Jugra. The locals said that during the construction, the waters in the area had turned red for thirty days and at the expiry, cockles, which were abundant, suddenly disappeared. In 1976, another concrete tower was built, this time equipped with the state-of-the-art navigational equipment. Today, there are (4) two lighthouses at Bukit Jugra; the taller was built during the colonial era.
The British started developing Bukit Jugra between 1875 and 1876 and probably the first building constructed was the police station. It was said that Tengku Kudin had initiated the construction. It was to be the first police station in Selangor. A twenty-two year old Harry Charles Syers arrived in March 1875 to set up the police force and he recruited Malays from rural districts of Malacca. One of his early accomplishments was the crushing of Sutan Puasa’s suspected uprising in Ulu Langat in October 1875. H.C. Syers moved on to become the first Federal Commissioner of Police. The ruins of ‘Rumah Pasung’, name given by the locals for the police station, were discovered by the state archaeology team in 2001 and restoration work was carried out the following year and since 2013, it has served as the (5) In-Situ Museum. Some parts of the old police station are preserved, such as the granite walls, flooring, two pillars and the jail cell.
Next to be built was the (6) Jugra District Office. Similar to the police station, the District Office was a two-storey granite and brick building and it also housed a bank and a court. It was by no coincidence that the building housed a bank and a court. The District Officer was indeed a Tax collector and Magistrate! The building has disintegrated and, today, only its ruins can be seen. It is located on the same road that leads to the lighthouses and next to the Chinese cemetery. When the (7) District Officer Residence was ready in 1877, James Innes and Emily moved in immediately. Those days, sightings of tigers in the open were quite common and particularly so in the Kuala Langat district. There was also news of people being killed by tigers. James reported an encounter with a tiger in his garden when he was reading the newspaper. Luckily, nothing bad happened to him. Today, it would be difficult to locate the building, as it may have been completely demolished. The photo below, taken before 1985, showed only one upright pillar.
Located about 300 metres from the Jugra District Office is the (8) Bukit Jugra Ammunition Store. This bunker-like structure with only one entrance was used to store ammunition for the police force and it is strategically located facing Sungai Langat to facilitate the movement of ammunition to and from the store. There is another similar ammunition store albeit a larger one located near Kota Raja Mahadi in Klang.
In 1876, Sultan Abdul Samad felt secure enough to move away from his stockade to his new residence, (9) Jugra Palace/Istana Jugra, which was also known as Istana Sedang Masa, located at Bukit Jugra. His stockade at Bandar Langat was destroyed and he told Swettenham that ‘he very much prefers his house and garden at the hill’. The palace went on to become his main residence for the rest of his life. When he passed away, the palace was abandoned and left to deteriorate. However, one item was left behind i.e. an iron chest. In 1968, Dato Shahrom Yeop who was then the Director of the National Museum had obtained special permission from Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman to move the item to the museum for an exhibition. Incidentally, Tunku was once the District Officer of Kuala Langat. Since its arrival at the museum, strange noises could be heard from the empty chest! In less than a week, it was returned to Jugra, even then the strange phenomena continued – the journey to Jugra took seven hours, a crane was needed to lift the chest and finally, it took just the caretaker and an assistant to carry it up to the room on top of the stairs! The chest is now being kept by one of the descendants in Kampung Permatang Pasir.
Within walking distance from Jugra Palace is the site of what used to be (10) Long Puteri Palace, the official residence of Sultan Abdul Samad’s granddaughter, Raja Long Puteri. In the 1930’s, the place was inhabited by Raja Sakiah Raja Mustar. Today, both buildings have almost ‘disappeared’ except for some tall pillars that stood out at Jugra Palace and the remains of the stone staircase of fourteen steps at the latter. Visiting these two buildings would be quite impossible as both are now within private property.
Sultan Abdul Samad passed away on 6 February 1898 at the age of 93. During his reign, the Resident and the state government was moved from Klang to Kuala Lumpur in 1880 while Jugra remained the royal town. In 1886, Sultan Abdul Samad attended the opening of the railway from Klang to Kuala Lumpur and spent three weeks in Kuala Lumpur. In 1897, after the British had established the Federated Malay States, Sultan Abdul Samad attended the first Durbar, meeting of the Malay Rulers of the four member states at Kuala Kangsar. As the most senior Sultan, he delivered the speech of welcome to the Governor. British officials also noted Sultan Abdul Samad preferred tin ingots rather than silver dollars as his personal reserves and he was reputed to have a hoard of tin worth $100,000. He was buried at (11) Jugra Royal Mausoleum, the Selangor royal family mausoleum since 1886. The mausoleum complex also contained the graves of his children, Raja Muda Musa who died in 1884, Raja Kahar and Tunku Alfiah. The mausoleum is open to visitors.
When Raja Musa died, his son Raja Suleiman was made the heir apparent to the throne when he was appointed as the new Raja Muda in 1887. Thus, when Sultan Abdul Samad passed away, Raja Sulaiman became the fifth Sultan of Selangor and he took the name Sultan Alaeddin Sulaiman Shah, ruling for 40 years, from 1898 to 1938. He was a pious Sultan and was very close to Islamic scholars. One of them, Shaykh Tengku Mahmud Zuhdi, was appointed as the Religious Advisor of the state of Selangor with the title of Shaykh al-Islam Setia DiRaja Selangor. Sultan Alaeddin had written at least three religious books in Jawi and one of the books was once used as a textbook for religious schools in Selangor. In July 1903, Sultan Alaeddin attended the Second Durbar, which was held at the Federal capital, Kuala Lumpur.
Sultan Alaeddin commissioned the construction of two buildings at Kampung Bandar, which is situated away from Bukit Jugra. Both constructions were funded entirely by Sultan Alaeddin. The (12) Bandar Palace/Istana Bandar was built in stages starting from 1899 and finally completed in 1905. It was said that the palace was designed by the Sultan who was inspired by the Sultan Abdul Samad building in Kuala Lumpur. The entire building is constructed of bricks and covered by lime plaster while the staircases and doors are carved from local hardwood. It underwent two renovations i.e in 1914, the rear facade was added with ornaments and inclusion of a fence, then a front entrance was added in 1925. His grandson, Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah who later became the eighth Sultan of Selangor, was born here on 8 March 1926. Sultan Alaeddin lived in this palace for 33 years until his death in 1938. It then went into disuse when the sixth Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Hisamuddin Alam Shah moved to Istana Mahkota Puri in Klang. It was used as a Japanese base during the Japanese Occupation.
At the end of 1980’s, the palace went through major restoration work undertaken by the Selangor state government who turned it into a District Handicraft Centre, which did not last long. It was used as a Maahad Tahfiz school by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department from 1997 to 1999 then left vacant until 2008 when it was certified as a National Heritage building. Upon completion of rehabilitation works, it was handed over to the Malay Customs and National Heritage Corporation of Selangor (PADAT) in December 2010 and was made a tourist attraction in the district. It underwent conservation work in 2015 and there was a plan to turn it into a Living Museum or Royal Gallery to preserve and educate future generations of this national heritage.
The (13) Sultan Alaeddin Royal Mosque/Istana DiRaja Sultan Alaeddin, also known as Masjid Bandar, Masjid Alauddin, Masjid Sultan Suleiman, is situated close to Bandar Palace. It was inaugurated on 18 June 1924 and the design was believed to have originated from the Deli Kingdom in Medan, Sumatra. It was earlier known for its yellow or mustard colour; today the mosque is painted white. Sultan Alaeddin used to deliver sermons here even on Aidilfitri and Aidiladha. This century-old mosque is still being used and maintained by the residents. Prior to this mosque, there was another mosque, (14) Raja Muda Musa Mosque/Masjid Raja Muda Musa located next to the Kampung Bandar Royal Tomb/Makam DiRaja Kampung Bandar. It was built in 1875 and was the first mosque built in Kampung Bandar. The mosque was badly damaged in 1920 and a temporary one was built just outside the mosque. The congregation moved over to Sultan Alaeddin Royal Mosque when it was opened.
(15) Sekolah Kebangsaan Bandar located on the same street as Bandar Palace and Sultan Alaeddin Royal Mosque is the first school in Kuala Langat district and one of the oldest in the state. It was originally known as Sekolah Melayu Bandar Dandan Bakti Raja and was established on 13 March 1898. It started with an enrolment of 53, all boys. The first headmaster was Burok Bin Haji Ahmad who worked until 31 December 1922. In 1952, the school moved to the current site, which is close to the mosque.
From Kuala Lumpur, use Plus Highway (E2) southbound. Exit at Exit 209 UPM to join Jalan Sungai Besi and continue on to join South Klang Valley Expressway (SKVE) at Ayer Hitam toll plaza. Continue and exit at Teluk Panglima Garang toll plaza and after the toll plaza, keep left to Jenjarom. Drive past Jenjarom and head towards Banting. When approaching Banting, watch out for signage to Kampung Bandar and Bukit Jugra.
In this Series
Please click HERE for a list of articles in the ‘A Very Rough Guide’ series.
A History of Selangor (1766 – 1939) (page 38, 39 & 46)
Selangor dahulu dan sekarang (page 13 – 29)
A Careless, Heathen Philosopher? (page 95)
EDISI KHAS (page 30)