Once loved Pura Tanjung Sabtu now abandoned and decaying

Last update: 15/01/2020

By Balqis Jamaludin

KUALA TERENGGANU, Jan 15 -- “Beautiful yet forgotten” is the first thought that comes to mind when one visits Pura Tanjung Sabtu in Kampung Tanjung Sabtu, Manir now.

The word “pura” means “palace” in Sanskrit and in its heyday this stately home -- which is an amalgamation of seven wooden homes of local origin -- would have made quite an impression.

However, since its custodian -- Tengku Ismail Tengku Su -- passed away in 2011, the palace which was established some 30 years ago, has failed to keep up its immaculate appearance, with mouldy floorboards in some parts and furniture no longer neatly positioned.

Situated some 14km away from Kuala Terengganu and occupying 5.6ha (14 acres) of land near Sungai Nerus owned by the royal family, Tujuh Rumah Putera (its other name) was once well-known among tourists, dignitaries and royals from inside and outside Malaysia.

The traditional homes – among them Rumah Seberang Baroh, Rumah Rhu Rendang, Rumah Kuala Ibai and Rumah Atas Tol, with one believed to be the old palace – are between 100 and 200 years old.

“They were named by Tengku Ismail after the places they came or were bought from. The interesting part is they were built without nails, instead using a wood joinery technique,” said Tanjung Sabtu village community management council (MPKK) chairman, Md Fauzi Mustaffa.

The late Tengku Ismail -- a member of the Terengganu royal family -- was also involved in making songket and turned one of the houses into an atelier with creations by the putera songket (songket prince) sought after at home and abroad.

Since September, slow changes have been coming to the royal residence with an intriguing tale of mystery.

“Before this it was difficult to enter the area because it was like a forest. The indirect result of the landowner allowing villagers to grow bananas on 3.2ha (8 acres) of the land is that the overgrown area has been cleared.

“I’ve also been informed a tahfiz centre will be opening next to the plantation. So the area surrounding Pura Tanjung Sabtu will no longer be overgrown,” said Md Fauzi.

Since the clean-up, visitors from in and out of Terengganu have been coming to admire and snap pictures of the unique architecture, with bloggers and vloggers triggering renewed interest and making the palace popular again.

“Nearby is Lubuk Aji, an eddy which people in the olden days believed was guarded by a penunggu (spirit) linked to mystical events which affected Pura Tanjung Sabtu, too. But villagers have yet to encounter any strange phenomena,” said Md Fauzi.

However, the palace is near the river so anyone can enter via land or water to steal things like the pots and furniture. Already some sets of steps are missing.

“We do not know who comes and goes,” said Md Fauzi, adding that he hopes someone, including the state government, will consider taking over Pura Tanjung Sabtu to bring it back to its glory days.

“This Malay architectural heritage will stand forlorn and forsaken if nobody looks after it. The restoration may cost a lot but I believe if it is resurrected or turned into a museum, it will generate good returns,” he said.