Brooke era’s 14 cannon shots-tradition to ring in Hari Raya Aidilfitri in Sarawak stirs nostalgia

Ranee Muda Kathleen Brooke cutting a Hari Raya cake at Abang Openg's residence, Kuching, c.1947. Photo credit: The Brooke Gallery at Fort Margherita Facebook

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, April 16: During the illustrious Brooke era, the tradition of Hari Raya Aidilfitri commenced with a grand spectacle as 14 resounding cannon shots pierced through the night and illuminated the skies to signal the celebration across Kuching.

In a post shared on its Facebook page, The Brooke Gallery revealed that Hari Raya has always been a cherished public holiday since the days of Brooke governance in Sarawak.

The festivities were heralded in a manner both unique and majestic. As the crescent moon of Syawal made its celestial debut, the echoing boom of cannons reverberated throughout the land.

From the towering forts of major cities to the quaint towns nestled within Sarawak’s embrace, cannons joined in chorus, proclaiming the joyous arrival of Hari Raya.

Accompanying this historical account were treasured glimpses of yesteryears, captured in black-and-white- and sepia-toned photographs. Among them, a Hari Raya greeting card, delicately penned by Abdul Kadir Marican showing Ranee Muda Kathleen Brooke seated in an open-top car amidst her companions and stalwarts of the anti-cession movement in Kuching circa 1947.

A Hari Raya Aidilfitri greeting card with a photo of Ranee Muda Kathleen Brooke, sent by Abdul Kadir Marican, c.1947. Photo credit: The Brooke Gallery at Fort Margherita/Facebook

The heartfelt wishes inscribed in Jawi script, translated into Bahasa Malaysia, means: “Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Termakan terminum mintak halalkan, Terlanjur kata mintak maafkan”.

It means “Happy Hari Raya Aidilfitri; if anything is accidentally eaten or drunk, may it be blessed, and if any unintentional words are spoken, please forgive.”

Another snapshot showcased Ranee Muda Katheleen Brooke partaking in the time-honoured tradition of cutting a Hari Raya cake at Tun Datuk Abang Openg Abang Sapiee’s residence in Kuching, also in 1947.

The photo on a Hari Raya greeting card sent by Abdul Kadir Marican shows Ranee Muda Kathleen Brooke seated in an open-top car with her friends and supporters. Photo credit: The Brooke Gallery at Fort Margherita Facebook

The post resonated deeply with netizens, evoking waves of nostalgia and fond reminiscences. One individual fondly recalled the spirited cacophony of “nukuk beduk” (drumming) emanating from mosques and suraus across Sarawak, echoing ceaselessly throughout the night upon the announcement of Raya.

“I missed that moment which happened many long years ago!” she lamented.

Echoing this sentiment, another netizen urges Premier of Sarawak Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg to revive the tradition of firing cannon shots during the night of Syawal annually.

“So that the young and future generations have the opportunity to see real cannon shots, including myself as I have never one seen a live cannot shot,” she confessed in expressing her desire to experience a piece of history come alive once more.

A handmade Hari Raya greeting card given to the family of Tuan Muda Bertram Brooke, c.1947. Photo credit: The Brooke Gallery at Fort Margherita Facebook

The Brooke Gallery, located at Fort Margherita, showcases the extraordinary history of Sarawak and its ‘White Rajahs’, with the fort being restored by the National Heritage Department and handed over to the Sarawak Museum Department for the development of the gallery.

Collaborating closely with the Sarawak Museum, The Brooke Trust curates the narrative and content, while also contributing artifacts from the Brooke Family’s collection, sponsoring this permanent exhibition which was inaugurated on Sept 24, 2016, by the then Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg, with fabrication and installation made possible by dedicated local and global volunteers of the Trust. — DayakDaily