Heritage & Cultural
Kelantan’s capital Kota Bharu is a hub for museums and traditions where many museums and heritage buildings are located along Jalan Hilir Kota and Jalan Sultan. Amidst the houses built on stilts and covered with thatched roofs, one can reveal in time-honoured Malay heritage and culture. Let’s explore the heritage and cultural of Kelantan.
i) Sultan Ismail Petra Arch
The landmark of Kota Bahru, the Sultan Ismail Petra Arch which made of timber was built to commemorate the occasion when Kelantan was announced as a cultural state showcasing Malay culture.
ii) The Grand Place (Istana Balai Besar)
Built in 1844, the Grand Place is a single story palace built by Sultan Muhammad II to replace his old residence on the banks of Kelantan River.
The palace later became home of several other sultans who ruled the state. Today, the palace only used for important official state functions and is not open to public.
The Grand Place (Istana Balai Besar)
Jalan Tengku Seri Akar, Kota Bharu, Kelantan
iii) Treasury Bank (Bank Pitis)
Kelantan had its own monetary system until the 19th century and the state used its own coin called pitis, made from tin, which was round and with a hole in the centre. Other currencies used in the state in the 16th to 19th centuries were Kijang coins, sun dinar and gold coins with Arabic inscriptions.
Kelantan ceased minting its own coins in 1909 when the British began issuing money for the Straits Settlements. During the time of the pitis, a 5m by 2.4m structure strong room named Bank Pitis was used to store treasury notes and important state documents.
Set up during the rule of Sultan Muhammad III (Long Kundor Sultan Ahmad) 1889-1890, Bank Pitis played an integral part of the palace and government administration during the late 18th and 19th century.
The longish office building was demolished in the 1940s but Bank Pitis remains, attracting both foreign and domestic visitors.
Treasury Bank (Bank Pitis)
Jalan Istana, Bandar Kota Bharu, 15000 Kota Bharu, Kelantan.
iv) Cultural Centre (Gelanggang Seni)
As a hub of Malay culture, the Cultural Centre showcases the Kelantan’s cultural and recreational activities.
The activities includes wayang kulit (shadow puppetry), wau (giant kite), gasing (top-spinning), pencak silat (martial arts), rebana ubi (giant drums), kertok (smaller drums formed from coconuts) and congkak (a game involving the strategic movement of seeds around the holes on a wooden board).
Each day’s demonstrations session is different, kindly check with the state tourist office if you have a particular interest.
Cultural Centre (Gelanggang Seni)
Jalan Mahmood, 15200, Kota Bharu, Kelantan, Malaysia.
v) Wau Museum
Located at Beach of Seven Lagoons, Wau Museum was built in 2011 to showcase wau (giant kite) culture, providing information on the history and development of wau and educate visitors about the age-old traditions in Kelantan.
The museum displaying various types of giant kites including Wau Bulan, Wau Kekek, Wau Puyuh, Wau Kucing, Wau Jala Budi and official wau for every state.
vi) Kelantan State Museum
State Museum houses a collection of exhibits and documents on Kelantan’s musical instruments, traditional arts, crafts and artefacts of ceramic from early trading with China.
Kelantan State Museum
Jalan Hospital, 15000 Kota Bharu, Kelantan.
Tel: 609-748 2266
Fax: 609-747 3366
vii) Handicraft Village and Handicraft Museum
Known as Kampung Kraftangan in the local language, Handicraft Village is set in a beautifully carved out wooden courtyard and houses the Handicraft Museum.
Located at the first floor of the Handicraft Village, also known as Balai Getam Guri, Handicraft Museum features a selection of Kelantan handicraft in traditional embroidery, songket weaving, batik printing, silversmithing and matting. It has clear labelling, instructions and descriptions of craft and fabric throughout the room. The year it was made in, the time taken to weave a fabric by experts and other relevant pieces of information are written and displayed next to it. Each and every piece in the museum is very neatly displayed, framed, stacked and labelled, while the history of every cloth, fabric and detail is elaborated on the walls right next to the pieces displayed.
There are two noteworthy pieces of fabric’s art that you cannot missed, namely batik and songket! Batik is the traditional fabric art of Kelantan and a number of patterns of Batik painting can be seen in this museum, in clothes and framed pieces. Songket is all about threads and rich textile. It is a traditional fabric of Malaysia also known as the ‘gold cloth’ and is generally worn by the Royal family. These are displayed as small individual intricate pieces of fabric, in the form of bags, handy baskets and the royal couture garments displayed at the Handiraft museum.
Here, visitors able to see the demonstrations of traditional embroidery, songket weaving, batik painting, silverwork and woodcarving are all carried out by skilled artisans.
Jalan Hilir Balai, 15300 Kota Bharu, Kelantan.
iiiv) Memorial Perang (Bank Kerapu)
Built in 1912, the War Museum used by Japanese troops during World War II as a secret police station for war coordination and it continued to function as a bank until 1992. Now, the museum is a repository for documents, pictures and military paraphernalia of the Japanese Occupation.
The whole collection inside the museum has been carefully administered and well documented. The museum also displays the interviews with villagers and locals who witnessed the landing of the Japanese in the Sabak beach as well as gives a detailed glimpse of the war heroes, the hardship faced by people and the allied troupes.
ix) Royal Museum ( Muzium Diraja Istana Batu)
Built in 1939, Royal Museum was formerly the palace of the crown prince from 1969 until it was donated to the state and turned into a museum.
Established as a museum in 1991, the Royal Museum exhibits the Kelantan royal family’s history, the royal arts and artifacts as well as items and furnishing belonged to the former sultans.
The walls in the museum portray life-size pictures of the current king of Kelantan.
The passage showcases posters of the legacy of the Royals, stating their rank and duration of reign. On the other side of the wall are depictions of official seals and coins used during the Royal’s reign. This narrows down to a chart of hierarchy. A sharp turn will lead you to a forked intersection.
One side of the intersection contains the royal robes in glass cases and write-ups on their crown, while the other side leads to a raised platform, covered on three sides that showcases important pieces of decor and gifts to the Royal family. These consist of a microscope, a cannon, vase, bicycle, glass art and flower art.
Dining Room and Kitchen
The walls leading to the rooms are decorated with pictures, literature and details of family history. The dining room is huge and the table is laid out with dinnerware and tea-sets, while bigger silver vessels, crockery and crystal-wares are decorated in glass cabinets surrounding it.
At one corner is a mirror surrounded by fancy caps, just above a shoe rack. Guns, ships, boats, ivory tusks, photos and flowers are also displayed. The kitchen features an extensive display of crystal pieces, both fine-crystals assembled into show pieces and mono-piece crystals.
Drawing Room and Bedrooms
A beautiful drawing room with a tiger skin rug, stuffed ostrich and deer-head welcomes you. Cupboards arranged on either side of the sofa set contain delicate utensils and other pieces of Royal decor.
Two bedrooms, one close to the drawing room and the other near the dining area, contain clothes, bed-set, shoes, dressing table and other personal belongings.
The hallway leads to other parts of the museum. It also leads to a revolving door – cross over to the other side to take in a fine showcase of the Royal’s sword collection. Definitely not to be missed.
There are many interesting things this museum are not to be missed:
- Hierarchy chart at the end of the passage
- Royal robes at the intersection
- Swords behind the revolving door
- Silver tea kettle at the dining table
- Crystal ship and its sail in the kitchen
- Antique clock with a pendulum at the dining room
- White tusk at the dining room
- Varieties of guns displayed across rooms
Royal Museum ( Muzium Diraja Istana Batu)
Kelantan State Museum Corporation
Jalan Hospital, 15000 Kota Bharu, Kelantan.
x) Museum of Royal Traditions and Customs (Istana Jahar)
Constructed during the reign of Sultan Muhammad (1837-1886), the building was gifted to his grandson, Long Kundur Bendahara, and served as his residence before being declared a museum.
Museum of Royal Traditions and Customs showcases excellent Kelantan’s craftsmanship through its intricate woodcarvings and elaborate roofs.
Here, visitors able to learn all about Kelantanese royal traditions and customs such as royal births, weddings and other ceremonial occasions. The museum is divided into a number of sections across two floors.
Two magnificent chariots greet you as you enter the ground level. This level displays the following items:
- Royal robes and head gear
- Anklets made of gold and waist bands made of silver
- Gold comb and miniature birds
- Betel leaf pans
- Songket, batik and tie dye fabrics
- Wood carvings
- Bride’s room
- Groom’s room
First floor: Take the spiral staircase to the first floor. This floor has different rooms and sections, each showcasing a specific occasion or ceremonies of the royal’s life.
Some of the ceremonies showcased in these rooms/sections include:
- Shower of blessings: This is a special ceremony for a woman during her 7th month of pregnancy.
- Laying the cot: When the baby is born, he/she is placed in a cot with special attention paid to them and the mother. This cot is then placed next to the mother’s bed.
- Head shaving and touching the earth: The first time a mother and baby actually touch the earth after recouping from birth, and the first time a baby’s head is shaved, are also of special significance.
- Bathing ceremony: The mother is made to bathe in special oils, milk and fresh flowers after a good massage. For this, specific tumblers are lined up in copper and other metals in which special bath mixes are kept.
- Circumcision ceremony: This room has a royal yellow curtain held in place by 2 gold birds to cover the cardboard cut-out of a man, with the essential tools laid on the floor, depicting the circumcision that was carried out at the royal palace a long time ago.
- Eating ceremony: This is a room representing feasts. Lavish food spreads were laid out after every ritual and ceremony.
The weapons gallery showcases weaponry used in the ancient times, ranging from daggers, arrows and quivers, and even canons, swords, spears, sickle, knives and more. The pieces are displayed in glass cases with a summary of description for visitors to read.
Race boats, long and wide ones, used during inter-state races lie suspended from strings in an open space. Check out the fine carvings and bird-head like structures on these boats. A wooden model of the museum encased in glass and a wooden miniature of the structures from those days are also present in the compound.
There is also a veranda overlooking the courtyard offering a view of the Malaysian and state flag.
Museum of Royal Traditions and Customs (Istana Jahar)
Jalan Sultan, Bandar Kota Bharu, 15000 Kota Bharu, Kelantan.