Saturday, April 14, 2007

Makam Keramat Field Report

Research/Study Case Type 2 (Myth and Legends)

Location : Kpg Kubur Keramat 2, Jln Kpg Tudan Phase 2 Miri

Date : 19 January 2007

Methodology : Interviews, site visit and data collecting.

Walking Distance and accessibility : Motorbike and 25 minutes by foot. Located 10-15 meters from small creek/stream.

ParaCrypt RSG member on field- Ezan (BlackPenguin), Sa-ed Firdaus (Abg ED), Fadlee (Katana)

Legend's background

Based on the local stories, the mysterious tomb was belong to a man believed to be a Saint named ‘Syarif’ or ‘Sheikh’ who was traveling from Brunei during the reign of Bruneian Sultanate over Borneo hundreds of years ago. The saint was believed to travel by foot and small ‘sampan’- traditional small malay boat- to Miri in order to trade goods and spreading Islamic teaching. When he stops to perform his Asar prayer near the bank of River Baram, he was murdered by local head hunter’s tribe and his head was chopped off. The place where he was murdered later marked by local with a tomb-like monument in Kuala Baram as a remembrance of his tragic death. (In those early days, Ngayau or head hunting was a common practice among the tribes until it was banned and stopped during the ‘White Rajah’ the British rulers over Sarawak- James Brooke Johnson, Charles Brooke and Charles Vyner Brooke in late 1700’s). According to the story which was told generation to generation, after he was killed by the local tribe, his head was carried back to the longhouse and before they begin their journey, they roasted his head to avoid it from rotten since the walking distance might takes nearly one or two days. The group later continues their journey along with other human heads which their collected during ngayau until they reach a place near an old tree where finally they left the saint’s head behind after mysteriously became heavier than the other heads which they were carrying. According to legend, his hedless body floats and drifted along the Miri River from the place hi was killed and later into the Lutong River and small streams until finally reaches the place where his remain head were left by the tribes. And because of his piousness and devotion, his head and his body mysteriously entombed by itself in the place where the nowadays tomb was located.

View of the location

The small river

Broken bridge

The walking path

ParaCrypt RSG member (Abg ED) examine the tombstone

Unfortunately, no hard evidence of who marks the grave and placing the carved tombstone on the grave, since based on local legend it was happened few hundred years ago and the area was covered with thick forest and it was only cleared in late 1990's for settlement by local and later by government. Eventhough there's no hard evidence of the truth behind the legends, the tomb continously visited by local people sometimes from outside the city to pay their offering and a place to grant their wishes based on the candle marks and the yellow cloths which wrapping the tombstone.

Rectangular shape stone believed to be the stoned artifact

The local also claims that before the tomb known to outsiders, on the grave and near the tombstone lays the belonging of the saint which was turned to stone. The artifact was a Holy Quran, Quran wooden stand (Raihal), his prayer beads or ‘Tasbih’, his head cover- songkok- his prayer’s mat, and his wooden beetle nut’s box. This entire artifact mysteriously turned to stone and according to one of the source, they even confirmed it genuinity after carefully examine the items. Unfortunately, all the artifacts are now missing except his ‘songkok’ or some says his wooden beetle nut’s box which was still can be barely seen next to the tombstone.

The 'songkok' or 'beetlenut box'. The stone seems to be nicely carved/shaped and 4"x8"inch in size

There’s also believed to be unexplained incident happened near the tomb which was told to the ParaCrypt RSG investigator which is, long time ago whenever the local buried their families near the tomb area, the earth ground and their grave mark mysteriously covered with something similar to dog’s fur. And every grave was affected except the saint’s tomb. And also some witness reports that when there’s bush fire few years ago, the tomb never touched by the flame. (Perhaps the cause of this incidents, the tomb marking itself made from stone and tomb's earth was covered with pebbles which is suspected to be placed by visitors or locals from streams since the nearby river was located in a swampy area and hardly to find the same kind of pebbles used for the tomb covering) How far was the claims to be true are still questionable by researcher like us.

Upon arival at the site which took about 30 minutes walk from the nearest village located in Tudan, Miri Sarawak, research team straightly recording every data available and doing close observation and investigation on the grave sites and what the team's found was:

· Marks of candles left by visitor .

· A rectangle shape stone near the headstone and writings on the tombstone was in Arabic.

Arabic carved tombstone. Based on our research, carved creek/river stone as a burial marking was a common practice besides decorated wooden planks by local Mirian back in late 1800 to 1930's. The similar carved tombstone can be found at Sungai Baong Muslim Cemetary and some of the tombstone in the area dated back as early as 1900 and mostly belongs to Pakistani/Indian Muslim traders and Bruneian.

· Also several old grave which belongs to Kedayan ethnic with old grave marks. Latest gravemarks was 1977 and since then no other new gravemarks in the area.

Carved wooden grave mark dated back in 1977 or 1976

Unmark tombstone. (Please note the dark colored soil)

· The cemetery was abandoned many years ago due to a new and better burial area in Kpg Batu Satu ( about 4-6 km from Kpg Makam Keramat) and the early settlers of the area most of them already passed a long time ago and their heritage was unknown.

· Locals reports of seeing some Indonesian people often going to the tomb during night time especially on Friday- believed to be doing some ritual on the grave.

Based on our background research of the tomb, there's no hard evidence of who placed the carved headstone on the grave due to physical history of the area. ( Area was thick forest until early 1900 and late 1990’s) Since during the evens no evidence of witnesses only tall tales passed from generation to generation. Only weak verbal evidence of early settlers who found the grave during clearing. About the square grave marking which believed to be the 'songkok' or 'beetle nut box', further investigation on old culture was done by Katana and in his report, he mention about old fashioned land marking by using stone or similar to mark their ownership of the land. Since during that period, no advance measurements such as measuring tapes or etc, so the old fashioned way during the era was rocks or carved stone. Perhaps this square shaped which claimed to be the tombstone was allegedly an old abondaned land marking left by the owner either becouse of their death or other logical cause. During the field investigation, the team also try to trace any unsimilarity of the earth layer since there's a report of the earth turn to furry like ground. Perhaps this can be explained by science. Due to the location of the area is very near to the small creek, and perhaps the actual 'fur' was a type of dark color algae or moss since during our walk to the location, there's some area covered with moss and algae and some of it was dark colored type and looks like a dog fur in a first glance. Unfortunately, it's our mistake for not taking the photo of the dark colored moss. Perhaps this plant was mistakenly thought as 'fur' by people of that time. And according to the stories, the 'fur' covered the gravemark except the Saint's. Either it's true or not, perhaps some of this moss photo (which we find online and little bit similar to the moss which we saw and the only difference was the color) can be used as reference to show how and kind of surface which mostly algae or moss can be easily found.

A sample of dog-like-fur moss

Example of dark color algae and moss

End of Field Report.

Report done by Fadlee and Ezan

ParaCrypt Research and Study Group

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