I THOUGHT I was very lucky growing up: I had three different Hari Raya-like settings with my family: Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Hari Raya Aidiladha and Pujomor.
Of course, when I went to school to tell my classmates and ask them about their Pujomor, I was met with confusion, because no one could understand me. Trying to hide my disappointment, I thought it was a Kelantanese term that did not make its way to KL. After all, how can they not share the joy of this holiday? (It just basically means days off school!)
Pujomor is the term used in Kelantan over the centuries to signify the sultan’s birthday. It was an event that I had duly missed in the years I spent abroad, for the exhibition of culture that happens is one so unique and beautiful, you cannot help but stare in amazement and fascination at how history comes to life.
This year, the Kelantanese will witness their ruler, Sultan Muhammad V, sit on his throne in Istana Balai Besar before leaving to head the country as the 15th Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
The core and life of Pujomor would always be the early morning perbarisan, where the sultan inspects the guard of honour.
Their formation and discipline, as well as the perfection of the marches and lines, would never fail to amaze and excite me.
No doubt, it is a sentiment shared by many Kelantanese, as Kelantan folk would make it a point to witness the inspection, bringing with them their children and families.
And, it would always break my heart to witness some of them marching so hard that they faint.
But, watching them faint makes you realise how much hard work and effort is being put in training themselves, both mentally and physically.
Them standing before you is merely a requirement, given the resilience formed in them to protect the borders of our country, and to save the lives of the commonfolk.
The day continues with a session where the sultan confers awards — from datukships to surat kepujian.
This year, the sultan made it a point to personally confer awards on 600 chosen individuals.
The sultan of Kelantan proudly stood for more than two hours without breaks. And the pride and smiles on the recipients’ faces, that they’re being conferred an award by the next king, is incomparable.
I bore witness to that myself when I congratulated a Kelantanese Palace staff member.
Ask any Kelantanese and they would have beautiful memories of Pujomor. It had always been celebrated in a jovial manner, and the many events surrounding the celebration would light up the city of Kota Baru.
You would land in Kelantan in the days leading up to the celebration smelling a whiff of happiness in the air (If one were to ever be able to smell happiness, that is.)
This year, I too, descended upon a Kelantan that shone brightly and lit up the skies.
You knew there was an overflowing feeling of happiness in the state. It was a source of additional pride to celebrate not only the birthday of the sultan, but also the 15th Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
I appreciate and always have appreciated these mornings. I remember being 9 years old and being awoken as the house rose early, as my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles would wake up as early as 6 to perform their prayers and get ready for the big day.
I remember telling the staff members and my grandparents to wake me up so that I could witness them putting on their beautiful songket and uniforms, as I played with my grandfather’s boots.
I remember walking around the house with them on — it was once too big for me, and then, without me noticing, they fit me perfectly. Conversely, one day, I couldn’t walk around in his boots anymore, as they did not fit.
I remember it being Pujomor as my father’s tengkolok metal box, which had belonged to his grandfather, the late Sultan Yahya Petra (the 6th Yang di-Pertuan Agong), was put on the dressing table, ready to be worn the next day. “HH The Sultan of Kelantan” it said.
The exhibition of culture, traditions and history that happens during the sultan’s conferment ceremony is remarkably fascinating.
The music that accompanies the sultan and crown prince’s arrival and departure in Kelantan is unique, as the ensemble includes a rebana, the very same rebana that we witness being played in other Kelantanese and Thai arts, such as Mak Yong.
The session where members of the royal family and state assemblymen would have to menjunjung duli and stand in unison to plead their allegiance to the sultan, taat setia, as well as convey speeches , makes you realise how much the person leading the cohort matters.
But the main speech that every person was waiting for would be the sultan’s speech. To hear of such specifications and the addressing of issues that have caught Tuanku’s eyes can make you either grip your seats or nod in strong agreement. It was as if his speech was a moment of truth and judgment following a year’s worth of work by the government.
Immediately, you would understand why it was important that the relationship of the government and the people remain.
In light of the events that we face today, this year, I sat in Istana Balai Besar with a different thought in mind. I observed the acts which hold weight to the state and country’s identity.
Perhaps, in the other 364 days of the year, I do not bear witness or come across the social contract that exists between a monarch, the state and the people.
But in full tradition, I wonder about the arguments of some when I sit to bear witness to the fact that the sultan is a uniting factor — as the importance it placed on how three men of different races, representing a Malay, a Chinese and an Indian, garner the Tuanku’s attention. It might be 2016, but in a land where culture and traditions live in this modern day and age, it is what makes Kelantan.
The writer, a grand-daughter of former prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra al-Haj, is a fresh law graduate trying hard to find her place after spending some time in Northern England during her university years at The University of Manchester. She is also the daughter of the Tengku Temenggong of Kelantan.