Many people have walked past the walled small roof structure opposite the General Post Office Building in the car park yard of the TAIB Building in Bandar Seri Begawan. Many have in fact parked their cars next to it. However, not many have realized that they are actually parked to a grave. A grave which is very interesting and full of mystery. It is not even known whether it is a grave.
It was said that before the World War, the site was actually a huge mound of some thirty feet tall. It was blown up by a bomb during the Second World War and the mound was said to be empty even though according to legend, there should be at least a few people who were buried there.
The grave was said to belong to a lady by the name of Dang Ayang. Dang is the Brunei colloquial term for Dayang and Ayang is the name of that person. Those who know it called the grave Kubur Dang Ayang. Some have called it Kubur Raja Ayang. It was said that the lady is actually of Royal parentage.
Legend has it told that this was a very sad story. Apparently in the old days, a sister and a male sibling was caught in an unlawful relationship (sumbang mahram is the Malay term). According to the laws then, the crimes must be punished by being stoned to death. It was said that nobody then had the heart to stone them to death but neither could they leave them unpunished.
So the authorities compromised.
What they did was to build a cavern in the middle of the forest (remember most Bruneians in those days live along the river and this 'kubor' or grave was about a mile inland then - so it is quite far from the other Bruneians). The two of them had to live in it. Some versions said only Dang Ayang lived in it and other versions said both of them. The cavern was fitted with air ventilation. Presumably some food was left with them as there was supposedly a small chimney where smoke can be seen coming out of the chimney. This smoke indicated that they were still alive. They must have been kept there for a long while until one day no more smoke was seen coming out of the chimney and everyone presumed that she or they died.
Nobody knew when the graveyard started to be walled but presumably someone did it because it is still technically a grave and up to now it is left there - to be left unknown and a rather sad testimony to an indiscretion of a young Brunei couple.
If one was to visit the grave, there is a broken tombstone which tells the story of the lady and who she was. Even though she was not named on that tombstone but instead she was called the daughter of a certain person. According to a paper written by the Principal of the History Centre, she was most likely a member of the aristocracy whose father was of Arabic origin and said to be related to the third Sultan. Sultan Sharif Ali was of Arabic origin.
It was most likely too that the crime was committed in 1452 during the reign of Sultan Sulaiman (circa 1432-1485). It was said that the lady upon realising what she committed was an enormous sin that she and her entourage (so it wasn't just one person but the whole household) voluntarily went to their deaths. Given the context of the time and the parentage, the deed perpetrated was deemed to be very serious and merited such punishment.
On the tombstone it was written in Arabic too that it is hoped that the punishment meted out is sufficient compensation for the sin that was committed for the body (bodies) of those who committed the sin and pray that they are in peace and a prayer so that the Al-Mighty will forgive them. Based on the writings on the tombstone, it is understood that for every sin committed, the authorities must carry out the punishment necessary for it. It also reflected the strength of the religion then to the point that the punishment has to be meted out regardless of who the perpetrator was. What has happened can be a lesson for all.
Even though the punishment seemed harsh, some have said that the punishment that one will receive in the hereafter will be harsher if the punishment during the lifetime was light. The young couple understood what they did was wrong. They also understood that they must be punished and they accepted the punishment voluntarily. That is a lesson for us too. To know when we do something wrong and to know when we must pay for it. Hopefully the story of the young couple will make us better persons and that their grave can be a constant reminder to us.
Note: An edited version of the above article was published in The Golden Legacy column in The Brunei Times dated 7th April 2007.