The Remnants of the Riau-Lingga Sultanate
Just the mere mention of Pulau Penyengat, and many might be unfamiliar with it.
Situated just off Bintan Island, Pulau Penyengat literally translates to “Stingers’ Island”.
From Singapore, a two-hour long ferry ride to Tanjung Pinang is then continued with a 15 minutes boat ride to reach the island.
For Singaporeans, this island in the Riau Island Province, Indonesia might not be as popular to them as compared to places like Batam or Bintan.
But in fact, this island hides a treasure trove of Malay histories, especially the history during the Riau-Lingga Sultanate.
Also called ‘Taman Penulis’ or ‘Bustan al-Katibin’ (Garden of Writers), the island was an intellectual base that was homed to a number of significant literary figures - one of them being Raja Ali Haji who wrote the iconic Malay Literature, ‘Gurindam 12’.
While still on sea on route to the island, I was greeted by the sight of the majestic, bright yellow mosque - the Masjid Raya Sultan Riau.
Located at the centre of the island, the mosque is just a stone’s throw away from the jetty - and it might just be the first stop of any visitor that arrives on the island.
A unique feature of the mosque - it was built on egg whites.
Back in 1832, Yang Dipertuan Muda VII Raja Abdurrahman first announced the plan and construction of the mosque. The community, elated, contributed what they could to such a monumental construction of the island.
While some gave their energy in the construction, there were others who contributed logistically - by bringing eggs. The eggs were eventually used as a structural adhesive. Back then, there were no resources such as steel or iron that could be used by the people on the island. The mosque was officially established by 1844. Over the years, the mosque went through a number of different constructions. Though the major structure of the mosque has stood, up till this day.
With its bright yellow and green colours, the striking appearance of the mosque makes it stand out on the island. Inside the mosque, cupboards filled with old Al-Quran and historical books are located at the modest prayer hall. Both inside and out, one can expect an array of historical stories.
While the island is packed with history, you can easily organise a compact trip to the island. A day’s trip on a rickshaw will be all you need to visit all the sites. The cultural, intellectual and political richness of the island rivals that of other civilisations. The island itself, a remnant of the Malay Empire that had it’s golden years in the 19th century.
Learn more about Mosques around the World by visiting our other articles here.