Sunday, May 9, 2010

History of Brunei Culture

Brunei had always been a sultanate. It used to be bigger in the earlier days, covering the northern part of Borneo and the Southern region of the Philippines. However, the conquest of the Europeans put an end to its rule over the other lands. It gradually let go of its other territories until it was reduced to the mass it is today. It fell under the British protectorate for many years until a treaty, stating its independence, was signed in 1979. The country went back to a sultanate again and is now one of the countries blessed with oil deposits.

40,000 years ago: Brunei has a long history of settlement, with the first evidence of human life in Borneo dating back 40,000 years ago. Being an island, Borneo has received settlers from all over Southeast Asia and this makes the country’s cultural make-up very diverse.

6th century: Being an island nation, Brunei’s history is steeped in trade. As early as the 6th century, Brunei emerged as a major trading nation, trading sought-after spices and woods with countries such as India and China.

15th century-17th century: In 1405 Brunei’s ruler, Sultan Muhammad, introduced Islam to the country. He is the founding member of the Sultanate dynasty that rules today. This period marked Brunei’s strongest and most powerful time, when the ruling Sultan for a short period captured Manila and controlled the whole island of Borneo.

1888-1984: During this period Brunei was a British protectorate, which evolved primarily from the British trading companies that took over control of Sabah in the early 19th century. The Sultanate became independent from the British in 1984.

1984-present: Brunei has been ruled by a Sultan since its independence from Britain and this title has been passed down in the same family since the 15th century. The current Sultan is His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah and he is the 29th ruler of Brunei.

Brunei Historical Figures

Sultan Bolkiah (1473-1521): The fifth and probably most powerful Sultan of Brunei. He was known for his sea exploits and was able to expand Brunei’s sphere of influence to the whole of Borneo and as far as Manila for a short period. The period of his rule is considered to be Brunei’s golden period.

Sultan Hassan (1605-1619): The ninth Sultan, Hassan was known for changing the complex structure of the royal court, which is followed even today. However, he succumbed to the royal succession battles, which led to Brunei’s period of decline.

Sultan Omar (1967-1986): Best known for abdicating and letting his son, Hassanal Bolkiah become the 29th Sultan of Brunei. After abdicating, Sultan Omar took the title of Seri Begawan and he is memorialized in the name of the capital of Brunei, which was changed in 1970 from Brunei Town to Bandar Seri Begawan.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah: The 29th and current Sultan of Brunei. He is the head of state and government and has been an important ruler, bringing wealth to Brunei by selling Brunei’s oil and gas to international markets.

Mandi Belawat, Unique Local Malay Culture


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