Kedah has the distinction of being called the rice-bowl of Malaysia, a term that takes on the aesthetic significance when one is exposed to the rice fields that it yields. Well known for its vast paddy fields and also the island of Langkawi, Kedah holds rich cultural traditions in both the economical and the tourism aspects. However, Kedah is also the site of Malaysia’s most extensive ruins.
The early history of Kedah varies from multiple sources. From the prehistoric period to the archaeological site of the Bujang Valley, the early Maritime trade of India and the Middle East to the written works of early Chinese pilgrims and the Al-Tarikh Salasilah Negeri Kedah. Located strategically by the Strait of Melaka, Kedah is part of the early sea trade route of the spice route for Arab, Persian, Tamil Nadu and India-to-China traders. It was then; Kedah was recognised as major kingdom of the Malay Peninsula, dating back to the 5th century.
Due to her fame, Kedah was subjugated by Srivijaya in the 7th century. Until the 15th century, Kedah came under the influence and rule of the Siamese kingdom. A treaty allowed Kedah to be independent for a while until an attack by Acheh in 1618 lead to Kedah seeking protection from Siam, once again coming under the influence and ruling of the Siamese Kingdom. Kedah’s position was further jeopardised with the pressure from the Bugis, Siamese and the Burmese in the 18th century. There were many power struggles during that period until the early 20th century; the British conquered most of the Malay Peninsula. Finally in 31 August 1957, Malaya achieved independence. With such rich historical background, Kedah has developed into a state where not only her culture is invested in the people but also in the houses.
Before looking into the main features of the Kedah houses, it is understandable that most traditional Malay houses came from the same root which is the people themselves. Many of the arts and craft of the Malays are taken from their way of living or their moral values in life. It is also during the power struggle between the nations, the architecture of the traditional Malay houses undergo many changes due their influence. Even so, the origins of the design of these traditional houses are not clear.
The existence of the traditional Malay houses shows the honourable and proud nature of the Malay race. This is due to their form of architecture which has defy many rules in construction, given that in those days none of the rules have yet to be written and implemented. The Kedah house in unique in its own way. Attentions are given into detailing and also the surrounding site of the house in return for a more peaceful living.
The most common building style locally is known as Rumah Bumbung Panjang or the Long Roof House which reflects the character of the traditional Malay roof form. Aside from the Bumbung Limas, Bumbung Lima and Bumbung Perak, the Bumbung Panjang are the oldest to be identified in Malay Peninsula. It is the simplest of the four mentioned house forms. It has a simple gable roof which is supported by four kingposts. This form is also the most efficient in its ventilation properties. Its simple funnel shape, the use of grilles at its gable ends and the use of ventilation joints allows good airing of the roof and space which cools the house effectively.
Sharing similarities with the houses in Perlis, the house plan shows a definite departure from the traditional practice by placing the male area towards the gable end in the form of extended bay or bays along the roof axis. The main approach also leads towards the gable end of the main-house rather than the eave-side. Usually the roof ends in a hipped-gable fashion over the male area which is rare in early Malay traditional construction. Proportionately, the main floor is raised higher above ground than that of the Melaka and Perak style Malay houses, which is purposely designed for carrying out activities,...
Bibliography: i) Nasir, Abdul Halim and Hashim Haji Wan Teh. The Traditional Malay House. Kuala Lumpur: Institut Terjemahan dan Buku Malaysia, 2011.
ii) Sahabuddin, Firrdhaus. “Vernacular Architecture of Traditional Malay House”. Malaysian Vernacular Architecture and Its Relationship to Climate. Academia.edu.
iii) Mohd. Rasdi, Mohd. Tajuddin, Kamaruddin Mohd. Ali, Syed Ahmad Iskandar Syed Ariffin, Ra’alah Mohd., and Gurupiah Mursib. The Architectural Heritage of the Malay World: The Traditional Houses. Johor Bahru: Penerbit UTM, 2005.
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