Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Istana Negara

The Istana Negara located along Jalan Istana in central Kuala Lumpur used to be until recently the official residence of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong(Supreme King) of Malaysia. This National Palace, which is often referred to as the ‘old Istana Negara’ has today been converted into a museum as the official royal residence has been moved to a new palace built within a compound situated on Jalan Duta in Northern Kuala Lumpur.

The origins of the older Istana Negara can be traced back to 1928, for it was at this time that local millionaire Chang Wing built this grand edifice as his official residence, During World War II, when Malaya fell to the Japanese, the palace was transformed into a  war office by the Imperial Army of Japan.
After the war, this majestic mansion, which occupies a lush 13 acre plot and affords gorgeous views of the Klang River, was purchased by the State Government of Selangor. The mansion was then renovated, as it was to be occupied by the King of Selangor. After Malaysia got its independence from the British in 1957, the Federal Government once again refurbished the Istana Negara and it was then used as the official residence for the King of Malaya (the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong).

For many years, the general public was not allowed access to the Istana Negara. People could go only as far as the palace gates where the changing of the guard ceremony used to take place. Earlier this year, this policy was changed and it was decided to open the main palace for public tours. The tours which are offered everyday are currently conducted by former employees of the palace. These palace tours offer locals and tourists, a chance to get a glimpse into the extraordinary lives of Malaysian monarchy.

Visitors to the Istana Negara have the chance to view various grand chambers of the palace, like the Minister’s Room where guests accompanying heads of states and dignitaries and not part of the audience with the King  would wait, the Queen’s office, the Royal Clinic, the grand Throne Room which was last used in 1980 for the installation of the seventh king, the small Throne Room, which was used by the king for smaller ceremonies and functions and the Royal Bedchamber and its four different lighting systems which stimulated the change of seasons.

A new changing of the guard ceremony has also been instituted at the Istana Negara, for the cavalry guards of the old Istana Negara have been replaced with guards in traditional Malay attire. The changing of the guard ceremony now takes place twice a day at the Istana Negara at 10 am and 3pm with much Malay pomp and ceremony and offers a wonderful photo-taking opportunity for visitors.

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