The National Palace Kuala Lumpur or Istana Negara is the official residence of His Majesty, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the King of Malaysia. It stands on a 28 acre site, located at a commanding position on the slope of a hill of Bukit Petaling overlooking the Klang River.
The National Palace was built in 1928 and was originally the residence of a millionaire, Chan Wing who was once a Chinese immigrant who made his money in tin mines and other businesses. Chan Wing built the huge house to accommodate his large family, including his 26 wives, whom he brought to Kuala Lumpur from Hong Kong in the 1920s.
During the Japanese Occupation from 1942-1945, the mansion was used as the Japanese Officers’ mess. During World War II, the Chan family fled to India and only returned after the war. Often referred to as the house on the hill, the present Istana Negara was acquired by the British Army for the Royal Airforce (R.A.F.) after the war. The building was then bought by the Selangor State Government and after being renovated, it became the palace of His Majesty the Sultan of Selangor until 1957.
The National Palace’s Yellow Dome
The Federal Government bought the palace in 1957, to be converted into the National Palace Kuala Lumpur. Since then, the National Palace had undergone several renovations and extensions. But the most extensive upgrading was carried out in 1980, as it was the first time that the Installation Ceremony of His Majesty Seri Paduka Baginda Yang di-Pertuan Agong was held at the National Palace Kuala Lumpur. Prior to this the Installation Ceremonies were held at the Tunku Abdul Rahman Hall in Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia’s monarchy system is very unique. 9 States in Malaysia have their own Sultan, except Sarawak, Sabah, Melaka and Pinang, which have a governor instead. 1 of the 9 Sultans will be appointed as the King of Malaysia for a period of 5 years. The appointed Sultan will leave their home state, be substituted by his heir-prince and come to live in the National Palace Kuala Lumpur to reign the country.
After the 5 years period lapsed, another Sultan will take turn to be the King. It will be another 45 years before the previously appointed Sultan be selected as the King of Malaysia again.
The present Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King of Malaysia), the Duli Yang Maha Mulia Al Wathiqu Billah, Al-Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Ibni Almarhum Al-Sultan Mahmud Al-Muktafi Billah Shah Al-Haj of Terengganu State is the 13th Ruler of Malaysia. He was installed on December 13, 2006.
This majestic National Palace is located within a serene and beautiful compound with a variety of plants and flowers, swimming pool and indoor badminton hall. It is located at Syed Putra Road right in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. The driveway of the National Palace Kuala Lumpur which is beautifully lined with cypresses and casuarinas, leads to two entrances – an entrance to the West Wing and the other to the East Wing.
The National Palace Kuala Lumpur has several halls for specific purposes such as the two main halls, the Throne Hall (Balairong Seri) and the Audience Hall (Dewan Mengadap) on the ground floor. Balairong Seri is the throne room of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. It is located in the East Wing of the National Palace and only used for official and customary functions.
The official and customary functions include ceremonial occasions of taking the Royal pledge, installation ceremony of a new elected King and the appointment of a new Prime Minister and the Federal Government which included intallation ceremonies and the taking of oaths by the government ministers and state governors. This is also where the presentation and acceptance of foreign diplomatic appointments are held. It sometimes serves as a banquet hall.
The second hall on the first floor of the National Palace Kuala Lumpur is the Dewan Mengadap where the King receives honoured guests such as Head of States and foreign dignitaries. This hall doubles as a resting place of Sultans and Governors during the Conference of Rulers.
The other rooms are Bilik Duta, Bilik Permaisuri and Bilik Menteri. Bilik Duta is where the King grants audience to the Prime Minister and also where honoured guests are received. The Queen receives her guests at the Bilik Permaisuri while the Bilik Menteri is the rest room for guests. The Conference of Rulers is held at the Bilik Mesyuarat Raja-Raja situated in the West Wing.
In the grounds of the National Palace Kuala Lumpur is a guard house for the body of household troops. There is also a six hole golf course, tennis courts, swimming pool and a lake in the far end of the grounds.
A new RM 400 million National Palace Kuala Lumpur complex will be built on a 96.52ha site atop a hill near Jalan Duta, Kuala Lumpur to replace the existing Istana Negara that has been used since 1928. Only 28ha of the land would be developed into the new Istana Negara complex while the rest would be a garden area.
The existing forest will also be retained as a security zone and part of the forest reserve will developed into a garden that will be opened to the public for recreational purposes. The construction is expected to be completed by year 2009.
The fate of the present National Palace would be determined by the Prime Minister’s Department. I heard it has been proposed as a Royal Museum.
The whole area of the National Palace Kuala Lumpur is fenced up and you can see the Royal Crest of His Majesty placed on each steel bar between two pillars of the fence. At the front of the Istana Negara, you can see the Main Palace Entrance which resembles a beautiful arch. On each side of the arch, you will definitely notice the two guard posts to shelter two members of the cavalry in their Malay costume and British uniform similar to the ones at Buckingham Palace, London.
If you’re lucky, you get to see the changing of the guard ceremonial which is a remnant from the time when this land was part of the British Empire.