Istana Dalam Loka, Sumbawa’s “palace on stilts”

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(photo: IO/NHN)

IO – Who among us has never heard of Sumbawa Island? It is a famous travel destination in Indonesia, one whose Western part rivals the beauty of Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara. Sumbawa’s lovely beaches, exotic ecosystems, and historic sites all tell stories of its riches. Among the many attractions of the island, the Istana Dalam Loka is a primary manmade wonder. You cannot be said to have really visited Sumbawa Island if you have not visited the 1,251-square meter wooden palace, which is the biggest palace on stilts in the world. 

Located right at center of Greater Sumbawa Regency Capital, the Istana Dalam Loka or Bala Loka is a palace the nation inherited from the Kingdom of Sumbawa. Formerly doubling as the center of government and the living quarters of the Sultan and his family, the 164-year-old palace is now used for hosting events such as the selection of the Taruna-Dadara  similar to Mister and Miss Sumbawa), theatrical shows and traditional Sumbawa flute concerts. 

The Istana Dalam Loka is a part of Sumbawa history. It witnessed the strength of Sumbawa’s religious and cultural spirit during Dutch Colonial Era. It was constructed 1885 by the 16th Sultan of the Dewa Dalam Bawa Dynasty, Sultan Muhammad Jalaluddin Syah III, the grandfather of the current Sultan of Sumbawa, to replace the old Istana Bala Sawo. The construction took 9 months and 10 days. 

Istana Dalam Loka is close to the Great Nurul Huda Mosque of Sumbawa. It was constructed according to the philosophical principles of Islam in each detail of shape, measurement, layout and ornament. For example, it has 99 pillars made of ancient teak to represent the Asma’ul Husna (names of Allah), and 17 steps in the Great Hall, which is the total of the raka’at division of the daily salat

 The palace is a two-story edifice. The Great Hall is on the ground floor, and was used for Sultanate meetings and ceremonies. It also contains the Sultan and Sultana’s Chambers, the chambers of the Sultan’s family, servants’ quarters, kitchens and prayer hall. The upper floor is accessed by a separate stairway. It contains the study and play room for the royal children, as well as the weaving hall. (nhn)