Tugu Negara literally means National Monument. The cenotaph at Kuala Lumpur is know as Tugu Negara, and is the original national monument, and later the one with the human figures right behind was made.
A cenotaph is a tomb or a monument that is erected in memory of a person or a group of person whose remains are elsewhere. This cenotaph was erected in honour of the fallen heroes of World War One (1914 to 1918), World War Two (1939 to 1945) and the Malayan Emergency (1948 to 1960). One can see the dates clearly on the cenotaph.
During the Second World War, Japan invaded Malaya, the old name for Malaysia. The Japanese began the Pacific War with the invasion of Kota Bahru on the eastern side of the peninsular about 90 minutes before the attack on Pearl Harbour in Hawaii. Then, they invaded the island of Borneo, completely capturing Sabah and Sarawak. Later, Singapore, which was then part of Malaya, fell. In less than two months, the entire country was in Japanese hands, where an estimated 100,000 people were killed. During the occupation, guerrilla forces such as force 136 and the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army fought the Japanese from the jungles. The Chinese were singled out for brutal treatment due to the long enmity between the Japanese and the Chinese.
After the Second World War ended, another war began from 1948 to 1960 commonly known as the Malayan Emergency. The war was fought between the Commonwealth armed forces and the Malayan National Liberation army, which is the militant arm of the Malayan Communist Party. The Communist party fought against the colonial British and called it the Anti British National Liberation War. The communists were defeated in 1960.
At The Dome
Near the Tugu Negara is a huge dome. Domes are an important feature in Islamic architecture, and on top of the dome, one will find the Islamic symbol of the star and crescent.
All around the construction below the dome are the coats of arms of the states in Malaysia.
First look for the coat of arms of Malaysia, which is situated directly facing the cenotaph. There are two of them actually; one on each door. The national emblem and coat of arms of Malaysia, or Jata Negara in Malay, comprises a shield, two tigers, a crescent and a fourteen point star which form the crest, and a motto.
The Malaysian emblem is modelled after the European heraldic practice, a remnant of British colonial rule.
The colour yellow symbolizes the monarchy. The crescent symbolizes Islam, the official religion of Malaysia and the stars represent the 13 states and the federal territory. As for the shield, it has five kerises, or Malay warrior daggers, representing the five former Un-federated Malay States or unofficial states under the British rule. They were Johor, Terengganu, Kedah, Kelantan and Perlis. On the next section, from left to right: the coconut tree and the bridge represent the state of Penang. The four coloured columns that follow- red, black, white, yellow- represent the Federated States during British rule. The four colours make up all the colours of the flags of the Federated States. The green tree refers to the Melaka tree, which the state of Malacca is named after. As for the three sections below, the one on the left represents the state of Sabah and the one on the right, with a bird, represents Sarawak. Singapore’s section, which used to be in the middle is replaced with the national flower, the hibiscus, after Singapore separated from Malaysia. The two tigers symbolize strength and courage. On the banner, there are the three words, ‘Bersekutu Bertambah Mutu’ which means ‘Unity Is Strength’.
All around the construction are goat of arms for each state in Malaysia.
The first is the coat of arms of Malacca, a state down south- with the five daggers showing five famous warriors. The founder of Malacca, Parameswara saw a tiny mouse deer overpowering his much bigger hunting dog, took it as a good omen to establish his kingdom and named the place after the Melaka tree he was resting under. One can see the mouse deer and the tree on the coat of arms.
Next is the coat of arms of the southern state of Johor. The tigers refer to a time when these animals roamed free in Johor. The flowery decorations below the shield refer to what was once the two main products of Johor- pepper and gambier, or Cat’s Claws.
Next is the coat of arms of the eastern state of Pahang. Yellow is the royal colour and black refers to the people. The head of the spear refers to the sovereignty of the Sultan.
Next is the coat of arms of the eastern state of Terengganu. The sword, long keris and mace are symbols of the State’s authority. The book on the right symbolizes the Holy Quran and the book on the left the ‘kitab’.
Next is the coat of arms of the north eastern state of Kelantan. The two deer refer to the favourite animal of the great female ruler of Kelantan, Che Siti Wan Kembang.
Next is the coat of arms of Sarawak, a state in the Island of Borneo in East Malaysia. The bird is the hornbill. The 13 secondary feathers on its wings and tail represent the 13 states of Malaysia. The hibiscus, which is the national flower, is found below the wings and the state motto is ‘Bersatu, Berusaha, Berbakti’ (United, Industrious, Loyal). On the bird’s chest is a shield with the state colours: black, red and yellow.
Next is the coat of arms of Sabah, the other state in the island of Borneo in East Malaysia. The red stripe represents courage and sacrifice. White is the colour of purity while dark blue is the colour of peace and prosperity. The light blue denotes Sabah’s status as a young state. The silhouette of Mount Kinabalu is the symbol of the unity of the people.
Next is the coat of arms of the northern-most state of Perlis, at the border of Thailand. In the centre is the word Perlis, and the wreath made of paddy stalks represents the main agricultural product, which is rice.
Next is the coat of arms of the northern state of Kedah. Again, the paddy wreath symbolizes Kedah’s main agricultural product. The green coloured crescent moon is the symbol of Islam, and the shield stands for the strength and authority of the Sultan, the ruler of the state.
Next is the coat of arms of the northern state of Penang. On the top is the areca nut tree, or Pinang in Malay, from which the name Penang is derived. Inside the shield, the Penang Bridge symbolizes the unity between the State and the Federal Government.
Next is the coat of arms of the northern state of Perak. The crest on the Sultan’s head-cloth is the symbol of his sovereignty, the crescent moon is the symbol of Islam and the rice flower denotes paddy planting, once the people’s main occupation.
Next is the coat of arms of the central state of Selangor. The crescent moon and star in the centre represents Islam. The central red spear, the Sambu Warna, the sword on the right, the Keris Pendek and the sword on the left, the Keris Panjang, are part of the state’s Royal Regalia. The calligraphy in red is the state’s motto, ‘Under the Protection of Allah’. A tali bengkung or broad belt worn by warriors of the state in ancient times appears below the motto.
Next is the coat of arms of the southern state of Negeri Sembilan. It features a shield with three diagonal bands of colour. Red symbolizes Negeri Sembilan’s past links with the British; black stands for the Malay chiefs; and yellow is the colour of royalty. The nine stalks of paddy in the centre of the shield stand for the nine states in the original federation of Negeri Sembilan. In fact, Negeri Sembilan means land of nine states. The sword and the sheath above the shield represent justice; while the changgai putri staff between them is the symbol of the sovereignty of the ruler, the Yang Dipertuan Besar. The nine-pointed star below the shield also represents the original nine states.
We’re done with all the states in Malaysia. You might know, there are three federal territories in Malaysia, which are Labuan, Putrajaya, and Kuala Lumpur.
Everyday, tourists come here and look in awe at the stately and imposing National Monument. Tugu Negara or National Monument was completed in 1966. Standing 15 metres or almost 50 feet high, it is made of bronze and was designed by the famous Austrian sculptor Felix de Weldon. De Weldon also sculpted the famed Iwo Jima Memorial in Virginia, United States.
The granite base has English and Malay Jawi words that read: ‘Dedicated to the heroic fighters in the cause of peace and freedom. May the blessing of Allah be upon them’.
On August 27th 1975, a communist terrorist set an explosion at the monument and it suffered extensive damage. It was later restored and a fence was erected around the place. This area was declared a protected area between sunset and dawn. Everyday at dawn, a soldier raises the national flag and lowers in at dusk. Every 31st July on Warrior Day, a wreath laying ceremony takes place here.
Each figure symbolizes the seven virtues of the fallen heroes: leadership, suffering, unity, vigilance, strength, courage and sacrifice. The figures are made to be about four times that of human size. All of them are clad in military uniform. The figure holding the flag is the only figure that does not hold a gun. The two fallen soldiers represent two dead communists. You can differentiate them with the hats they wear.
In honour of the nation’s heroes, the “Last Post” is sounded every Saturday from 6.00 p.m.to 6.10 p.m. except on public holidays. The “Last Post” is a bugle call used by military funerals and ceremonies commemorating those who have fallen in war. It is also a name of a poem by Robert Graves describing a soldier’s funeral during World War One.Depending on the weather, one might see the Malaysian flag flutter majestically in the wind. Called Jalur Gemilang or Stripes of Glory, the Malaysian flag has 14 alternating red and white stripes represent the 13 states and the federal government. The 14-point star and the crescent represents Islam as the official religion, the blue canton symbolizes unity. The yellow the royal colour.
There is a beautiful garden in the vicinity to cool off from the tropical heat. I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide on the national monument, familiarizing yourself with the 13 states of Malaysia and learning a little about Malaysian history.