14 June 2009

Second Shot - Masjid Sultan (The Sultan Mosque)


Sultan Mosque is one of the oldest and most important mosques in Singapore. It also has impressive architecture, the most distinctive features of which must be its minarets and its two domes. The mosque looks like it is located in North Bridge Road but its address is really No. 3 Muscat Street, Singapore 198833. The mosque is situated in an area of old Singapore called Kampong Glam.

In the above illustration, the left image is by courtesy of Michael Frost who took the photo in 1948. Michael wrote a caption in very neat handwriting:

"The newly painted Sultan Mosque stands like a cake decoration amid the squalor of North Bridge Road."
With modern and imposing buildings in the North Bridge Road area now, i.e. Parkview Square, Golden Landmark Hotel, Raffles Hospital, Bugis Junction and Hotel Inter-Continental, I am not sure if the word "squalor" is still an apt word to describe this locality.

The right image in the above photo was taken by me recently. On the right side of the image, you could see a partial view of Parkview Square. On the left, The Gateway (West) in Beach Road is partly visible. There are several other things that stand out in stark contrast. For example, you could tell that the prewar house standing near Arab Street looks different. In addition, several trees have sprung up around the mosque, testament to Singapore's reputation as a Garden City. The trees have almost completely obscured the lower facade of the mosque. Notice also that the antique car has been replaced by a modern luxury model.

Here's a 2nd "second-shot" taken from Jalan Pinang:


From the above photo, it is evident that the prewar houses on the left side of Jalan Pinang have been demolished.

The following passage is reproduced from "Singapore Guide and Street Directory, 7th Edition, March 1963":
"Masjid Sultan - The Sultan Mosque, designed by Swan & MacLaren and built in 1924-8. The earliest mosque on this site was built about 1823-4, before North Bridge Road extended beyond the present Arab Street. In June 1823, Raffles promised that the East India Company would pay $3,000 towards the cost of its erection; and it was certainly completed two years later when Lt. Jackson laid down the remaining section of the road, and had to make a kink in it to get past the mosque."
Below is the entry in "Singapore - The Encyclopedia":
"Regarded as Singapore's principal mosque, it began as a simple structure with a three-tier tiled roof on North Bridge Road. This was built in 1826, in accordance with the 1824 treaty ceding Singapore to the British, which also promised a sum of money for rebuilding an old mosque in the Sultan's enclave.

The mosque has since been rebuilt on land added by the Sultan's descendants. In 1925, Dennis Santry of Swan & Maclaren was commissioned to design the present structure, paid for by grants from the royal family and contributions from the Muslim community. This included donations of green glass bottles from the poor, which have been incorporated into the base of the dome. After its completion, a constitution was drafted stipulating that the trustees of the mosque must comprise Malays, Javanese, Bugis, Arabs, Tamils and North Indian Muslims, to represent the multiracial nature of Singapore's Muslim community.

The mosque was gazetted as a national monument in 1975. In 1993, an annex was added for an auditorium and a multi-purpose hall. Sultan Mosque remains one of the largest mosques in Singapore. Its prayer hall can accommodate 5,000 worshippers."
Below are two more photos - one was taken in 1972 while the other is a recent photo. Both are purportedly taken from Bussorah Street. However, I don't know why the orientation of the mosque looks slightly different in the two photos. Perhaps you can help me solve this mystery?



You can read more about the Sultan Mosque in this Wikipedia entry and here.

Update:

Pinto is right! (Please see this post's comments for his very keen observations.) The mystery of the last 2 unmatched photos taken from Bussorah Street has been solved.

Indeed, when I flipped the older photo horizontally, the two photos look more alike:



(Note that it is possible for an old photo to be inadvertently flipped horizontally. This can happen during the printing process, i.e. when the negative is fed in the wrong side up. Of course with digital photography nowadays, flipping is always done on purpose, using a software like Photoshop. This was how I flipped the photo back to the correct side too.)

About the photos of the mosque taken from North Bridge Road, I have forgotten to point out the following differences:

Note that in the old days, traffic on North Bridge Road was two-way. Now, the traffic is one-way, i.e. moving in the direction away from the photographer.

The power cables for the trolley bus system are visible from the old photo too. Of course, now the power lines have been been replaced by the "yellow line", i.e. the bus lane painted on the road. Arrows have also been painted to indicated the traffic flow.

Update again:

I still had one more question (in the comments of this post), especially for Pinto:
"If the views of the mosque from Jalan Pinang and from Bussorah Street are on opposite sides of the mosque, then how come the "opening" of "star-and-moon" sign on top of the dome is at 1-o'clock position in both views?"
And bingo for Pinto again! (Rhyme incidental.) His reply came quick and swift:
"Ah, that one had me stumped for a few moments.

And then I thought of the answer: There are two domes! I figured if the dome as seen from Jalan Pinang is the same as the dome viewed from Bussorah Street, then Sultan Mosque is a very small mosque!

A check with Google Maps confirms this."
I also found a postcard offering an aerial view of the Sultan Mosque that shows the 2 domes clearly:


The far side is at North Bridge Road and the near side is at Bussorah Street. Mystery solved again, thanks to Pinto.

41 comments:

pinto said...

Hmmm... the older photo was either printed or scanned horizontally flipped.

1) I've been around this area and I remember the shophouses on the right side (if you are facing the mosque) should be lower than the ones of the left.

2) The star and moon on top of the dome are facing the wrong direction.

If you flip the photo, it will look more like the one you took, but I think the photographer of the older photo was standing further back.

Also, generally the cars are parked the wrong way. We drive on the left, so the we should see the rear of the parked cars on the left and the front of parked cars on the right. But the clown in the yellow van seems to be facing the wrong side of the street if you view the photo in the correct orientation.

Victor said...

Thank you for your very keen observation, Kenneth. I have updated the post and included more of my comments.

Icemoon said...

These are nice second shots, Victor!

Err .. who is Michael Frost?

Victor said...

Thanks, Icemoon. A contact of Peter Chan, Michael Frost was obviously in Singapore around 1948. I believe he was here as part of the British forces then. He recently passed to Peter some old photos of Singapore.

Peter, am I right about Michael?

Victor said...

I still have one more question, especially for Pinto:

If the views of the mosque from Jalan Pinang and from Bussorah Street are on opposite sides of the mosque, then how come the "opening" of "star-and-moon" sign on top of the dome is at 1-o'clock position in both views?

pinto said...

No problem, Victor.

Ah, that one had me stumped for a few moments.

And then I thought of the answer: There are two domes! I figured if the dome as seen from Jalan Pinang is the same as the dome viewed from Bussorah Street, then Sultan Mosque is a very small mosque!

A check with Google Maps confirms this.

Victor said...

Kenneth, thanks again for the sleuth work. I have also updated the post with a postcard that shows the two domes.

pinto said...

You're welcome! It was fun trying to solve these mysteries.

Lam Chun See said...

I think the old photo has definitely been flipped.

Your second shots are very well done Victor. You must have put in quite an effort to ensure that the old and new photos are taken from the same angle etc.

I have also noticed that it is very difficult nowadays to take a photo of a building without parts of it been obstructed by trees.

Victor said...

Chun See, thanks for your compliments. Actually, the modern photos were taken without comparing with printouts of the old photos because it was a last minute decision this time - I happened to be around Kampong Glam that day. What I did was take several photos from slightly different angles and choose the best ones.

peter said...

Besides trees blocking, one sometimes need to stand in the middle of the road take the photo. Can be risky. So what I do is try one's bets to get the angle but MORE IMPORTANTLY look out for the prominent features that would correspond the old photo to the modern photo.

Andy Young* said...

Wow, postings and photos deliciously juxtaposed to whet the appetite of readers like me.

Actually the food around that area is great too. Corner Khandahar's famous ikan bakar and Glam's Malay kueh2 too.

Visited that area a few weeks ago to watch a talk on P. Ramlee and his movies during Malay Heritage Week. Yusnor Ef is an expert on this famous Malay Star.

Victor said...

Peter - Good strategy. Eh, but what prominent features? Misted-up car windows? :p

Victor said...

Thanks, Andy. I have tried Warung Pariaman but have yet to try Sabar Menanti. Simply delicious, especially their die-die-must-try beef rendang. But finding a seat in the crowded coffeshop can be difficult.

peter said...

It's a pity those nice Malay/Indonesian food shops don't open in the evenings.

Victor - sometimes u need magnifying glass to look-out for and compare prominent features. I prefer not to go for "angle shots" because it depends on one's perception. Sometimes "wrong angle" leaves a different impression of the changes (if any) over time.

Of course these days my eye-sight not so good, so spotting prominent features difficult.

Victor said...

Peter, I haven't been to the Kampong Glam area at night. I guess these stalls have been doing very brisk business in the day. If they were to continue into the night, they would be dead tired unless they have 2 shifts of staff.

Actually, for 2nd shots, I also "agar-agar" or estimate only. If you examine the photos closely, you will realise that they don't really match very well. Sometimes, I have to stretch (or shrink) the photo one way or another to make it fit into the frame.

Lam Chun See said...

Did you know that along Beach Road nearby, there are many shops selling fishing gear?

Victor said...

Chun See - Yes, I am aware that there are shops selling fishing gear along Beach Road although I am not a fishing enthusiast. I know Beach Road more for its Mini Thailand at Golden Mile Complex and the food centre opposite.

peter said...

Er Victor, you notice after Sultan's Mosque and Jalan Sultan plenty of Spas?

Victor said...

Peter, how come Jalan Sultan got spas? I thought they only sell textile there?

peter said...

I meant those restored shop-houses along North Bridge Road.

peter said...

Victor next time do "4 shots" @Keong Siak Street. There is a unique triangular shaped 2 or 3 storey bdlg opposite a Hindu temple.

Victor said...

Peter, I am not aware of the spas in the shophouses along North Bridge Road.

You mean this 1939 building in Keong Saik Road?

Icemoon said...

I thought Keong Saik is notorious for another reason the sex scene as well. Have you been there Victor?

Uncle Phil said...

Hi Victor,
Nil Sine Labour is my alma mater's motto.
Cheers

Victor said...

Icemoon, wah that one is a trick question. Erm... I have indeed been to Keong Saik Road, but to eat the very delicious roast duck in one of the coffeeshops and also to take some photos. Nothing more.

Victor said...

Uncle Phil, password failed - the school motto is "Nil Sine Labore", Latin for "Nothing Without Labour".

:-)

Uncle Phil said...

Can I have a go again.:) I was in the Class of '65. When was yours?
Cheers.

Icemoon said...

Yea Victor, I wanted to know what's interesting there beside the '4 shots'. Need a good reason to make the trip, like Mustafar for Desker Road muhaha.

Victor said...

Uncle Phil, I was in the Class of '74. And to save you some calculation, I am 53 this year.

Victor said...

Icemoon, only young people like you can last '4 shots' at Keong Saik. Haha.

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Anonymous said...

Hi Victor,

I really enjoyed reading your insight of masjid sultan. Very interesting indeed.

Anyway, I would like to know where do you get these old photos because I'm doing an essay on masjid sultan and it is pretty difficult to find such photos and postcards. Maybe some enlightenment from you perhaps? Thank you!

azie

Victor said...

Hi Azie, thank you for visiting my blog and for your compliments. The photos with the watermarks were taken by the named photographers. Those without watermarks were obtained by doing a Google image search.

Learn to Read Quran Online from online Quran Tutor said...

Thank you. www.read-quranonline.com Your article is quite informative to read

Anonymous said...

umm... whoever owns this blog i would like to borrow some pictures and informations for my project please reply me back as soon as possible.

thank you

Victor said...

umm... whoever is asking may go ahead and "borrow pictures and informations" for your project. Just remember to mention where you got the info from.

BTW, make sure it is just "borrow" and not plagiarise hor. :p

From: One who owns this blog.

Anonymous said...

Hahahaha!

The "One who owns this blog" is the one and only Sir Victor Koo.

Hahahaha!

Stark said...

Erm hi, I am a project group, and would it be alright if we reproduced the pictures of the masjid sultan?

Victor said...

Hi Stark,

Please go ahead and use what you need from this blog. There's one caveat though - not all the photos are my own. Some of them I don't even remember where they were originally from.

Stark said...

Thanks