Saturday, January 24, 2009

bunga manggar

i thought the flower stalk of the umbrella tree resembles the colourful ‘bunga manggar’ or palm blossom made from tinsel paper accompanying the malay bridegroom when he fetches his bride. i had thought that the bunga manggar was fashioned after the flowering stalk of this tree, which is also known as the octopus tree.

when i was in melaka last year, i saw a few of this type of trees near the melaka sultanate palace. the melaka sultanate palace - a replica of the melaka sultan's palace during the period of the melaka sultanate - is located at the foot of st paul's hill.

in singapore, so far, i have seen only one such tree growing by the side of the road near the kranji reservoir park.

an article in the new straits time of malaysia talks about the original bunga manggar.

in the old days, the malays tied bunches of coconut palm blossoms (mayang kelapa) to one end of bamboo poles. bunches of tiny blossoms on a tall coconut tree are not visible from the ground. some of the blossoms, when mature, will become coconuts. the blossoms are exquisite in off-white colours and the texture is smooth and medium hard.

it is no wonder that the beauty of the blossom earns it a place at the head of processions especially for weddings and other traditional events. usually, there will be two bunga manggar bearers leading the procession, followed by a kompang (traditional tambourine) group and others.

in terengganu, the original bunga manggar is used in the famous traditional dance called ulit mayang (ulit means crooning).

today, perhaps due to the difficulty in getting the original bunga manggar, the malays have settled for the artificial ones. though these are less exotic, they still evoke the celebratory mood.

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