Ah, Istana Maimun, the royal palace in Medan. It was curiosity that brought me to this city, the capital of North Sumatra in Indonesia. Also called as the Maimun or Maimoon Palace. Built at the center of a sprawling 2,772 square meter land and always beckons as you pass Jalan Brigjend Katamso. The wide and green lawn is a fitting space that frames the elegant gold and white structure. The unique architecture is one of the city’s gems.
The day was bright and sunny as I entered the expansive palace grounds. After paying a small entrance fee, I climbed up the second floor where a few locals were also heading.
Istana Maimun and its unique architecture
The Sultanate of Deli was established in 1630. In the 19th century, the sultanate became rich with tobacco, a major crop was grown and exported to Amsterdam. It that made Sultan Ma’mun Al Rashid Perkasa Alamyah rich and he built the Istana Maimun between 1887–1891. Today, it is the residence of the current and 14th head, Sultan Mahmud Lamanjiji Perkasa Alam.
Theodoor van Erp, a Dutch architect designed the Istana Maimun. What makes this palace unique is the blend of Malay, Indian and Islamic architecture furnished with Spanish and Italian furniture. Although it has 30 rooms, only a small portion of the istana is open to the public as a museum. Another section is devoted to the rather turbulent history of the Sultanate of Deli.
The main hall
Mostly local visitors mainly come here to see the inside of the main hall. It’s large with a high ceiling and the elaborate, yellow colored throne room is at one end. One can have their photos here either as you are or rent some royal costumes. Not really much here except for picture taking. I did like the minaret like arches that spans the length of the structure and even inside the main hall.
Another accessible room showcases the history of the sultanate in the form of exhibits. This ranged from its founding in 1630, its rise, wars waged to its prosperous times. It includes the hardships that befell the royal family during the Social Revolution in 1946 when nationalists overthrew the sultanates in Sumatra with many robbed and murdered.
A side attraction found outside the Istana Maimun structure, is a small wooden house with a legendary artifact, the Meriam Puntung. There’s a minimal fee charged to enter the structure and see the portion of the cannon.
Legend has it that Putri Hijau (Green Princess) had twin siblings, Ular Simangombus, a snake and Meriam Puntung, a cannon. When the Sultan of Aceh attacked their fortress, the cannon fired nonstop until it became heated, exploded and broke into two. The muzzle part landed at a village in Suka Nalu, Barus Jahe District while the base is now kept at the this structure.