Sunday, September 5, 2010

Malam Tujuh Likur Part I

Malam Tujuh Likur is a night we used to look forward to, when we were kids.

And why not; it is a night filled up with fun activities for us. In fact it's not just one night. It could be the last 7 nights of Ramadhan, even though the last three nights are considered malam tujuh likur, officially, that is.

Actually malam tujuh likur initially was closely associated with malam lailatul qadr, as the 27th night of Ramadhan is considered a premier night for both events. However, due to modernization I guess, the activities start diverging and there seems to be a disconnection between these two. Malam tujuh likur is almost associated with lampu pelita, panjut, bunga api, mercun,  meriam buluh and fun, while Malam Lailatul Qadr is typically the night when one should be doing lotsa prayers and ibadah.

Have I mentioned bunga api and mercun? That is before Malaysia becoming a police state and ban everything that is fun.

I have never been bothered about the meaning of Tujuh Likur. Why tujuh (seven), and not eight, and what's the meaning of Likur? A quick check in Kamus Dewan reveals the following info:

likur: bilangan antara 20 dan 30, dua puluhan; tujuh~ dua puluh tujuh; selikur dua puluh satu.

There you are, if you were the uninitiated kind, like me, before. That's the reason why it is called malam tujuh likur. If there was any doubt that the practice is associated with the Lailatul Qadr, this should nullify your fear. The nights of likur, as they are towards the end of the months, are quite dark with little, if any, moon light. So I guess our fore-fathers decided to brighten the night with pelita and panjuts.

There was no electricity in the kampungs then, and the pelita and panjuts helped them on their way to the suraus and masjid for their prayers, while looking for Lailatul Qadr. Of course they could have differentiated it from other religion's practices by say adopting obor instead of pelita (like in P Ramlee's old film), but it would be more difficult for us to make. It would be cool though. Anyway, that's the theory. Whether it is true or not, well, let's consider that that's the truth for now.

My earliest memory of malam tujuh likur is in Batu Gajah. We were then too young to remember much, but playing with the crackers that exploded in one's hand was no fun for me. It was not too bad I guess, nothing that a little bit of brylcream cannot handle.

A light application of the famous hair mousse would do the job. No need to see the doc and get proper medical attention. We were tough kids then, I supposed.

And back to playing with more crackers and bunga api!

Obviously for us back then, we played with simple black-and-white bunga api - bunga api cap mata kucing. The handle is made of metal, so you would have to be a bit careful with the lingering heat. But unlike some fanciful bunga api nowadays, this bunga api would only give out yellowish fire, or white sparks, mono-coloured, and set against the dark sky, I would call it the black-and-white bunga api.

No fancy-coloured firework then. The bunga api that gives out colourful sparks came in much later.

However, mercun or crackers were not something we would normally play with. May be it was due to the earlier incident; may be bapak was a bit strict about about safety and hence seldom, if ever, we would get to play with mercun. I am sure with us being kids, we would still play with it, but nothing that would tell him that we were playing with it. So we would have to select the smallest and the ones that would give the least noise.

It is like an oxymoron, isn't it? ;-) Crackers that would give out the least noise, do they exist?

We did, however, play the more fancied mercun and bunga api at nenek's house in Assam Kumbang, albeit being observers most of the time. PC Usop and PC Nasir were bigger kids than us then, and were considered adult enough to play those mercuns that would shoot as high as the coconut trees, and on purpose they would choose a coconut tree as target.

Complete with a parachute that would be ejected at the end of the glorious and fanciful fireworks.

We have to wait for the uncles to lighten the fireworks, and enjoy the show, and then rush to the explosion site to capture the parachute floating down.

I am sure we still have similar fireworks nowadays, but with the advent of the police-state policy in this country - and the fact that we do not have much space anymore, we seldom would play these types of fireworks in KL.

May be in Taiping, where we would have space more abundantly.

Of course my memory of tujuh likur is not dotted with fireworks and firecrackers only. Half of the fun is preparing to lighten up the dark night with fanciful pelita and panjut. At that time, we were innocent I guess. It had never occurred to us then that malam tujuh likur has similarity to Deepavali, and that the spirit of Lailatul Qadr was not in our mind those nights.

We were just looking forward to the first of syawal.

For that, we would need pelita and panjut and litter that through out the compound. We were then competing with the neighbours on whose house would be brighter, and prettier.

Back then, we did not buy the pelita, we would make them ourselves. It was easy; all you need are tin susu and some tali guni, and hey presto, you have pelita. Now you can simply buy them at Carrefour for RM6.

Of course, you need minyak tanah or kero as fuel for the little fire. Back then kero was cheap, and plentiful. Nowadays I would have to drive to Ulu Langat to get my supply of kerosene, and I pay RM5 for a 1.5 L bottle of kero.

In Lenggong, we would go and look for our own bamboo to make the panjut, and for that we would need to enter some secondary jungle up a small hill behind our Simpang Labit home.

Our Labit house in Lenggong
You can see the hill and the jungle in this picture. It is quite a jungle out there complete with the remains of a house in its midst, so even during the day, it was quite scary, but in the name of tujuh likur and some older kids, we braved it then for some bamboo.

The whole compound was then filled with our bamboo panjuts, we were expecting that the light from our panjuts would fill up the dark Lenggong nights of the 70s.

Obviously, then we hope to kick the ass of the anak2 tok penghulu, our neighbour whose house is basically behind ours. They probably have more kids than the Hariris, and for some unknown reasons, we do not get along that well with them. Neighbourly rivalry may be. May be.

And for some reasons that are still a mystery to me even today, many of the panjuts were not in working order that night. The light  I was expecting from the combustion of kerosene did not occur as it should be, except for may be a few. May be it had rained that day, I don't remember anymore.

May be it was this failure that drives me to become a chemical engineer that I am today!

This is of course only true in this blog. Nowhere else, as I remember it, it would come into the picture in 1980 when we had to decide what course we would be taking after our SPM days. I am trying to write to make up for the space I have in this blog! ;-)

Beyond all the bunga apis, the panjuts and the pelita, another must for us would be the lampu kelip-kelip. To that is synonymous with Raya and malam tujuh likur, without them, it would be just like any another night during the year.

This I believe is a forgotten art especially in my area, for one could count the number of houses that would have the lampu kelip-kelip which I thought is a shame. Typically when we were in Taiping, bapak would take us out for a spin in Assam Kumbang to enjoy the light show during malam tujuh likur.
with apology to the owner

Obviously I stole these two pictures from the net, with apology from the owner.

It is not to say that we should imitate Christmas, but in December, they would have fanciful decoration in the compound. Of course they have Christmas them of reindeer and santa claus, and they use white light, typically icicles type of lampu kelip kelip, but ours are normally coloured light and would be kelip-kelip, if you know what I mean.

Assam Kumbang would be richly decorated in the 70s with the fancy and colourful lights. It was so beautiful at night, knowing fully well that some special days are coming to the fore. Then, that is. Nowadays, unless you are muslims yourself, you would not know there would be a grand celebration coming anytime soon.

Where would we be with malam tujuh likur without the meriam buluh?

Obviously as bapak would not have approved it for safety reasons, we can only watch, the penghulu kids playing meriam buluh at their house in Simpang Labit. We would never touch it, and meriam buluh were very popular with the kampung kids in Lenggong, and I do not recall anyone getting hurt then.

May be many of the kampung kids were smarter chemical engineer wanna-be, and are quite safety conscious with the carbide, may be, I don't know.

But enjoy this scene in Kg Talang in Kuala Kangsar. Talang is also our kampung, on bapak side as Tok Bab lived here in the 70s and his house is still in good live-able conditions. I don't remember us playing crackers here that much as there weren't as many kids here as in Aulong - only PC Mat there I guess.

But these video is a reminder of the days gone by and the boisterous celebrations that we used to enjoy back then in the 60s and 70s.

You can have war between two kampungs during malam tujuh likur. After all, one can still seek forgiveness during Hari Raya!

Although these are no longer meriam buluh.


  1. Salam..... very nice and fully remembrance!


  2. Salam, tx Syed. Welcom. Just feel like reminiscing..