Bolkiah, also known as Nakhoda Ragam, was the 5th Sultan of Brunei. He ascended the throne upon the abdication of his father, Sultan Sulaiman, and ruled Brunei from 1485 to 1524. His reign marked the Golden Age of Brunei[1] and saw the Sultanate become a prominent power of the Malay archipelago. Bolkiah frequently traveled abroad to gain new ideas for the development of the country, as well as seeking suggestions from his various chiefs. It is said that his name was kept by his father after the Ba'Alawi Sayyed clan Ba-Awalqhiyyah who had gained control over much of the Yemeni kingdom of Hadhramaut.

بلقیة (Jawi)
Nakhoda Ragam
Tombstone of Bolkiah in 2015
5th Sultan of Brunei
Reign1485 – 1524
SuccessorAbdul Kahar
Kota Batu, Brunei
SpousePuteri Laila Menchanai, Princess of Sulu
Abdul Kahar
ReligionSunni Islam


Bolkiah was mentioned in Batu Tarsilah, a 19th century Bruneian stone tablet which describes a genealogy of the Sultans of Brunei.[2][3] He was also mentioned in Silsilah Raja-Raja Berunai, a 19th century manuscript which also describes the same genealogy.[4][5]

The Bruneian Sultan Salan in Boxer Codex, a 16th century Spanish manuscript, was identified as Bolkiah.[6]


Bolkiah was known in Bornean and Malay traditions by the title Nakhoda Ragam (Malay, meaning "Singing Captain").[7][8] However, it is argued that the title is also given to another Sultan of Brunei and other figures in the Malay archipelago.[9]


The reign of Sultan Bolkiah is said to be the golden age of Brunei.[8] His dominion is said to have included present-day Sarawak and Sabah in Borneo, as well as Manila and Sulu Archipelago in the Philippines.[8] There is also the possibility that his sovereignty also extended to Kalimantan, including Sambas, Kotaringin, Pontianak, Banjar, Barau and Bolongan.[8]

Sultan Bolkiah was mentioned in Silsilah Raja-Raja Berunai as the Bruneian Sultan who "defeated the states of Suluk and Seludong"[lower-alpha 1].[10] Hugh Low, a British colonial administrator in the 19th century, identified Seludong as Manila. However, it was argued that Seludong was not Manila but Serudong River in Sabah, which was said to be controlled by the Sulu Sultanate at that time.[9]

The visit by Antonio Pigafetta to Brunei in 1521 is said to have occurred during his reign.[8]

Sultan Bolkiah's victory over Seludong (modern-day Manila)[11] by defeating Rajah Suko of Tundun in Luzon and as well as his marriage to Laila Menchanai, the daughter of Sulu Sultan Amir Ul-Ombra, widened Brunei's influence in the Philippines.

This increased Brunei's wealth as well as extending Islamic teachings in the region, resulting in the influence and power of Brunei reaching its peak during this period. Bolkiah's rule reached essentially all of coastal Borneo,[1] as far south as Banjarmasin,[12] and as far north as the island of Luzon, including Seludong (present-day Manila) in the Philippines.[1]


One tradition states that Bolkiah married a Javanese princess.[8] It is also said that her followers intermarried with the Bruneian people, which became the ancestors for the Kedayan ethnic group.[8]

Another tradition states that Bolkiah was married to Laila Menchanai, the daughter of Sulu Sultan Amir Ul-Ombra and Datu Kemin.

Death and succession

The tomb of Sultan Bolkiah in Kota Batu

After his death, he was succeeded by his son, Abdul Kahar.[1] He was buried in Kota Batu with his wife, Princess Leila Mechanai.

See also


  1. "... Paduka Seri Sultan Bulkia iaitu raja yang mengalahkan negeri Suluk dan negeri Séludong..."


  1. Sidhu, Jatswan S. (2009). "Bolkiah, Sultan (r. 14851524)". Historical Dictionary of Brunei Darussalam (second ed.). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. p. 37. ISBN 978-0-8108-7078-9.
  2. Low 1880, p. 34.
  3. Shariffuddin & Ibrahim 1974, p. 90.
  4. Sweeney 1968, pp. 2–3.
  5. Shariffuddin & Ibrahim 1974, p. 87.
  6. Carroll 1982, p. 17.
  7. Low 1880, p. 7.
  8. Hughes-Hallett 1940, p. 27.
  9. Nicholl 1989, p. 184.
  10. Sweeney 1968, p. 12.
  11. Although this is the interpretation based upon the work of Antonio Pigafetta, other authorities suggest that Seludong may have referred to the Serudong River, which is in northeastern Borneo, and not to the island of Luzon at all. Saunders, Graham (2002). History of Brunei (second ed.). New York: RoutledgeCurzon. p. 42. ISBN 978-0-7007-1698-2.
  12. Saunders 2002, p. 45


  • Carroll, John S. (1982). "Berunai in the "Boxer Codex" [with Commentary]". Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. 55 (2 #243): 1–25. JSTOR 41493606.
  • Hughes-Hallett, H. R. (August 1940). "A Sketch of the History of Brunei". Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. 18 (2 #137): 23–42. JSTOR 41559952.
  • Low, Hugh (June 1880). "SĔLĔSÎLAH (BOOK OF THE DESCENT) OF THE RAJAS OF BRUNI". Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (5): 1–35. JSTOR 41560643.
  • Nicholl, Robert (September 1989). "Some Problems of Brunei Chronology". Journal of Southeast Asian Studies. 20 (2): 175–195. JSTOR 20071079.
  • Saunders, Graham E. (2002). A History of Brunei. RoutledgeCurzon. ISBN 978-0-7007-1698-2.
  • Shariffuddin, P. M.; Ibrahim, Abd. Latif Hj. (1974). "'BATU TARSILAH': The Genealogical Tablet of the Sultans of Brunei". Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. 47 (1 #225): 87–95. JSTOR 41511016.
  • Sweeney, P. L. Amin (December 1968). "Silsilah Raja-Raja Berunai". Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. 41 (2 #214): 1–82. JSTOR 41491947.
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