Located on Fort Canning, known before colonial rule as Bukit Larangan, the Keramat Iskandar Shah is one of the oldest architectural structures in Singapore. John Crawfurd, the second British Resident of Singapore, described it in 1822 as “a rude structure”.
Crawfurd was informed that the internee of the keramat was Iskandar Shah, the last King of Singapura who reigned during the late-14th century. After being sacked by Majapahit forces, Shah fled Singapura and established the Melaka Sultanate. Crawfurd and many others have noted that the claim that Shah was buried on Bukit Larangan was inconsistent with most records, which broadly agreed that Iskandar Shah was buried near Melaka, where he likely died.
Nonetheless, the British gave special recognition to the site. This was perhaps due to the romanticization of Stamford Raffles, founder of the British colony of Singapore, who fancied himself the successor to a kingdom more ancient than Melaka.
Ultimately, the identity of the internee remains unverified and archaeological excavations around the keramat have yielded no clues besides confirming the site hosted ancient inhabitants. Since a keramat does not necessarily have to be a tomb, there is speculation that the meaning of the name was conflated over time and that the site is dedicated to Iskandar Shah, but not his final resting place.
The keramat Crawfurd viewed in 1822 has now changed beyond recognition. While the history of the keramat’s renovation is unclear, photographs from various periods show vastly different structures on the same site; the current shelter dates to the 1990s. Today, the keramat remains an active religious site and a point of veneration.
Know Before You Go
The keramat is open at all times.