Initially the function of the building was the Balai Rong Seri
or Balai Penghadapan (audience hall), that was situated at the back
area of the Kota Setar Palace complex. The original building was
built in 1735 by HRH Sultan Muhammad Jiwa Zainal Adilin Muazzam
Shah, the 19th Sultan of Kedah (1710-1778). The pillars, roofs and
floors were made of wood.
This building was destroyed due to attacks by the Bugis armada
(1770) and Siam (1821). During the reign of HRH Sultan Abdul Hamid
Halim Shah, the 26th Sultan of Kedah (1882-1943), this building
was refurbished (1896) spearheaded by Muhammad bin Lebai Tambi,
an architect with the Public Works Department of Kedah State for
the wedding ceremony of His Royal Highness's five princes and princesses
Beside the wedding ceremony, the Balai Besar was used for
installation ceremonies, official ceremonies, State Council Conferences
since 1905 until 1973.
Two Kedah Sultans were officially installed at the Balai Besar:
HRH Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin Halim Shah II, the 22nd Sultan of Kedah
(1804-1845) in 1805 and HRH Tuanku Sultan Haji Abdul Halim Mu'adzam
Shah on 20th February, 1959.
Design of the building
The design of the Balai Besar is of the characteristics of a Malay
house with lengthy roof. On the left and right sections of the Balai
Besar are the verandahs. The verandah at the right side of the throne
was the area for the Ministers' children, warriors and official
children as well as the good citizens. The left verandah was the
for the religious men, merchants and the good citizens. The centre
area of the balai (hall) was the place for "the children of
those who held the royal regalia together with the ministers and
government officers in accordance to individual status right up
the ordinary people.
The pillars and cross-beams were made of the highest quality of
cengal wood from the state of Kedah. The roofs were made of rumbia
(a type of palm-tree). Two large staircases were built in front
Balai Besar, left and right ascending to the grand hall, rumah tangga,
right verandah, left verandah as well as the pavilion, the throne
Balai Siak located at the utmost back section of the bulding.