Water Palace Bali
TIRTA GANGGA WATER PALACE
Spend the day exploring the hidden delights of the lesser visited areas of East Bali, including the Tirta Gangga and Taman Ujung Water Palaces, both located in Karansagem Regency. Soak up the tranquil atmosphere and stunning scenery of these palaces built by the late regent of Karangasem during the middle of the last century.
The Tirta Gangga water palace is located in Karangasem Regency, around 83 kilometres away from Denpasar. Tirta Gangga, a renowned cultural entity of Bali, was established by the Karangasem Royal family.
The last King of Karangasem Anak Agung Anglurah Ketut Karangasem designed and built the water palace Bali in 1948 amidst rice fields surrounding the Rejasa natural springs. This remarkable man built Tirta Gangga for two main reasons: one is to improve and ensure the place’s holiness and the other, to have a place for relaxing, contemplation, and everyone’s enjoyment; locals, domestic tourists, and foreign visitors.
To the surprise and astonishment of all the people in the area, the King himself worked with the lower class labourers standing in knee-deep mud and digging out earth to create the ponds and pools. Further, the gardens surrounding the water palace sport a distinctive mix of Chinese and Balinese architecture.
The water garden is built on about three acres of land stretching from the east to the west. There are three separate complexes in the palace and each one of them consists of ponds and several sculptures.
The larger lowest (Bhur) level complex has a water tower and two large ponds with the ‘Demon Island’ in the centre. The first thing that visitors see when they enter the water garden is the eleven-tiered fountain Nawa Sanga built at the centre of the complex. The fountain and the two ponds form the middle or the Bwah level of the complex.
The holy springs originate from under the Banyan tree on the top or Swah level which has a swimming pool and two ornamental ponds. The third or the top level, is the location of the main complex and here you will find the former king’s country home. Currently, the country residence houses four bungalows. In addition, there is a restaurant at this level.
Springwater is collected in a reservoir at the ground level. Water is then pumped out from the reservoir to deliver to supply drinking water to Amlapura town close by through a pipe system. Another underground pipe system is made use of to supply water to the swimming pool at the top level. Water pumped from the reservoir emerges out of the mouth of a demon statue built at one of the corners of the upper-level swimming pool. Water from this overflows into a pool in the lower level and from the lower level pool water flows into a few small fish ponds and to the paddy fields bordering the gardens.
Tirta Gangga water is considered as a holy water palace and is frequently used in religious ceremonies. On auspicious days, people visit Tirta Gangga in processions with offerings, flags, umbrellas, and other tributes. Local temple priests lead the processions and conduct ceremonies in the spring to the accompaniment of chanting mantras and Baleganjur music, a popular Balinese Gamelan music. Each musician strikes a specific small gong to create a note in the musical scale in a harmonious fashion.
TAMAN UJUNG WATER PALACE
Taman Ujung water palace, officially Taman Sukasada Ujung, is in Seraya village in Karangasem Regency. Referred to as Tirta Gangga’s sister, this water palace was also built by the same Karangasem King – Anak Agung Anglurah Ketut Karangasem. The water palace consists of several historic structures and large pools with Mount Agung and the eastern coastline forming a dramatic backdrop to the palace.
The water palace suffered damages because of hot ash showers from the Mount Agung eruption in 1963 and the earthquake in 1979. However, the structure was restored over the decades and in its current splendour, it appeals to both local and international visitors.
Taman Ujung water palace boasts of a mixture of European and Balinese architecture when it comes to the three large ponds, the pathways and long and elegant bridges that connect them. The physical features of the complex and superb backdrop of mountains in the north and the beaches in the southwestern parts make it a popular location for pre-wedding photography and artistic photography.
In Indonesian, Ujung means extremity and locals describe it as one of the largest landmarks with a historical interest in the island’s easternmost part. The complex is built on about 25 acres of land that lies approximately 11 kilometres to the southeast of Amlapura, Karangasem’s capital.
The foundation for the water palace was laid in 1919. Pools were added as part of its expansion around the existing single pool that served not as the bathing place for the members of the royal family but as the site for punishing people who are accused of practicing Balinese witchcraft (pangiwa and leyaks) or black magic. It is believed that this pool, referred to as Kolam Dirah, was built during the time of the previous Karangasem King in 1901.
In the current layout, the Kolam Dirah pool, named after the Calonarang legend of a witch-queen, is in the southeast corner. Two pools and several resting pavilions, the meditation quarters of the King, and the floating pavilions Taman Gili were added. Following this, the complex started serving as a retreat and the place for welcoming dignitaries visiting the Karangasem kingdom. Later, Taman Ujung was opened to the public. It came to be known as the royal water palace complex.
The appeal of the complex comes from the effort taken in blending manmade structures with the natural panoramic landscape formed by the mountain range Bukit Bisbis to the southeast, the Ujung Beach in the south, verdant paddy fields in the east, and the residential buildings in the west. A number of cottages for an overnight stay are available in the northwest part of Taman Ujung.
The temple Pura Manikan is located within Taman Ujung and there is a revered water spring for use by pilgrims and devotees.